Becoming lucid, either by beginning a dream as lucid or becoming lucid in the middle of it, is about learning what it means to have self control in another state of consciousness.
Think of the X-Men stories. The mutants developed powerful abilities that they sometimes had trouble controlling. They needed training. Of course, some of them never were able to control their abilities on their own and required external aids, such as Cyclop’s eye mask and Rogue’s clothing. The X-Men are just stories, but this theme is repeated throughout fantasy books and in more mundane “normal” stories (which normal people read I guess – Yuck!).
We have natural abilities that we need to learn to control and be constructive with, or the result is unproductive chaos.
Lucid dreaming is exploration into other states of consciousness. It’s another level of meditation. I do normal meditation also (or lighter states of meditation, to put it another way). Both are great and useful.
People more advanced than I sometimes use these terms to make distinctions between different states of consciousness. I don’t have any experiences so far that make me feel the need to use more than one term.
I really like the term “projection“. I feel like what I am doing is existing in two places at once, projecting part of my consciousness to another place or another level. I can often feel my sleeping body at times during the experience, and I have to concentrate on the dream environment to keep from “waking” physically. It’s right on the edge of waking, not a deep sleep. If I think about my physical body the experience will end and my awareness will move back to physical reality.
Calling it “astral projection” is fine, but I think of it as simply other dimensions or states of consciousness that we exist in. I feel weird calling it the “astral plane” when that sounds so specific and I know so little about it. I’m projecting myself, it’s beyond visualizing, and it’s an interesting place that is worth exploring. That’s what I know.
In a way, even the most non-lucid of dreams, ie: garden variety dreams, are projections. We don’t realize what we’re doing, but we’re nevertheless moving about in another dimension as we go to sleep and dissociate from our physical body.
Near-death experiences are similar to the projections we do at other times.
Aside from during critical injuries, this happens a lot in operating rooms. Patients undergoing surgery have near death experiences while they’re under sedation. They float above their body and observe things that are going on in the room that they can describe after waking but that they can’t possibly be aware of with their eyes closed and lying on the table.
They also describe peaceful “white light” type experiences, encountering God, a gatekeeper, or whatever.
One difference with near-death experiences is it’s a full projection. Whether it’s physical reality or otherwise, you remember it vividly, it seems “real,” and you encounter things that seem like another reality and not a dream at all. This is just because it’s more a full projection.
The other difference with near death experiences is they seem to (usually?) be into an objective reality, whether it’s observing the physical world from a dimension very close to it or being in a far-away dimension that is populated by real beings. Is there a private “dream dimension” construct tied to physical reality where we go to when we sleep, to have what we call regular dreams instead of experiencing an objective reality, unless we are skilled at projecting and manage to escape or bypass it? If so, why does this private dream dimension exist? These are the things I ponder.
While you’re physically alive, part of your consciousness remains with your body. You aren’t used to such an intense experience in nonphysical reality unless you’re skilled at projecting. A near-death experience is when you completely leave your physical body, taking all of yourself with you. Your heart and brain stop. And then, of course, you come back if your physical body recovers in a short time before too much brain damage occurs where you can no longer get in sync with it.
Look, there’s so many terms that some of these mean the same thing and were made up by different people.
People use this term more often when it’s an experience where it’s as if you’re in a physical place that you’re familiar with or you feel like matches up with physical reality. It’s just another way of projecting.
My understanding is these experiences are projections into physical reality itself, or into a plane of reality that is the closest to physical reality, like an echo or energetic copy of some sort. It’s like when your radio with an analog dial is tuned slightly off frequency but you can still kind of hear the channel.
Normally when we’re going to be aware of physical reality we are in our physical body and interact with it that way. Under sedation we can’t move and therefore can more easily have an out of body experience in physical reality (or again, something very close to it). In other words, when you’re having a normal night’s sleep it’s tricky and doesn’t happen so easily as projections into dimensions more removed.
When we really don’t want to get up in the morning, many of us have had “false awakenings“: Getting up, taking a shower, and then snapping awake and realizing we never got up. This is just another mindset that creates the projection. You split your intention between wanting to stay asleep and wanting to get up so you won’t be late, resulting in a projection if the conditions are right, such as your physical body being very relaxed so that more of your consciousness can leave it, being not involved in muscle tension, but you leave enough behind to keep your vital organs powered. You’re unaware it’s a dream, so maybe you won’t call it a lucid dream, but it’s still a projection. You just have low awareness.
How Lucid Are You?
In “normal” dreams we have varying degrees of lucidity.
Some of us usually know we’re dreaming while it’s happening, but perhaps we assert little or no control over it, going along with the story.
Sometimes we have very vivid dreams that we call lucid dreams because they seem real, but in the moment we confuse ourselves into thinking it’s a physical experience, forget most of our waking life, and get wrapped up in the dream.
Fully lucid dreaming is not a completely different state of consciousness from a regular dream. Sometimes we begin it by stepping “out of our body”. At other times we may be having a non-lucid dream and encounter what we call a “trigger,” something that makes us aware we are in a dream, or we just know it’s a dream somehow and decide to see it for what it is and take control. I have not felt much difference between these experiences of being lucid right away vs at some point during a dream. It’s all a matter of how lucid I am, and not so much how I got there.
On the other hand, fully lucid dreaming is also not very different from waking consciousness. I’m at the point where I retain full memories (or at least 90%? I don’t know) of my physical life during my projections, at least for a while, including how old I am, the things I intended to do during the projection, about what time of night it is, and the other details of my physical life. In the beginning I could not do that, was very confused, and was doing well if I could only vaguely remember one thing I had intended to do next time I was in that state.
Anyway, with practice you can get more lucid by summoning more of your consciousness, either automatically by habit or by doing things to make it happen when you realize you’re in a dream.