Charlie Morley’s book, Lucid Dreaming Made Easy – A Beginners Guide to Waking Up in Your Dreams (2015), gives an excellent introduction to the subject of lucid dreaming, focussing on scientific, religious and other ancient approaches to dream work. The book offers much thought-provoking content that invariably leads us to ask: where do dreams actually come from? Is it all just in our mind, or outside of it? Who makes our dreams; ourselves individually or through a shared consciousness, or other external sources? All-in-all, Morley gives an easy step-by-step guide on how to lucid dream that I believe may be effectively utilised in order to help find missing people.
I wanted to learn how to lucid dream because I was seeking extra information about missing persons investigations I had been working on for some time, and needed to make sense of various ‘dream clues’ related to them. One of the most important things I felt I had to do was find out the location of visions I’d had in my dreams. If I saw them in real life I’d know them – but how could I find them when I’d already exhausted Google Maps and Google Street-View and found nothing!
I also wanted to know what I should do about certain cases that seemed like dead-ends and retrieve more information to help me find these people, whoever they may be, and to help bring closure to their friends, families, and, importantly, to the spirits themselves (if indeed they exist!) – so they could find peace. The book seemed the perfect tool to use in order to start my lucid dream journey.
What Are Lucid Dreams?
Lucid dreaming is the ability to experience your dreams consciously. This means you can be in a dream and recognise that you are in a dream state. In this type of dream people may control their dreams and fulfill their wildest fantasies, find answers to questions about their lives, overcome phobias, forgive and heal themselves and occasionally, others. Lucid dreaming can potentially offer; unlimited sex, travel to space and the far reaches of the universe, flying, meeting friends and relatives past and present, exploring ideas and creativity, and give clues to the purpose of your life.
The book explores the science behind lucid dreaming and notes how it has been scientifically proven that lucid dreaming exists and is fundamentally different from the usual REM dreaming because it also activates part of the prefrontal cortex known for ‘…personality centres and the sense of self.’ (p.6). Lucid dreaming is indeed a real phenomena.
What’s more, lucid dreaming has many proven benefits and it has been shown that: ‘…neural pathways in the brain can be strengthened and created…’ during lucid dreaming (p.12). This means that people can learn in their dreams. They can also practise sport and improve muscle memory in waking life – whilst avoiding injuries. These fantastic tenets of lucid dreaming have all been proven under scientific testing.
Morley’s honesty and humour about his own experiences with his dreams and those of others are unmissable and make the book feel less heavy. One story about a woman who lost weight in the real world because she knew that she could stuff her face in her lucid dreams later on at night was very funny, and he is very open about his teenage lucid dream experiences with sex!
Types of Dreaming
To begin with, Morley outlines the various stages of sleep, through the relaxed wakeful dreams through to the hypnopompic state when falling asleep (at least according to Mervyn Minall-Jones), as well as the hypnagogic state when awakening – where you may experience a ‘myoclonic jerk’, to light dreamless sleeps, to deep sleep – where we repair our bodies and release human growth hormones, right through to Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM) – where we dream, often through 90 minute cycles (p.50).
According to Morley, there are 4 stages of lucid dreaming; pre-lucid, semi-lucid, fully lucid, and super-lucid. The first stage is where you begin to think you may be in a dream, the second is where you suddenly realise you’re in a dream, fully lucid is when you can interact with your dream environment and characters and somewhat shape the dream’s direction. Finally, super-lucid dreaming is from researchers Robert Waggoner and Ed Kellogg, who state that the stage is where the dreamer shifts perception to realise the dream is all in the mind – we don’t need to go through doors to get somewhere in a dream we simply just choose to get there, cutting out the travel experience.
It’s basically a Neo moment from the Matrix where he realises he is the spoon. Finally, Charlie also refers to another type of dream where we just witness dreams and view events or objects from a ‘non-preferential perspective.’ (p.98). This is not too disimilar to some of the ways that Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos and Larry Burk describe some types of dreaming (See Kat’s chapter on dream types).
How to Lucid Dream
In the book Charlie Morley outlines several ways to reach the lucid dreaming stage. I will outline my favourite one – the others can of course be found in his book (here).
First of all, it is important to be able to recognise that you are in a regular dream before you can lucid dream. In order to do this you must look for anything out of the ordinary in your dreams such as symbols (a purple elephant for example, or a green tiger) and typical dream events (such as falling down, running away from an invisible enemy, or a ghost pinning you down) that will act as a signal to your conscious mind that you are dreaming and to activate lucid dreaming. This is very much in line with the film Inception, where a spinning top that never falls down is used by one dreamer to show him that he is indeed dreaming.
Another way of realising that you’re dreaming is to look at your hand and to quickly flip it from looking at your palm to the back of your hand, fulfilling what is called a ‘reality check’ in your waking life. You must do this each time you see something that appears to be out of the ordinary (synchronisities or déjà vu) when you are awake so that you can train yourself to recognise the strange and the inordinary (p.67). In a dream your mind won’t always be able to process this quick change from viewing the front of your hand to the back, and it may mean that your hand begins to look very odd (your fingers may grow or turn into brocolli for example). Therefore, when you train yourself to look at and flip your hand each time you see something odd, you may be able to translate real life training into your dream world to wake up your conscious mind when you are still asleep in the dream world.
Once you have done this for a set period of time and just before going to sleep, you must attempt to actually intend in your mind to begin lucid dreaming. Waking first after 4.5 hours and then after every 90 minutes to write down your dreams and remind yourself of your intention to lucid dream will make it easier to do this. The first 4.5 hours are important as this is mostly restorative sleep, so you will not need to disturb yourself here.
Later, you will go into REM sleep where you will dream in 90 minute cycles. Setting your dream intentions in each waking period is very important, and this is also highlighted in the work of Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos and Larry Burk about predicting illnesses through using your dreams (See also discussion >>>> here). Once you begin to recognise you are in a dream through using the techniques above and don’t get too excited right away, you will be able to begin interacting with your dreams for your greater good.
If you are having trouble even recalling your dreams in the first place, the book mentions how important diet is to Tibetan dream yoga practitioners and why it’s thus a crucial element for all dreamers in general who want the optimal dream experience. According to Morley, studies have shown that vitamin B6 helps strongly with dream recall. He also recommends calcium, magnesium, mugwort, and clary sage. From my experience a few ingredients helped me dream more; tumeric and nutmeg. I also attempted to use passiflora complex drops which helped improve dream recall much better than usual – even when not having enough sleep.
If you still have issues remembering your dreams then there are a few techniques in the book that can be used. Ordinarily, I simply used a dream diary and found that when I’d wake early and quickly go back to sleep again – especially after a big night out – I’d recall my dreams more easily. I’d often be in a relaxed state called the hypnagogic state, which Charlie states: ‘…is accompanied by alpha brain waves.’ (p.49). Alpha brain waves mostly signify a relaxed mental state, such as can be found in meditation. When diving in and out of the dream state like this, one can set the intention to lucid dream each time.
In fact, I found several extremely interesting things happened to me during these periods of the hypnogogic state. In my mind’s eye I often saw a tunnel made of spinning stars. It started often as a spinning wheel – looking much like our galaxy. As I viewed it from outside it would rotate. Then, I would look into the centre of the spinning wall of stars and in the middle would often be some kind of vision. Other times, in my mind I would see down a rapidly moving tunnel which would turn quickly up and down and around corners until I get to another vision at the end of the tunnel – it’s like a portal.
To add to this, I later had a dream that showed me that the stars in this rotating spiral were simply representations of the entrance to this portal. In my dream I was shown that the stars could be anything – even bananas or flowers!
Approaches to Dreams
Whilst relying on many scientific ideas Charlie follows a Buddhist philosophy which is quite appealing to me in many ways. He even mentioned a Buddhist temple in Scotland that I’d visited this year. Morley does seem to be open to a wide variety of perspectives.
‘However disturbed, violent or dark the contents of the dream may seem, we must try to understand that it’s part of our own oceanic psyche and simply wants to be seen… we have to drop the notion that the dream is somehow separate from us.’ (p.56).
It is a very good point that there are certainly violent dreams that are symbolic for underlying psychological issues that may need to be resolved and simply observed and accepted for us to be able to heal through ‘shadow work’, which is evidently a great speciality of Morley’s which explains why he may not have added the possibility that we are occasionally witnessing real murders.
Also, dreams do come through us using our minds, as science has shown. However, it seems to me that dreams may also be influenced by external sources that shape the direction and content of our dreams using our own mind and memory functions. Did I ever ask to have dreams about the dead? No. Therefore, an external force must have influenced me. Do I feel privileged that perhaps one day I can help people in a profound way? Definitely.
Charlie Morley shows that science can be at loggerheads with the 1% of dreams that he suggests don’t come from our subconscious. Sometimes he doesn’t go further away from the notion that spirits in our dreams may simply be hollow projections of our own subconscious mind, but evidently hints that they could be something more as we connect with others through the subconscious. Morley explains the external source of dreams through the existence of what Jung calls archetypes: ‘…symbolic representations of universally existing aspects of the unconscious mind,’ that can be found in the collective unconscious, usually manifesting as continuing themes across history such as an old man for ‘wisdom’, a mother to represent ‘nurturing’, and the ‘higher-self’ for ‘inner unification’ (p.78). If all time is one, as Charlie suggests; i.e. the past, present and future all occur at once, then this may explain the future faces and places that we may see in our dreams.
But how can a shared consciousness explain how we can also see through the eyes of another’s past or future? The only real obvious explanation can be that in some sense we are all one, or that these aspects of dreaming are separate from the shared consciousness. Yet, why, if we were all one, would we be sent here to earth to learn individual life lessons? Life lessons that have been learnt time and again by others in the past, and life lessons which many people appear in life to be at different stages of progression? This hints at some form of individuality.
If we are all one in a physical sense – then why do the dead want justice for individual brutal acts of murder? Why do they care about the suffering of loved ones left behind and want justice against their killers? Why do some of us see only these horrible acts that occur through others’ eyes, but we do not ever see through others’ eyes when they are sat on the toilet reading the newspaper or waiting for a bus? There must be more than only a shared consciousness to explain seeing murders. Why is it that not everybody has dreams where they see or experience murders happening?
These types of dreams with missing people suggest that we must do something to help. They are not just random. If we can choose to help then this suggests that there may be a directing force, perhaps a God or spirits, separate from us. This hints that, illusionary or not, this life matters, which Charlie does not seem to disagree with.
Nonetheless, the book suggests that we should not act on these kinds of dreams as they are not (necessarily) what I claim. Rob Nairn is quoted in the book as saying: ‘We need to do nothing more than bear witness to the mind’s display with acceptance.’
Overall, this is a very valid point and it can very much help with self-healing processes, but it is certainly something that should not be considered all-encompassingly. But from my own experiences, this raises some very crucial questions. If we are not supposed to do anything about our dreams and we are simply viewing the collective unconscious, I ask myself: why did I see clouds in the sky that were depicted in my dreams when I went to a particular place from my dreams in the real world? Why do many psychics report hearing supposed voices of the dead in conjunction with dreams? Or in my case, having details added to dreams as I watch them (such as hearing a voice say something like: ‘He did this to me because of X, Y or Z’).
The book also touches on a favourite theme at dream prophecies, which is how dreams have been censored and sanitised through history. Most notably Charlie Morley points to St. Jerome, who censored dreams out of the Bible in his new Latin translation (ironically because of a dream he had), and later, Christian philosopher Thomas Aquinas who decided for himself that dreams were largely demonic, which had a large impact on the perception of dreams worldwide.
Throughout the book, Morley draws on knowledge from the Toltec-Mexihca tradition, outlining those practising nahualism 50,000 years ago and living in Teotihuacán, who are otherwise known as the ‘people of the halo moon’ who later split into the Mexihca and the Chichimecas (p.118). This kind of dream knowledge or ‘treasure’ that had been passed through generations was said to have been hidden from the Spanish when they arrived. Morley also visits Islamic Sufi dream interpretation and the Xhosa of South Africa.
All-in-all, it shows that we must all come together to protect our growing knowledge about the importance of dreams and share it far and wide to as many people as possible – no matter the colour of our skin or hair, our nationality, or any other egotistical label.
Whilst in the Matrix film, the simulation is simply a means to an end for robots to turn humans into living batteries, I am sure that in this life there are lessons to be learned and that for some reason what we do in this world matters. Why else would God or spirits come to show us where missing people are? We must learn from all sources of knowledge but also be sure to use our own experiences with life and dreams to prove or disprove what we read. Morley’s book offers an important key to begin navigating the complex duality between the dream world and the waking world.