I dream I am standing on a road in a wide, night-time landscape of hills and fields. A dark presence is sweeping up the road toward me, riders on horseback, hunting me. I am pretty sure they are Tolkien’s black riders. Which sounds a little geeky and not that scary. Until you consider that even one rider bearing down on a lone traveller at night is a little alarming, let alone a company of undead bent on you as their object of malevolent mayhem. Anyway, I am suddenly lucid dreaming. I realise I can find a way to escape and I’m no longer just a passive victim of the nightmare. Let me tell you, it’s not as simple as you might think. I can’t just click my heels together and go back to Kansas. I’m quite frightened and quite alone. I turn towards a tall hill and visualize a white horse galloping out from its left side. I’m willing it with my whole being. Only the white horse never comes. Instead it is a chestnut horse, galloping out from the other side of the slope. Straight to me. I climb onto its back and we are off, streaking away from the riders, sweeping up behind us in the dark.
This was a dream I had as a teenager, when I used to regularly lucid dream. Lucid dreams are not as straightforward as you might think. It’s not a case of find yourself fighting zombies, become lucid, magic yourself into a Jacuzzi with three of your favourite celebrities, champagne glass in hand. I always found that I needed to work within the grain of the dream. It’s a little like being a magician who hasn’t yet mastered his craft (‘magic, magic, do as you will!’). I’m sure there are more serious practitioners of the lucid dream that have more control. I found that what I ask for often appears in a different form, or has different ramifications from what I intended.
Wanting to psychoanalyse yourself mid-dream? Apparently there are no short cuts. I once became lucid during a dream where my friend was sitting in a deckchair watching TV with a Border Collie beside her. I said ‘What are you doing?’ (bracing for an illuminating, life-changing answer). She looked at me like I was an idiot and said ‘Watching TV’. Der.
I’ve been thinking recently how nice it would be to lucid dream again, perhaps because I have less time in the day for daydreaming (something I feel is important to all writers). I know how I did it back then. It all started because I was keeping a very comprehensive dream diary, writing down all I could remember of my dreams each day (and finding more and more patterns and repetitive imagery). Dream diaries tend to magnify your ability to remember your dreams and to increase the intensity of the dream experience, leading eventually to lucid dreaming, though it took me almost a year before I was having regular lucid dreams.
Want to try it? Who wouldn’t?
Here are some handy hints on the science of lucid dreaming: http://youtu.be/lYSX51xBkos
Oh, by the way, you might not want to try it if you’re an emotional wreck, having trouble telling the difference between reality and fantasy or unable to face the prospect of a waking run-in with sleep paralysis. You should be aware that there may be recurring characters in your dream who appear to be unsettlingly real. If this is going to give you the heebie-jeebies then avoid the lucid dream. On the other hand, if you’re troubled by nightmares or just wish to work on that Jacuzzi scenario (it’s worth a try), then what are you waiting for?