Here’s an exercise that can help you cultivate the proper view or outlook with all the induction techniques for attaining lucidity. It’s a pedagogical technique, used by educators to inspire students to learn. Draw out three concentric circles, like the rings of a tree trunk. At the center is your comfort zone, where you love to hang out and take it easy. It’s your “hot tub” zone, or bubble bath mentality. The snooze or sleepy zone. The comfort zone is good for recovering from stressful events, or long hard days. We all need it. This inner zone only becomes problematic if that’s the only place you want to be. If you only hang out in your cozy hot tub you’ll never really grow. You’ll eventually drown in comfort.
Growth occurs when you stretch into the challenge zone, or learning zone, the second concentric circle. This is also the zone of discipline. You step out of the hot tub, towel off, and get on with what needs to get done. To stretch into lucidity, you need to reach outside your comfort zone and into this challenge zone. This is not always comfortable, because when it comes to falling asleep the force of habit is formidable, and our comfort plans are unyielding. For many people, falling into blissful sleep each night is akin to plopping into a mental bubble bath. Who wants to challenge that?
The final and outermost circle is the danger zone or risk zone. This is when you’ve gone too far, and overextend the stretch into a “snap” by trying too hard. Buddhism often engages the maxim, “Not too tight, not too loose” when it comes to meditation. It’s a maxim that also applies to lucid dreaming. Being too loose is erring on the side of comfort and ease, and capitulating to the force of habit when it comes to sleep. You don’t want to be bothered with any induction technique, and prefer to crash. Being too tight is stretching too far into the danger zone. This is when you try so hard to attain lucidity that you keep yourself up, tying yourself into knots. Growth doesn’t happen at this outer limit. This is when people get bruised, or otherwise injure themselves through overexertion. In the world of lucid dreaming, this is often when people drop out because they push too hard.
If your goal is to live in the comfort zone, you will discover that it gets smaller and smaller, and the effort required to become lucid just isn’t worth it. You prefer to snooze, and cave in to your comfort plans – as represented by your comforter. In life, you’ll find yourself getting fussier, complaining more, less able to handle discomfort or inconvenience. You surrender to your non-lucid habits, and discipline becomes a dirty word. However, if you stretch yourself into the challenge zone, you’ll find your comfort zone getting bigger and bigger. You’ll complain less and tolerate more. You’ll be more willing to inconvenience your normal sleep habits, and make the effort to “wake up.”
Lucid dreaming is like yoga: are you willing to tolerate the necessary and healthy stretch? With the nocturnal meditations we’re trying to stretch consciousness from the day into the night, so the ability to tolerate a bit of discomfort is helpful. Some people are okay with the daytime induction techniques, but draw the line with nighttime methods. “You can rouse me during the day, but leave me alone when I sleep!” They put up a “Do Not Disturb” sign when it comes to their precious sleep. That’s okay. No one is going to judge you. For those people, just stick with the daytime techniques. But if you really want to have lucid dreams regularly, it helps to cross the line — from your comfort zone and into the challenge zone.
Be aware of also pushing yourself too far. If you find yourself saying, “Lucid dreaming isn’t for me,” or “This is too much,” notice that potential snap, and back off. Return to your bubble bath. Give yourself a break. Then step out of the tub again. Use the three circles to learn about yourself, not to beat yourself up. Dreams are truth-tellers, and working with lucid dreaming is similarly truth-telling. Perhaps you’ll discover that it’s not just lucid dreaming that is ringed by these three circles – but your entire life.