Testing Charlie Morley’s Lucid Dreaming Techniques
Charlie Morley is a very well-polished individual. He gives me the impression of someone who built their social skills from the ground up — taking meticulous care to make every aspect of his character likeable and non-threatening. In a word, he is “accessible”. He also knows his way around a pound — you won’t find any techniques given away for free in the video above! For those, you’ll have to buy his book: Dreams of Awakening: Lucid Dreaming And Mindfulness Of Dream And Sleep
Charlie is going to go far in this game. His book is written in the same tone as he presents himself in the video — his words can be understood by literally anyone. The downside of this level of accessibility however is that, if you have more than two functioning brain cells, the perceived tone is that of a patronizing preschool teacher. It’s extremely slow-going and I was tempted to skim. The reason I don’t recommend skimming, however, is that I had the idea that simply reading lots and lots of words about lucid dreaming before bed would probably serve as a strong enough primer in itself to trigger lucid dreaming. It did.
It’s not like he’s the only author to ever dumb a book down for mainstream appeal, either — I did the same to an extent in my e-book, The End of Social Anxiety. I’m still undecided about where to draw the line between writing with accessibility for the mainstream, and writing with respect for the niche. I’m sort of of the opinion that the ones who are meant to find the materials will find them anyway, and they’re not likely to be dumb. The mainstream on the other hand does not seem to care too much for self-help, and I’m not sure increasing accessibility will make much difference on that front.
To tie up this tangential rant, when reading Dreams of Awakening, I recommend you flat-out ignore anything he says about the Buddha, as his ultra-reductionist summaries are misleading in my opinion. Read Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha for an uncompromising treatment of that subject matter.
Also give a nod of acknowledgment then quickly move on past the remedial-class brain science in the book, and pick up a copy of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World if you want to learn properly about the brain hemispheres.
Nitpicking aside, now let’s move on to the lucid dreaming techniques in this book, which are golden…
First, an introduction to my lucid dreaming history. I was a naturally gifted lucid dreamer aged 16-19, being spontaneously given the gift of the highest level of lucid dreaming (called “Super-Lucid Dreaming” in Charlie’s book) one night without any training, or even knowing lucid dreaming existed and was a known “thing”. This level of skill entails total control of the dream, to the point of being able to take the existing dream down to nothing then rebuild it into any scene one wishes via just an intention, and with the transformation occurring in just the time it takes to make that intention.
Like Charlie did at this age, I used lucid dreaming primarily for sex and flying, as most unguided people do when they first discover they have the skill. This led to me becoming increasingly retreatist — after all, why try things “out there” when I can have them all “in here” whenever I like? Perhaps as a result of this withdrawal, either my unconscious or someone “up there” had had enough, because aged 19 the skill was taken away from me just as quickly as it was given. Charlie at this age however instead sought out training in dream yoga from Tibetan Buddhists, so was able to retain his skill, hone it, and use it for positive self-change. I am sure he has intentionally used this practice to polish his social skills to the shine we see in the videos. (I’m rather jealous of his relaxed manner in interviews and while presenting, and intend to steal it utterly as soon as possible.)
I only regained the ability to lucid-dream recently, after reaching fourth samatha jhana in concentration meditation. My skills are extremely sloppy right now — it’s like I’m having to train them from scratch like a beginner would. So Charlie’s book is perhaps the perfect prescription at this time!
In the article Dreams as “Redo”s I put forth the following theory:
The unconscious mind seems to store the hugely complex set of interactions and emotions that make up one’s lifetime into a simple story. A single narrative.
If you could gain access to this story file via lucid dreaming, I dread to think of what you could do to your own personality. You might be able to make superhuman improvements to your confidence by changing your relationships with the avatars. But by the same sword-strike you could also lose all grounding in reality and sense of appropriateness in your behaviours.
It turns out that this is exactly the same theory put forward by Charlie Morley in Dreams of Awakening — though instead of “editing” the unconscious’s narrative, he instead instructs mindful exploration and integration of its dreamscapes and characters, thus reclaiming the insight held within.
When I regained the ability to lucid-dream a couple of months ago, the first dream location I arrived in was indeed the above mentioned narrative. It does exist. There was even a tour guide to show me around! I didn’t change anything in the narrative on that occasion — I just looked around to try and get a better grasp of what was going on.
It was this experience that piqued my interest in lucid dreaming again, and which led me to find Charlie Morley’s YouTube video. I was excited, as he seems to have had many of the same experiences as me, and in the video he even describes some of the same dream characters I’ve seen! For example, he talks about meeting a three-headed beast. I met the same three-headed beast (a hydra in my case) guarding the entrance to my unconscious. Whereas Charlie recommends treating all of your dream characters with loving compassion (since they are all aspects of you) and gave his hydra a hug to get past it, I had not yet received that information and instead stabilized my fear by investigating its sensations via an insight meditation (yes you can meditate in dreams, to rather stunning effect) –then killed it by stabbing a pen into one of its heads. This granted me access to the deeper labyrinthine levels of my unconscious narrative. As a side note, investigating fear in this manner is a powerful way to stabilize oneself in the face of the various terrifying phenomena you will encounter while practising lucid dreaming, which include menacing dream characters and sleep paralysis (which always co-occurs with both lucid dreaming and out-of-body experiences). Without a stabilizing method to control this fear, both sleep paralysis and scary dream scenarios have the potential to wake you up suddenly. Sleep paralysis in particular seems to knock all newbies when they first start out with these practices, and must be got over quickly if one is to progress.
Last night, having read one-third of the way into the book (where all the access techniques are), I decided that this was the night I was going to lucid-dream by carefully following the techniques in the book. I started by making the verbal intention in my mind, “I intend to dream lucidly tonight.” I was pretty bored, tired, dissatisfied, and not very sleepy at this time, so I used the schoolboy mindfulness meditation technique in the book to stabilize myself a little (it’s often good to go back to basics). Full breath in while counting 10 seconds, full breath out while counting 10 seconds. Then I rested very light awareness on all sensations coming in through my five sense doors, and on my thoughts, letting each come and go as they pleased.
In a typical 7- or 8-hour sleep period, the majority of the night’s REM sleep (which is the sleep phase where dreaming occurs) falls in the final 2 hours. Charlie himself sets an alarm for 4am to wake up, recall and note any dreams so far, and remind himself to lucid-dream for those final 2 hours. I couldn’t be bothered to wait that long, and figured I could just decide to go to sleep now, and continue to use mindfulness meditation on all sensations in order to stay conscious while drifting through stages NREM1–3 and emerging into REM in the first sleep cycle. I was right. Light awareness on all sensations keeps enough of your mind awake to remain conscious while the rest of you goes to sleep.
I stayed with the sensations through the hypnagogic imagery of NREM1–2, and drifted right through to the delta-wave “nothingness” of NREM3 on my first try (don’t worry, all of these phases are outlined in the book). For me, the exit from hypnagogic imagery in NREM2 to the black nothingness of NREM3 was transitioned via a black background with white “stars” flying towards me, just like how it looks on Star Trek when the Enterprise is in warp. I treated those white dots as just more sensations to be investigated via mindfulness insight practice, as per MCTB (it turns out skilfulness in insight practice will help just about all other psychonautic endeavours). The white dots began to grow more sparse as I fully entered NREM3. I then turned my attention to the blackness between the dots itself. The blackness began to turn into rainbow patterns, of the sort you see when on psychedelics (though I will point out here I was on no drugs at the time). The rainbow patterns then coalesced into a dream scene — exactly as described in the book. So I passed through all stages of sleep into REM while remaining conscious, on my first attempt — largely credited, I feel, to my insight training and prior lucid dreaming experience. It is nice to know however that I can now lucid-dream at will, from just about any starting state, even using sensations of agitation as an initial grounding to guide me through.
The Dream Scene
I emerged sat on the floor of an unknown kitchen. I got up and looked around. Before going any further, even though I knew I was dreaming, I performed the “hand reality check” — one of the many reality checks featured in the book. The premise of this reality check is that the brain struggles to recreate detail the same way twice. So you look at the palm of your hand, turn it over, turn it back, and the palm will have changed. Charlie is right — the brain is particularly poor at rendering hands. Mine had two hands merged into one and was pretty freaky, so I stopped looking at it.
I looked around the kitchen and found it populated with objects from every kitchen I have owned while living in houses away from “home” (my parents’ house). I understood what the dream was getting at, now: I’ve been planning to move out of my parents’ house for some time but have been worried about doing so, because every time I’ve moved away in the past, I’ve felt I’ve always somehow made a mess of it. It’s been a real worry of mine that if I move out again now, I’ll screw it up somehow and have to come home with my tail between my legs, just like the last four times. Just then, a dream character entered and began doing chores in the kitchen. I recognized it as myself from my university days. I thought I looked quite nice in my glasses, which was strange because I was quite self-hating back in those days. As per Charlie’s instructions, I gave myself a hug, and the character transformed into my younger brother (who I also lived with for a year). Though not quite understanding the symbolism at the time, I felt pretty satisfied, and the dream character disappeared.
Then I went out of the kitchen into the living room. This again was an amalgam of all the living rooms I’ve ever had when away from home. At this point I started to have an idea of what would be in each room of the house. I went up to my bedroom and found it as a darkened room with my stage piano set up and computer screen flickering in a very lonesome scene. I then went to one of the other bedrooms and walked in on my housemate and his girlfriend having sex, which is exactly what had happened at university in my second year. I closed the door, shocked, just like I did at the time. But then I remembered this was a dream and the whole point is to gain closure and thus integration of the experiences. I walked back in and they were now clothed. They invited me onto the bed. I gave each a hug, following Charlie’s recommendations again. The girl turned into my childhood toy. My housemate turned into a cat which I stroked, and I no longer felt alone.
I woke up feeling very, very strange, and pondered all the symbolism for a while. The house had primarily been composed of the house from my second year at university. This was the time when I had felt most alone — most of my friends had left during that year and I was in a strange house in the middle of nowhere, on my own around 90% of the time as I had stopped going to lectures. I had dropped out that year due to the depression caused by that loneliness. That year seems to have become a template upon which any subsequent attempt to leave home had been modelled. It all made a lot more sense.
I went back to sleep and can’t have had much REM sleep after that because I had very few dreams to my recollection (and I usually remember practically all of my dreams, every night). I also slept through till 11am which is very unusual for me — I guess I needed it.
I’ve woken up feeling rather different today. It’s too early to tell whether all my worries about moving out have been lifted, and I intend to do a few more sessions before actually leaving home. But I’m certainly a lot less worried about it than I was before.
In any case, lucid dream therapy seems to be a potential goldmine for personal development, and extremely important to me on a personal level. I haven’t even finished the book yet, but can definitely recommend it for anyone wishing to start out in the world of lucid dreaming.
Here’s the Amazon link again, complete with my affiliate code so I can earn my 90 cents or whatever paltry referral fee Amazon are offering these days! Dreams of Awakening: Lucid Dreaming And Mindfulness Of Dream And Sleep