Q. “I heard you speak about how WILDs were a way for you to have more lucid dreams when you were starting out. I've been trying so hard but I get stuck in sleep paralysis and I don’t fall asleep all the way. My body feels like a weight, tingly, and I sometimes see and feel like I’m getting pulled into a dream but then I just wake back up.
I just can’t seem to break through. Can you give me advice?”
A. Your complaint about WILDing is not unheard of. If you are, by all accounts, applying WILD techniques under the right physical conditions for REM sleep, you’re likely experiencing one of two problems.
Either you're stuck in the ‘in-between,’ or you're already dreaming but you don’t realize it.
YOU'RE STUCK "IN-BETWEEN" WAKE AND SLEEP
It's possible to be aware in the wake-to-REM sleep transition, but unable to fall asleep lucidly any further. It's true. Sometimes, the concentration methods it takes to WILD can prevent you from fully falling asleep.
You may need to relax your mind a little more so you can let yourself drift into the dream nonlucidly. This takes letting go of your ‘lucid awareness,’ at least a little, in order to fall into full-on REM dreaming.
When you decide to just "let yourself" fall asleep, here are a couple options that can still promote lucidity.
* Do a few cycles of MILD*
Before letting yourself drift to sleep (without concentrating on maintaining lucidity), practice a few rounds of the MILD technique. You are so close to the dream state that the intentions you set through MILD might trigger lucidity when you fall asleep in a few minutes anyway.
*Leave a trail of breadcrumbs*
Repetitive mantras, counting, or rehearsing movements can spark a trail that continues into the dream even if you don't stay lucid through the wake-to-dream transition.
Try repeating "1…I’ll know I’m dreaming, 2...I'll know I'm dreaming...," etc. Go to say...100. Or, you can imagine yourself spinning your body round and round with your arms outspread.
By doing so, you'll leave a trail of breadcrumbs that can lead you back to lucidity, that is, once you're in.
Take this WILD report for example:
“I begin dreaming that I'm telling my partner how I failed to become lucid in my dream. He begins counting the times I failed by saying “70, I’m dreaming, 30, I’m dreaming, 44, I’m dreaming. I'm counting with him and realize his count is off. I try to remember the number I was at when I was falling asleep a moment ago. In a flash I realize, "This is it! I have landed in the dream! "
You see, even though I lost lucidity for a few moments, a thread of awareness still seeped its way into my dreamworld, cueing my memory.
YOU'RE ALREADY DREAMING BUT YOU DON'T KNOW IT
If you’re noticing the signs of sleep paralysis, there’s a sweet chance that you’re already in REM sleep. You may just be dreaming that you’re still awake, struggling to fall asleep lucidly. (Yes, your dreaming mind is that creative!)
In other words, you are in a dream body in a dream bed in a dream bedroom, but you’re nonlucid. You’re misperceiving your state.
The transition from perceiving your actual body in bed to a dreamed-up version of the same scene can be easy to miss. This replica of your sleeping environment can fool even the most prolific oneironauts, including myself.
Take one of my own WILD experiences for example:
“I've been lying on my back in bed for more than a half hour, trying to WILD during a nap. I was meditating, focusing on remembering I’m dreaming, and observing the leaden feeling in my limbs. I knew I was so close, but I grew worried that a WILD was never going to happen.
I did wonder if I was dreaming already, but it really didn’t seem like it. Just in case I was in fact dreaming, I deferred doing a re-reading reality test, you know, to avoid breaking my trance. Instead, I mentally willed myself to float above my bed. Nothing happened. Frustrated, I think, How long do I have to meditate for before I start lucid dreaming?
Sound familiar? I know how frustrating it can feel to be so close to a lucid dream after working so hard at it.
Little did I know, I was already dreaming….
At that point, I had enough of trying to lucid dream. I gave up and got up out of bed. Walking into my living room, I was stopped dead in my tracks. It was not my living room. (It looked a lot like my living room, but it was different). I laughed at how long I was dreaming after all.
I immediately lied down on the floor where I was, back into a corpse position. I practiced my sleep yoga meditations, just like I pre-planned while awake. I was soon enveloped by a blissful white light before it quickly dissipated. As the light faded, I was graced with a view of a gorgeous whale breaching the ocean amidst a burning orange sunset. The whale then dove back down, deep below, waving goodbye to me with its tail. I thanked my lucid dream for such a beautiful experience, and ruffled myself awake so I could journal it before forgetting any details.
See how a simple change of mindset completely transformed my dream? The dream was right before my eyes the whole time!
What was so ironic was how long I was meditating in bed so impatiently while already dreaming. Then, once lucid, I lied right back down into the SAME position to meditate! But this time, I was able to induce a beautiful lucid experience.
Though it won't always be the case that you’re already dreaming, a sizable portion of WILD attempts contain elements of "sleep state misperception" (i.e. believing you're still awake when you are objectively asleep).
By preparing for this probability, you'll learn to recognize your sleep states with increasingly better accuracy.
I hope that sharing my own WILD experience encourages you to keep investigating this extremely interesting space within your mind.
If you're struggling with the prospective memory skills required to get lucid in the middle of a dream, WILDs can be a backdoor. The keys to unlocking these doors are really not that hard to find, if you know where to look.