Flowers, photo by Joel Olives

Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming: A Comprehensive Guide to Promote Creativity, Overcome Sleep Disturbances & Enhance Health and Wellness (Llewellyn’s Complete Book Series), by Clare R. Johnson, PhD
Llewellyn Publications, 9780738751443, 427 pp. (incl. glossary, appendix, and bibliography), 2017

When I first heard about lucid dreaming, I was fascinated by the topic. It made me think of the most vivid dreams that I had at key points in my life. In these dreams, I felt I was being initiated into deeper aspects of my path, and they are the only dreams I can still remember in detail. Beginning Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming is a journey in and of itself.

Clare R. Johnson, PhD is the board director and vice president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams. She has researched lucid dreaming for two decades, and she became the first doctoral researcher to discover how lucid dreaming could affect the creative writing process. She is also a novelist, short story writer, and poet. She writes in a way that is easy to understand and she engages the reader every step of the way. Her book is well laid-out, with a glossary of terms, an appendix, and an extensive bibliography. She gives practice exercises in each chapter to help the beginner. Most importantly, you must expect to become lucid in your dreams.

Lucid dreaming, for those unfamiliar, is the ability to know that you are dreaming while you are dreaming. During a lucid dream, you can do things that are impossible in waking life: Talk with friends who have died, revisit places you used to live, turn yourself into an animal, and fly through walls, among other things. Some people are frightened by the idea, or don’t think it’s possible, but you can experience the beauty of the entire universe through a dream. Therapists can help people resolve trauma, artists can receive creative inspiration, and it’s a way to reach a higher level of mindfulness.

There are exercises on achieving and exploring different states of consciousness, such as out-of-body experiences, daydreaming, sleep paralysis, and trance states. As you practice each one, you must believe that you can reach each state, and don’t give up until you get a good result. I found these techniques very helpful. The first one that she gives is on activating the three important tools of lucidity: Intent, clarity, and expectation. Some of the others are the “Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams” which teaches you to lucid dream at will. It has five steps including developing your memory during the day by remembering tasks and seeing yourself lucid in a previous dream and thinking about it as you fall asleep. The “Wake Back to Bed Technique” is when you set your alarm to go off four to six hours after you go to sleep. When it goes off, you write down the dreams that you remember and identify an image or event that could have triggered lucidity. Then you go back to bed and once you are relaxed, imagine becoming lucid in one of the dreams and believe that it will happen. “Incubating a Dream” is when you ask for a dream while willing it to happen. Some ways to help with this include putting a picture of what you want to dream about beside your bed, meditating, and praying.

Based on a study done in 2014, it is believed that the average lucid dream lasts around fourteen minutes. Skills are needed to maintain lucidity for this entire period and to avoid waking up before you are ready. She lists ten physical tricks to help you to get lucid such as biting your tongue, drinking plenty of water before sleep, and setting up a musical trigger. She talks about external lucidity aids such as dream masks, supplements, ritual, sleeping in a different bed, and the importance of immersing yourself in the subject of lucid dreaming by reading, watching videos, and participating in online forums.

There are many myths about what you can and cannot do in a lucid dream, and the best way to find out is to test them for yourself. The only thing that can stop you is your own limitations. Which leads to a fascinating topic: The use of magick in dreams. The ancient Greeks believed that they could receive wisdom and have their questions answered through dreams, and you can ask the same of your own dreams. Magical words and spells can also be used within a dream, as long as you keep your meaning and intention clear.

One might not know what to expect when they have their first lucid dream. They want to know what their body will be like. Johnson has this to say:

The lucid dream body can be sensationally light and flexible. It can fly, it can teleport. It can be flung down wormholes, shrink to the size of a pinhead, become as vast as the universe. It can disappear and leave us existing as a bodiless point of conscious awareness. In a dream body, we can experience intense sensations, including ecstasy and pain. When I fly in a lucid dream, every pore of my skin tingles and sings; it’s like having a head massage — energy flows through me and it feels amazing.1

What is amazing about lucid dreaming is that disabled people, the elderly, and the ill can experience being in a healthy body and be able to do things they can’t normally do. It gives people a break from having to live with pain and restrictions.

One of the most interesting topics was that of dream figures, the beings that we meet in our dreams. Johnson divides them into four categories: zombies, puppets, conscious equals, and the super aware. Zombies are mindless figures that are part of the scene of a dream, but if you try to talk to one, they usually don’t react. Puppets seem realistic, but they will only repeat what you say and do and communicate through telepathy. Conscious equals seem to have their own thoughts and they take the form of dream guides. It’s the super aware I’m intrigued by, as their thoughts and actions are their own and exist independently of the dreamer. They may manifest in any form, and the dreamer chooses how they will interact with them. This could mean a lesson, a sexual encounter, or even a fight. How one perceives these beings depends on how they view dreams, whether they just take place in our head or if they have a wider reality.

As a writer, the chapter that had the most significance for me was “Creativity Elixirs: Lucid Writing, Creative Trances, and Lucid Dreaming While Awake.” Johnson states that to think creatively, it is important to be able to enter altered states of consciousness. I tried the lucid writing techniques to help me with the novel I am writing, and I was amazed at how well it worked. I focused on my main character and learned much about her personality and her inner thoughts. I highly recommend this practice for writers and other creators!

Most people have had to deal with nightmares at one time or another. The dreamer can interact with the nightmare to outgrow negative behaviour patterns, release sexual inhibitions, harness creativity, and to cope with fearful situations. Johnson believes that “Nightmares are gifts. They are wrapped in rather nasty wrapping paper, it’s true, but once we unwrap them, we may discover all sorts of unexpected treasures of the soul.”2 She suggests confronting them and asking what they want as a means to help you to learn new things about yourself. Children can also be helped with nightmares by teaching them how to deal with a scary monster, get out of a bad place, and most importantly, to let them know that they are the most powerful being in their dreams and can control what happens.

Another benefit of lucid dreaming is that it can help people with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It can also help with anxiety, sleep deprivation, and physical healing. Johnson gives examples how people have healed arthritis and dissolved cancerous tumours, and how dreams can warn a person that they have an illness or disease.

Towards the end of the book, Johnson discusses the void, lucid light, and using mantras and meditation in lucid dreaming. A lot of her information is good, and I will use it in my own practice, but I didn’t like her focus on oneness and light. There are so many occult books that deal with this subject, and although it might be a good approach for some people, it is exhausting to keep seeing it. I have no desire to become one with a universal consciousness or any kind of entity; I prefer to remain an individual. I wish this book focused on the darkness as well as the light, and portrayed demons and similar entities as potentially beneficial teachers instead of as entirely negative.

However, I like her view that we can become wide-awake dream magicians by working magick through our lives and the lives of others. She suggests asking ourselves questions that can lead to deep thought, such as: Is this the life I want to lead? How can I help others most? What do I need to change in my life? Anything to help get rid of our fear of failure and unlock our deepest potential is worth a try.

I recommend Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming for anyone wanting to learn how to lucid dream or for those wanting to better their skills.

Image credit: Joel Olives

  1. p. 97 []
  2. pp. 202 []