Levels of Consciousness and Lucidity While Dreaming or Awake - WORKSHOP
by Beverly (Kedzierski Heart) D’Urso, Ph.D.   Copyright  © 2009
Workshop Presented at
The Association for the Study of Dreaming  PsiberDreaming Conference 2009

I’d like you to participate in a consciousness expansion, or lucidity training, exercise as you continue to read, and report the results on my thread.  For now, notice your surroundings, feel your body, and become aware of any thoughts you might have. Are you having thoughts, such as:  “I love exercises!” or “I  have done consciousness exercises in the past.” or “I hope I do well on this exercise?”
Next, ask yourself if you could be dreaming right now. Do any beliefs arise? Are you making any assumptions? Finally, at the very start of my actual paper, where I define a dream, write down the current time. You don’t need a stop watch, just look as the closest clock.  Then, when you get to the part where I tell how ‘the water didn’t taste wet,’ about half way through my paper, write down the time once again.

When you finish the paper and my followup on exercises, just after the sentence following the phrase: “I wonder what will happen tomorrow?,” subtract the two numbers you wrote down. Post the time it took you to read the first half of my paper, which should equal the difference of the two numbers you wrote down. Don’t struggle to ‘get it right,’ just do your best. You merely want to remember to do the tasks: write, write, subtract, and post. I don’t care about accuracy of time or speed of reading.  You will learn from this exercise, even if you forget to do all or parts of it. I will include additional exercises in APPENDIX A, which you can also try in the days to come.

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. Unrealistically, I believe that many people 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.  

In APPENDIX A, I have devised three additional exercises to expand your consciousness which you can attempt in the waking state and/or the sleeping dream state. I suggest that you do the first exercise during the next twenty-four hours, the second exercise during the twenty-four hours after the first, and the third exercise during the twenty-four hours after the second. Report on each one, even if you totally forget to do the exercises. Feel free to do only your favorite ones and/or continue doing any of them throughout the conference. See what happens and report your experiences on my thread.   

Thanks for participating. How are you doing with the initial exercise? Did you come up with a time to post? Did you forget to write down the second number so that you can post the difference? In similar exercises, people have often forgotten the second number. However, the feeling you get when you remember to do so seems similar to getting lucid in a dream.  Have you forgotten the exercise completely or posted your results prematurely? Has the exercise made it easier or harder to read? Have you been worrying about missing a part of the exercise, or are you focusing on the present moment, instead of thinking about things, such as: “I wonder what will happen tomorrow?”  I welcome all comments about the exercises and my paper.


Every time you wash your hands in the next twenty-four hours, focus on the present moment. How does the water and/or soap feel? Do you notice any outer sensations, such as sounds or smells? What are you thinking about? Ask yourself if you could be dreaming. What assumptions are you making? Write up your experience, or just the answers to my questions, in the present tense. Does this sound like dream reporting? If you can’t write right away, come up with enough words so that you can do so later.

At the end of twenty-four hours, give a rough estimate of how many times you did remember to do this exercise, and how many times you did not. Write out one complete experience of the exercise in the present tense, if you did not do so earlier. You can also briefly mention a time when you washed your hands and forgot to do the exercise.  Notice how you feel right now about this exercise. You don’t need to have anxiety, guilt, or feelings of superiority. Post your results.

Example 1
At about 9 am, I go to my bathroom, pick up a rough bar of soap, and rub it onto my hands.  I feel the tiny bumps in the bar of soap. As I rinse my hands, I feel the cool water. I hear a machine revving up outside. I think that I am not taking enough time to wash, nor am I waiting for the hot water to flow. Then, I notice that I am judging myself and aspire to merely do my best at washing in the future.

I ask if I could be dreaming and say to myself, “Of course!” Although I do not notice anything odd about the room as I look around, I remember that things in dreams can seem to appear just as they do in the waking state. I look at myself in the mirror, and I notice that I have my shirt on inside out. I smile.  I do feel as though I am experiencing a dream. I go back to writing this example in my presentation and feel inspired.

I washed my hands over a dozen times in the last twenty-four hours. I remembered to do the exercise about three other times. I totally forgot the exercise the rest of the times. For example, after I smeared sun lotion on my legs, I must have washed my hands. I even washed my hands in a dream at about 5:00 am, and again, I did not focus on the exercise.

This time, I suggest that you pay attention, for the next twenty-four hours, to every time you feel uncomfortable, such as when you feel frustrated, sad, or angry. Immediately notice what thought you are believing and ask, “In what ways am I judging myself or others?” Try not to defend yourself, but merely accept your feelings. If you can, write down your experience in the present tense, or at least a few words that will help you recall the incident later when you have time to describe it.

At the end of twenty-four hours, estimate how many times you did the exercise, and how many times you forgot to do it. Write out one complete experience of doing the exercise, if you did not do so earlier. Include how you act or have acted in some way that relates to your judgments. Also, note an example of when the person you judged acts the opposite of how you judged him or her. You can also briefly mention a time when you could have done the exercise, and yet forgot all about it. Post your experience on my thread.

Example 2
At about 4:00 pm my son comes home and tells me that he does not want to share his day with me, and he does not ask me about mine. I feel sad, and I believe that he does not care about me. I judge him as uncaring, but I say nothing.

I remembered this exercise one time and forgot it at least twice in the last twenty-four hours. I realized that I act uncaring when I don’t respect my son’s desires for privacy. Also, I often go overboard in sharing my feelings, or I ask too many questions, or not enough, and I don’t listen. I now feel uncomfortable judging myself. I remember how I often do well in communicating, and I vow to just do my best in the future. I also remember that my son often acts with love towards me, such as when he hugs me before he goes to sleep at night.

I forgot this exercise completely during the time that I felt angry after my husband criticized me in the car. I now reflect upon how I have done or do some of what he referred to. I remember how often I criticize him, and how he really listens when something else bothers me.

Any time in the next twenty-four hours, notice anything ‘unusual’ or ‘odd’ about you or your environment, and ask yourself, “Am I dreaming?” Then do a ‘reality check,’ such as trying to float or repeatedly reading something to determine if it changes. Even if what you notice does not seem impossible, or if you cannot float nor read, can you imagine that you still might be dreaming?  Write up your experience in the present tense. If you can’t write right away, come up with enough words so that you can do so later.

At the end of twenty-four hours, give a rough estimate of how many times you did remember to do this exercise and how many times you did not. Write out one complete experience of the exercise, if you did not do so earlier. You can also briefly mention a time when something ‘strange’ happened, and you forgot to do the exercise. Post your results.

Example 3
At about 6:00 am, I ‘wake up’ and notice that the items on my dresser appear messed up. This seems strange, so rather than assume that someone else messed them up, I ask myself if I am dreaming. I doubt I am dreaming, but I try to float anyway. Nothing happens. I see a copy of my conference paper on the dresser, so I pick it up and read the first few sentences. When I read it over again from the start, the words change. The paper turns into a personal letter that, apparently, I had written to myself. This time, when I try to float, I rise to the ceiling. I go on having a wonderful lucid dream experience.

I remembered this exercise one time and forgot it at least twice in the last twenty-four hours. In another dream, my tooth fell out and I did not do the exercise. A few hours ago, I could not get through on my phone after trying many times. I blamed the phone service, and never asked if I could be dreaming.



                                                 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.