Extreme Dreaming: First Hand Reports from Lucid X-Dreamers

 Beverly (Kedzierski Heart) D’Urso, Ph.D., 
 Copyright (c) 2004

Panel at the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) Conference 2005, Berkeley, June, 2005.

Welcome to the session on:

Extreme Dreaming: First Hand Reports from Lucid X-Dreamers

Today we have four long-term lucid dreamers discuss our decades of experience, insight, and perspective on lucid dreaming.

Besides some techniques, the panel intends to focus on interesting, unusual and thought-provoking examples. They hope to inspire and encourage beginners, as well as experienced lucid dreamers, to reach past their boundaries.

Ed Kellogg earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Duke University. A proficient lucid dreamer, he has a long-standing interest in the phenomenology of dreaming.

He has presented numerous papers and workshops on such topics as the lucidity continuum, lucid dream healing, and mutual dreaming. In 2002, 2003, and 2004 Ed organized and hosted  ASD’s online PsiberDreaming Conferences, and he plans another in September.

Robert Waggoner began lucid dreaming in 1975.  He co-edits and writes for The Lucid Dream Exchange, and other dream publications.  A member of IASD since 1995, he serves as Treasurer.

Lucy Gillis has been lucid dreaming for over 15 years. She co-edits, publishes, and writes for The Lucid Dream Exchange.

She has also written articles for other publications, a short book on dream interpretation, and has contributed to a book on sleep paralysis.

I call myself Beverly (Kedzierski Heart) D'Urso. A lucid dreamer most all my life, I did research on the topic in the late 1970's and 1980’s with Dr. Stephen LaBerge at Stanford.  Numerous media specials have featured my work. I have led workshops, have over 30 dream publications, presented at ASD conferences since 1986, and have been writing a book on Lucid Dreaming/Lucid Living.

For today, we have all determined ten questions in which different panel members will speak briefly in different orders and amounts. We will then open up the session for questions, comments and discussion during the last 20 - 30 minutes.

1.  Discuss your favorite lucid dream

You can view my favorite lucid dream as a Saga that started with my First Lucid Dream called the Witches.  You can find out more about these dreams, and others, on my web site www.durso.org/beverly.

As a quick summary, when I was about five years old,  I found gruesome witches in my nightmares who would sneak out and come after me. Just as they were about to devour me,  I'd wake up.  

After years of this same recurring dream, I'd find myself pleading, with the witches hovering over me, "Please, spare me tonight.  You can have me in tomorrow's night's dream!"  At that point, they'd stop their attack and I'd wake up.

I would often lie in bed and tell myself that the witches only came in my dreams, while I was safe in bed. I tried to get myself to remember this the next time they appeared.

In one dream, when I was about seven years old, those horrifying witches caught up to me. The instant before I started to plead with them, the thought flashed through my mind, "If I ask them to take me in tomorrow night's dream, then this  must be a dream!"

I completely faced my fear, knowing it was a dream.  I looked the witches, who still looked very scary, straight in the eye and said, "What do you want?"  They gave me a disgusting look, but I knew I was safe in a dream.

I continued, "Take me now.  Let's get this over with!"  I watched with amazement, as they quickly disappeared into the night.

I need to point out that some lucid dreamers may have turned the witches into something less scary.  I believe that my choice of surrendering to my fear and controlling only my reaction, served as an excellent choice for my first lucid dream.

I never had the witch nightmare in this form  again!  However, I would later have new episodes with the witches in my dreams and discover similar witch scenarios in my waking life, some of which I talked about in my workshop at the ASD conference in 1997.

In the 1970's, I looked for the witches of my childhood in a dream, and they appeared as harmless, little old ladies. In the 1980's, I noticed that a similar witch drama appeared in my waking life as well.

In 1994, doctors gave me terrible odds against having a child. So, I looked for the witches in a lucid dream, thinking of them as my "creative power," and I brought them into my uterus. Within a year, I got pregnant with my son, Adrian who this week turned ten years old.

In 2002, right before I needed to sell my childhood home, I spontaneously dreamed that I found the witches in it. I surrendered to them again, and they pulled me under the closet door, where they came from.  I merged with the witches and the biggest fears of my childhood were resolved.

In my dreams, my fear was to go with the witches.  In life, my fear was my mother’s death which occurred on Christmas Day 2000.  At last, I felt I could sell the house, and I felt that I had healed quite a bit from my mother’s death when I finally went with the witches. 

In the last dream I had of my childhood home, I flew out the picture window like a powerful witch. I discussed these dreams at the ASD conference in 2003.

My most recent attempt to work with the witches just occurred on March 7th of this year. I tried to find them in a lucid dream to help me heal a uterine mass my doctor found.

One of these dreams seems to have succeeded. and is written up in the latest issue of the LDE. I plan to demonstrate it at the Dream Ball on Tuesday night.

At this time, I also had a verified precognitive, or PSI dream, where I correctly determined the current state of my childhood home where the witches live!

If any of you remember, for my very first Dream Ball at the ASD conference in Charlottesville, VA. in 1986, I dressed as one of these witches.

So, the witches are still definitely a part of my life that I treasure, as I do all of my lucid dreams.

2.  Describe the levels of lucidity

I personally believe in levels of lucidity, as a spectrum. I would say I am partially lucid, if I just remember to question if I am dreaming.  I'd call myself definitely lucid, if I know I am dreaming for sure.

I consider myself very lucid, if I can control or change things in the dream, not that I always do. Finally, when I am most lucid, I often do not experience a body, nor any environment, but I have a very powerful, spiritual-like experience.

3.  Discuss false awakenings, remaining in the dream, changing dream scene, waking yourself up, etc.

With false awakenings, sometimes, I would 'wake up' ten or twenty times in a row, but usually the time it took me to realize that I was still dreaming shortened exponentially. For example, I would realize I was still dreaming when I left the house for the day in a dream.

The next time, in a similar dream, I would recognize I was still dreaming earlier, when I was in the shower, and so on. Finally, I would still be in bed, waking up, when I'd realize I was still in a dream. I have gotten better at recognizing false awakenings through the years.

In order to go into a dream scene as a child, I would lay in bed imagining myself doing backward summersaults and float right into my dream, without ever losing consciousness, as I fell asleep. I can change the dream scene, and even how to repeat the same dream, in a similar way. Sometimes, I would change the ending of a particular dream several times. I also figured out how to stay in a dream, if I felt I was waking up. I focus on the visuals or my own emotions.

As a child, I made up ways to wake myself up from dreams, such as staring at bright street lights in the dream, whenever I wanted to end a dream. I have also tried going to sleep in the dream, which can wake me up. If I have trouble waking up, I relax and meditate through any gray or black space.

4.  How have you challenged yourself in lucid dreams?

I gave myself challenges throughout my life, first with the witches I described, but also in most of the estimated 20,000 lucid dreams of my life so far!

I often dream of loved ones who died and I also occasionally try to find them. I travel to other places and time periods or try to heal myself and others. I like to attempt mutual dreams with my students and friends, especially Ed Kellogg here. For decades, I also tried many lucid dream tasks for experiments at the Stanford Sleep Laboratory.

A great example of this type of dreaming is when I was asked to do a lucid dreaming experiment at the lab for the television show 20/20. I consider this my favorite lab dream.

While being hooked up to electrodes used to verify my sleeping brain waves, I sat next to Hugh Downs, the host of the show. I had known him from television since I was a child. He wanted to try his luck at becoming lucid in his dreams that night.

I became lucid easily that night, finding myself in a bed that looked like the one in the lab where I had fallen asleep. Because I did not have a specific task that night other than signaling lucidity, I got the idea to head towards Oakland and maybe make it to a scheduled Grateful Dead concert. I got half way there, when I remembered that I was being filmed for a national television show. One of my goals was to bring Hugh Downs flying.

I turned around midair and quickly flew back to the Stanford Sleep Lab. I looked for what I thought would be the wall of Hugh’s room. I nudged him on the side and said, “Hugh, wake up! I have come to take you flying.” He seemed very sleepy, so I took his hand, and I gently pulled him out of bed.

We got to the coliseum just as the Grateful Dead were playing on stage. Because we were like ghosts, it was easy to merely float right over the band, in fact, directly over the lead guitar player, Jerry Garcia’s, head. We had the best location in the place, and the music sounded especially clear and vibrant.

The next morning, I asked Hugh if he remembered any dreams. Unfortunately, he didn’t, but he seemed very pleased when I told him mine. The reporters interviewed me, but as far as I know the segment was never shown.

I will speak about another interesting laboratory dream that demonstrated the world’s first recorded sexual orgasm during my session on Monday at 1:45 pm called the Ethics of Dream Sex.

5.  Do your lucid dreams ever seem more real that WPR?

I have had lucid dreams where they seem more real that WPR. This is difficult to explain in WPR. Sometimes, they include “seeing more,” such as simultaneously seeing the back and front side of an object. Of course, many of my lucid dreams have extremely vivid and clear visuals, sounds, and emotions.

I have also been known to do experiments in the lucid dream world, where I wake myself up, perform a task in WPR, and then go back into the same dream and ask technicians what they saw happening.

6.   Describe the unusual physics of lucid dreams

My flying dreams best illustrate the unusual physics of my dreams. I refer you to a description of these dreams in a LDE interview I did in 2003, which you can read on my web site.

Briefly, I learned to fly in different ways in my dreams. Usually, I would be lucid. I started out flying like a little bird, having to flap my wings to stay up. This could take much effort. As I grew up, I discovered that I could fly like superman, soaring effortlessly through the air, arms first.

At some point, I must have hit some telephone wires or some other barrier because I fell. I soon realized that because it was my dream, I could fly right through physical objects of any kind. I also realized that it was my mind that created the telephone wires to begin with!

After decades of flying, I noticed that the only thing that could stop me was if I ignored a character in order to hurry off flying somewhere else.

I had fun flying through walls and even deep into the earth. As I matured in my lucid dreaming skills, I could eliminate flying by merely imagining that where I wanted to go was right behind me. This soon got boring, and I went back to flying for the simple pleasure it brought me.

However, lately, I have been doing what I call "surrender flying.'" I lean back, and I let an invisible force pull me upwards from my heart area. This is a very ecstatic sensation, and it often leads me to places of great peace and power, which remain with me even after I wake up.

7.  Did you ever visit any possible parallel or probable realities in dreams?

When I was thirty-seven years old, I wanted to find a mate, get married, and have children. During the Christmas holidays, while visiting my parents, I had the following dream. I met up with myself at the age of twenty-one, who was sad because she was about to leave her college boyfriend, so she could travel and have a career.

I told my twenty-one year old self that I had done those things. I said that I now wanted a husband and children. She introduced me to my alternative self, who was also 37, and who had married my college boyfriend. They had three children, and now she wanted to divorce him. My twenty-one year old self and I decided that everything was as it should be.

Finally, I woke up. As I am writing down the dream, I hear an inner voice, as if from a future self, who says, "Everything is perfect as it is!" I finally believed it. I trusted that I would find my perfect mate, when the time was right. I didn’t need not worry about it. Eventually, I decided that if life is a dream, then my dreams would come true, and they did when I met and married my perfect mate. We have been married for almost twelve years.

8.  Talk about surrender vs control in lucid dreams or other spiritual aspects of lucid dreaming?)

Many people criticize lucid dreaming because they assume that lucid dreams must involve control. They fear losing what the dream was trying to show them.

In my lucid dreams, I feel free to go wherever my imagination takes me and I take care to balance surrender and control. By surrender, I do not mean “to give up”, but rather “to go with the flow.” I feel that I can have lucid dreams without control taking place.

Controlling my own reactions, or the action, characters, or environment in my dreams can indicate that I have reached a definite level of lucidity, but I can still have a lucid dream without control. At times, it helps to take some control of the action in the dream, for example, when I want to carry out goals.

I get power by surrendering to my lucid dreams. I may still have control of my own reactions, but not necessarily of what happens to me. For example, I am not automatically fearful when scary things happens. I can face up to them while they remain terrifying. I only need to remain conscious that I dream.

Being lucid, allows me to have less fear, to see more possibilities, and to see myself as one with the whole dream environment. With lucidity, I have more choices. In other words, I don’t need to change a monster. I can look it in the eye without fear and find out what it wants.

I like to surrender to my lucid dreams and totally experience my emotions. For example, I pass into and right through fear. I find this one of the most valuable lessons that lucid dreaming has taught me, which I can apply to my waking life, as well.

Here is an example of how, in graduate school, I solved a “writer’s block” in a lucid dream, where I used both control and surrender. In the dream, I found myself lying in bed, with my desk in the wrong place. I became lucid and headed for my computer to start writing. I found that I could not move and felt paralyzed.

Using control, I told myself, "This is my dream, and I can do what I want! " I slowly made it to the desk. I looked down, and I saw that the chair seat had become “the pit to hell.” Flames swept up, and it sounded and smelled awful! However, I felt determined to succeed.

Holding my breath, I sat down, ready to get sucked into the pit. I did not change the scene, but surrendered to it. After I woke up, within a very short time, I finished writing my Ph.D. dissertation.

I have more examples of surrender and control in my 2004 Psiberdreaming Conference paper called: Over the Waterfall and Gently Down the Stream: Surrendering to the Lucid Dream also on my web site.

9.  Have you tried to fly as high or as deep as possible with unusual results?

I’ll begin with an dream of traveling deep down into the ocean. I had a lucid dream where I was flying over a river near my childhood home, when a cartoon figure of a dolphin floated in front of me. The dolphin danced around, and then asked me if I'd like to go on an adventure.

After putting out its fin for me to hold onto, it proceeded to pull me down into the ocean, which was now where the river had previously been. Something similar had happened to me with a whale shark, in the waking state, while I was scuba diving a few years before this.

The dolphin and I traveled deeper and deeper, faster and faster. I felt both ecstatic and somewhat dizzy, almost as though the experience were too intense. I woke up, however, feeling fantastic; very peaceful, yet energized.

Coincidentally, a year or so later, I ended up giving a lucid dreaming/lucid living workshop on board a sailboat in the Bahamas and a WPR dolphin actually rubbed against me while swimming.

Here’s an example of a lucid dream where I fly as high as possible. I appeared in a lucid dream with nothing physical around me, so I decided that I would fly in the direction that seemed up and merge with the sun.

I sped upwards like superman, accelerating rapidly until, about half way there, I heard a great sound. It was very intense, and yet blissful. I felt extremely lucid for the next several days in both my waking and sleeping states.

I had a similar  experience when I tried to fly to infinity and beyond in a lucid dreaming experiment for the LDE, which you can find in a recent issue.

10.  Have you learned how to act more lucidly in your waking life?

When I view my waking life as a dream, a dream in which I know I am dreaming (to various degrees, of course), I call this lucid living.  I feel that waking life may seem 'real' and unlike a 'dream,' merely because I lack lucidity, just as non-lucid dreams can feel like physical reality, until I become lucid.

I always try to view life as an "actual dream" and not to merely use lucid living as a therapy or philosophy. The assumptions that come from viewing life as a dream can be very powerful and I know can expand what we feel is possible in life.

If I look at waking life as a dream, then I can also use lucid dreaming techniques that I learned from my sleeping dream experiences, to more easily become lucid or “conscious” in my waking life.

So, when lucid in waking life, I can become more "free", have fun, accomplish goals, feel connected, and maybe even experience magic in my waking life, as I have in my sleeping lucid dreams.

In lucid living, I think of our physical selves as dream selves in a dream called "waking life." I also imagine a Dreamer who is dreaming our lives. Sometimes, I view this Dreamer as some "Being" asleep in a bed in another dimension.

Other times, I view the Dreamer as a nonphysical "God" or an all-encompassing, collective "Mind." I guess there could be levels of Dreamers as well.

Either way, when I am lucid in waking life, I sense a connection to this Dreamer, whom I sometimes call our Higher-Self. I begin to respond to things from the perspective of this Dreamer.

As in a lucid sleeping dream, I feel "safe," I believe in "limitless possibilities", and I see everyone in waking life as "one" or "parts of a whole."

Here are a few examples of how I have become lucid in my waking life. Once, during an argument with my cousin, I suddenly stopped to think, "If I look at this as a dream right now, then my cousin actually expresses a part of the Dreamer and I need to listen.

At that exact moment I acted from the perspective of the Dreamer,  she actually started to explain how our points of view seemed related instead of opposed.

Another time, a boy friend was yelling and hovering over me like the witches from my sleeping dreams. I noticed the similarities to the witch nightmares, and I saw this as a pattern in my life.

The situation actually happened in the same physical place in my house with different boyfriends. This time, I faced up to my friend, like I faced up to the witches, and my friend suddenly stopped, walked away, and the pattern in my life ended, in the same way my witch nightmares ceased.

You can read about these examples in my 2002 Psiberdreaming Conference paper called: From Lucid Dreaming to Lucid Living.

I believe that my marriage, my child, my degrees, my career, and my amazing adventures, too numerous to mention, are all examples of how lucid living has assisted me in having such an incredible and diverse life.

I could go on and on about lucid living and I hope to talk to many of you about it during the rest of this conference. I hope the everyone else will read my future book on Lucid Dreaming/Lucid Living currently called We Dream NOW.

We have to close now, but thank you from all of us for participating and pleasant X-dreaming!