In this podcast (episode #545) and blog, I talk to lucid dreaming teacher and bestselling author Charlie Morley about harnessing the power of dreams and sleep for psychological growth.
Charlie Morley has been lucid dreaming for over 20 years and was “authorized to teach” within the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism by Lama Yeshe Rinpoche in 2008. Since then, he has written four books which have been translated into 15 languages and has run workshops and retreats in more than 30 countries.
He’s spoken at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, run courses and given talks for the Metropolitan Police, Reuters News Agency and the Army Air Corps, as well as presented his work with military veterans on Sky News and at the UK? Ministry of Defence Mindfulness Symposium.
In 2018, Charlie was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship to research PTSD treatment in military veterans and continues to teach workshops for people with trauma-affected sleep. These teachings form the core of his latest book, Wake Up to Sleep.
In 2019, in a world first, he trained a group of therapists to use lucid dreaming with their clients. An expanded and updated 100 hour version of this course ran again in 2023 under the title Lucid Dream Facilitator Training.
Through his work, Charlie shows how lucid dreaming is a powerful mental health tool. Lucid dreaming is when you are aware that you are dreaming while a dream is happening (while you are still sound asleep). Often, in this state, you can try to change the dream in some way, or use it to work through what you experienced while awake.
The same can be said for nightmares. When you have a lucid nightmare, especially one that keeps occurring, it is a sign that you have some issue or trauma that is affecting you in some way, which you are trying to heal through processing while you sleep. When you wake yourself up from this kind of nightmare, you essentially cut the processing time short; it is almost like suddenly leaving a therapy session. In many cases, nightmares are actually a sign of a healing mind, just like scabs, although uncomfortable, are a sign of a healing body.
This is why it is great idea to try practice staying asleep while you have a recurring nightmare, but in a way that you are aware (lucid) that you are not in danger. This gives your mind and brain time to process through what is happening in your nonconscious mind, which can also help you work through this issue while awake. This is essentially what it means to “lucid dream”.
Charlie has seen how helpful this technique can be in his research. In 2023, the first scientific study into Charlie’s methods was published in the peer-reviewed journal Traumatology in which 85% of participants experienced “a remarkable decrease in PTSD Symptoms” by using lucid dreaming to transform their nightmares!
And lucid dreaming is something we can all learn to do to help us heal from small and big traumas in our lives. It includes:
- Planning your dream: this is where decide what you would like to do you in your next dream and write it down before you sleep. Draw a picture of it happening: this is not about being a great artist; it is about getting your thoughts on paper before you dream.
- Working on dream recall: this is something you have to practice! Start by using self-hypnosis before you fall asleep: tell yourself you will recall your dream. Practice this daily!
- Starting a dream diary: document your dreams in some way. This is not for interpretation; rather, you are collecting dream data. Think about major themes and so on.
- Spotting patterns in your dreams. See patterns emerging: things that happen only in your dream. This is a dream sign, which you can use as a lucid dream trigger to continue practicing using your dreams to heal.
As you practice these steps, think about your sankalpa: this is the thing you call out or engage when you lucid dream. It is your intention or resolve to do something or experience something in your dream. It is a Sanskrit term that means a heartfelt desire, a solemn vow, an intention, or a resolve to do something. This is the step where you engage your dream plan.
This process is incredibly self-empowering and something we can all learn to do to use sleep and dreams to help us heal our past and live into our future. We are essentially learning to rewire our brains while dreaming (through the process known as neuroplasticity) to help find healing in our lives, because when we lucid dream, the brain acts as if we are awake and working through our trauma.
For more on lucid dreaming and healing through sleep, listen to my podcast with Charlie (episode #545) and check out his amazing work. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
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1:00 Charlie’s incredible work
3:33 Why Charlie loves lucid dreaming
7:45 What Lucid dreaming is & why it is so powerful
8:20 Nightmares can actually be good!
10:30 The science behind lucid dreaming
16:33 How lucid dreaming works
24:20 Rewiring your brain while dreaming
29:00 Nightmares are healing responses!
34:22 What our dreams say about us
45:52 The 4 D’s of lucid dreaming
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