Illusory form is not commonly presented in most teachings on lucid dreaming, but I have found it to be of enormous benefit in inducing lucid dreams. It’s more connected to dream yoga, but the principles surely apply to lucid dreaming.
Daytime Illusory Form Practice Strongly Effects Lucidity at Night
In some classic texts on dream yoga, the practice of Illusory Form is actually the main practice. Dream yoga is a subset of Illusory Form. On one level, Illusory Form is the perfect preliminary practice. It prepares the mind for nighttime lucidity. On another level, they are reciprocating practices, which means they support each other: the more you practice Illusory Form during the day, the more you tend to have lucid dreams at night, and the more you practice lucid dreaming at night the easier it is to click into illusory form during the day.
Dream yoga and Illusory Form also work with what scientists call “bi-directionality,” (see the first post in Daily Practices for more on bi-directionality) meaning you open a two-way process that benefits both waking and dreaming consciousness. We’re already working with bi-directionality between the daytime mind and the nighttime mind, whether we know it or not. With dream yoga and Illusory Form we’re simply taking a process and harnessing it for increasing lucidity, or awareness.
What is Illusory Form Practice?
The practice of Illusory Form could not be easier. Throughout the day, as often as you can, remind yourself that everything you’re experiencing now is just a dream, or illusory. You can help yourself out by posting sticky notes on your computer, in drawers, or in your glove compartment that say things like “You’re dreaming,” or “This is a dream.”
By reciting this as often as you can, you’re planting seeds that will sprout while you’re dreaming. Then you will flash onto the fact that “Hey, this really is a dream!” and instantly become lucid.
It’s the pop-up theme again. You want to create a bunch of pop-ups during the day that will ping into your dream and alert you to the fact that you’re dreaming.
Why Else Is Illusory Form So Helpful?
lllusory Form practice eventually lightens the load of daily life. We suffer so much in life is because we take things too solidly, and therefore seriously. The word for this is “reification,” which means making things real, and results in taking things to be solid, heavy, and burdensome. One implication of the word “enlightenment” is that it makes things lighter and therefore more carefree (not careless).
The word for this is “de-reification,” or softening our excessively materialistic and solidified view of things. In other words, seeing things as more dreamlike.
Thing Still Appear
When you say something like, “This is a dream,” you see things as less solid. What appears is still appearing, it’s still there, but it’s not so heavy anymore. What you don’t want to do with this practice is slip into the extreme of nihilism or dissociation, which denies and dismisses the existence of things. In the practice of Illusory Form, we honor what appears, but see the appearances as dreamlike.
- Try reciting the phrase, “This is a dream,” slowly for a few minutes, like a mantra, and see what happens.
- Does your perception of things change?
- Do things get softer, more open, even lighter?
- Don’t say it with a dismissive or belittling attitude, say it with a more playful attitude.
This practice can offer a greater sense of space, a healthy sense of separation and perspective. It can help you take things less personally, which causes so much unnecessary anxiety and suffering. Illusory Form can soften your relationship to “hard” experiences during the day.
How Does Illusory Form Help With Lucid Dreaming?
You’re creating a habit with Illusory Form practice during the day that will carry over into the night. One of the biggest reasons we don’t wake up to the fact that we’re dreaming when we’re dreaming is that we take what happens in the dream to be so real. It’s a fundamental mis-take. By reciting throughout the day, “This is a dream,” you will find yourself doing the same thing when you are dreaming, and that will flip your dream into a lucid one.
Other Twists on Illusory Form
Try looking at the experience of today from the perspective of tomorrow. What you’re experiencing now seems so real to you, but so did your experience from yesterday. When you look at what happened yesterday, or anytime in the past, it can seem like a distant dream. So if we look at our present experience from a future stance, we can de-reify the present.
Look at things as if you were looking at them from the back of your eye. Imagine stepping back from your visual experience, which is similar in spirit to stepping back from a non-lucid dream and seeing it as lucid. By pulling away from your experience a little you can de-reify it.
Another exercise is to do a form of mirror practice. Look at yourself in the mirror, or hold some object in front of the mirror. Look at the reflection and notice how real it seems. Then flash onto the fact that it’s merely a reflection, a mere appearance with no substance whatsoever. Then look away from the mirror at any real object, and flash onto the fact that in essence it’s just as real or substantive as a reflection.
Make Your Waking State More Dreamlike
Take the characteristics of your dreams and transpose them into waking reality. Most dreams are highly visual. So to mimic this in daily life, periodically walk around wearing earplugs, which heightens the visual aspects of experience. Experience often becomes dreamlike very quickly.
Or hold the blinking of your eyes for longer than usual. Instead of the usual hundredths of a second, hold the blink for a second or more. This breaks up your visual field, and makes it more dreamlike.
These may seem like trivial or patronizing practices, but if you put your heart into them they will help you see the illusory nature of things. These practices can have deep and lasting effects. They can soften the impact of daily experience, while simultaneously triggering lucidity in your dreams.
Lucid Dreaming is Not a One-Size-Fits-All Affair
The point isn’t to master all the practices or techniques that induce lucidity, but to find the ones that resonates with you, and stick with that. In the world of lucid dreaming you become your own instructor. No one knows your mind, and your style of dreaming, better than you. If the practice of Illusory Form speaks to you, use it. If it doesn’t, pitch it.