The Healing Potential of Lucid Dreams
What makes our lives meaningful? What makes up our essential natures? How do we express qualities of the highest good in our lives? How do we feel, live, love more passionately? Such questions represent the core concerns of Transpersonal psychology.
From a Transpersonal perspective we find the answers to these questions by looking within; the individual acts as a vehicle to express qualities of consciousness. The human capacity to imagine and to dream acts as a bridge between the worlds of matter and spirit, the worlds of thinking and feeling, taking us more deeply into our own hearts. The more lucid our dreams become the more directly we can experience the numinous, Transpersonal sphere. In this way dreams can be gateways to healing and knowledge.
The more we can “wake up” to multi-dimensional aspects of consciousness, the more we can express those qualities through manifestation. This call to “wake up” to a greater wisdom and deeper love echoes throughout Wisdom Traditions. We can carry this injunction into our sleep and “wake up in sleep” by becoming lucid or aware that we dream. Through lucidity, we can withdraw our projections onto the dream and recognize the dream not only as a “creation of our minds”, but as an encounter with a form of consciousness beyond our normal waking consciousness.
When we dream lucidly, we can choose many courses of action, much as we can do in the waking world. However, I have found through the practice of what I call “Lucid Surrender”, that if we choose to align our will in the dream with the “Highest Will”, and “surrender” to that will, new experiences of being and knowing open up. These new experiences often involve the Transpersonal journey of “breakdown-to-breakthrough”, leading to transformative numinous encounters that can empower us to enact creative change in the waking world.
In the waking world, a Transpersonal therapist would view the breakdown-to-breakthrough experience as an essential aspect of our human growth and a way to open up our inner potential. From this point of view, experiences that cause our usual ego-identifications to loosen or to break open our hearts are viewed as positive in developmental terms—even if painful—because they open us up to more liminal realities and increase our capacity to feel more deeply as well as to hold paradoxical perspectives.
So, what we might perceive as a crisis like a bereavement, or job loss can become an opportunity for inner growth and creative life change. Likewise experiences such as having a child or falling in love can shatter our normal ego-identifications. Through such experiences of “ego-death”, we get woken up to a more expansive way of being. Normally, such experiences involve long periods of time to undergo and integrate, but through lucid dreaming, we can facilitate this process because we can more consciously integrate new aspects of being. Many lucid dreamers report shape-changing, taking on new bodily forms and the corresponding forms of consciousness that enhance their waking world sense of self and capabilities.
In Lucid Surrender, the movement from breakdown-to-breakthrough can be accelerated as our ego-based, day-to-day consciousness becomes transformed. Dreaming can facilitate inner healing both within the world of the dream and also in the waking worlds. As the dreamer’s capacity to hold the experience increases, this transformation can take place at an incredible speed as the psyche moves from ego-death to a numinous encounter and a kind of “re-birth”, bringing new capacities from the illuminative experience into the waking world. The dreamer follows a similar path to Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. And just like the Hero, they can return to the ordinary world in a fuller and richer capacity.
Mary Ziemer, Director of the charity HELP Counselling Centre, has an MA in Psychology and Religion and an Advanced diploma in Transpersonal Psychotherapy from the Centre for Counselling and Psychotherapy Education, London, where she is the Manager and Research Officer of the Dream Research Institute. She will speak in Dublin in May as part of the Gateways of the Mind event.
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