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    Thread: Dreaming & Lucid Dreaming: Theory of Attention

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      Dreaming & Lucid Dreaming: Theory of Attention

      INTRODUCTION

      Heya all,

      This forum is full of great guides, techniques, tricks and tips on achieving lucidity. And I'm sorry to say...

      This isn't one of them

      Rather, I wanted to take some time to discuss something that I consider an underlying principle of lucid dreaming. Or rather, THE underlying principle. There's many factors to lucid dreaming, but one, to me, sticks out above all others as possibly the most important of all. It's on that is both quite simple and amazingly complex at the same time. Its this:

      Pay attention to your dreams.

      And with this I mean to ALL your dreams. I've come to believe this is the key to succes with lucid dreaming, as well as curing or preventing many of its problems and obstacles.

      Let me explain why I think attention to our dreams (and not just the lucid ones) is so important. Before I continue though, a small disclaimer. Everything I write down is my opinion only. I don't claim to hold all the answers or the universal truths. It's just a theory I have formed based on my experiences


      ATTENTION AND AWARENESS

      Forgetting the subject of dreaming for a moment, it can be said that attention is directly linked to 'how aware we are of something'. Or to put it in different words:

      The more we pay attention to something, the stronger our general awareness of it becomes

      To illustrate this point, let me give you some common examples:

      - You might look at a wall and see that it is grey. A painter looks at the same wall, and sees seven different color shadings. He is much more aware of colors and shades of colors in general, because of his occupation.

      - Its winter and its snowing. To you, snow is snow. To an eskimo, its not. There's different types of snow, and he has a word for each one. His living conditions have forced him to be much more aware of the properties and types of snow in general.

      - You're eating a meal at a restaurant, and while it is very nice, there's a certain taste there that you can't quite identify. Fortunately, your friend is a master chef. He takes one bite and easily tells you of a particular herb that was used to create this effect.

      - You're an introspective person. You spend a lot of time thinking about yourself, your actions, your emotions. You know that when you are faced with strong authority, with people telling you what to do, you tend to get angry. Your boss tells you to do something, and you get get angry, but you know why. Your friend is the same, but he's never taken a look at himself in his life. He gets angry too, but he has no idea why.

      - John is an accountant. He is great with numbers, but his job often leaves him with little time to work out. He often has tense muscles, headaches, and gets out of breath a lot. His wife Marie is a Yoga teacher. She is much more aware of her body and her breathing, and knows far better how to keep it healthy and ailment free. Consequently, John always turns to her for advice when his body is acting up again.

      - To our Western Culture, dreams are not real, and something that has very little relevance to our lives. To Tibetan Monks, dreams are very important. Consequently, their culture and their upbringing makes them pay lots of attention to their dreams, and the things they can do with their dream sounds utterly fantastical (or even absurd) to us.


      In each of the above examples, one person is more aware of a particular thing then another, why? Because he's spend his life paying much more attention to it in general. The correlation is, I hope, quite clear. Paying attention to something tends to build increased awareness of it.

      (There's a psychological explanation for why this is, but I think the examples are more clear then the theory will be, though if someone asks for it I'll be happy to provide )

      Increased awareness has many advantages. You can identify certain things easier, and identify more different types of what others consider the same thing. (Like the painter and the master chef and the eskimo). Additionally you can understand things while they are happening, and why they are happening (like our introspective friend), and you can adjust your own actions to take advantage of this increased awareness. (like our yoga teacher). Its easy to see why being more aware of something would be beneficial to you.

      Now we come back to our topic: Dreaming, and particularly Lucid Dreaming.

      What is Lucid Dreaming? It's knowing you are dreaming while in a dream. That's the basic definition of it. Another definition, which is basically saying the exact same thing:

      A lucid dream is a dream in which you are aware of the fact that you're dreaming.
      The key concept here ofcourse, is awareness. And you probably saw this coming a mile away, but just like the above examples: If we want build awareness of dreaming and about dreaming... we have to pay attention to our dreams!


      ATTENTION AND VARIOUS DREAM TECHNIQUES TECHNIQUES

      There's dozens if not more techniques on how to become lucid, ranging from the commonly quoted to the rather obscure. One thing that almost all of them have in common though, is that they are a 'ritualised way of making you pay attention to your dreams'.

      In short, what these techniques do is focus your attention on your dreams, usually either on what it feels like to dream, or on what you want to dream about.

      Often these techniques have visualisation aspects or aspects that will draw your attention away from the waking world around you. Again this will help make it easier for you to focus on dreaming itself. WILD techniques are a great example of this. With these techniques, you basically want to completely withdraw your attention from the world around you and turn it inwards, focussing it entirely on the act of dreaming.

      Another example are reality checks. The idea is to set the habbit of doing them in your dream too, but equally important is that they bring your attention back to 'dreaming' during the day. Each time you do a reality check, you're thinking about dreaming too.

      MILD and VILD are very strong forms of attention-focus techniques too.

      And above all, keeping a dream journal is so utterly important not because it helps you remember you dreams more, but because it forces you to pay attention to your dreams.
      (It's actually the fact that you ARE paying attention to your dreams that makes you remember them better, not the fact that you're keeping a dreamjournal).


      LACK OF ATTENTION AND ITS EFFECTS

      Along the same vein, we very often see the lack of attention to our dreams and its effects on things such as dreamrecall or even the ability to lucid dream.

      Its very easy to get so caught up in the idea of lucid dreaming that you forget to appreciate your regular dreams. Additionally, getting stressed or frustrated again withdraws your attention from your dreams, and focusses it on your failure. It can even happen that your mind is so set upon your dreamgoal that you give the goal more attention then the dream itself.

      And I can't begin to describe how often I hear phrases such as:

      - "I'm having a dryspell... I haven't had a lucid dream in two weeks. All I can remember is a few crappy normal dreams"

      - "No lucidity today, just a few normal dreams"
      - "My recall is gone to hell. How many dreams do I normally remember per night? I don't really know, I only write down my lucid dreams in my dream journal."

      Being dismissive of something pretty much implies not paying attention to it. In the above cases, my first thought is usually: "Well that figures"

      I've come to believe that many 'problems' such as sudden dry-spells, sudden lack of recall, inability to have lucid dreams, and what not can often be attributed in large part to the person not paying basic attention to his dreams in general.


      WAYS TO PAY ATTENTION

      So how do you pay attention to your dreams? Well, first and foremost, I would say learn to appreciate them. Don't consider non-lucid dreams as failures. Every dream has inherent value, and the ability to teach you more about your nightly life (or daily life if you sleep during the day )

      Spend some time thinking about your dreams, write them down preferably, and consider the various aspects of your dreams.

      Some questions you could ask yourself:
      Are there reoccuring themes, persons, places in your dream? Do you have many nightmares? Do you have many dreams about your work? Are you yourself in your dreams?

      Are your dreams mostly visual? Can you remember a taste? A sound? A smell? Do you think there's meaning behind your dreams? If so, what could it mean? Did the dream evoke a particular emotion? Which is your favorite type of dream? Do you often have dreams that make you feel bad or that you don't like having? If so, what don't you like about them?

      Do you sometimes control things in your dreams? Do you sometimes have an innate sense of being aware that you're dreaming without being fully lucid? Do you often have false awakenings? Are they always in the same place?

      These are just some examples. The idea ofcourse is to take the time to explore your dreams, and more then that, get familiar with them. The more you do that, the more your general awareness of dreaming will grow.

      It might not make you lucid, but combine those with the great techniques invented by others, and you'll likely have a lot more succes then simply focussing on the technique alone.



      SUMMARY

      I guess what I'm trying to say is: remember to appreciate your dreams, all your dreams, and all aspects of your dreams. Doing so will help your lucid attempts a whole deal, and will prevent certain problems from rising up.

      Because paying attention to something increases awareness of it, and awareness of dreaming is really what lucidity is all about. This, to me, is the single most important thing to do when trying to master lucid dreaming, and the single most important question to ask whenever things aren't going you're way:

      "Am I paying enough attention to my dreams?"


      Comments, remarks, critiques most welcome,

      -Redrivertears-

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      Here here!

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      Very well written and it makes a lot of sense. Nice job, Red.

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      very interesting, and makes perfect sence.

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      Thumbs up

      Yes! This is totally true, because there are many people who can sense when they are dreaming and therefore have multiple DILDs per night, Stephen Laberge for example. I definately agree, this is very thought out and well-written.
      DILD: 20
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      Very true my friend.
      There is no real-life, there is only AFK.

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      "My recall is gone to hell. How many dreams do I normally remember per night? I don't really know, I only write down my lucid dreams in my dream journal."
      I hope you weren't referring to me! I have a normal dream journal at bedside, and in there I treat all dreams equally. But typing them up seems redundant and unnecessary (not to mention some normal dreams are pretty personal), so I only post my lucids.

      This is a very nice post. I find the reflection questions at the end the most helpful. Great job!

      Also, I find that a morning ritual of dream sharing is quite rewarding. It gives insight to the subconscious of your family members/roommates, and gives you something to talk about while munching on your cereal, along with the obvious attention you are paying to dreams.
      Abraxas

      Quote Originally Posted by OldSparta
      I murdered someone, there was bloody everywhere. On the walls, on my hands. The air smelled metallic, like iron. My mouth... tasted metallic, like iron. The floor was metallic, probably iron

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      Thanks for all the kind words. And no Abra, I didn't mean you

      I didn't actually implied anyone specific, it's just a common problem people often report. I like the idea of dreamsharing though. I used to do that with my girlfriend. We'd wake up and I'd tell her my dream and she'd tell me hers, and I think it had a very positive effect on both our recall. It's great that you can share that with your family!

      -Redrivertears-

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      Thanks Redrivertears - I love reading your posts coz they make a lot of sense to me and reading this makes me appreciate you even more

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      Thank you kindly! To be honest I didn't even think my old posts would be on the forum anymore

      I've learned a bit in those eight past years, and might formulate things a little different now (and a little more humble as well ), but I still believe strongly in the gist of it. Lucidity and dream awareness begins with and resolves around paying attention to your dreams first and foremost.

      -Redrivertears-
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      Yes Red ( hope its ok to call you that ) it would be great to see an updated version with all the years of ld's

      look forward to seeing it
      Last edited by Patience108; 11-03-2015 at 12:06 PM.

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      Hey there,

      Not so much an updated version. More like a work in progress and a little complicated because of it, but I've changed how I look at my dreams and at lucidity as a whole in order to track my progress. I wanted to step away from the simple 'yes or no' categorization that many dreamers use when talking about lucid dreams ("was this a lucid dream or not?") and rather have begun to identify my dreams for various elements, then score these elements on two or three scales.

      For example, I currently categorize my dreams on 'dream experience' and 'dream awareness'. If a dream has elements that are particularly vivid, intense, emotional, or fantastic, (etc), it scores higher for dream experience. If my recall was good, if there were dream signs, if I used dream control, if I was aware I was dreaming (etc), it scores higher on dream awareness. I do that for all the elements in the dream and then again for all the dreams I recall during a night and then add it all up. So a sequence of three nights for me might go

      Night 1:
      Dream experience: 6 (vividness, fantastic en emotional dream)
      Dream awareness: 3 (semi-WILD, dream sign, good recall)

      Night 2
      Dream experience: 4 (vividness, fantastic)
      Dream awareness: 5 (full awareness, dream sign, good recall)

      Night 3:
      Dream experience: 1 (emotional)
      Dream awareness: 1 (dream sign)

      In this sequence, if I had gone by a simple lucid dream count, it would have been (no, yes, no). But I find that this method of tracking tells me much more about my dreams. Paying more attention to my dreams and learning from my dreams was the goal I wrote about eight years go.

      In this sequence, the first night I had some really great dreams, with a basic level awareness. I'm not good at WILD'ing and my attempt resulted only in a very short (a few seconds at most) dream entry before being pulled back. The second night, I had a really clear lucid dream, brought on by a dream sign, and with good recall after awakening. However, I had less dreams then the previous night (which is why it ended up lower on dream experience, despite a really great lucid dream scoring high). The third night, I didn't have good recall (because I was distracted, lay awake a lot and slept too little), which resulted in both scales decreasing dramatically.

      There's several advantages for me to using this method. The first is that I wanted to get away from putting all the emphasis on lucid or not. Because no matter how I tried, as long as I kept counting my lucids, I couldn't help but consider any night I didn't have a lucid as disappointing (lucid = 1, no lucid = 0). This way, it become easier for me to take something of value from every night.

      Additionally, by paying close attention to all the elements in my dreams, I find that my recall is boosted considerably. I have an easier time identifying dream signs and recurring elements (and their associations). I feel I become more familiar with my dreams each night, which creates a richer, more fascinating dream life.

      As I said, this is still a work in progress. Neither the scales nor the scoring is fixed. I'm a little worried about the heavy categorization being in contradiction to the more natural process of dreaming, but I'll see how that pans out. As I learn new things from other dreamers and refine concepts, I adjust the scales and the scorings. If I want to work on something in particular (say WILDs), I can increase the score I give to a WILD. If I discover new elements which are important to me, I can incorporate them into the scales. This way I tailor the scales to how I need them to be (and if someone takes inspiration from this, I encourage them to do so as well).

      And lastly (perhaps most importantly), for me, its just plain fun to do. Much more then 'was I lucid or not?'

      So that's me rambling on about dreams again. Thoughts, advise, pointing out glaring holes in my dream theory that I've missed, all very welcome.

      -Redrivertears-
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      Thanks for sharing- this feels like an EXELLENT way to be with ones dream practice I am doing my best to have this kind of dedication to loving and appreciating all my dreams- yes it feels a lot richer this way and like you said better and better re - call comes out of it. It's inspiring to see you've been LDing all these years and kept so close to this crucial element

      what's your other day work for LDing?

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      Thanks for the kind words.

      My daily routine actually varies. I like to mix it up, depending on what I feel like doing that day. I figure it's kind of like physical training. Every thing you do helps. Who knows, it may even be better that way. Take an athlete; a boxer for instance. He wouldn't just box, he'd also do muscle exercises, cardio work, reflex training. A soccer player likewise wouldn't just play soccer, but would often do sprint and jog exercises. They do it because all the various aspects of the physical training, cardio, strength, speed, and so on, combine together to make them a better athlete.

      So I try to vary my routines and switch my day work in a similar way. When something becomes too much of a routine or I don't feel like doing it today, I switch it up. That keeps it fresh and interesting for me.

      In general though, I try to work on three 'groups' of day work. Group one are exercises that focuses on dreams (visualization, reality checks, paying extra special attention to one particular dream, ...). Group two focuses on being in the moment (meditation, awareness, mindfulness, ...). And group three focuses on making active choices (reflection on your choices, questioning or breaking routines, asking yourself what you would do if it was a dream, ... ).

      I figure these are the three key elements to dream awareness. You'd need to focus on the dreams, naturally. For lucidity, you'd need to go from being a passive 'player' in your dream to an active 'choice maker', and you'd need to be able to stay in the moment long enough not to have it slip from your fingers and actually become lucid to begin with. So I try to pick one from each group and combine them for my day work (though admittedly I something prioritize one or two over the other, depending on what I feel needs extra attention).

      Hope that makes sense,

      -Redrivertears-
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      Could you go more into the 3 groups of day work and how practicaly you introduce them then in your day ...its just so helpfull to see how others work creativly with the key elements - thank you

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      Hey there,

      The exercises themselves are just the kind you find repeated here a lot on the forums really.

      I like using mantra's and meditation. I have a restless mind, always analyzing, making plans. So mantra's help me to focus and shift my attention to where I want it to go, while meditation helps me to slow down, find some clarity and get my stray thoughts under control. I can then work on my awareness, and being in the moment.

      I enjoy an exercises that I call 'bringing the dream', which is basically just asking myself 'what would I do this was a dream?' and then visualize my chosen dream elements into my waking surroundings. I try to get creative and fun with that.

      Each morning I pick one dream and write it down in a separate digital dream journal in greater detail, giving it extra attention and learning its elements and associations.

      There's others, but those are my favorites really

      -Redrivertears-
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      yes its amazing how scattered our minds can get isnt it and the things you and others on the forum are mentioning alot are exellent ways to bring us home. The fact that these ways/ things are the key to our lucid dreaming work too shows me what a wonderful hobby it is and a very spiritual one too

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      Quote Originally Posted by Redrivertears View Post
      (It's actually the fact that you ARE paying attention to your dreams that makes you remember them better, not the fact that you're keeping a dreamjournal).
      This gets down to the nitty gritty. I can feel lucidity building (or not) in my waking life, so it's not such a surprise when I do get lucid or prelucid in a dream. Mindset without method works, method without mindset doesn't. I think if we were able to analyze mindset and prescribe actions accordingly, the methods could all become obsolete. Except for dream journal and probably meditation, the other techniques might just be busy work to keep us on topic while waiting, and time after time I've heard, "As soon as I stopped trying, it happened."

      I think there is a tempering factor involved, which pops up on all levels of the practice. In Aikido it's called Metsuke or soft eyes. Focus has to be balanced with detachment, like if you get a screen pop up, it will disappear if you hone in on it too hard, but with just the right gaze, like mild curiosity but nothing strained or desperate about it, you can maintain it for a while.

      I totally agree that all dreams deserve equal appreciation. Even tiny ones during microsleep have turned out to be rendezvous with my dream body, with the two of us passing awareness back and forth or with the dream body aiming a kick at my head and me waking up with a twitch, etc. No end to it, and the enthusiasm put into it has maybe more to do with it than hard, unrelenting focus.
      If you don't build it, it won't work.

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      Quote Originally Posted by Redrivertears View Post
      So I try to vary my routines and switch my day work in a similar way. When something becomes too much of a routine or I don't feel like doing it today, I switch it up. That keeps it fresh and interesting for me.

      In general though, I try to work on three 'groups' of day work. Group one are exercises that focuses on dreams (visualization, reality checks, paying extra special attention to one particular dream, ...). Group two focuses on being in the moment (meditation, awareness, mindfulness, ...). And group three focuses on making active choices (reflection on your choices, questioning or breaking routines, asking yourself what you would do if it was a dream, ... ).
      I think so much of this has to do with developing the kind of desire for lucidity that is real, not bogus and not forced or some empty routine, the kind of desire that translates to lucidity while awake and then when you become lucid in a dream it's not so much the harsh focus but the happy feelings i.e. enthusiasm and appreciation that makes you stay in the dream long enough to get something out of it besides a score of 1 for lucid.

      I like your scoring idea too. It wouldn't be for everybody but I'm working on something similar for myself. Problem is I write too much about my dreams and then I get behind on typing them, much less the all-important going back over them to re-appreciate them and see them with some perspective after a little time has passed. Often I don't spot the best cues in a dream during the dream OR while recording it, but only when going back over it later to type it or even later than that to re-read the typed version.
      If you don't build it, it won't work.

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      This is what I came here for.

      Thank you.

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      Do you write down your dreams as soon as you wake up from them? I often find myself overwhelmed because I wake up after every dream I have and often find myself waking up up to 6 or 7 times a night with a new dream I could I write down but worry about missing out on sleep if I were to write them all down

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      Quote Originally Posted by Jgord View Post
      I...find myself waking up up to 6 or 7 times a night with a new dream I could I write down but worry about missing out on sleep if I were to write them all down
      I think writing down every detail of every dream is for beginners. Or for people who don't want to advance. Do you go to college and take the same classes every year? I say this as a perhaps overly avid dream journaller. My journal is considerably thicker than my neck after almost 1-1/2 years. You don't want to make a chore out of this, it should be fun.

      I find that if I sometimes give myself permission to slack off on the journalling, my dreams actually brighten up and become more interesting. I stop thinking of it as something I have to do, and then I don't "have to" transcribe it all into the computer, so I am free to dream more. There is a balance, of course you don't want to just stop. My latest thing has been to choose one dream scene from the night before and replay it over and over in my mind all the next day. This keeps me focused on the topic while giving me something useful to stuff into the monkey mind when it gets noisy.

      More advanced dreamers should stop me if I'm wrong, but I think I've noticed that jumping out of bed to record every single dream immediately ruins any chances of chaining dream after dream by lying still, keeping the eyes closed, and riding the vestigial vibes from the last dream back out onto the ramp. By taking my chances on forgetting some details, I have managed to have paired lucids by chaining a couple times recently.
      If you don't build it, it won't work.

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