Illuminating Insights from Lucid Dreaming
D'Urso, Beverly (Kedzierski Heart)
Copyright (c) 2004

Panel at the Association for the Study of Dreams (ASD) Conference 2004, Copenhagen, June, 2004.


I will begin with some background on lucid dreaming. As you probably know, lucid dreaming is when you are asleep and aware, at some level, that you are dreaming.

We typically call you the dreamer and say you are lucid. The dreamer  can also be thought of as your physical body’s mind, although  I would not say that my “mind” is contained in my “brain”.


I remember having had lucid dreams since I was seven years old and I faced up to scary witches in a recurring nightmare. I will discuss this dream briefly, in a moment. You can see my web site:    for a detailed description of this dream and a list of places that it has been published.

Starting in the late 1970’s, I helped do research on lucid dreaming at the Stanford Sleep Laboratory. I was able to signal from the dream to the physical lab while being definitely asleep and dreaming.  I also led workshops and taught others how to have lucid dreams, and I have given presentations on the topic at ASD conferences for almost 20 years.  

I have remembered, on average, six dreams per night, for most my of life. I’d say that between 2 and 20 dreams per week were lucid, to various degrees.  So, I’d estimate that I have had over 20,000 lucid sleeping dreams in my life so far.  

My dreams usually seem like what we call waking physical reality  until I become lucid,  although I often know that I am dreaming from the start of the dream. Sometimes my non-lucid dreams are very bizarre and yet I ignore this sign of being in a dream and I rationalize the experience.


Some people never remember their dreams, some remember them after they have been awake for a while, and some remember them just after or before they awaken. Lucid dreamers remember they dream while the dream  takes place.

They do not necessarily analyze the dream, or look for symbols, but directly and consciously experience the dream, shortening the time it takes to realize they dream.

To me, lucid dreaming does not mean merely “visualizing” or “daydreaming”. It is also not just “clear” dreaming, or even “controlled” dreaming, necessarily,  if you were not aware that you were in a dream at the time.

Also, I personally believe in levels of lucidity, on a spectrum. I do not see lucid dreaming and non-lucid dreaming as binary states. In other words, one is not just lucid or non-lucid.

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, but more of a black void, where I have powerful, spiritual-like experiences.  
Keep in mind that frequent lucid dreamers may be not very lucid in their dreams, while occasional lucid dreamers may have a high degree of lucidity.

Non-lucid dreamers also vary quite a bit. Some have tried to get lucid and couldn’t. Others never heard of lucid dreaming so they don’t know if they could do it. Some really want to have lucid dreams and make it a struggle. Others just don’t care about becoming lucid.

I don’t feel that lucid dreaming really takes effort, and instead I feel that motivation is the key. One must not assume that lucid dreaming is difficult.

People may not succeed in becoming lucid because, for example, they don’t start with simple enough tasks to perform. They feel that control is so essential that they try to, for example, locate a departed loved one before they even try to do something normal and merely remain lucid in their dream.


In my lucid dreams, I feel free to go wherever my imagination takes me, and I take care to balance spontaneity and control.

Notice that you can be lucid without any kind of control taking place.  Being able to control your own reactions or the action, characters, or environment in your dreams can be an indicator of how lucid you are, but you can still be lucid without control. However, at times, it helps to take control of the action in the dream, for example, when you want to carry out goals.
I have learned that often it is best to surrender to the lucid dream. In this case, I still have control, but of my own reactions and not of what happens to me. I am not automatically fearful, for example, when something scary happens.

I only need to remain conscious that I am in a dream. This 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.

Although I focus on awareness rather than control in my lucid dreams, I do not call my lucid dreaming witnessing. I feel that I can be fully in the dream yet not of it, meaning that I know while dreaming that my part of my self can be found outside of the dimension of the dream.

To me witnessing would be like watching a movie or a play. Being in a dream is like being in the play. Being in a lucid dream is like being in a play in perfect character, having all the character’s feelings and consequences, while still knowing that you are essentially the actor, and possibly the producer and director as well.


With lucid dreaming, I feel that it is important that you know you're taking on the roll of a dream character in your dream.  This dream character seems to exist in another dimension from your physical body, albeit a three-dimensional world that may seem  real, while you, the dreamer, are safe in bed.

One dream character often looks and acts like you, but it may not. We sometimes call this our dream body or dream self.  You may have other dream characters that look like someone you know or someone that you don't know.

When lucid, you realize that your dream body is not in physical reality, but in your physical self’s mind. When you wake up, you change dimensions or perspectives.

When I am in a lucid dream, the dream character that I incorporate sometimes tells other dream characters that they are in a dream. Other times they might be the ones to tell my character.

When I am very lucid, either all the dream characters I find know that they are in a dream, or there are no characters at all.  I consider myself not completely lucid when there are any other characters in my dream that don't believe they are in a dream.

Because I see the dream as being created by the mind, I also know that anything I, the dreamer, can imagine can happen.

By believing that everyone and everything around me in the dream, including my dream self and other dream characters, exists in the mind, I also experience everyone as “one”, or “made of the same substance” and all “parts of a whole.”


If you remember any dreams, perhaps you have been fooled by a dream that seemed real while it was happening.  You may have even said, “This can’t be a dream, it's too real.”  Maybe you notice that you can't fly as you may have been able to do in dreams. However, if at one point you wake up, you would then realize that you had been fooled and it really was a dream.

Remember, lucid dreamers are the ones who know that the dream is not a solid physical reality, which is precisely what non-lucid dreamers usually assume because they are not lucid.

We can say, then, that you can not be absolutely certain that you are not dreaming at any time, because as in the case where you were fooled, you may just not be lucid enough to question or notice that you might be dreaming until you wake up.  Even then, you may not even remember that you have a dreamed.


Another way to describe lucidity is to say that your dream character’s mind connects with the mind of the dreamer. We can also say that the mind of the dream character has expanded. The dream character can now remember and act upon the goals, memory, and thoughts of the dreamer.

For example, the dream character can remember goals that you, the dreamer, may have set up to do in the dream before you went to sleep.  The dream character and the dreamer can then co-create the dream, although the dreamer may still have intentions that the dream character is not aware of, even in lucidity.

As a lucid dream character, I do not detach myself from the dream environment, but rather I see myself as equivalent to the environment and more. Also, detaching from the dreamer would be similar to forgetting that I am, at some level, creating the dream scene. I would then lose some level of lucidity.

To summarize, in a lucid dream I am more present than in a non-lucid dream, bringing my whole self into the experience. I know that I am more than my dream body and that the source of myself is outside of the dream or inside the dreamer.

In this talk, I want to focus on surrendering to the lucid dream plus facing and totally experiencing one's emotions, for example "letting go of fear."  I believe that these are the most valuable lessons that lucid dreaming has taught me. I will also describe scenarios that led me to my current work called lucid living.

I presented a workshop on lucid living at ASD97 in Asheville and I will highlight it at the end of this presentation. Tomorrow, I will present at a symposium called lucid dreaming, lucid living at 1:15pm in room five.


Here is my story. I grew up in a small suburb of Chicago, the only child of a lower-middle class family. I was very close to my parents.

When I was about five years old, my alcoholic grandfather came to live with us. It was around this time that I remember having a series of recurring "witch" nightmares.

Perhaps the witches represented my grandfather. However, I did not think of this until I was much, much older. Maybe my negative feelings of not wanting my "scary" grandfather living with us had to come up as nightmares, because I was too young to express them.

In any case, 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, and 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.


My dreams were really fun after I faced up to those witches.  Remembering the feeling of being safe in a dream, I learned to recognize when I was asleep and dreaming most of the time.  

Whatever I desired, was possible.  Whatever I thought, would occur.  I felt ecstatic. I could face other fears, heal or nurture  myself emotionally, resolve conflicts or blocks, have adventures, help others, or just have fun. I could fly, visit places, people, or time periods, and generally “do the impossible!”


My flying dreams, in particular, taught me that surrender, rather than control works best. Usually, I would be lucid in my flying dreams. 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 had fun flying through walls and even deep into the earth.

Walls were easy to get through. My head merged into the wall first, and then I noticed the wall moving through my body, a foot at a time. The wall felt as though it was vibrating and humming slowly, like the jiggling molecules that I imagined made up the wall.  Finally, my feet popped out the other side.

As I matured in my lucid dreaming skills, I could eliminate flying altogether by merely imagining that where I wanted to go was right behind 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. Again, I find the value of surrendering to the lucid dream.


My lucid dreaming experiences continued throughout my teenage years.  However, I never knew the term “lucid dreaming.”  I thought that everyone dreamed this way every night.   

I  often dreamed of my close friend from high school, who died in a car accident, when I was nineteen.

At first, I'd see her in a dream, and we would relate as we would have when she was still alive.  One time, I remembered that she had died while I was with her in a dream. It scared me so much that I woke up.

Remembering the value of facing the fear and surrendering to the dream, I learned to stay in the dream and talk to her.  It took me time to get accustomed to hearing her voice, but I was finally able to ask her questions, and, eventually, listen to her answers. I felt very relieved to connect with her this way.

It helped me deal more easily with my father in my dreams after he died, in 1992. By then, I was an expert! However, I later found that I had much more trouble letting go of fear in my dreams when my mother died, probably because we were so very close and I feared her death for so long.


In the late 1970s, I moved to California to finish my graduate work at Stanford University. By this time, a therapist had told me that I had a great skill and it was called lucid dreaming.

While I was finishing a master's project with a Stanford Cognitive Psychology professor, I told one of his other students that I was a lucid dreamer.  The student said that I had to meet his friend Stephen LaBerge, who was doing his dissertation in psychophysiology on this exact subject.

Stephen invited me to participate in some experiments at the Stanford Sleep Laboratory. I ended up sleeping at the lab and doing experiments about once a month for many years.  I also did many experiments for publicity, such as television or magazine specials.

We wondered how what we dream in our mind affects our physical body. In the lab, I would signal from a dream, and my signals would be picked up by EEG machines in the lab via electrodes on my body.    

The experiments showed that the same parts of the brain are activated while dreaming a task, as when doing it while awake.

In one lab experiment for a television special, I had to sing the song, “Row, row, row your boat.... life is but a dream.” The week that the show was to air, they used a clip of me singing this song with electrodes all over my face, wearing my blue robe, for a commercial. It was shown several times a day that week.

A few times, when I turned on the television, the commercial was playing and I saw myself saying, “Life is but a dream!” It was a very strange experience indeed! I decided it must be some kind of message from the universe, and I better pay attention. I was formulating the ideas that would eventually become what I now call, “lucid living!”


In 1982, after becoming extremely proficient in lucid dreaming, I spontaneously began having precognitive dreams. These are dreams of things that happen later in the waking state. My previous view of the physical world as being “solid,” and having precise rules, had turned upside down!

I thought of life being a dream and how that would explain how such things like precognitive dreams could occur. We could all be dream characters in a dream we call life. Was there a Dreamer dreaming us all?

However, during this time, I was still a scientist trying to finish my Ph.D. in Computer Science. I did not want to be distracted by these ideas so much, that I never finished my degree. I decided to put them off for awhile.


In my waking state, I was having trouble writing my doctoral dissertation.  I decided to try writing it in my dreams first. In one dream, I found myself lying in bed. The desk in the room was in the wrong place, so I realized that I was dreaming.

I headed for my computer, to start writing.  I found that I could  not move. I was paralyzed. 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 was an opening for “the pit to hell.”  

Flames swept up, and it sounded and smelled awful!  I was, however, determined to succeed. Holding my breath,  I sat down, ready to be sucked into the pit.

Instead, I woke up, and within a very short time, I finished writing my dissertation in the area of artificial intelligence.


I finished my Ph.D. in 1983 and my career really took off!  I was very involved in starting up businesses and traveling around the world.  In 1987, I took a short break from this computer science work to help Stephen LaBerge form the Lucidity Institute.  

After this, I began leading my own workshops and groups. During this time period, I would sometimes give myself and my students challenges as well.

One time I tried a "mutual dream" experiment of trying to find a student in a lucid dream. The first thing that happened in my dream that night was that I saw a neighbor, whom I knew had died, and I became lucid. .

In previous dreams, I would see her and say, “You are dead!” and try to get on with my goal. She would get upset and say, “I’m here now, so talk to me!” Unless I did, I learned that would have trouble completing my goal. This time, I first stopped to talk to her. Once again I saw the value of surrendering to the lucid dream.


Merging with other aspects of the dream demonstrates another great form of surrender and letting go of fear, as well.

One time, I found myself alone in a lucid dream, in front of a campfire. I took this as another challenge and stepped right into the center of the roaring fire, directly experiencing any fear that could exist.  I was having fun and decided to try eating the flames. Interestingly enough, they tasted salty.  

In another lucid dream, I appeared with nothing physical around me, so I decided that I would fly 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 found that I had merged with a black void.  I felt extremely lucid for the next several days in both my sleeping and my waking states.


When I was thirty-seven years old, I became very anxious to find a mate, get married, and have children. In one lucid 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.  

In the dream, 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 was writing down the dream, I heard an inner voice, as if from a future self,  who says, "Everything is perfect as it is! Surrender to the present" I finally believed it.

I trusted that I would find my perfect mate, when the time was right. I surrendered to the thought that if life is a dream, then my dreams would come true.  


I met my husband, two years after this dream, by noticing him across the room at a party, going up to him, and talking to him.  I had an extremely strong sense that he would be in my future, even though he turned out to be much younger than me. This is a great example of how I began to act lucidly in the moment in my waking state.

I felt that I completely surrendered to the experience. I was in the present moment continuously, without fear, and with total trust. I remained with him and totally focussed on him, while part of me observed our interaction.

I believed in magic, while been totally accepting whatever happened.  I was able to listen to him, as if he were truly part of myself. We have been married for over ten years and I still feel that he is my perfect mate.


Chris and I were married in less than a year after we met. We knew that we wanted to have a child.  After much medical help, I decided to work on the issue in my dreams.

Before my son, Adrian, was born, however, I also had some interactions with my childhood witches.

My witch dreams went through many transformations during my life. In 1960, I faced up to the scary witches from my recurring nightmares. 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 the witch drama appeared in my waking life as well. I’ll discuss this in my presentation tomorrow.

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.”

Even though they still looked very scary, I faced my fears directly, and I brought them into my uterus. The decision to do so was spontaneous. Within a year, I got pregnant with my son, Adrian, who will be nine years old on Monday.


My mom, who wasn't very well after my father died, was feeling better during the years after Adrian was born. She visited us often, and we would go to Chicago to see her, as well. Adrian and her became best friends.

In the year 2000, I had the biggest challenge of my life. Right before she was due to come out to California for the holidays, my mom had a sudden, massive stroke, and all four quadrants of her brain were instantly destroyed.  

She would only exist in a vegetative state.  I needed to take her off life-support, as she requested in her living will. For her sake, I was forced to face my greatest fear ever. My mother died right at midnight, officially Christmas Day morning.

My life, as well as my dreams, was quite a struggle after this.  I really had to surrender to both at this point. In my dreams, I hated to see my mom, only to remember that she had died, which would happen when I was lucid. I decided not to have lucid dreams for awhile. I presented on this topic at ASD2003 in Berkeley.

A year and a half after my mother's death,  I needed to sell the house I was born and raised in, and had always called home.  I wondered if I could surrender to this task?

Spontaneously, I dreamed that I found the witches in my childhood home. I surrendered to them again, and they pulled me under the closet door, where they came from.  I merged with the witches. 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.  At last, I could sell the house, and I felt that I had healed quite a bit.  In the last dream I had of my childhood home, I flew out the picture window like a powerful witch.

Soon after this, in a dream, I said to my mom, “You are safe now, you are in heaven!”  I heard the message for myself, as I see my mother as part of our higher self, the Dreamer of life.


This brings me to a brief summary of lucid living, which I will present tomorrow in much more detail.

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 decided that waking life may feel 'real' and unlike a 'dream,' merely because I lack lucidity, just as non-lucid dreams can feel like physical reality, until I become lucid.

The assumptions that come from viewing life as a dream can be very powerful and can expand what we feel is possible in life.

I can let go of fear and experience myself as more than just my body, know that anything is possible in my life, and see everyone and everything as part of our expanded minds, our higher self, the Source, or what I call the Dreamer of 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 in my waking life.

When lucid in waking life, I can become more “free”, have fun, accomplish goals, be "in the moment", and maybe even experience magic in my waking life, as I have in my sleeping lucid dreams.

I believe, 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.

Finally, I’d like to say that I have discovered that ancient traditions and religions, as well as modern best-selling authors, movies, and songs talk about concepts similar to lucid living.  These include the Hindus and Maya; the Buddhists and Connectedness; the Christians and Resurrection; The Course of Miracles and the Happy Dream; as well as Jane Roberts with SETH; Deepak Chopra; Wayne Dyer; Don Miguel Ruiz; The Wizard of Oz; Star Trek; The Matrix... the list goes on and on.  
My favorite remains: Row, Row, Row, your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream!

Please come to my talk on Lucid Living  tomorrow at 1:15pm in room five.

Thank you.