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Inception: now we can all lucid dream

 The Big Issue South Africa 27 September 2019

Following the phenomenal success of the film Inception, Albert Buhr talks to the lucid dreaming teacher Charlie Morley who earns a living teaching people to create their own dream worlds. (1163 Words) - By Albert Buhr

The Big Issue South Africa_falling awake

Charlie Morley. Photo: The Big Issue South Africa

Inception has been hailed as a cinematic sucker punch, but few know that the basic premise is based on fact. Becoming conscious within our dreams is called lucid dreaming, and according to the testimony of practitioners, these experiences can be extraordinarily vivid, intense, pleasurable and exhilarating. In fact, people regularly count their lucid dreams as among the most wonderful experiences of their lives.

The UK-based lucid dreaming teacher Charlie Morley, with special authorisation, now teaches the practice in the context of Tibetan Buddhism, which has a thousand-year history of applying lucid dreaming to spiritual practice.

"Through learning how to lucid dream we can learn not only how to wake up in our dreams but also how to wake up in our lives as we begin to integrate our dream practice into the path of both spiritual and psychological awakening," says Morley.

[Albert Buhr] What did you think of Inception?

[Charlie Morley] It was a great piece of Hollywood action that brings lucid dreaming to a wider audience without ever actually mentioning the term, strangely enough. From an ethical standpoint it's questionable - the Buddhist in me was bothered by the mind manipulation of unconscious processes, but the lucid-dreaming junkie in me was loving it! As pure entertainment, it was amazing. Psychologically, the practice of lucid dreaming can be very beneficial, and if it takes a Hollywood action movie to get people interested in the potentials of dream work, then that's a good thing.

[Albert Buhr] What in the movie was an accurate portrayal of lucid dreaming? Is it possible to have dreams within dreams, for example?

[CM] All the stuff they get up to in the lucid dream state is absolutely possible within one's own lucid dream. All of the dreamscape architect stuff and awareness of projections is something that lucid dreamers do regularly. Just last night I was walking through my lucid dream aware that the people on the street were projections of my own unconscious mind. Stopping to talk to them, I kept wondering, 'What part of me is thinking up their replies to my questions?' Dreams within dreams - or false awakenings, as lucid dreamers call them - are a common occurrence and can be quite amusing. Lucid dreams are so real that you can easily be fooled, but there are special techniques you can use to check if you're dreaming. Regarding the whole limbo thing from the movie, don't worry, it's really just a Hollywood device.

[Albert Buhr] What was pure fiction?

[CM] The whole premise of being lucid within somebody else's dream was far-out fantasy. I have heard reports of certain spiritually advanced practitioners being able to do it, but it's very rare. Being conscious in your own dream is fact, but getting lucid in somebody else's dream is getting well into the realm of fiction. The whole time delay stuff is incorrect too - scientific studies have shown that time in lucid dreams is pretty much the same as real time. It is possible to 'self-incept', and in fact one of the techniques that I teach is based on planting a positive affirmation or idea such as 'I am a kind and loving person' into the unconscious mind while in the lucid dream state, leading this idea to manifest in waking consciousness.

[Albert Buhr] In the movie the main character's wife had lost her sense of what was dream and what was real. Are there any pitfalls with lucid dreaming? Can a lucid dream become a nightmare? Is it only for the brave?

[CM] Like any spiritual practice, you need to be brave if you're going to start exploring your mind because it goes pretty deep and can sometimes seem dark down there - but it is perfectly safe and immensely beneficial to explore! As long as your motivation is positive, this practice will allow you to integrate parts of your psyche and gain access to the healing potential of your mind in a way that few other practices can. When we learn to lucid dream we begin to unpack a lifetime of psychological conditioning, which can seem quite intense and even scary at the beginning, but this is actually great because our normal psychological conditioning is often characterised by unawareness and neurosis, so the sooner we can start to redress that the better.

A lucid dream is unlikely to become a nightmare, but a nightmare can very easily become a lucid dream, and once this happens it is no more scary than watching an old horror movie. What you once found so terrifying now seems almost ridiculous under the light of lucid awareness. In fact, lucid dreaming is often used to treat people who suffer from chronic nightmares.

[Albert Buhr] What's the main benefit of the practice?

[CM] From a Buddhist point of view it's like this: lucid dreaming lets us wake up to illusion. It allows us to become aware of what we were once unaware of. This process is psychologically beneficial by its very nature, because the essence of mind is awareness, and so the more aware we can become the better. Lucid dreaming dissolves illusion and dissolving illusion is the core aim of Buddhist spiritual practice.

[Albert Buhr] Is it difficult to learn?

[CM] Lucid dreaming isn't an easy skill to master but neither is anything worth learning. You wouldn't expect to learn how to swim in one weekend, but you could expect to make the massive breakthrough of staying afloat, and then with practice eventually you might be swimming proficiently, and maybe after a few months you're doing swan dives off the high board! It's just the same with lucid dreaming. Practice makes perfect.

We have a pretty good success rate at retreats with most people getting onto the lucidity spectrum within three days, which is good going considering the lifetime of non-lucid dreaming that we're working against. And sometimes you get people who have a full-on lucid dream after their first session. It's totally different for each person. I'm not that worried about people getting lucid while on the actual retreats, it's more about giving them a well-stocked toolbox of techniques which they can access from then on.

[Albert Buhr] What's your favourite thing about the practice?

[CM] It's definitely the fact that by learning lucid dreaming, you learn lucid living! You begin to become lucid in everyday life and realise that we sleepwalk non-lucidly through the majority of our waking lives. We are constantly on autopilot, but by learning how to get lucid in our dreams we learn how to get lucid in our waking time, and wake up to the amazing potential of our lives.


Originally published by The Big Issue South Africa ©


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