Auspicious Beginnings: First Lucid Dreams

It's a typical morning at school between classes and I'm walking alongside the administration offices. Suddenly, my hands are right in front of my face! I'm awestruck as I realize "I'm dreaming." I look around me and then into my hands. My hands take up my entire field of vision. Suddenly I see and feel that every fingerprint ridge in my hands is like a canyon of extraordinary depth. I keep peering into the depths-totally amazed; part of me knows this is a dream and these are only my dream hands, and part of me senses that there is an incredible actual depth to each of these fingerprint ridges. I gaze into these canyons totally shocked. As I dream, these realizations generate an emotional power inside of me that seems to be rising from my stomach to my throat. The emotions are too intense and I awake.

My first recognized lucid dream occurred in 1975 after reading Carlos Castaneda's book Journey to Ixtlan. In the book, Carlos' Indian sorcerer friend teaches him a technique for gaining conscious awareness of his dreams by first finding his hands in a dream; this prearranged cue of seeing his hands would prompt him into lucidity, and help stabilize his lucid awareness.

Similarly, each night before sleeping, I had stared at my hands, hoping to find them later in a dream. After three days, I had my first lucid dream.

For those people who have had a lucid dream experience, the first one is a dramatic highpoint in their dream education. I remember that night I awoke with an incredible sense of awe and power. I had done it! I had actually found my hands in my dreams and became conscious while I was dreaming. Days later, I was still marveling at the possibilities and freedoms available to me in the world of lucid dreams.

Symbolically, I felt that this first lucid dream was showing me that lucid dreaming was an immense, unexplored territory of my psyche. Simple fingerprint ridges of mine gained a fantastic depth as I consciously looked on, seeming to indicate that there was a great experiential depth to lucid dreaming awaiting me. Also, the setting was at school, outside the administration office - possibly a symbol that lucid dreaming would be an educational experience, associated with a higher self.

After talking with my teenage friends who went on to have their own first lucid dreams shortly thereafter, I was struck by the differences. Some had dreams that seemed to be symbolically shocking or depressing; e.g. hands that were actually wooden stumps, or hands with scarred wrists. Ever since, I have wondered if one's first recognized lucid dream had symbolic importance as an indicator of later lucid dream experiences.

I requested (through DNB) people to write about their first lucid dream and how it may have foreshadowed later lucid dream development. Thankfully, a few brave and generous souls wrote back, and these are their responses. (I have made some speculations on the dream content to prompt the reader to think of their own first lucid dream and its possible symbolic content).

Linda Tagilaferro, New York

About four years after reading Carlos Castaneda's book, Linda had her first lucid dream:

In the dream, I was in a marketplace, possibly in Morocco. It was early morning, possibly about 6 a.m. No one was there yet. I was alone and lost, and the merchants were not to come for a long time. Suddenly I realized that I could enjoy myself by walking around. And I did. Soon after, a large truck was speeding in my direction. Again, I said to myself, this is just a dream and I defiantly threw myself in front of the truck. The driver swerved just at the last minute, parked his truck and angrily came out to talk to me. After a short period of fearing his anger, I again reminded myself that this was a dream, and I calmly faced him. When I woke up, I had a tremendous feeling of peace and power.

It is interesting to see in Linda's first lucid dream that she is in a foreign country in the morning. In some respects, the setting may symbolically parallel the "foreign" exotic nature of lucid dreams. Speculating further, the early morning may be indicative of the early development of lucid dreaming for her, suggesting more lucid dreams in the future. On an emotional level, the recognition of lucidity inspires a feeling of joy and adventure, followed by the power and resolve to make a truck move and stand up to an angry driver.

Linda wrote further that she has had many lucid dreams since this first one, but this first dream still inspires her with a feeling of inner strength.

Lorraine Grassano, California

The night after reading Patricia Garfield's book, Creative Dreaming, Lorraine had her first "recognized" lucid dream. From her journal...

Lucid dreams! I "wake up" in dreams, wish to fly; take a leap, fail, try again, manage to sail a few yards, then crash. I feel my hand scraped, but assure myself, "So what if it hurts, it's just a dream". Then I decide to climb up a telephone pole in order to leap off and make it easier to fly. I get to the top and stare at my hand which is stained with black charcoal. I close my eyes to jump off the pole, assuring myself it is only a dream, but then open my eyes and find myself in a gaudy department store... I am disappointed that I cannot fly. I semiawake determined to have another lucid dream about diving into a big wave. I do! I run toward the rough ocean, chanting as my heart is beating wildly that it's just a dream. I dive in, feel water in my lungs, but then begin to enjoy the bobbing around in the thick powerful water. I briefly remember about seeking a treasure from this "dream enemy" as Patricia Garfield said, but then I forget about that and simply feel the sensation of the waves. It is dark, a lot of motion. Then I feel I am being dragged and there I am returned to the shore again.

Lorraine mentioned the significance of this lucid dream by writing "...since I was three years old, I had been dreaming twice a month about tidal waves engulfing me; the details varied but the feeling was always the same: terror and helplessness. In this dream, I actually jumped into the tidal wave after 28 years of trying to run away. I had one other lucid dream about facing the wave and enjoying being under water. Since then, with the exception of once or twice, my ordinary dreams have ceased frightening me with images of dangerous waters". She went on to say that facing fears in this lucid dream inspired her to do dreamwork on other problems.

It is interesting to see such perseverance and presence of mind in a first lucid dream. After repeated attempts at flying (possibly, a private symbol for personal freedom), she perseveres, then goes on to an even more important goal of diving into a big wave- a personal symbol evoking terror and helplessness that she now chooses to lucidly confront. Throughout all of this, she recalls ideas from Patricia Garfield's book, Castaneda's hand method, the Senoi idea of receiving a gift from a dream enemy, and chanting repeatedly "This is a dream" to maintain lucid awareness. Lastly, she begins to enjoy the waves of thick, powerful water that had been so terrifying in past dreams.

Frank Szot, Florida

Though he notes in a letter that his dreams are not normally violent, Frank's first lucid dream in 1979 contained elements of violence and possibly a bit of precognitive awareness.

The dream began with me being threatened by R., who I used to consider my best friend. I was totally lucid right from the start... He had a knife and was attempting to intimidate, taunt and harass me. This was totally bizarre behavior for him; we had been schoolchild friends since fourth grade. I was unarmed and felt a slight twinge of fear but did not retreat or attempt to talk my way out of the situation. Then I became confident that he would be unable to harm me in any way...

R. continued to talk and verbally abuse me. Then, when he took the slightest move to advance toward me, he was absolutely pulverized by a force that smashed upon his head and drove him into the solid ground. The effect upon him was as if five tons of granite had been dropped from five stories high upon his shoulders. I did not have the feeling that I was the cause of the force which had invisibly felled him.

My response was to calmly observe the effect which had been produced. I was not displeased and did not attempt to question or offer to help .... I saw he was still alive; then, he did something which astonished me. He growled and said something to the effect that as soon as he could... crawl toward me, he was going to kill me. Now, as I was looking at this person ... he was smashed again with the same type of force, at an even more powerful magnitude .... There was also another difference in this second strike; I was totally in control of it ... and I consciously willed it to strike him .... I was totally furious that he dared to threaten me like that...

Now as R. lay spread on the ground and I was ready to deliver another shot if he made the slightest move, his mother swooped into the scene and quickly snatched him away... I was now aware that she had been watching the outcome and finally decided to intervene to save her son from further pain .... Aiso, there seemed to be a veiled presence of other people who had witnessed the event as well.

Frank noted that he heard through friends that about 18 months later, R. died of a drug overdose.

Like a lot of lucid dreams, this one was initiated by a perceived threat. It is interesting to see that at the beginning, there is awareness without control, which later shifts to awareness with control.

Linda Magallón, California

Linda noted that her first lucid dream came on 3/8/82, International Women's Day; almost ten years after she first became interested in feminism. She also mentioned that during the time she did not pay much attention to her dreams, and it was a year later before she had a term to apply to this type of dreaming. Incredibly, as you will read, in her first lucid dream, she meets a character she had created in waking fantasy - a shocking realization that prompts her into lucidity.

Water is quickly filling the glass stall in which I am standing. Higher and higher the water level rises as I stretch desperately to keep my head above. As it reaches my neck, I begin gasping for air.

Suddenly, a Black woman clothed in a black shirt and pants appears next to the shower door. She puts her shoulder to the thick white bathroom wall and gives a mighty shove, breaking a huge, jagged hole. Through the hole is an upper story view of a city plaza.

The woman swings open the shower door, grabs me by the arm and slings me across her shoulder. She leaps out through the hole. Looking down from her back, I can see we're far above street level. "You're flying, we're flying!" I exclaim in amazement at the superheroic implications of this feat.

We fly over the plaza and down the street through a city of skyscrapers. She makes a right turn and stops down this street. The woman turns me over on my back so that she is holding me in an embrace. "Hello, Casey", she says softly, smiling. Her features are indistinguishable but dark in color. She is projecting a blast of emotion toward me. I am receiving an intense feeling of kindness and loving concern - the look of a master. She knows me as Casey - my ideal self! "Will-it!" I exclaim in utter astonishment and awe as I recognize her. This mutual recognition has brought me to lucidity.

Willette lifts me to an upright position. Still embracing my body with one arm, she stands to my left. We are both yet suspended in the air. I can't believe my eyes; here is the subject of my fantasies; a character who I made up. But I know she's a real person, a completely mature, independent adult, a master even, standing right next to me, holding me, talking to me! I can hardly comprehend it all. "Why?" Why is she here, saving me, showing so much concern for me? Looking me straight in the eye, she says with utmost gravity, "You were once my mother." Her mother? Where? "You mean in another existence?" I ask.

Willette does not respond verbally, but half turns and looks off toward the clouds. The clouds are white and billowing as if in anticipation. They form a corridor through which a patch of blue sky can be seen. The sky brightens, taking on the silhouette of a robed Christ-like figure. As I watch the figure approach, I become more and more hesitant, fearful of being misled spiritually. Did Willette 's comment mean that she believes in reincarnation?

Willette gestures with her arm to indicate thatlhis God-like figure is coming halfway to meet us. "You mean Jesus?" I ask doubtfully. Willette gives no answer. I worry that the figure might not be the "true" divinity sanctioned by the Church. "Why am I hesitating?" I ask her, though I know the answer. There must be some way out of this dilemma. I mentally flail around, searching for a reason not to go. (Where am I going anyway? Will I ever come back?)

Ah-ha! I find one; Willette's answer has given me the key. I remember - I am wife and mother of my own two children. They need me. I can't go yet. In fact, as I remember, superimposed on the scene is a mental impression of standing in my bedroom just outside the closet doors. "My children!" I proclaim.

Willette looks at me seriously. "There is something unresolved here," she says as she releases me. I fall backwards and down into the waking state. My view of reality is never the same again.

Talk about a wild first lucid dream! A waking fantasy character saves Linda from suffocation by breaking down walls, then freely flies her across the city and confronts Linda with her real existence in the dream and their interrelatedness, as a Christ-like figure approaches in the clouds. The symbols and implications boggle the mind!

From other writings, I know that Linda has had more dreams of Willette. And in keeping with my initial concept her first fantastic lucid dream has led to a rich and impressive lucid dream life.

Dave Jenneson, British Columbia

man with a stovepipe hat, skinny and lowering

Around age four is the time that Dave remembers his first lucid dream. And though it seems somewhat melodramatic or prophetic, he notes that young kids do not have a large collection of dream symbols from which to draw.

I was walking along a road. It was dusty and led up and down over rolling hills. Odd trees dotted the dry, yellow grass which ran off to either side. There was a slight embankment on either side, as if the road had been cut into the earth. As I walked I noticed a dark shape, almost like a silhouette up ahead. As I got nearer I could see it was a man, a tremendously tall man, dressed in black and sitting at the side of the road. I am not sure but I believe he was on the left hand embankment. I knew he was tall and thin because even though seated on a two foot bank, his knees were almost higher than his head. His height was further emphasized by the tall, black cylindrical stovepipe hat he wore. He had a dark, cropped beard but no moustache.

I wasn't afraid of him. I told him I was tired of walking and wanted to stop. He said, "The road you are on is tong but you must never stop. It is going to be very hard but you must keep going", and he pointed in the direction I was to go. I remember thinking that this wasn't fair. I was so little and my legs were so tired and now here was this man saying I had to go on, no matter what. I could see more hills ahead as the dusty road disappeared over the horizon.

I said, "Okay," or something like that and kept going. He remained sitting there like an angular black scarecrow. I was thinking that these were pretty serious instructions for someone as little as myself, and I wasn't too crazy about it. Nonetheless his instructions were clear and I kept walking.

Dave wrote that this dream has always stayed with him, and from that moment on, he assumed that everyone had lucid dreams like this. The seeming simplicity of the dream suggests interesting questions about age and dreaming; for instance, as we grow older, do our dreams become more crowded and complex with symbols and unresolved subconscious strivings?

For those dreamers, who have yet to have their first lucid dream, I suggest that they read a book on the subject like Patricia Garfield's Creative Dreaming, or Stephen LaBerge's Lucid Dreaming. Lucid dreaming is a skill available to most everyone. Like many lucid dreamers, you will probably find that your lucid dream experience is linked to your lucid dream expectations. And the thrill and wonder of being conscious in the dream world can only be likened to the exhilaration that must be felt by any of the world's great explorers