By: Jonathan Joseph
Tips for developing a consistent mediation routine for lucid dreaming and…well, feeling better in general!
In a previous article I discussed how adopting a meditation practice as part of your lucid dream training was a tremendous ancillary benefit to developing your lucid dreaming skills. The next logical questions then would be: “How do I mediate? and "What do you mean by a meditation routine?”
Meditation is somewhat of a nebulous term that can be used to describe anything from a few moments of inward reflection, to a central and sacred part of many religions and spiritual traditions. Most commonly, in the the United States and developed Western world, we think of it as simply sitting quietly alone, and fighting the urge to “think” about anything at all. Many of us give up after 2 minutes and say things like:
“My mind is just too active, I don’t like being inside my head like that."
"I just can’t turn my brain off."
"I don’t have the time for this."
"I know this is supposed to be good, but it j just isn’t for me.”
If that has been your reaction in the past, I want to ask you to take another look at meditation. I’m convinced that mediation is for everyone, especially those looking to explore lucid dreaming and expanded states of consciousness. It may just take a little bit of reframing, and a slightly different mindset than you had last time you dabbled in meditation, but I can promise you that the results you feel in your day to day life will be worth it many times over. Not to mention the the accelerated pace of dream awareness and lucid dream development that comes along with this process.
Now, before we continue I have to put a some disclaimers out there about myself. I am not a meditation guru. I have spent no time in a Buddhist temple. I have not studied meditation as an academic researcher or clinician. I don’t have a fantastically inspirational story about how I became disillusioned with the material world, sold everything I couldn’t fit in a backpack, and embarked on a yearlong journey through India finding spiritual enlightenment as I fed my newfound wanderlust up and down the Ganges. I guess it’s just not my style.
I came to meditation, like many of you that are on this site, to supplement dream awareness, dream recall, lucid dreaming and out of body travel. I came to be interested in lucid dreaming after some unsettling episodes of waking sleep paralysis, but that's for another article.
So that being said, here are some meditation tips, techniques, and observations that I’ve found valuable in my lucid dreaming, OBE and mindfulness training.
Consistency Over Intensity
Oftentimes when we think of an effective meditation routine, our mind’s eye shows us a Buddhist monk or a Southern California wellness guru with bare feet and linen pants meditating for hours on end. After all, that’s the only way to reap the benefits, right? Hours upon hours of perfecting the trance state? Wrong. Well, at least in my experience that’s not the case.
I’ve come to the opinion that consistency is far more important than intensity when it comes to this (and many other things as well). Sure, consistency and intensity are a powerful combination, but for most of us it’s just not realistic. At least not right out of the gate. If you instead just focus on consistency, starting with 5, 10, or 15 minutes a day - every day - you will notice a shift in the way you think, feel and most importantly for our purposes, the way you dream. On the other hand, if you were to force yourself to try to do an hour of meditation irregularly whenever you can fit it in, I can just about guarantee that you will soon feel like you're spinning your wheels making no progress at all. In fact, you will probably start to see meditation as a chore, and start finding ways to rationalize putting it off and avoiding it. Which is exactly what we're trying to evade. Right? That's why you're here? Ok, good. Then keep reading.
After just 2 weeks of following a light but consistent meditation practice I have no doubt that you will start to feel how valuable consistency is. You may even begin to start to see your meditation practice in a different light. Start viewing it as a necessary pleasure, and dare I say, look forward to your meditation appointments.
Appointments? Yes. Appointments.
For me, I’ve found that the best way to keep my mediation practice consistent is to schedule it on my calendar, set a daily reminder on my phone, or put it on my daily to-do list. That way it appears to my subconscious to be just as important as anything else I’ve got going on that day. To get started, take a look at your daily routine and ask yourself “Where am I most likely to be able to carve out 10 minutes most days?” Is is right before lunch? Just after quittin’ time before you leave the office? Right after the kids have left for school in the morning? Or maybe just before bed as you wind down? Put it on your schedule for each day (around the same time every day is best, but do what you can) and when the appointment pops up on your schedule - do it. Simple as that. If you’re too busy that day, or something unforeseen has come up, reschedule the appointment for later that day. At first you might look for reasons to cancel your meditation appointments, but don’t. You may need to push them around your calendar a bit, but if there’s no good reason to cancel then keep the appointment. Soon, you will be joyfully anticipating these inner retreats, and looking for more places in your schedule to put them, and for longer periods of time.
Reframe How You Think About How Others Think About Meditation
That heading definitely doesn't roll off the tongue, but take another look at it and stick with me.
As I’ve said before, meditation is not and should not be a chore. That’s the idea with bite-sized consistency, and it’s the first internal hurdle that you will get over as you stick with this routine. But then there are other obstacles, primarily those of optics, that you’re likely going to have to reconcile to maintain your practice, both internally and externally. The biggest external obstacle that I’ve noticed in this regard (and it may just be an American perception) is that you may feel other are thinking: “Meditation is lazy and selfish - you might as well be taking a nap. Don’t you have work to do?”
This feeling is the reason that many people slowly slip away from a successful and wildly beneficial and consistent mediation practice. You're afraid that other people, co-workers, friends, family, are going to judge you as lazy or “new-age” or soft for insisting that you prioritize your daily meditation practice. This can lead to insecurity or self-consciousness about your meditation routine, and in turn you decide to stop talking to people about it, which ultimately leads you to stop doing it anytime there are other people around to whom you may have to account for your time. You know the health and mental benefits to doing this, you’ve experienced the benefits for yourself, but you find it hard to maintain because of the the perceived judgement coming from outside forces. Even from those close to you.
I don’t want to over state this and make it sound like a persecution. It’s not. It can be more like a subtle gnawing, or a chilling effect that gets slightly cooler anytime you yell someone that you won’t be available for 15 minutes because you’re meditating.
Not everyone will experience this, but if you do here’s my advice: Own it and get over it. It’s up to you to normalize your personal and mental care routine for those around you.
Is brushing your teeth lazy?
Is taking a shower selfish?
Does missing a call because you’re at the gym make you a bad employee, bad friend or bad spouse?No. Of course not. This is the same thing. You are taking care of yourself, taking care of your mind as well as your body. You cannot be faulted for that and those around you will quickly come to see the same thing. But you have to own it, and you have to be honest. Who knows, you may even become responsible for convincing others to adopt a similar practice. The change in your composure and clarity of thought will be noticeable over time. Friends and family are likely to want to “have what you’re having" when they see the change.
Use A Timed Audio Track
This is one of those really simple tips that makes a world of difference in your meditation. Using a timed audio track will immensely help you to completely relax and clear your mind while meditating. This is completely different than just using a timer because when you set a timer, part of your mind is remains pre-occupied with the timer. It tries to “guess” when the timer is going to go off, and if it misjudges or get impatient you will start to wonder whether you actually set the timer at all. This is disastrous for your concentration and will never truly allow you to sink into that quiet place that you’re aiming for. Plus, when you mind tries to wander into the stresses of the day, the audio, along with attentive breathing, will give you something to bring your attention back to. A timed audio track gives something for you to listen to and releases that part of your mind that thinks it has to “keep time” just in case you really did forget to actually start that timer.
Further, a timed audio track will give you reason to wear headphones. Blocking out the noise and distractions of your busy environment will also help to get you on track to your mindful state. Granted, sometimes it’s nice to hear the environment, especially if you’re out in the woods or at a lake or something. But usually we find ourselves somewhere less relaxing. Like at the office or at home with with family in the next room.
So what kind of track should you use? I’m a fan of using binaural beats. I developed a set of what I call Harmonic Binaural Beats which you can check out here. It’s definitely not necessary to use these particular tracks, but you should find something that will give you multiple length options (10, 15, 30 minutes etc.), and that will be completely non-distracting. Some music tracks out there might be nice, but don’t use anything that could make you want to get up and dance. There’s plenty of time for that later. Also, voice guided meditations can be good, but not all the time. They usually run longer, and I’ve found that after using the same one more than a few times my mind gets bored with it, an I start to get distracted by the voice. I start focusing on their word pronunciation and try to guess exactly where they are form, or I’ll get even further side tracked as I picture the narrator standing in front fo the microphone as they very seriously read the script so very slowly, and with such feeling! What do you think they were wearing that day? Could they hear the music, or was it added later? This is probably a personal problem, but that’s why I usually go for tracks with no narration or guidance.
Find what works for you and use it. It will make everything that much easier,
Relaxation: The Iridescent Ooze
Muscle relaxation is key to to getting the most out of each meditation session. You want to start every session with a relaxation technique of some sort. Even in just 10 minutes you’ll be surprised at how relaxed you can get, and how that short period of relaxation can reduce your overall stress levels for hours.
There are lots of techniques that will accomplish this, but there’s one in particular that I get a lot of use out of. I call it the Iridescent Ooze. I know it sounds kind of creepy, but it’s the strong image that the name conjures up that really makes this work.
Here’s what you do. Start by getting comfortable sitting, reclining or laying down. Gently close you eyes and take 10 deep breaths through your nose, counting each one. Starting at 10 and counting backwards is more relaxing for some people. After the 10 breaths it’s time to start visualizing the ooze.
Starting with your feet imagine a dense, heavy, syrupy, ooze pooling around the bottoms of your feet. The ooze is moving and flowing around within itself, and as it moves it sparkles with the iridescent quality of Mother of Pearl; catching, reflecting and refracting light with its undulations. The pooling continues and the ooze begins to cover your feet. It’s incredibly heavy, and very dense, but it’s also very warm. Warm and comforting. As the ooze touches your ankles it sticks to your body on and begins climbing up your calves. Each part of your body it touches offers no resistance as succumbs to the weight of the ooze. It’s warmth penetrates your skin, through your pores, into your muscles, and finally into your bones. As the warmth encases your bones they begin to glow a bright hot white, and radiate additional warmth back out through the muscles again. Any tension in the muscle fiber is turned to vapor, and floats away in a mist.
This cycle is repeated over and over as the iridescent ooze, slowly climbs your entire body. It encapsulates your legs, your hips, your waist, stomach and chest. So heavy and warm and so very comforting. Pushing through your pores, warming your muscles, heating your bones, and vaporizing tension. The ooze covers your shoulders, and moves down your arms and hands. It’s as heavy as lead, but you don’t care because you’re too comfortable and too relaxed to want to move anyway. Now it crosses your neck and covers your jaw - which immediately releases and surprises you at how tightly you were holding it in the first place. All the way up, over your ears, past your forehead until the ooze, shiny, heavy and warm, closes itself over the crown of your head. Your whole body is now cocooned in the substance. It continues flowing around the contours of your shoulders, neck and back. And as your bones continue to heat and release the tension in your muscle fibers, the ooze is made brighter and more colorful as it absorbs the energy radiating now from within the core of your body. It’s a completely closed and self-sustaining energy system, regenerating and amplifying its own warmth and light; with each cycle pushing tension further and further away.
Stay in this state as long as your like. After some moments you can begin intentional visualizations, affirmations, attentive breathing - or you can just enjoy this impossibly relaxed and blissful state for the duration of your meditation. It’s completely up to you.
This one is really simple, and is a great place to start when developing your daily meditation routine. People often get confused or distracted an think: “What the hell am I even supposed to be doing while I’m sitting here?” Naturally this leads to frustration and abandonment of the practice because you feel like “you aren’t doing it right,” so you are probably just wasting your time. This is the opposite of the goal: clearing your mind of distractions.
So, good news. This is all you have to do to start “doing it right.” It’s a basic and powerful technique to clear your mind, which can lead into other techniques down the road, or not. It’s up to you. Here’s what you do:
After you have relaxed your body (possibly with the iridescent ooze method above), with your eyes remaining closed, bring your attention to your breath. Just breathe in and out through your nostrils naturally. Don’t try to force a pattern of breathing; just breathe. Don't analyze your breathing pattern; just breathe. Focus on the sensation of the air moving in and out of your nostrils. Notice the sensation of the air moving past the tip of your nose, and the subtle changes in air temperature that this causes. If any stray thoughts crop up, or you find your attention beginning to wander, just gently guide it back to your breath. Simply and slowly become the breath. That’s it. Practicing this attentive breathing (along with the relaxation) for 10-15 minutes a day will be an excellent start into other meditative techniques. Remember, as long as you are gently keeping your focus on your breath, you’re doing it right. Relax and enjoy it.
Another technique that you can incorporate into your meditation practice is visualization. This can be especially useful in lucid dream training for setting your intentions as well as dream incubation, but it has uses that extend far beyond this. Manifestation, habit building/breaking, phobia conquering, problem solving, confidence building, athletic and musical skill development, are all examples of what meditative visualizations can be used for. For our purposes, I’m just going to quickly cover how you can use this for setting intentions for lucid dreaming, but it’s definitely worth taking a deeper look at how this can be used in all areas of your life.
Setting Lucid Dream Intention: An important step in the lucid dreaming process is to intend to lucid dream. Really make it clear to your subconscious that you desire, intend, and expect to begin remembering your dreams and becoming lucid in your dreams. Of course you will repeat these intentions when going to bed and falling asleep, but meditation is an important time to actually visualize these intentions, not just ”say” them.
Once you’re relaxed and settled into your trance state, start picturing yourself having the experience of going to bed, falling asleep, having a lucid dream, waking up with perfect recall of that dream, and writing it down in your dream journal. Repeat this event cycle over and over in your mind’s eye. Observe yourself having dream recall and lucid dreaming success. Immerse yourself in the fulfillment and accomplishment you will feel when waking up from a dream with perfect recall, as you clearly write down the new memories. Visualize the contented and confident expression on your face as you fall asleep with excitement and anticipation for the dream experiences to come, knowing in your core that you will become lucid in your dreams. The content of the dreams in these visualizations is not important, but what is important is that you watch yourself have success after success in experiencing lucid dreams. Really wrap yourself in how this will feel, and observe the experience from both within yourself, and as an outside observer watching yourself fulfill these intentions. Doing this many times will have a cumulative effect on your subconscious, and will make your intensions and expectations clear to yourself about what you want to do. By generating these fulfilling emotions you are priming and programming your subconscious to produce this scenario in real life.
I’m sure you can see how this method can be put to work in various areas of your life, and I encourage you to try it. But a word of caution. Try not to focus on too many visualization scenarios at once. Pick one and stick with it for 5-7 days, then you can shift to another, then shift back again. Starting out by having too many points of focus can have a dilution effect across the board. You won’t make any real progress on any scenario because you keep shifting the attention of your subconscious. Prolonged singular focus is the key here.
Think In Images and Feelings, Not Words
Lastly is a quick bonus tip. While meditating, unless you are doing affirmations, try to think in images and feelings - not words. Our normal conscious mind loves to operate in words, both spoken words and thought-words. As long as a stream of words is flowing through the mind, the conscious mind is in charge and keeping the door closed to direct access the subconscious. As we begin to relax our body and quiet the mind, our conscious mind will start throwing words in the air to try to grab our attention. It doesn’t really like to be quiet, and it doesn’t like it when we stop paying our full attention to it for a period of time. If we start paying attention to the words that it’s throwing up in our peripheral vision, those words will start to link together and come rushing at us as distracting and worrying thoughts, and soon enough your mind is all over the place while you’re trying to meditate.
The solution to this is to think in feelings and images, not words. For instance, when you’re focusing on breathing, don’t say to yourself “I feel the air flowing through my nostrils and into my lungs.” Instead picture the air flowing in and out as you observe your breath. See it as a glowing cloud, or like an aerodynamics wind tunnel type vapor streaming in and around you. Feel gratitude, joy and bliss for these sensations, and radiate with warmth and happiness.
This type of thinking - thoughts through feelings - will help to quiet the conscious mind and free you from tension and distractions. Give it a shot.
That's it for now. I hope Ive convinced you to give a daily meditation practice another try. This is just a starting point, but for me at least, the light-but-consistent approach was the ultimate method that made the habit stick. It’s only gotten better from there.