Seeing Lucid Dreaming’s Potential: Short and Long

July 10, 2024
Robert Waggoner

No part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomena; indeed those that will not fit the box are often not seen at all.” Dean Radin, The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena

When the first scientific evidence for lucid dreaming appeared, many in established science did their best to pooh-pooh the evidence.  Stephen LaBerge reported that his research submission to the journal Science resulted in one of two reviewers finding the idea of lucid dreaming “difficult to imagine”.  The submission to the journal Nature resulted in a dismissive comment by the editors that it seemed “not of sufficient general interest.”  Many months later, the journal, Perceptual and Motor Skills, agreed to publish LaBerge’s research, helping to establish the scientific evidence for lucid dreaming. (pages 66-67).

In this case, the ‘box’ of scientifically validated phenomena expanded to allow the existence of lucid dreaming, or realizing within a dream that you exist within the dream state.  

What seems less clear or “often not seen at all” are the benefits of lucid dreaming. Why does it matter to become aware or lucid within a dream?  What could you do in that state?  Why should I, or anyone, learn to lucid dream? 

Want to go deeper?

Lucid Dreaming and Living Lucidly: Gateway to the Inner Self

Workshop Starts July 25th

Historically, the answers to those questions connect to native and wisdom traditions who have used lucid dreaming as a spiritual tool to explore the nature of the self, reality and consciousness.  I call this the ‘long potential’ of lucid dreaming, since it has the capacity to radically change our view of our perceived experience.

The author of The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, claims that the indigenous spiritual tradition of Tibet, called Bon, have used lucid dreaming for many thousands of years.  While lucid dreaming can be used to improve and enhance one’s waking life, he clearly states (pg 17) that “the ultimate use of these yogas is to lead us to liberation.”  

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche goes on to state, “The first step in dream practice is quite simple: one must recognize the great potential that dream holds for the spiritual journey.  Normally the dream is thought to be “unreal,” as opposed to “real” waking life.  But there is nothing more real than dream.  This statement only makes sense once it is understood that normal waking life is as unreal as dream, and in exactly the same way.” (pg 23) Here, one gets a sense that lucid dreaming practice allows one to see clearly the process by which the mind helps create perceived experience, whether waking or dreaming.

In other wisdom traditions like Sufism, brilliant teachers like Ibn Al Arabi (born in 1165 A.D.) promoted lucid dreaming as an attainment of “great value” and a means to connect a person to experience their divine source.  [See Robert L. Van De Castle, Our Dreaming Mind, New York: Ballantine Books, 1995 p. 441]   Similarly, lucid dreaming held a place in the secret or esoteric teachings of Taoism and many native wisdom traditions.

The Short Potential?

In my first book, Lucid Dreaming – Gateway to the Inner Self, I illuminated the ‘open platform’ nature of lucid dreaming.  While it has a long history as a means to pursue the deep goals of spiritual traditions, its open platform nature also allows its practical usage to change one’s current life (or as you may call it, the ‘short’ potential).  In a broad sense, the platform of lucid dreaming can be used for most any purpose.  Below, you can read a variety of practical purposes, included with illustrative examples:

Accessing creativity    

In Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming, Stephen LaBerge shares a note from a computer programmer who reported solving difficult software coding problems in his lucid dreams – and then writing them down upon waking, whereupon he discovered that they resolved the problem in 99% of the cases ( see page 178)

In my book, I share the example of an artist who lucidly calls out to see ‘art work’ in his lucid dream that he could re-create upon waking – and suddenly ‘art’ appears on nearby walls.  He then examines it, paints it when awake, and discovers that it sells very well.

Enhancing skills   

German researchers have focused on using lucid dreaming to enhance physical and sports skills.  A recent survey discovered that 9% of professional athletes in Germany have used lucid dreaming to perfect their sports skills.  ( Visit: (PDF) Frequency of Lucid Dreams and Lucid Dream Practice in German Athletes ( ) Other lucid dreamers have used it to perfect the playing of musical scores, public speaking and more.  All of this may suggest that the natural function of neuroplasticity can occur even in lucid dreams.

Resolving emotional issues   

In 1982, a psychotherapist, Gordon Halliday, reported teaching two PTSD clients how to become lucidly aware in their recurrent nightmares and then “change one thing” to lucidly alter its course.  Both clients reported becoming lucid in their nightmare and changing some aspect of the environment ( see ).  Afterward, their nightmares basically ceased.  The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) now recommends lucid dreaming for the treatment of nightmare disorder (see

Later, another researcher, Barry Krakow, M.D., who read about the success of lucid dreaming at ending PTSD recurrent nightmares, incorporated these ideas into one of the most successful waking processes to end recurrent PTSD nightmares, called the Imagery Rehearsal Technique. (see )

IONS researcher, Garret Yount, reported significant success in working with veterans who had PTSD by using lucid dreaming training.  Decreased posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms following a lucid dream healing workshop. (

Resolving physical ailments

Elsewhere, I have noted that Stephen LaBerge’s research on showing physical body changes that occur due to lucid dream commands (such as changing respiration, moving certain muscles in an alternating pattern, and so on in lucid dreams) have provided the ‘proof of concept’ for using lucid dreaming to change the physical body and even achieve healing.  An OMNI magazine survey in April 1987 by LaBerge and Jayne Gackenbach reported that 77% of lucid dreamers who had tried healing themselves, reported some success (… ).  Since my first book’s publication, where I focus on the technical mechanics of the lucid dream healing process, I have received dozens of credible reports of lucid dream healings of the body.  Future research studies could investigate and possibly confirm this deeper level of the mind-body interface in lucid dreams.

Engaging an inner awareness and exploring the unconscious

In the mid-1980s, I spent three years with a monthly lucid dreaming explorer’s group, which sought to perform personal experiments in lucid dreaming.  In early 1985, one month’s goal was to “Find out what the dream figures in your lucid dream represent.”  As I tell in my book, I became lucid, followed a woman into an office, and asked a nicely attired older gentleman, “Excuse me, but what do you represent?”  Suddenly a non-visible voice boomed out a partial response from high above him.  Finding this unexpected, I looked up and asked for more information.  After a moment, the non-visible voice boomed out a complete response to my question.  In the morning, I wondered, “Is there an awareness behind the dream?” 

For many years afterward, I have investigated the depth and breadth of the verbal and visual responses to lucid dream queries to this ‘awareness behind the dream’, and realized that it meets all of Carl Jung’s requirements for a second inner psychic system – which he deemed “of revolutionary importance in that it could radically alter our view of the world.”

Spiritual growth

When it comes to spiritual explorations, my book, Lucid Dreaming Plain and Simple has an entire chapter on “meditating” in lucid dreams, which many lucid dreamers have noted leads to profound, transcendental states very quickly.  If you try meditating in a lucid dream, then you will have a better sense of why many ancient spiritual traditions saw the value in lucid dreaming as an exploratory tool for greater awareness.

What’s next? 

These examples of lucid dreaming’s potential offer a broad outline of why lucid dreamers continue to seek that next lucid dream.  For some, the short game of achieving various goals to improve their current life seems the primary focus.  For others, the deeper significance of the profound goals leads them to step on the long path of lucid dreaming.  Either way, lucid dreaming serves as an open doorway to experience the broader nature of our true identity and see more clearly our waking dream.

Join Robert Waggoner and Gillian Thetford for the 4-week online workshop, Lucid Dreaming and Living Lucidly. Beginning July 27, this workshop speaks to all explorers of lucid dreaming – from the inexperienced beginner to those who have ventured far along the path. While giving you sound foundational materials, it offers insight far beyond lucid dreaming basics. This workshop is for the lucid dream explorer, the adventurers and the curious, who seeks to understand this fascinating state of being and to access a larger awareness of the consciousness for growth, insight and transformation.

Join Our Global Community

Receive curated mind-bending, heart-enlivening content. We’ll never share your email address and you can unsubscribe any time.

Back to Top