How to Tap Into the Power of Lucid Dreaming [The Stress Less Show - Episode 29]

Read the blog post version of this episode here!

>> Carlee: Can't remember your dreams? You may be missing out on a huge chunk of your entire life. They might be trying to tell you something. In this episode of the Stress Less Show, learn how to add lucid dreaming to your tool box. Hi, I'm Carlee Meyers, a stress management expert. One thing I hear day in and day out is that we feel like we've tried everything when it comes to stress management. We may have tried the mainstream approaches to managing stress but have we really tried to get to the root of the issue. Each episode. I bring on experts and leaders to not just put a Band-Aid on your stress, but to actually get to the root of the issue. This month, we're focusing on physical health. It's a top stress trigger in the United States right now and seriously needs some attention. Specifically, I brought on a guest who addresses sleep and lucid dreaming specifically, Evan Stites-Clayton is a hacker, poet and dreamer. He has taught hundreds of people how to lucid dream through in-person workshops, and via his dream catcher app. And in his waking life. Evan is a hacker who built a tech startup raising nearly one hundred million dollars in venture capital. If you asked me, he's a pretty bad ass guy and I'm really excited to have him on the show. Welcome Evan.

>> Evan: Thank you very much, happy to be here.

>> Carlee: Awesome. So I'm curious how did you get into this line of work?

>> Evan: Lucid dreaming is something that I think originally kind of found me in a form that I wasn't actually excited about which was that when I was a child I used to have very scary nightmares and night terrors. At the time, I struggled a lot with issues of fear, anxiety, worry. And later on in life, I discovered the movie Waking Life by Richard Linklater which is a film that's an animated slash live action movie that is all about lucid dreaming. After watching that movie, I very spontaneously started having lucid dreams. And it really changed my relationship with sleep with night terrors that I had been having and sort of transforms what I thought was a problem something scary into my new superpower. Going from there, I learned that there are some pretty easy to learn steps that you can take to achieve this state of lucid dreaming which is the dream in which you are aware that you are dreaming and I began to teach people. So I started doing small group lessons we grew into bigger lectures. And we ended up actually organizing an official university course at Brown which was like a semester long course where we looked at every aspect of lucid dreaming, the spiritual tradition surrounding it and... that even up through the sort of modern science of lucidity. So that's a little bit of my background. I like to think that I have the tools to help people get lucid. And so that's kind of what I'm hoping to share on this show today.

>> Carlee: Awesome. And for those of you who are listening who know a little bit about me, this is you may know that this is a topic that's really near and dear to my heart having experienced trauma with the PTSD symptom of night terrors and feeling helpless. So I'm really really excited to explore lucid dreaming. This is actually something I've never explored. I have explored dream interpretation and all sorts of other things. But I'm excited to see Evan what you have to share. So, what would you recommend for someone maybe like me who's had that experience, who maybe currently... someone who is currently experiencing that or maybe just doesn't remember their dreams in general. What would you recommend as a first step?

>> Evan: Yeah. So I think what I'd like to do is I'd definitely love to address this question of night terrors and particularly how to resolve sleep paralysis issues because I think they're kind of related. You get into these really scary, dark places that nobody really wants to go. But before I address that I'd just like to talk about some basic tips that I think are really useful for anyone who kind of wants to start expanding a dream practice and moving towards lucidity. So, the first of those would be to simply write down your dreams. Dream journaling is a very powerful practice in that it gives the dream a place to go in reality. It's like a kind of a nest for the dream to fly into and by having that nest there, you are actually enabling yourself to dream more and just... To sort of make the dreams a more real part of your world. They're actually getting written down into a physical or digital... Something in reality. And what you'll find is that, even for people who often tell me something like, 'I don't remember my dreams, how could I write them down?' Just by having that dream journal by your bed and having intention that you'll write down anything that happens to come into your mind. It could be just a single feeling, a single thought, at first maybe it's just an image... If you have the intention to write these things down, you will start to dream more and you'll start to be more in touch with your dreams. That's bringing some more awareness into the darkness that might just be your dream life right now. You either may not be aware of anything or you might be aware some unpleasant experiences like a night terror. The second thing is to start actually doing reality tests. So it's comforting to know that there is some definitive ways you can test if we're in a dream or if we're in reality. And these eventually can become helpful in the practice of disassembling the nightmares because if you realize nightmares are dreams, obviously they're less scary than when your mind is thinking this is a real situation. So one trick like that that I'll teach you very quickly is the nose trick. It simply works like this. You pinch your nose and try to breathe through your pinched closed nose. Maybe take another deep breath through your nose. And if you're listening right now I advise you to try this now. So try taking a deep breath through your nose feel what that feels like and then pinch your nose shut and try to do the same thing. And what you'll notice is this sensation of sort of, the shutness of the nose. It's clamping down, you can't actually breathe through it. The interesting thing is that in a dream, you will actually still be able to breathe through your nose even when you're pinching in as tight as you can. And so that is how many people I teach to lucid dream end up having their first lucid dream. They start to kind of habitually do these checks whether it's you know every time they walk through a door or every time they feel tempted to pull out their phone. That's my favorite one. It's like to tie the reality check to when you feel tempted to pull out your phone it's like another addiction that we have. And when you can breathe through your nose, you realize, "oh my gosh, I'm dreaming." That's kind of a sort of lucidity. Yeah, those are the two things. The last thing I'll say is that changing your sleep habits can also change the kind of dreams you have and can help you have lucid dreams. Particularly by having a moment in the morning when you wake up and then go back to sleep.

>> Carlee: It reminds me there's two things that what you've said kind of reminds me of. The first thing is I I used to have dreams where I was able to breathe underwater and I always knew there were dreams can I get this perfect. I'd be holding my breath like I'm putting up air quotes holding my breath in the dream, but I was still able to breathe. And the second thing that I think I can kind of attest to, Evan, is that that wake back to bed process. Not necessarily for lucid dreaming but for remembering your dream as soon as you wake. Not actually jumping out of bed but laying in the spot, in the same position in which you woke will enable you to really start remembering more. So I love, I absolutely love that. And so Evan I know that you're really passionate about this subject and supporting people and supporting them in a way actually where they don't even have to make an investment to start exploring this. So would you mind sharing with our listeners exactly what you have to offer and to share with the world?

>> Evan: No I'd love to thank you for asking. So I have been teaching people how to lucid dream in group settings and sort of you know interpersonal setting. And I always give people sort of roughly the same set of instructions. So one day, I decided you know I'm a programmer and I'm a lucid dreamer. I should just make an app that teaches people how to lucid dream. So that's what I've done now. I recently created a app that is called Dream Catcher and basically guides you through how to lucid dream in five minutes a day for the course of two weeks. Very simple. Great easy steps, it gives you guidance that tells you like when you wake up in the morning do this and then you do that the next day. This app is completely free. I'm not trying to make money off of it there's no pay to the full version situation. It's just something I want everyone to have. And yeah I mean a lot to me if you downloaded it and tried it out. It's definitely a great way to get started with lucid dreaming.

>> Carlee: Absolutely. So where do we... where do we go to get the dream catcher app?

>> Evan: You can just go to the App Store and search for a dream catcher or dream catcher lucid dreaming and you'll see it. It's the one with the big logo is like an eye, kind of like an Egyptian style.

>> Carlee: OK perfect. So if you're interested in learning more about how to lucid dream and add that to your toolbox please go to the app store and download dream catcher. It should be a good find so. Well, this... This concludes this episode of The Stress Less Show. Thank you, Evan, so much for coming on the show. Next week, we will be talking about addiction how it comes in all shapes and sizes and what we can do about it. Take care and we'll see you next week.

>> Evan: Thank you Carlee.