“Aahh… making the strange ordinary and the ordinary strange”, that was Dr. Stephen LaBerge’s response to my brief introduction on the first day of the lucid dreaming seminar I attended last weekend. That quote perfectly describes my experience of reality ever since I’ve started lucid dreaming and even more so my (dream) life during and after the seminar. With this article I would like to share the information and insights I gained from this amazing weekend.
About the seminar
“Wake Up In Your Dreams!” was a weekend seminar in Bern, Switzerland with Stephen LaBerge, Daniel Erlacher and our very own Tim Post. The goal was to provide an overview of lucid dreaming, the science behind it and how it all relates to consciousness, reality and how to transform your life. The website says “participants will gain an enhanced awareness and appreciation of their own consciousness, dreaming and waking, and tools to proceed with developing their own lucid dreaming ability”. I can certainly say they have achieved that goal.
Stephen LaBerge is one of the pioneers in (Western) dream research, as you hopefully already know. He’s the author of what some oneironauts see as the bible of lucid dreaming: “Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming”. Daniel Erlacher is docent for exercise science at the University of Bern. He conducted several studies related to sports and sleep. Tim Post is of course the founder of Lucidipedia and his more recent company called Snoozon.
Clear skies, clear minds
The timing of the seminar couldn’t have been better for me. Last week I was in Madrid for a European, week-long exchange program for engineering students. I had to return to Brussels anyway, so I thought I might as well take a detour to Switzerland. The costs could have been a problem, but luckily I got a scholarship thanks to the people from the Lucidity institute (<3 Keelin). I managed to find an incredibly cheap flight to Geneva and I got the last room (number 007…) in the cheapest hotel I could find. My “epic journey” was a little ill-prepared, but fortunately I was helped by a lovely Iranian girl I met on the plane and many other people who were at the right place, at the right time on my way to the Institute for Sports Science in Bern. The whole trip went so smooth, that it still amuses me when I think about it.
The seminar weekend was such a surreal (dreamlike…) experience. The weather was fantastic, the Swiss setting so peaceful. It was an excellent environment for a reflective mindset. There were about 33 seminar participants from varied backgrounds, young and old, but the one thing they all had in common was the attitude of someone with an inquiring, open mind. It felt amazingly liberating to be in the presence of so many freethinking individuals.
Meeting Stephen LaBerge was an even more surreal experience. This is the guy who made (lucid) dreaming accessible to the typical Westerner, which is an amazing achievement considering our society’s materialistic, ego-driven way of thinking and aversion for mysticism. He gave me the impression of a friendly, mad professor and in a way he is. :-) His presentations were very natural and easy to follow. If you ever get the chance of meeting him or taking one of his seminars, I would strongly recommend it!
Saturday – Is this real?
The first day already brought us a flood of information, ideas and philosophical ponderings. After a brief introduction of every participant and presenter, Stephen began his presentation. He immediately jumped in at the deep end and talked about our perception of reality and how it’s related to dreaming. With many metaphors and ways of explanation, he showed how the map is not the territory. Our subjective experience of reality isn’t reality itself, but a model of that reality, constrained by our beliefs and sensory input. In case of dreaming, many of these constraints are removed, which makes it such a great tool for personal transformation.
This presentation was followed by a talk about of some of his research over the years. This was useful for a number of reasons. For one, it helped convincing any remaining skepticists in the room by showing them the hard science that has been done in the field of lucid dreaming. Another reason is that it helped deepen my own scientific knowledge of dreams and it provided a basis for understanding Erlacher’s presentation. I will not discuss the studies in detail right now, but if you’re interested, you can always read up on many of LaBerge’s research papers on the website of the Lucidity institute: http://www.lucidity.com/.
Next was Tim’s more practical presentation about induction techniques. His presentation style felt very “free-flowing” and natural, similar to his YouTube videos. Very easy to follow! The information was a recap for me, but it’s always good to be reminded of the “best practices” for successful lucid dream induction.
At the end of the first day, we got some homework from Stephen: he asked us to try to induce a lucid dream the following night and if successful, we were supposed to perform a little experiment. I’ve described this task and my results in the following dream report: http://www.lucidipedia.com/dream-journal/view/12841/2012-03-24/1/
Sunday – Information overload
The next day we discussed the results of last night’s experiment. Apparently, I was one of only three participants who had a lucid dream and performed the task. Only one person actually performed the right task and he was one finger off. It was quite surprising to me that there were so few lucid dreams reported, even though the room was full of people who had at least some previous experience. This just goes to show that it is very, very hard to induce a lucid dream at will. In retrospect, many factors played a role in my success. The noisy environment, for example, kept me from going into deep sleep. There was probably also a REM rebound effect due to lack of quality sleep in Madrid. Lastly, I felt very motivated, so that played a major role too of course. :-)
After this discussion, many different topics were presented. We talked about the WBTB technique, prolonging dreams, increasing dream clarity, the use of substances for lucid dream induction (aricept and galantamine) and other supplements such as the nova dreamer (a mask that helps inducing lucid dreams by audio and visual cues). After a short break, we discussed dream breathing, dream sex and differences between perception, dreaming and imagination. Forgive me for not going into detail about what exactly was said about these fascinating subjects, because that would take me too far. I might make follow-up posts on some of these topics. Feel free to ask for more information in the comment section or on the forums!
Stephen also spent a great deal of his presentation on nightmares and how to overcome them. He integrated his own experiences with his explanation, which made it even more interesting. He talked about how we can reframe nightmares and use them as a tool for personal development by confronting these “demons” instead of avoiding or fighting them.
After another break, there was a presentation by Daniel Erlacher about different kinds of EEG devices and about studies related to sports and dreams. He showed how practice in lucid dreams has a significant impact on performance. He also talked about how motor tasks (such as walking and squatting) seemed to take more time in lucid dreams, in comparison to waking life. Fascinating studies I will probably address in future blog posts.
In short, a lot of information to be processed!
Wake up in your dreams to wake up in your life
11h20. My train just departed from Basel to Cologne as I’m writing this. I’m still in a state of deep reflection about the past weekend and my days in Madrid. Yesterday evening I took a stroll through the idyllic city of Bern. At some point, I was at the “Bärenpark” (bearpark) and I had the choice to either take the same, familiar road back to my hostel, or to explore a dark, but much more interesting path along the Aar river. Of course I took the latter one. We are all faced with a similar choice in our lives: either we make the same boring choices many have taken before us, or we go (maybe just a little) off the beaten path and explore the deepest depths of our own consciousness. Lucid dreaming provides us this choice. The unknown might seem a little scary, yet we know it’s perfectly safe – just like the dark road I chose to explore.
The past few days were an important time for me. The insights I gained helped my reframe my experiences and reshape my own model of reality. It was a major step in my self-development and I look forward to future seminars, travels, dreams …
A BIG thanks to everyone who made this event possible and to all the people I met during my travels!
Thanks Kai for the photos!