Levels of Consciousness While Dreaming or Awake - PAPER
by Beverly (Kedzierski Heart) D’Urso, Ph.D.   Copyright  © 2009

I define the term dream as an experience of an outer world made up of characters, actions, and environment that my expanded self, a collective mind of nonphysical form, has helped to create. I see life in the same way.

Lucid dreaming occurs when I know that I dream while I dream. When asleep and lucid dreaming, I see my whole environment including my dream body and others, as untrue, particularly in relationship to my waking state. When I call something ‘untrue,’ I mean that I let go of my assumptions and no longer see it as real or solid or true. By ‘untrue,’ I do not mean false, but rather ‘I  don’t know for sure.’

When awake and lucid, I also see my whole environment including my physical body and others, as ‘untrue’ in relationship to my expanded self.  In other words, I might say: “My expanded self is dreaming when Beverly seems ‘awake.’”

People have associated lucid dreaming with ego control and satisfaction. I will show how lucidity actually relates to expanded states of consciousness, and what it means to have lucidity in our dreams and in our lives.

I will refer to the chart in  APPENDIX B, which I have divided into columns for the waking state and the sleeping state. It describes three major levels of consciousness: non-lucidity, lucidity, and beyond lucidity. Note that in the non-lucid levels, I list actions that obviously do not happen in the sleep state, but merely relate to it.

I can act from any of these levels of consciousness at any moment, while awake or asleep. Also, at the higher levels, I still have access to the abilities of the lower states. For example, in a most lucid state, I can still change my responses. At different times in my life, I may have dreams that I don’t even recall, while in my waking state I seem very lucid. The opposite can occur as well. Also, I often lose and gain lucidity in a single dream.

The first two levels fall into non-lucidity. I will call the first, low-level of consciousness: contracted. At this level, I do not reflect upon what I do. When I act in the waking state or the dream state at this level, I may blame, suffer, have fun, or just plain not pay attention. In the sleep state, I may have dreams, but I do not recall them.

However, when I notice in life or in dreams, after the fact, that I have acted, for example, in hurtful ways, I fall into the level I call reflection. I do not have enough consciousness to notice or change my actions in the moment, but I can recall life issues, or dreams from my past, and learn from them. In this state, I remember dreams only after they happen and, therefore, they get called non-lucid dreams.

For example, to reduce my tendency to always blame others in the waking state, I may seek therapy.  To learn from my dreams, I may join a dream group.  In this reflecting level, I still may feel limited, especially when my experience seems uncomfortable or unloving.  I see my world as unchangeable.

At this level in the waking state, I might feel justified in feeling hurt that my husband often criticizes me, and therefore he must not care about me. I may go as far as assuming that if he does care about me, he will leave me, and I will perish. Without a higher level of consciousness, I could feel very depressed, and might act in an angry manner towards him and others. I could actually help make this scenario my experience.

In a sleeping dream, I might try to run away from some scary monsters that chase me while I focus on my dream body’s thought that they will devour me.  Afterwards, in the waking state, I might figure out ways in which I can deal with the monsters next time in these nightmares.

I will refer to the next levels of consciousness as lucidity. Whether awake or asleep and dreaming, when I really pay attention to my environment or my body, I have a greater sense  of aliveness or stillness. When I question my reality and my assumptions, my consciousness expands.  I call this level semi-lucid.

In the previous example about my husband, I might ask, “Is it absolutely true that my husband does not love me?” At this point, I could look for ways that he acts as if he does love me and for ways that I act as if I do not love him. I could also inquire about how I act and feel when I have the thought: “My husband does not love me,” and how I act and feel when I do not.

In the sleep state, I might to question if I am dreaming. Even if I do not believe that I am dreaming for sure, just the mere act of questioning brings me to this semi-lucid level. In a recent dream, I wondered if I was dreaming so I tried to float. I could not float, but I could tell that the water I was drinking did not taste ‘wet’ as it seems to in my waking state.

The next level, I call lucid. In the waking state, I really see my unpleasant thoughts as untrue assumptions. With even partial lucidity, I find that small frustrations disappear quickly, and I experience more fulfillment. I focus more on the present moment, and feelings of ambition or regret don’t come up. Time tends to disappear.

When I know I am dreaming in the sleep state, in other words when I see my dream world as untrue, my fear decreases and my mind clears. I do not have to do anything, but merely realize that I dream while I dream. At this lucid level, I often experience expanded potential and more awareness. I believe that most people are referring to this level when they use the term ‘lucid.’

If I question my assumptions, especially when I do not feel positive about what I am experiencing, it can help me respond in more appropriate and creative ways, and I become more lucid. My response to what happens comes from my expanded self. I can accept what is happening and easily surrender to, and fully face, painful or scary situations.

I have done this in my waking state when a doctor told me I needed a procedure. I insisted I would not go through it. Finally, my doctor said that, “It’s like I see you on a cliff about to fall, and I want to keep you from doing so.” I often recommend to my students not to jump off a cliff unless they really know they are dreaming, so I told him to proceed. However, seeing this common dream theme, I suddenly did become more lucid. Instead of focusing on my fears and thoughts of pain, I became calm and accepting, thereby making the whole process much easier. Then, like magic, I began to see  numerous sychronicities.

In my sleeping dreams, I have often become more lucid right before a head-on automobile collision. Right before impact, I realize I am dreaming, and I might instantly fly up into the sky or even wake myself up.

At this more lucid level while awake or asleep and dreaming, I also notice that my view of how others act towards me may reflect how I act or have acted toward them, others, or myself.  So now, in my waking state, as well as in my sleeping dreams, I attempt to listen carefully to what others have to say to me. Even if I feel hurt, I may try to find ways to show I agree with them, instead of just defending myself.

At a very lucid level, I can co-create interesting dramas in my life and in my sleeping dreams. My expanded self has the awareness that what it expects seems to happen. If I do see or hear something that I don’t like, such as a broken tooth or a critical comment, I can attempt to heal my body or learn from the comment. I can fearlessly accept such ‘imperfections’ as a part of myself that can teach me what I need to learn.  Some lessons I have learned in my sleeping dreams also seem to enhance my waking life, and vice versa. I believe that many people unrealistically expect to get to this very high level of lucidity the first time they attempt lucid dreaming.

In my life, I feel that lucidity has helped me fulfill many lifelong goals, such as finishing my Ph.D., finding a mate, having a child, dealing with grief, and healing my body. I did these things with an attitude of presence, acceptance, and intention, and not with what gets called ‘will power.’ (See REFERENCE 2.)

At a very lucid level in my sleeping dreams, not only do I not experience fear when ‘attacked’ by ‘monsters,’ but I can do things, such as fly through walls. I can have these experiences because I don’t see the monsters or the walls as ‘true.’

Once, in a very lucid sleeping dream,  I thought: “I would love to be sitting in a boat on this lake in the distance.” Instantaneously, I found myself on such a boat in the lake. Others have talked about this process occurring in the waking state and call it ‘manifestation.’ However, in the waking state, with my time/space beliefs, I seem to experience a time delay not necessary in my sleeping dreams.

In my final level of lucidity, I still experience a dualist world, but really know all parts as ‘One.’ I call this the level of most lucidity. I believe that many spiritual teachers experience this state of no separation and a connection between everything in their waking life.

In my sleeping lucid dreams, I have often viewed everyone and everything, including my own dream body, as ‘One.’ Many years ago, in a sleeping dream, I was giving a presentation at a dream conference and suddenly stopped when I became most lucid. Losing some lucidity, I assumed that all the people in the audience existed only in my ‘head,’ so I felt I had no need to continue presenting. Now, I refer to ‘others,’ as well as my dream body, as all parts of an ‘expanded self,’ which  flourishes as all the parts develop.  When I experience the most lucidity, I see these ‘others’ experience lucidity as well.

In some sleeping dreams, I feel that I go beyond lucidity. I no longer have a body nor an environment. I merge into vibration, sound, and light, and then into nothingness, or what I also call everythingness. I could describe this as expansion into ‘Being,’ or ‘Source’ or ‘God.’ I prefer the term ‘Dreamer,’ with a capital ‘D.’ For now, I aspire to come from an expanded level of consciousness in every moment, whether awake or asleep. 



                                                 WAKING                                SLEEPING

                                                No reflection                            No dream recall

                                                Recall past issues of life            Recall non-lucid dreams                        
                                                    Study your life                            Study your dreams

            Semi lucid                    Question thoughts                    Question if dreaming

            Lucid                            See thoughts  as untrue            See dream world  as untrue                            
            More lucid                    Change responses in life           Change responses in dream    
           Very lucid                     Change life                                Change dream
                                                                                                         and potentially change life
            Most lucid                    View all in life  as ONE            View all in dream  as ONE
Beyond lucidity
                                                   Unity                                         Non-Duality            


1. “Lucid Dreaming/Lucid Living,” D'Urso, Beverly (Kedzierski Heart), Online Publications, 1982-2009.


2.    “My Lucid Lucid Life,” D'Urso, Beverly (Kedzierski Heart), Appeared as “Dream Speak: An Interview with Beverly D’Urso: A Lucid Dreamer” - Part One, Two and Three, “The Lucid  Dream Exchange,” Numbers 29, 30, and 31, 2003 - 2004. Also appeared in the online publication: “Electric Dreams.”


Dr. Beverly (Kedzierski Heart) D’Urso, an “extraordinary” lucid dreamer all her life, has used her practical teaching called lucid living to give workshops and present at conferences for decades. She completed her Masters, involving Cognitive Psychology, and her Ph.D., focusing on Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University, where she also did lucid dreaming research. She has also created several startup companies, worked as a researcher, consultant, and a college professor, and has over sixty publications and several awards, including many IASD dream contests.