For Buddhists, exploration and discovery have always referred to an inner journey, and the oldest, most formidable frontier remains the mind. While the Ancient Egyptians and Greeks long knew the divine power of dreams, no one experimented with this royal road—or passed on their techniques—quite as effectively as Tibetan yogis. They were pioneers of lucid dreaming, the experience of being consciously aware while in a dream state. For Tibetan Buddhists, dream yoga remains a high tantric teaching, unapproachable to most explorers. 

Three young, New York–based oneironautics (“dream navigators”) have come along to fish these techniques out of esoterica. Pulling from a wide array of lucid-dreaming traditions, they offer step-by-step instructions in A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming: Mastering the Art of Oneironautics (Workman Publishing, September 2013, $12.95, 288 pp., paper). The handbook progresses from mastering dream recollection, a fundamental prerequisite for going lucid, to using dreams to gain insight into the nature of reality. 

The authors, filmmakers Dylan Tuccillo, Jared Zeizel, and Thomas Peisel, waste no time in offering Lesson #1: Ask yourself “Am I dreaming?” A healthy suspicion of reality is the first step to being able to wake within a dream. “Becoming aware of this present moment,” an echo of what Buddhists are already so used to hearing, “is the key to lucid dreaming.” The book suggests using the technique of meditating within the lucid dream, which, though reserved for advanced practitioners, bootstraps awareness and lucidity to new heights. Before that, warn the authors, beginners are likely to seek cheap thrills: “Flying and having sex seem to be the first activities of the novice lucid dreamer.” Flying takes up a whole section, which details how to take off and manage speed and agility (“As a novice flier, try to avoid turns”), with particular attention given to how to land without waking yourself up. From there, dreamers can experiment with other methods of travel like teleportation, walking through walls, and even time travel, all while safely tucked in bed. 

The guide begins in shallow, navigable waters, and slowly submerges to greater depths: 

The goal of lucid dreaming is not to sleep away your life, but to bring this increased awareness into your every day existence. When we learn to be come lucid in our lives, we become more aware of our surroundings; more aware of our reality and how we are engaging with it, shaping it, and communicating with it. 

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