Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lucid Dreams as One Method of Replicating Components Commonly Associated with Near-Death Experiences

Lucid Dreams as One Method of Replicating Components Commonly Associated with Near-Death and Other Ecstatic Experiences

This brings us back to the question of whether it is possible to have the equivalent of a near-death experience without nearly dying. That the answer is “yes” should now be evident. From the point of view of dreaming, death and transcendence are the same thing.

Stephen LaBerge
Lucid Dreaming 
 
If the most well known of ecstatic episodes is the near-death experience, the most easily accessible method of entering into the ecstatic state for most people is learning to have lucid dreams. As I pointed out in the previous section, entering into ecstatic state consciousness requires that we somehow untether ourselves from our egos. This ego death occurs quite naturally each night.
As we fall asleep our internal dialogue slows down and finally stops. The body relaxes and our senses stop taking in most of the external input from the world around us. During the period of sleep during which dreams occur, almost all of the body’s muscles are not only relaxed, but actually paralyzed. The ego both physically and psychologically has now been effectively neutralized and, not surprisingly, it is during time that we are most likely to experience ecstasy.
      Most people assign dreams to a category of experiences that are less real and, therefore, less important than other experiences that occur during the course of our everyday lives. This is easily done because during dreams we are less conscious than during our normal waking life, and it seems to follow that the dream experiences we have are also less real. But what happens when we have dreams during which we are as fully conscious as we are during normal waking consciousness?
     Ecstasy during sleep most often occurs during a lucid dream. A lucid dream is one in which the dreamer becomes conscious during the dream that he or she is, in fact, dreaming. The person continues to dream, but now fully conscious, is able to intentionally act within the dream in any way they choose, just as in waking life.
     During lucid dreams, one becomes aware that conscious awareness has been taken into a different, higher state of being. The body is unquestionably asleep and in the dream state. But for the individual involved, the experience is that of one’s conscious awareness being located beyond the physical body. During my own lucid dreams, I almost always find myself fully conscious in a dreamscape that appears for all intents and purposes to be real. I also almost always know that my body is somewhere peacefully sleeping, although I can never remember exactly where it is.
     For many years there was a great deal of controversy among sleep and dream researchers about whether it was actually possible to be conscious during the dream state. Many scientists discounted reports of lucid dreams altogether. Many believed these reports were nothing more than episodes during which the sleeper woke up briefly, fell back to sleep and misinterpreted the experience as a "conscious dream.” But there were others who were actually having lucid dreams and, based on their own experience, were convinced that it was possible to be fully conscious within the dream state. It wasn’t until the late 70's, when two researchers, acting independently and unaware of each others work, were able to demonstrate conclusively that it was possible to be dreaming and fully conscious at the same time.
Keith Hearne in England, and Stephen LaBerge in California, both devised what has to be considered a brilliant blend of the best of hard science and consciousness research. LaBerge and Hearne, both accomplished lucid dreamers themselves, realized that to convince skeptical colleagues they would need to demonstrate that they were both dreaming and fully conscious at the same time. To do this, they would need to become lucid and somehow signal from within the dream state, thereby proving that they were conscious, in a manner that could be detected using physiological measurements.
The problem they faced was that most of the body’s muscles are paralyzed during the period of sleep in which dreaming occurs. The eye muscles are one of the few exceptions to this. In fact, it is the rapid back and forth movement of the eyes, called rapid eye movement (or REM), which signals that people are dreaming. Because of this, both LaBerge and Hearne reasoned that it would be possible to become lucid within the dream state and perform a series of predetermined eye movements that could be detected by monitoring devices. They were both able to do this and other researchers have since replicated these experiments with other lucid dreamers. Faced with this evidence, even the most skeptical scientists were forced to accept that lucid dreams are, in fact, conscious dreams, as well as a very interesting altered state of consciousness.

The Transcendental Nature of Lucid Dreams

My own fascination with lucid dreams began while reading LaBerge’s book Lucid Dreaming. In Chapter 10 of Lucid Dreaming, LaBerge discusses the transcendental nature of some lucid dreams:

"The fully lucid dreams we have been discussing are instances of transcendental experiences, experiences in which you go beyond your current level of consciousness. Lucid dreamers (at least during the dream) have gone beyond their former views of themselves and have entered a higher state of consciousness. They have left behind their former way of being in dreams, no longer identifying with the dream characters they play or thinking that the dream world is reality. In this way, fully lucid dreams are transcendental experiences."

LaBerge went on to discuss Raymond Moody and Kenneth Ring’s work into NDEs in connection to transcendental lucid dreams and then posed a profound rhetorical question. If NDEs are transcendental experiences that occur at the point of physical death, and if lucid dreams are also transcendental experiences, is it not possible to have the equivalent of an NDE during a lucid dream? LaBerge's own conclusion is that this is, indeed, possible. As I continued to read the literature on lucid dreams, I was amazed to find that almost everyone who studied or experienced lucid dreams had, at one time or another, experienced something which they recognized as being similar to NDEs.
British parapsychologist, Celia Green, in her study of lucid dreams, wrote: “It is not possible to discuss lucid dreams without considering their relationship to another type of experience known as an ‘out-of-the-body experience.’ Experiences of this kind occur in a wide variety of settings, the majority of these being associated with conditions of stress, accident or illness.” She went on to illustrate her point by describing an account of a person who was involved in a traffic accident and reported an OBE. It’s important to remember that she was writing before Moody's work had been published or the term "near-death experience" coined. Because of this, she didn’t distinguish between OBEs that occur spontaneously, or during dreams, and those that would now be considered as one component of an NDE. Regardless, this shows that leading authorities in this field have made the connection between, not just lucid dreams and OBEs, but also between these and NDEs. If these observations are correct, then the possibility exists of utilizing lucid dreams as one method of inducing ecstatic, otherworldly journeys that are similar to NDEs. And there are a number of anecdotes in the literature that clearly demonstrate that this happens spontaneously.
Kenneth Kelzer, author of The Sun and the Shadow: My Experiment with Lucid Dreaming, described aspects of his lucid dreams that took on transcendental qualities. In a lengthy lucid dream he entitled, "The Gift of the Magi,” Kelzer dreamt he was one of the three magi on his way to present gifts to the Christ child. He described following the star for days, visiting Herod's court and finally coming upon the infant Christ. As the dream ended, Kelzer experienced a tremendous rush of emotion that caused him to cry uncontrollably. He seemed to have experienced a remarkable catharsis, one aspect of which was a review or flashback of the entire experience:

In the flashback, the entire journey, in every single detail flashed through my memory in an instant. The absolute pregnancy and fullness of this moment were clear and unmistakable. This complete flashback reminded me of certain descriptive accounts that have been given by people who survived near-death experiences and reported that at the moment in which they realized they were about to die, they saw their entire lifetime rush before them in a single instant. 10

Kelzer made the connection between his lucid dream and NDEs. He then went on to mention that he had been quite skeptical of these accounts prior to his own experience. He questioned how so much material could pass through some one's mind instantaneously. But after this episode in his own lucid dream, he became convinced that “in an altered state of consciousness, such as a lucid dream or a near-death experience, such possibilities are quite real. In this incredible dream moment thousands or perhaps millions of thoughts and memories flooded through my mind as one giant torrent, with each individual image flowing in its proper sequence.” 11
The life review, the telepathic communication with a spiritual figure, the feelings of joy, ecstasy and love and the desire to be one with the light suggest that this experience, if occurring at the point of death, would be considered a moderate to deep NDE. The only difference? Kelzer was safely asleep in his own bed throughout the experience.
Finally, psychologist and veteran lucid dreamer Patricia Garfield has written about how the development of her lucid dreams resulted in ecstatic experiences. In the following quote from her book, Pathway to Ecstasy: The Way of the Dream Mandala, Garfield implies a developmental trend which begins with dreaming, continues with lucid dreams, and ends in OBEs:

"Meanwhile, I had been experiencing yet another level of dream consciousness. More and more I found myself having lucid dreams--dreams in which you become aware that you are dreaming during the dream. In this incredible state, anything becomes possible: flying at will, orgasm with partners of choice, calling forth creative ideas, projecting oneself into distant lands, visiting with long-dead people, and so on. Then after months of lucid dreaming, I found myself automatically, on occasion, experiencing what people call out-of-body experiences." 12
If NDEs are the most well known of ecstatic experiences, lucid dreams are the most easily accessible for most people. Especially for those people who have good dream recall and rich dream lives, lucid dreams may be the most convenient doorway into the transcendental. Dreaming is a naturally occurring event and there are no known dangers or negative effects of learning the skill of lucid dreaming. Most importantly, lucid dreaming has been shown to be a teachable, learnable skill. Anyone who is able to recall his or her dreams and who has sufficient motivation can learn to experience lucid dreams. And my own experience should be of encouragement to those who have little or no personal experience with altered states of consciousness.

Mastering the Art of Lucid Dreaming

I will start by saying that, when I began, I did not consider myself in any way more gifted or talented than the average person in being able to have lucid dreams. In fact, many women who I have worked with have an easier time entering into ecstatic dream states than most men, including myself. (This is actually a very interesting observation in itself that deserves a more thorough discussion and consideration than would be appropriate here. However, I will say that, in general, men’s more rigid ego structure which interfere with their ability to enter into ecstatic states, while women’s ego's are more permeable allowing for easier access).
Regardless, after reading LaBerge’s work, I became determined to learn to have lucid dreams. Besides reading everything I could on the subject, I formed a group of colleagues and friends who expressed an interest in lucid dreams in order to have ongoing support and encouragement. The group met in my office twice monthly for more than five years. Since that time, I have taught lucid dreaming to various groups. What follows is a description of how I was able to master the art of lucid dreaming.


The first step to becoming conscious in your dreams is to become more conscious of your dreams. To do so, it is important to record as completely as possible as many dreams as you can remember. Nonlucid dreams are very fleeting, and if they are not written down immediately they are easily forgotten. In contrast to normal dreams, lucid dreams are much more easily remembered. Many people put a pad of paper and a pencil beside their bed at night and write down their dreams when they awaken. I prefer to keep a tape recorder on the nightstand next to my bed. Each night before going to sleep, I simply record the date and put the tape recorder where I can easily reach it in the dark. I have learned how to turn it on in the dark and I simply record as much of the dream as I remember. The next day I write the dream out in full on my computer. At the end of each year I simply print out my dream journal, have it bound and another year of dreams are neatly documented.
I began recording my dreams nightly and developed excellent dream recall quite quickly. Despite all my efforts, three months passed and I had yet to have my first lucid dream. Going to sleep that night I recall thinking that lucid dreams were just another fascinating state of consciousness that I would read about, but never experience myself. That night I had my first lucid dream.

In it I found myself driving through a neighborhood I lived in as a child. I went through an intersection and a policeman on a motorcycle followed and stopped me. I thought he was going to give me a ticket, but instead he got me out of the car, put me down on the ground and handcuffed me. As he did, he asked me how long it had been since I’d had a speeding ticket. I thought for a moment and realized that it has been more than ten years since I've been ticketed for speeding. At that moment, I realized I must be dreaming. I became so excited when I woke up, which is not uncommon among first time lucid dreamers.
I must point out that my taste of lucidity was preceded by a small, but significant, ego sacrifice. I had put an enormous amount of effort into trying to have a lucid dream. On the same night I gave up the effort, when I concluded I would never experience dream consciousness, it suddenly occurred for the first time. However subtle, the mental attitude of giving up, of dying to the hope that I would have this experience, paradoxically created the necessary conditions for it to occur, and again demonstrated the connection between ego sacrifice and transcendence.
Analyzing the content of the dream is also interesting. A policeman stops me for speeding and, rather than giving me a ticket, handcuffs me and puts me on the ground. Clearly the message here is that I am going too fast and, since that time, I have found that when I am busy I tend to have less lucid dreams. And finally, for whatever reason, being asked the question of when I had my last speeding ticket caused me to self-reflect for a moment. Self-reflection is a very close to self-consciousness and any time we self-reflect within the dream state we are a half-step away from becoming fully conscious.
I have continued to have lucid dreams since than. At times, I have had as many as four in one week. At other times, I have gone more than a month without having any. As I experienced more conscious dreams, and became more familiar and comfortable with this fascinating state, I began to explore and test different scenarios.
Many people begin to experience lucidity as the result of some aspect of the dream that is so strange or different from normal waking consciousness that the dreamer realizes that he or she must be dreaming. For myself, the most obvious example of this is that I almost always fly during lucid dreams, something that I have yet to master in my conscious waking life without the use of an airplane. One night I dreamt that I have just returned from a long voyage. The dream seemed to be set in the eighteenth or nineteenth century and as it unfolded I found myself disembarking from a whaling ship somewhere in New England. I began walking down a dirt road towards a town. As I did, I was holding both hands over my chest, my right hand over my left. Suddenly, I began flying and, as I did, I realized I must be dreaming. I continued flying higher and higher into the sky, completely blinded by a white light. As I reached the highest point, I slowed down and started to plummet back towards earth. I was unable to see anything which scared me and I suddenly woke up.
Many people use what are referred to as dreamsigns to help become conscious. A dreamsign is a reoccurring symbol in one's dreams. For instance, I frequently dream of policemen. Because I know this symbol is likely to occur in my dreams, I can use it as a cue to become lucid. To do so, during my waking life when I see a policeman, I simply ask myself whether I am dreaming. Over a period of time, the questioning becomes automatic and, when the symbol occurs in the dream, I find myself asking whether I’m dreaming.
In another lucid dream, I found myself in my grandfather's house with my younger brother sleeping in a bed next to me. The scene then changed and I found myself on the sidewalk outside of the house. I saw two policemen walking towards me and I asked myself whether I was dreaming. I immediately realized that I was and started flying. As I did, one of them tried to grab me, but I was able to fly through his arm and escape. I seemed to have a number of adventures, and a long time passed, although I cannot recall what occurred. The dream ended when I found myself back in the bedroom where my brother was still sleeping.
Although in this dream I was able to use a dreamsign to become conscious, most of my lucid dreams occur spontaneously. There is what I can only describe as an "opening" in the area of my forehead and I am suddenly lucid. In one dream, I found myself walking onto the lawn of a house on a corner. Everything was very brightly lit and I suddenly felt the opening and became lucid. I began flying in a sitting position about ten feet off the ground. I was having trouble controlling my position and struggled to maintain it. I continued flying at the same height, but was flying fast which frightened me. I tried to slow my speed down. In the distance there was a small hill and on top of the hill what looked like a barn. Finally, I tried to stop my flight and turn around, but in doing so, I lost my lucidity and woke up.
This dream illustrates something I have experienced repeatedly during lucid dreams. Although lucid dreams can be changed or altered, I usually get better results by going with whatever is happening rather than trying to alter the dream too much. Too often, my attempt to change the dream has caused me to lose my lucidity and wake up. On the other hand, I’ve learned that if I set a firm intention to perform a specific action prior to going to sleep, not only am I able to do this, I seem to remember to carry out my intention automatically the next time I become lucid.
After having a number of lucid dreams, I was reviewing my dream journal and realized that I had never spoken to or interacted with another dream figure while lucid. I set a firm intention that the next time I became lucid I would find someone to talk with some one. The following night I dreamt I was on a college campus. I became lucid and began flying above the campus when I remembered my intention to interact with another dream figure. I flew back down, walked over to a bench and sat down next to a man. I waited for a moment and then turned to him and asked if he knew we were dreaming. Without looking at me he rather nonchalantly said that he was “unconvinced that this is a dream.”
Many people who have lucid dreams comment on how real they are. I’ve had dreams that seemed so real it didn't occur to me to test whether or not I was dreaming. For instance, one night I was staying in a hotel in San Francisco while attending a workshop. In the bathroom was a urinal, and in front of the urinal, a wall. That night I dreamt that I was standing at the urinal and as I looked up, I saw the most beautiful full moon through a window. I was awestruck by the beauty of the scene and it occurred to me that I hadn’t realized that it was a full moon which, in fact, it was at the time. The next morning I woke up and for a moment I thought there actually was a window in the bathroom. However, I quickly realized that I had been dreaming, had failed to realize it and had lost a chance to become lucid.
This type of dream is called a false awakening. A false awakening is simply a dream in which one dreams they have awoken. Only later, when they actually do wake up, do they realize they were only dreaming of being awake. False awakenings are probably best understood as a type of prelucid state in which the dreamer has some level of awareness, but lacks complete consciousness. For anyone learning the art of lucid dreaming, having a false awakening is clearly a sign you’re making progress. My experience has been that false awakenings often occur on the night prior to my having a lucid dream, and if I have a false awakening, I redouble my efforts to have a lucid dream the following night.
Since my father’s death in August, 1995, I have had a series of lucid dreams in which we were together. Although my father and I had few major areas of disagreement, when he died there was one issue on which we had not achieved complete closure. Because of the personal nature of the issue I won't say more about the specifics, although I will say it involved a feeling on my part that he had never forgiven me for doing something he felt was wrong. A few days after his funeral I had the following dream:

I am with Dad and we are very high up. He tells me he knows I feel badly about this particular issue and that it is all right. I start crying uncontrollably. Suddenly, I find myself farther down, closer to Earth and, although there is some distance between us, we still are communicating. I tell him that he knows exactly what I need.

In a somewhat similar dream, my first image was of a man who was lighting a haystack on fire. I immediately thought that this was wrong when suddenly:

The scene changes and I am out in space looking back down at the earth. My entire family is with me: my deceased father, my mother, three brothers and sister (alll of whom were alive at the time) are all there. We are not in physical form. Rather, we are all what I can only describe as presences hovering out in space looking back down at the earth. I feel my father’s presence to my right. We are looking for points of light like the fire made by the man who lit the haystack on fire. Gradually, I see a number of lights far down on the earth. Then we all slowly float down to earth and land in a place that is very familiar to me, although I don’t recognize it in ordinary reality. I slowly wake up.

Shape-shifting is a term used by students and practitioners of shamanism to describe the experience of changing form usually into that of an animal. This occurs in shamanic trance states but it also occurs spontaneously during lucid dreams. The following dream is one in which I experienced myself as a bird:

I dream I am flying over a desert area when I suddenly become fully conscious. I am aware I am traveling south or southwest in the dream approximately 20 to 30 feet off the ground. At one point, I suddenly dive to the ground and pick up what seems to be a small insect in my mouth. This seems strange and I realize this must be what it is like to be a bird. I continue flying for a long time and finally land in what appears to be the outskirts of a small Mexican town. I change form into a man and walk down the main street. It is nighttime, although everything is lit up by a soft luminous light. There are some men standing around as I walk to the end of the street. I return to the main street and walk to where I first landed and immediately take off flying in the direction from which I came. As I do, I again change form into a bird and the dream slowly fades.

As Patricia Garfield pointed out, after having a number of lucid dreams, many people report having OBEs during the sleep state. This has certainly been my own experience. Eighteen months after having my first lucid dream, I had a series of dreams in which the legs and the trunk of my body were floating in the air detached from the rest of my body. This occurred three or four times when one night I had the following dream:


I become lucid and I am in my bed with most of my body detached like in the other dreams I have recently had. I think to myself that I can "project" at any time. In the next moment, I become interested in something going on in the next room. Suddenly, I detach from my physical body at the head. I let out an audible groan as I do and there seems to be some pain involved, although I don’t actually experience any pain. I slowly float over to the door and through it. I am in a house I don't recognize. I look to my right and there are two people embracing and kissing on a couch. As I look at them, they both turn quickly to look at me and I realize one is my younger brother. I turn to my left and my older brother is sitting at a small kitchen table. He is smoking a cigarette, lets out a puff of smoke and says something about a baseball--he wants to play baseball with me. I float by him and into a kitchen area. There are some women sitting at a table playing cards. Next, I find myself in a hallway. At the end of the hallway I see two women walk into a room together. Now I am standing in a doorway leading to a bathroom. As I stand there I am thinking that for years I have heard accounts of out-of-body experiences and now, for the first time, I am having my own conscious out-of-body experience. The dream slowly fades and I wake up.

Although I identified this as an OBE while in the dream, most of the content of the experience had the quality of a lucid dream. Nevertheless, following this I began having episodes during the dream state which were clearly different than typical lucid dreams. There is a distinct qualitative difference between many lucid dreams and OBEs which occur during the sleep state, and it is clear that lucid dreams are a prelude to OBEs. In fact, there is a natural progression that begins with dreams, continues with lucid dreams, proceeds to OBEs, and finally to transcendental OBEs, which is precisely what an NDE is. I have also noted in many people I work with a progression from having OBEs during sleep to having them from the waking state.

The following dream occurred shortly after the one described above:

I feel myself rising vertically out of my body, going through the wall of my bedroom and out into the night sky. As I do, I become fully conscious. I look towards the horizon and see light as if it is dusk or dawn. I say to myself that I want that to be my destination. As soon as I say this, I feel myself flying through the air in the general direction of the horizon. I can feel the wind going by and I am quite high up off the ground--maybe 100 feet. The next thing I know, I am hovering above what looks like a school building. There are people standing outside and suddenly a man looks up at me and says that next time I should remember to wear a shirt. I am so startled by his comment I wake up.

In the dream discussed above, I was aware of having a dreambody. In the following one, I experienced myself as simply consciousness in space:

I become lucid and I am trying to roll out of my body the way Robert Monroe suggests in his books. I seem to be half way out, but get stuck and can’t get the rest of the way out. I roll back into my body and then roll out again and this time I am successful. I rise up into the night sky and am fairly high--maybe 100 feet above the ground. I don’t have any dreambody. I am just a presence in space. A cloud floats by and I can feel its density. I am amazed at how much substance it has. I remain in this state for a few minutes and then feel myself slowly going down, back into my body.

Many people experience a vibration during sleep. For those who are interested in having an OBE, an excellent recommendation is to simply imagine yourself somewhere else in your home when you feel this vibration. Quite often people suddenly find themselves in the exact location they had mentally envisioned moments before.
The first few times I felt this vibration it was strong and somewhat frightening. Over a period of time, the vibrations have softened and I now experience them as a gentle, hum-like feeling. One night I became lucid, felt the vibration and I tried to lift out of my body. I began lifting out when suddenly I felt a hand on my right shoulder. The hand firmly pushed me down, back into my body and I heard a woman’s voice say very distinctly, “You will fly.” I strained to turn around and see who was talking to me, but couldn’t and soon woke up. The next night I had a non-lucid dream of flying with another person. The following dream is also one which began with a feeling of vibration:

In the dream I become lucid and realize that the vibration is running through my body. I consciously allow more of its energy to move through my body and suddenly, I realize I have let too much in. I then find myself standing next to my bed. I look back at where my body is lying and see a figure, although it doesn’t look like my body. I become frightened and dive towards my body. A few seconds go by and I wake up.

Both of these dreams occurred on a night when I had used the technique of interrupting my sleep cycle which many people have found useful in inducing lucid dreams and OBEs. I awoke at about three o’clock in the morning, stayed awake for two hours and then went back to sleep. In doing so, I missed a cycle of dreaming which would have normally occurred if I had been asleep during those two hours. When I went back to sleep, my body made up for this loss by having a longer period of dreaming, which allowed for a greater possibility of becoming lucid or having an OBE.
As one drifts into sleep, they sometimes experiences imsgaes which are called hypnogogic images. Other people become aware of flashes of light, geometric figures, even complete images of people’s faces, rooms or fields. This happens quite often during daytime naps and is an excellent method of inducing lucid dreams. To do so, one should become aware of the imagery and then focus as intently as possible on one specific area within the field of imagery. What often happens is that as one continues to remain conscious and focuses on the imagery, the body falls asleep and you find yourself awake within the vision that seconds before you had been looking at. The following dream illustrates this:

I am focusing very intently on the hypnogogic image, focusing more and more on a smaller area and then suddenly I am floating free of my body. I float around the room for a moment and then I go directly through the roof of the house and marvel at how easy it is to do so. I them remember my intention to go to the upper world and meet my spirit guide, but I find myself back in my body.

Most of my recent work with lucid dreams has had to do with the issue of fear and death. Logically, if one is dreaming, there is nothing to be afraid of and any fear can be faced with complete confidence. After all, it’s only a dream and if anything goes wrong you can always wake up. On the other hand, many of our fears are deeply ingrained and it takes time to overcome them, even within the dream state. And clearly our deepest fear is the fear of death. In the following dream, my fear of death was brought up and, at least within the dream, partially overcome:

I find myself driving through Malibu Canyon toward the beach. As I drive, I notice that the walls of the canyon seem to be crumbling. I come to a sharp hairpin turn and as I do, suddenly I am no longer in a car. I find myself looking over the edge of a cliff into utter vastness. At the same moment I fall and I realize that I am falling to my death. I am gripped with terror, but in the next moment I realize that I am dreaming and I will myself to open completely to the experience. Still very frightened, I try to turn my fall into flying, which I often do in lucid dreams. As I do, I feel myself losing the lucidity and I awaken.
During a typical lucid dream, I know that I am dreaming and that my body is laying in bed asleep. At times that I cannot remember exactly where I am sleeping, but I always know I am dreaming and that my body is comfortably asleep somewhere. However, one night almost two years after my first lucid dream, I had the following experience which was unlike anything I have ever had before or since:

I suddenly become conscious and I am sitting on a bench in what seems to be New Orleans. People are walking past and the thought occurs to me that I have died. As I sit there wondering how one would verify this, a man in a wheelchair rolls up beside me. I ask him if we are dead and he says yes we are dead. I am astonished, but not sad or scared in any way. Suddenly the whole thing seems absurd and funny to me. I laugh and slap my knee. I tell him I can't remember being sick or being in an accident or anything like that. In fact, I can't recall anything at all about my life, although my sense of myself remains the same as always.
It seems to be early evening and there are people walking by. After a while, I turn to the man in the wheelchair and ask, "Doesn't your guardian angel come to get you when you die?" He says something to the effect that this is usually the case. Apparently my guardian angel is not coming to get me, so I begin flying. I am aware that I am traveling in a southernly direction, flying over the tops of trees
and in the distance, between the trees, I see a brilliant light which I think is an airport. As I am flying, I have a thought monentarily frightens me and I suddenly wake up.

When I awoke I was astonished, not because of the dream itself, but because I was alive! The complete discontinuity between this experience and my daily life was amazing to me. While experiencing it, there was no doubt in my mind that I had, in fact, died. Not only had I died, I almost immediately accepted my new state and was off on my first adventure. I had the distinct impression that I was in a different reality for a period of time, and it was only the momentary thought, and the associated fear, that kept me from my destination which was a light; a light that I took (or mistook) to be an airport.
I will end this artile with a dream during which, in a sense, my guardian angel did show up, because in the following lucid dream, I experienced what I can only describe as an angelic being:

I become lucid while lying in bed and find a young man with attractive Middle Eastern features kneeling next to my bed. I can see his face very plainly. He has very fine features, young, handsome and dark. He says that he traces his lineage back to the time of Christ, 16 generations. I ask him if Christ had ever lived in Paris and he says no, that he had traveled as far as modern day Iraq. I am aware that he has been teaching me for a long time before I became conscious. He then says, “No one comes to God or Jesus except through the Bible.” I say that I have my Bible right there next to my bed. (There is an open Bible on my nightstand in ordinary reality which I had been reading before falling asleep. In the dream on top of it is another book which is white and appears to have no writing in it). He then turns towards me and there is a orange/yellow light that leavces from his forehead and flows into mine. I can feel a vibration as this light/energy enters my forehad. We keep talking and then he seems to go around to the other side of my bed. I become afraid at this point because I can’t see him. As if reacting to my fear, he then appears at the foot of my bed, but as a ball of yellow/orange light. I thank him and as I do he drops out of the light, again takes on his angelic form and walks out of my room.

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I have included just a few of the hundreds of lucid dreams I’ve had over the last six years. It’s difficult to accurately convey in words exactly what the effect has been on me to have these experiences. Before I began having lucid dreams, I was someone who was interested in these experiences from a theoretical standpoint. Since having them, I have become one of the millions of people who has experienced ecstasy directly and, in doing so, have proven to my own satisfaction that consciousness can, and does, exist independent of the physical body. The last six years have been, for me, a time of wonderful adventure that formerly was beyond my wildest imagination and it all began with learning to have lucid dreams. Maybe the best way to sum up the effect of these experiences is my answer to a question I was recently asked. My teacher asked a group of us how training in shamanism had changed our lives. I immediately knew that, for myself, all the experiences of ecstasy I have experienced over the past few years have taught me one thing; I now believe that anything, literally anything, is possible. And that is a belief that will open a number of doors that appear closed to many people.
When you consider the fact that lucid dreamers are able to continue working, raising a family and living quite normal lives; that the total investment in time and energy is to read the literature on lucid dreams, attend a two-hour group twice a month and faithfully record their dreams, there is really only one conclusion that can be drawn: having profound ecstatic experiences during the dream state is not at all difficult for many people.

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