Learning to Fly

Last night I had an interesting lucid dream. Lucid dreaming means that you become consciously aware that you’re dreaming. It’s like waking up within your dreams. Everything becomes more vivid and you feel just as awake and aware as you do in your waking world. In fact, sometimes it can feel like you’re even more awake because you’re aware of the fact that your physical body is asleep lying on your bed while at the same time you’re conscious within your own dream world. Often I can even feel the position of my body on the bed. When lucid dreaming I still have access to all my waking memories. I know what day it is, what I did the previous day, where I live, etc. — I feel just as conscious as if I’m awake.

Lucid dreaming is a skill like any other; with practice anyone can learn to do it. I first learned it in 1994, and I still feel like a total amateur at it. The first time I had a lucid dream, it only lasted 5-10 seconds. The experience of being awake inside my own dreams was hard to get used to, and I’d get too excited and wake up almost instantly. It took me almost a year to be able to stay calm enough to get my lucid dreams to last more than a minute. Now they typically last 10-15 minutes. At least that’s how long they feel — I don’t know if the perception of dream time matches with physical world time.

You might think that if you have a lucid dream, you can do whatever you want. But for me it isn’t that simple. Building dream skills takes practice.

I have a whole set of dream-world skills, and I improve at them year after year as I practice lucid dreaming. One of the most fun things to do in a lucid dream is to fly. For me this was a hard skill to master. The first few times I tried to fly in my dream world, it was like a scene from The Greatest American Hero. Anyone remember that show? I could barely get off the ground, I couldn’t go very fast (maybe 5 miles per hour), and I couldn’t turn easily. I was always crashing into stuff — fortunately crashing into a dream tree doesn’t hurt.

But after a decade of practice, I can fly pretty well now. I’m still not perfect at it, but I can go pretty fast, about as fast as a commercial jet. I can do barrel rolls and even fly backwards. I can turn intangible and fly through walls and buildings. I’d say my flying skills are almost as good as Superman’s right now. But it took me about 10 years to reach this level. Who’d have thought that learning to fly would take so much practice?

In my dream last night, I learned a new skill. Usually when I have a lucid dream, it starts out as a regular dream, and then I become conscious within the dream. This time when I woke up, I found myself within the dream world version of Los Angeles. I practiced my flying for about 5 minutes, then decided to work on my speed. Hmm… still maxing out around 600 miles per hour. Will I cause a dream sonic boom if I go faster? I decided to fly to Mexico City, but I realized I wouldn’t have enough time to get there before I woke up. So as I was flying, I tried to teleport myself there. I’ve tried to teleport many times before, and it never worked, but this time it finally did. I popped onto a dirt hill on the outskirts of Mexico City. I started flying again and flew over the city for a while before I woke up. My memory of the city is extremely vivid and detailed, but I’ve never been to Mexico City in real life. I’ve never even been to Mexico. So this morning I checked out some online helicopter photos of Mexico City, and it was pretty close to what I saw in my dream. I even saw the mountains around the city.

I’m not sure why, but my lucid dreams have a history of their own. My dream skills are always at the same level where I previously left off, and I improve a little whenever I practice. There are also persistent locations in the dream world which change between visits. For example, there’s an amusement park in my dream world with some pretty cool rides. I’ve been there dozens of times. It’s not a clone of anything I’ve seen in the real world. Each time I go back to the park in my dreams, it’s changed a little bit since my previous visit. Old rides are torn down; new rides appear. Some areas of the park are even under construction. There aren’t any food stands, since no one there seems to need to eat. But overall it’s the same park each time.

My wife is vastly more experienced at lucid dreaming than I am. And she also has these persistent dream locations, but they aren’t the same ones as mine. One of them she refers to as “Nap Town,” a place she visits often; she says it also changes between visits, as if time is passing there too.

I wonder though… are these places simply created by our individual imaginations and stored in our long-term memories? Or do they actually exist in a way that other lucid dreamers could visit them?

It’s amusing to me that I still pursue personal growth even when I’m asleep. When I was a kid, I always thought it would be cool to learn to fly. And that desire actually manifested for me, but in a very weird way. Perhaps it can’t manifest in the physical world just yet, but the dream world isn’t so limited. And with lucid dreaming it feels just as real as if I were doing it while awake. I still retain the memories of flying just as if they were real-world memories.

If you’ve never experienced a lucid dream, how sad for you. Get started by reading Stephen LaBerge’s Lucid Dreaming and Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. If you’re going to spend so much of your life sleeping, you might as well put the time to good use. Learn to fly. Walk through walls. Have some fun. It’s totally learnable.

Any other lucid dreamers out there in cyberspace?