Befriending the Sandman
Learning the Art of Lucid Dreaming.
Dr. Clare Johnson is the world's first Ph.D. in Lucid Dreaming as a creative tool. She has developed 60 techniques that can teach anyone how to do it—thereby enriching both the waking and sleeping aspects of our lives.
Adam Jacobs: Hi, Claire. Thank you so much for being here today. Welcome to Beyond Belief. It is such a pleasure to speak to you, and thank you so much for taking the time to be here.
Claire Johnson: Thank you so much, Adam. It's a pleasure to meet you too.
Adam Jacobs: So I have been studiously reading your book, which is called The Art of Lucid Dreaming, and I will admit that I have been trying for a couple of weeks to succeed. You do make the point repeatedly in the book that it's not something that happens instantaneously, and I think myself, like many, many people are fascinated with the idea of the possibility of being able to control your dream states and to learn more about yourself and possibly the world and how to do it is a mystery to most people.
So with your permission, I have a bunch of questions I'd love to ask you, and some of them are a little bit more philosophical in nature, and some of them are a little bit more practical. But let's start with the big picture if it's okay. So you know that show House of Cards? Yeah. Okay. So there's a quote I love from there. Frank Underwood, I guess he's not really a protagonist, but he's the main character actually. He's observing the president of the United States needing to take a nap in the middle of the day. And his quote is, “I've always loathed the necessity of sleep, like death. It puts even the most powerful men on their backs.” So big picture, why do we sleep at all? Why is that part of the human experience? Isn't it such a strange way to spend your time?
Claire Johnson: It is, isn't it? If you think about it, when we go to sleep, we suddenly, we get all drowsy, we can't function properly anymore, then we lie down and we go into this kind of apparently comatose state during which time we have all these crazy experiences. We are no longer in the physical body that we have during the day. We take on a dream body and we go on all these adventures in another universe in a sense, and then we wake up at the end of that night of sleep. We get up out of bed and we are fine again, we're rested and we've done whatever it is we need to do and we get on with our lives. But yes, it does seem incredibly mysterious. Why do we sleep? Of course, as you know, sleep is incredibly regenerative. It's a very, very healing thing.
And the whole idea is I think that it rejuvenates us on every level. So we're talking about biological rejuvenation, we're talking about also memory consolidation, which is what dreaming sleep helps us with. And that of course has an evolutionary function as well. It's like we have to remember what happened in the previous weeks or the last time we met a snake in the wilderness. What was the best way to respond? We learn it all. We consolidate it overnight and we consolidate as well our emotional memories. So we're able in fact, to release memories while we sleep and dream. And that is the function also of nightmares. In some cases, those emotions get amplified in our sleep because when we're asleep and dreaming the amygdala, which is the ancient part of the brain, often known as the emotional accelerator, doesn't have any restrictions on it anymore like it does during the day.
So it goes crazy while we sleep. And that's why dreams are so vividly emotional and we can experience such incredibly strong emotions in our dreams. Sometimes we even wake up screaming with fear. So sleep is just a fascinating state of consciousness. We spend a third of our lives asleep. We have on average around six dreams every night. That's over 2000 dreams per year. So isn't it a shame if we just pay no attention to that third of our lives and pay no attention to our dreams? We miss out on so much life experience. So it's fascinating to explore sleep and dreams.
Adam Jacobs: Totally. And just one more practical sort of question. You mentioned the evolutionary aspect of sleeping and mentioned a lot of benefits of it. I read that dolphins do something called unihemispheric sleeping, which seems very clever—like one half of their brain shuts down and the other half stays awake. So they're able to be alert and on the lookout for predators and whatnot, and also to simultaneously sleep, which seems wild. But doesn't that seem like how could you go into this altered state of paralysis for eight hours a night and not be concerned that terrible things will happen to you that seem like a negative feature of evolution in this case?
Claire Johnson: Sure. Well, it is also interesting because if you look at the circadian rhythm, the way that different people of different ages sleep, often back in the old days when people were sleeping outside around campfires or whatever, the older people might go and the kids would go to sleep earlier, and then the younger people would stay up for longer. And so there would only be a few moments in the night where a few hours in the night where everyone was vulnerable from predators. But you are right that dolphins really seem to have hit the nail on the head, and perhaps that's the direction we might be moving in with learning how to have lucid dreams more often. And also, we can do a similar thing to dolphins when we perform one of the most ancient types of meditation, which is known as yoga nidra. And that is when we lie down and relax and our physical body basically falls asleep.
So we'll experience that golden moment where we can't feel our body anymore, and yet our mind remains alert. So we kind of float on the cusp of sleep in the hypnogogic state. So this is a very lucid state of consciousness. It's also a gateway into lucid dreaming. And people say that this yoga nidra state, if we have around one hour of yoga nidra, it's the equivalent of four hours of restful sleep in the night because it's an incredibly restful state of consciousness. So this is known as conscious sleep or lucid sleep, and it's a fantastic practice, great for afternoon naps. I do it every day. So I'm learning to be a dolphin.
Adam Jacobs: So I've been trying your technique of trying to stay alert as you're falling asleep and you have 60 techniques in your book to succeed in becoming lucid while you're dreaming. And I've only tried a handful of them, the ones that seem to appeal to me most. But I have to say I love the way you take people on journeys of describing how I guess it happens to you or to others. It's very compelling and it's very exciting, the concept of sticking with it, keeping your consciousness on as you're simultaneously drifting into it. It's sort of like another world and the prospect of capturing more of it as opposed to these little glimpses that we have when we're done the next morning where you have sort of a vague memory of like, oh yeah, that was weird. This happened, this happened. But you certainly don't have anything major often to report.
I have tried thus far. What happens is an interesting general thing happening. I start to notice colors and shapes and sounds and quotes of people saying things and the stuff that I suppose is happening. Normally when you're drifting off to sleep, you just don't pay that much attention to it. And then I wake up the next morning, or whatever in the middle of the night, but I can't seem to ride it further than a certain distance, if you know what I'm saying. And is that one of those things that you would just say, well, just practice makes perfect and just keep going with it? Or is it possible I'm doing something wrong?
Claire Johnson: What I would say is the brain chemistry is super important for lucid dreaming. So depending on the kind of sleeper and dreamer you are, and this is exactly why I wrote The Art of Lucid Dreaming because everybody's a little bit different and that has a quiz where you can figure out the kind of sleeper and dreamer you are and then go to the best practices for you. If you're someone who tends to fall into a deep sleep pretty quickly and doesn't recall many dreams, I wouldn't try the hypnogogic practice that you just mentioned, observing the colors, shapes, and sensations. I wouldn't necessarily try it too much at the very beginning of the night of sleep because of the way that the sleep cycle works. We tend to have far more rapid eye movement sleep towards the second half of the night. And rapid eye movement sleep is where we get these amazing vivid dreams and our brains are incredibly active.
Parts of the brain are 30% more active than in waking reality. So you can feel how active your brain is right now talking to me, imagine the parts of your brain being 30% more active than that during REM sleep. So we're already very awake in those REM sleep phases, and so they are really good moments to concentrate on efforts of becoming lucid. So the second half of the night, or when you have a mini awakening, we all actually wake up briefly many times during the night. We may not notice, but they're the times when you change, you change positions, you turn over, you pull the covers around you. So that's a really good moment. Say to yourself, oh, lucid dream, lucid dream. And start to notice then what's going on with your hypnogogic imagery. Because often, I mean, I've established six stages of hypnagogia in Lewellen's, complete book of Lucid Dreaming.
And when we know the six basic stages of hypnagogia, we can kind of figure out which stage we're in. And basically, I'll go through it really quickly. Basically, the first stage is just kind of like a blank screen, and then you start to get lights or sort of strange little shapes moving toward you or away from you. Then you get flashes of images, but they're super fast, like that fast, they just flash up and then they're gone before you can even figure out what it was. But then gradually, as you get more deeply into this hypnagogic state, those images will stay up for a couple of seconds. They're still static, but they'll stay up and then they begin to move and they know you're getting closer to dreaming consciousness. It's like watching the building blocks of a dream forming. So when they start to move, you're still sort of observing from the outside, but you can actually watch things happening, people running through a meadow or a car, driving up into the air, whatever it is, random, strange stuff.
And then you'll find that that develops into a proper scene and you'll be able to, it will be suddenly all around you. It'll be three dimensional and you'll be able to step into it and you'll be lucid in your dream. So that's kind of the amazing thing about hyp NoGo. Yeah, it's like a ladder that you can just go up into a lucid dream, but it's one of these really unstable states of consciousness. You can be in stage four and go straight back to stage one, and you just jump around the whole time. But that's just practice, that's just steadying the mind and not getting too sucked in not trying to analyze the imagery. Why did I just see my ex-girlfriend's face pop up? Oh dear, what does that, and then immediately you're back in stage one. So you've got to just kind of let it happen and just observe as if it's some sort of weird, surreal movie.
And then that's the way to go into the lucid dream. So I would try doing what you're doing in the morning when you wake up in the morning, just naturally just think, oh, okay, I'm going to do some lucid hypnagogia now and then that you're much more likely to go into a lucid dream from there or during an afternoon nap when your brain's pretty alert already, your body's a bit tired, you just want to lie down and snuggle up on the sofa, and then take that opportunity to explore your hypnogogic imagery and get lucid.
Adam Jacobs: Okay. I'm going to try.
Well, consciousness in general is becoming, (and from ancient times), people have been fascinated by it and altered states of consciousness I think are becoming more interesting to people now. Or maybe there's a resurgence of it with psychedelic states and all kinds of ways of exploring the inner workings of one's being, I think is always fascinating to people, and in some ways may be critical in terms of the healing that you were talking about and consolidation of memory and all of that. I'd like to read you a quote by Carl Jung on the topic of consciousness and dreaming. And he says, “For indeed our consciousness does not create itself. It wells up from unknown depths in childhood. It awakens gradually and through life. It wakes each morning out of the depths of sleep from an unconscious condition. It is like a child that is born daily out of the primordial womb of the consciousness.” So I love that description. And though he describes it as unconscious, you would not necessarily describe it that way. It doesn't have to be that way, but you see, he assumes that that's part of the way things are.
So in terms of dreaming itself, we spoke about sleep and dreaming. The Talmud has an interesting statement that says that dreaming is considered one 60th of prophecy, and almost like it's a little taste of being able to perceive the grand reality of the big picture reality. Why are we dreaming at all? It's one thing to rest the body. It's one thing to have some mechanism where you consolidate your ideas and your thoughts, and we make notes. We have folders, and we save things. It's why would we have to dream to accomplish all these things? Why can't we just lie down and rest and that be it?
Claire Johnson: Yeah. Yeah. Interesting. And I really enjoyed that Carl Jung quote as well. But yes, it's a massive assumption on Jung's part that this is purely unconscious, because of course, if you think about consciousness, it's not just on or off like a light switch, not at all. We go through various states of consciousness within a 24-hour period, you and I, right now, we're buzzing with energy. I do. We're interacting, we're thinking we're in a beta state of consciousness. Maybe later on I'll get tired because it's nighttime for me, and I'll start to chill out and my brainwaves will slow down and relax. You can daydream. That's a different state of consciousness. You can do the lucid hypnagogia we talked about. That's another state. And even within a single dream, there are many different levels of conscious awareness. So you may have already had, for example, a situation in a dream where you've kind of questioned the reality, this is totally strange.
What's going on here? Is this really happening? Am I dreaming without perhaps making the step to actually saying, yes, this is a dream. So you have these different levels of awareness. In some dreams, we really are very unconscious. We've no idea what's happening. We are not thinking logically. We can't argue logically. And in other dreams, we have conversations with people, and it feels like when we wake up, we think, wow, that was a really quite a lucid conversation, even though I didn't know that I was dreaming, I was reacting the same way that I would in waking life. So consciousness, awareness, and lucidity occur on this continuum. There are all these different levels, and even within one lucid dream, we can temporarily forget that we're dreaming and then get lucid again. It's constantly fluctuating. So it's not an on and or off switch at all. And I think the fascinating thing about dreams is that we can explore the nature of consciousness through exploring our dreams, through looking at our dreams, and when we are lucid in the dreams.
Wow, that's like shining a spotlight on the unconscious mind, which is absolutely fascinating. And so when I was doing my PhD on Lucid Dreaming as a creative tool, I did lots of experiments on unconsciousness. I take a sort of phenomenological approach. I'm interested in the actual conscious experience. How does it feel? And how does my volition, my willpower, how does my emotion impact this experience? And the amazing thing is that lucid dreaming is a highly thought-responsive environment, highly thought, responsive.
So if we're in a dream, and we all know this from our non-lucid dreams, our thoughts, emotions, intentions, beliefs, and expectations, all impact the dream without us having to do anything, the dream just naturally responds to it. And we would've all had this at one point in a dream where we start to feel scared. Is that a monster hiding in the corner? Oh, what if it is a monster? We look round. Yep, that's definitely a monster. Then we think, oh no, the monster's going to chase me. Lo and behold, the monster chases us. The more frightened we get, the bigger the monster gets, and we're trying to run, and we have that feeling like we're in quicksand and we can't escape. And we're commenting.
It's thought-responsive. And what lucidity gives us is when we know, oh, okay, this is a dream. That's a dream monster. We can calm down the fear response. We can regulate the amygdala and that emotional accelerator, and we can ask the monster, Hey, what do you represent? Are you in this dream for a reason? Find out what's going on. And so it enables us, lucid awareness enables us to explore not only the symbolism of our dreams but also the nature of consciousness. I did many experiments when I was doing my PhD. I did things like I would try to shut off my senses one by one within a lucid dream. Now a lucid dream, when you're lucid in the dream, everything's glowing with awareness. It's like everything is alive. It's incredible. You mentioned psychedelics earlier. It is probably similar to a psychedelic experience. Everything is alive imbued with conscious awareness.
And yet I managed to, in that, in this particular lucid dream, shut off my senses. I closed my eyes, but I also said, I'm not going to see anything even internally closed off my ears, my sense of taste and smell and touch. That was the hardest one. But I managed to close it all off, and then I made disappear within that lucid dream atom by atom. It sounds crazy, but this is the kind of thing you can do in a lucid dream because you don't have a physical body. You're not in the physical world. You are in a dream world. You're in a lucid dream body, and you can transform that dream body as well. You can shape shapeshift. You can become an eagle or a dolphin. And I mean, I also did experiments with synesthesia, which is the mingling of the senses across modalities, so that you might sort of experience sound
Adam Jacobs: Taste green as…
Claire Johnson: A taste, or yes, it's like multi-sensory or you feel something and then you get colors, something like that. And I don't have synesthesia in waking life any more than most people do. But in my lucid dreams, I was writing a novel about someone with synesthesia. I was like, I want to try this. So in one lucid dream, I became lucid underwater, and I was like, oh, yeah, I've got to try synesthesia. And so there was this wall with loads of different textures on it, and I thought, okay, I'm going to stroke these different textures and see what happens. And one of them was like a velvet texture, and then I could taste bait potatoes. Don't ask me why, but that was the taste.
It was so strange, like a flood of sensory input. And there was one that was very smooth, like satin, and that tasted like watermelon. It's like, why? I don't know. But that helped me to understand what it might be like to have synesthesia, and it helped me to write my novel, having had a taste of that experience. So we can expand our conscious experience in lucid dreams, we can discover more about the nature of consciousness, and it makes your whole life bigger, and more interesting. You're not wasting your dreams and your sleep.
Adam Jacobs: I would think that that possibility, again, would be pretty tempting for a lot of people. I don't know of a lot of people who would just be like, yeah, I'm not interested, because why wouldn't you want to be able to control that and to experience all those different things. Although as I was reading the book, it just prompted me to ask what maybe is a little bit of a weird question, but just go with me on this. Maybe there's a reason. This is what I was thinking. Maybe there's a reason that we need to dream randomly. Maybe there's some benefit to it being sort of covered up and secretive. And I was just thinking, I don't know, the blood clotting process, it's not like we understand. I'm not choosing to do it. It happens and it's beneficial that it just happens. So I allow that process to go. And maybe if I had to be in charge of that, that would be a big problem. Is there any reason to think like, gosh, let's not interfere with this process?
Claire Johnson: I'm really glad that you asked that question because it is a common misconception of lucid dreaming that it's all about control. It's really not. Lucidity is awareness. That's all it is. So lucid dreaming is simply a raised level of conscious awareness during sleep. You and I would consider ourselves conscious right now, I think, yeah, let's just test. Imagine having this level of logical thinking, conscious thought. We feel totally aware. We're looking around, the world is stable. Imagine having this, but in your dream, that's all lucidity is.
So we don't have to try and control anything. Some of my very best, most amazing lucid dreams have happened where I have become lucid in the dream, and I've simply continued to go with the flow of the dream, just with my consciousness slightly raised. So it doesn't have to be about control. And also in terms of, yeah, some dreams should be unconscious, is what I'm hearing you suggest as a possibility. Well, sure. But you know what? Just remembering a dream helps us to shine the light of consciousness onto it, and we can get really good at dream recall. And also the amount of time that most people are actually fully lucid during their night of sleep is negligible.
So it doesn't interrupt the process. And what I've found as well in my own studies and also through all the other people that I've worked with, is that often we become lucid in a dream at a particular moment for a particular reason. And often that reason has to do with healing, integrating trauma, and understanding more about the patterns in our lives. Why do I always have this kind of relationship? And the dream will help us to understand that if we become lucid in a dream, we can do dream work, therapeutic dream work within that dream. There are loads of other things we can do too.
Sure, we can explore the nature of consciousness. We can have a lot of fun. We can practice flying. We can do all of those things. But it's also an incredibly healing space. And I've often found as well that sometimes if I become lucid in a dream, regular dream, all sorts of stuff's going on, maybe I'm outside with lots of people, there's a party or something. And when I become lucid and I observe what's going on, sometimes the scene, that scene just dissolves. It's like it's a surface thing and it dissolves. And then I find myself floating in light and having a non-dual experience, an experience of oneness, which is another amazing aspect to lucid dreaming. So sometimes it can take into just this incredible experience where we feel like we are one with the source. We are one with all of consciousness. So it can be really fantastic to explore that aspect too,
Adam Jacobs: And especially without maybe some of the potential pitfalls of doing it chemically. But from that vantage point, it sounds like they're really trying to accomplish sort of the same thing, which again, makes me only that much more interested in it as I think for me, that's certainly a very critical aspect of reality, is coming to that state of awareness, the one you were just describing. And I think it is for a lot of people, and again, I think it's becoming more that way for more people as society perhaps is becoming more anxious, more depressed, a lot of friction politically and socially. And so this kind of outlet, it seems to me, would be a great tool to help people process through a lot of what's going on. But okay, you touched upon something just there that I wanted to get to also, which is, how do I frame this?
Okay, A couple of nights ago, I dreamt of a good friend who I lost five years ago. I don't dream of him often. He was there as clear as day we were talking, and of course, I thought to myself, he shouldn't be here. That's really weird that he's here. But instead of saying, I'm dreaming, I just sort of said, I have to explain to him that everyone thinks that he's died. I just simply accepted the reality of his being present. And it wasn't a trigger to wake up within the dream. But I've talked to so many people who are so sure that when they dream and they dream of specific deceased people, that it's not just a dream that somehow the consciousness of that person is interfacing with their own. And so my question is, when we explore lucidity and dreaming, are we exploring our own minds, the contents of our own minds only, or are we exploring also something beyond it?
Claire Johnson: Yeah, we are also exploring something beyond it is the easy answer to that. A lot of dreaming is, of course, our inner psychological world. And in the case of meeting with deceased loved ones, sometimes I think that those people, they are just memory composites of that person sometimes that we are remembering the good times and remembering them and how they were. And our brains remember everything we've ever experienced. They're incredible. And so we can kind of reproduce that and sort of create this persona, and it comes into our psychological dreamscape. But there are also moments where we actually, as you say, you have this knowing that you are actually with that deceased loved one. There are many accounts as well of deceased loved ones appearing in dreams to warn the dreamer of something that's about to happen in their life or of a serious medical condition, things that the dreamer had no knowledge of.
I remember once there was some research done by Dr. Larry Burke, and he looked at breast cancer and how dreams can announce illness. And one woman, her deceased father came to her in a dream and shouted at her, you have breast cancer. So obviously you wake up from that dream and you think, whoa. But she went to a doctor and there was apparently nothing. The doctor couldn't find anything. But then she had another dream where she was shown where the cancer was exactly where it was. So she went back to the doctor and basically forced him because he didn't want to, she forced him to do a biopsy, showed him exactly where to put the needle, and he put it in, and he found this little lump of cancer, which was one that wasn't amassing in such a way to have been seen on a regular mammogram.
So she was very lucky, and they managed to get to it in time, but that was announced by her deceased father. And so things like this, you think, well, what is going on there? And I mean, dreams are vast. This is the thing, consciousness, we have no idea really. We are still just playing with consciousness. And this is a huge mystery. And sleep and dreams and lucid dreams are fantastic tools for exploring the deeper reality of consciousness so that we can understand the way that we are all connected and that it's not just about us being separate, little beings closed off with our separate little brains. I mean, we all know that that's not true, surely, right? I mean, it's so much bigger than just little old us in our ego and self, and dreams teach us that reality. They teach us how much faster this all is.
Adam Jacobs: And so in that warning case, would you personally say that that was actually the consciousness of the deceased communicating through the veil of sleep, or it was the father like a representation of something that our own consciousness was?
Claire Johnson: Right? It could be either. And it's not my dream, so I can't comment on that because often people, when they have these meetings with deceased loved ones, as I said, it's like they can get this sense of, they say often they say, that wasn't a dream. My brother was there. It was not a dream. And so they don't define it in the same way. So it depends on how it's subjectively experienced as well. But it is very, very interesting to see the kinds and to hear the kinds of experiences that people have. There have been books written about this where they've brought together all of these different experiences with deceased loved ones. And then, of course, you've got the whole near-death experience, and people also say, a lot of them come back and they say, okay, I was clinically dead, but I wasn't gone. I had this whole experience and I met, for example, sometimes they will meet a deceased person who they don't know is deceased. They'll be like, oh, my mom was there and I know she's dead, but why was my sister there? And it turns out the sister had also died without that patient. No, I mean, things like this happen. So it is fascinating just to consider the ramifications of these experiences.
Adam Jacobs: I think it's the case that even people who are not inclined to think this way and think that dreams are just chemical electrochemical reactions that people have, and it's probably not much more to it than that. A lot of people take them seriously when they occur, especially if they're negative and suddenly are concerned about, why did I have this dream? What is the import of this dream? And I did have an experience like that where I could have sworn it was a communication. It turned out to be wrong, but I was concerned about somebody's health, especially their brain health, specifically, very concerned. And I woke up in the middle of the night post a dream, and I heard in my head, “The tumor is in the parietal lobe,” and I didn't even know what that was. I never heard of that. And I instantly started Googling What is the parietal lobe?
And it turns out the whole thing wasn't true. The person was okay. It would've been wild if it turned out to be otherwise. But obviously a lot of the time it's our own fears manifesting as visual imagery. But I do think, and I think a lot of people think that it's more than that, and that's why instinctually people seem to take them seriously even when they're not inclined to. But here's another question about the nature of dreaming is why do we accept it hook, line, and sinker every single night? Wouldn't you think that we would learn at a certain point that this happens and this can't possibly be occurring? There cannot possibly be a swimming pool in the middle of Times Square, which I few nights ago. I know that that's not true, but there it was, and I was like, oh, okay, A swimming pool. That's the way it is. Why is that?
Claire Johnson: Yeah, because dreams are incredibly beguiling streams of imagery, emotive imagery, and they tell us this story. They suck us in. We get sucked into it just the same way. We get sucked into waking reality. We get emotionally involved, and we are kind of too busy to wake up in that moment and notice, consider reflect. What state of consciousness am I in right now? Let's do it right now. Let's just ask ourselves, how do we know that we are not dreaming right now? What are the differences? How does it feel to be in this body? How is it different from being in the dream body? My dream body's much lighter and floater and I tend to walk without touching the ground. I can run without getting out of breath. I can do amazing yoga poses without feeling strange. It is a very different feeling. So it's like what we learn when we start along this path of, okay, I'd like to try and get lucid in my dreams.
What we learn is how to wake up in our lives and question our state of consciousness, and explore our state of consciousness. And that really helps us to notice when there's a swimming pool in Times Square, we'll say, hang on a sec. That wasn't there the last time I looked. This must be a dream. And it just becomes more and more common. I mean, you really get used to it. It gives you this critical thinking. Sometimes people say, oh, dreaming. It's all just like, oh, it is just kind of this state of consciousness where you just relax and you lose all your faculties and all this, but actually lucid dreaming, you become incredibly awake.
Sometimes people report that in their lucid dreams. They feel more awake, more alert, and more conscious than they have in their waking lives ever. So it propels us into this higher state of consciousness, this state of extreme focus, a state in which we can argue logically a state in which we remember that our bodies are asleep in bed and that we're staying at that particular friend's house that night, and oh, yes, that we remember our lucid dream girl tonight is to meet up with an old friend or whatever it is.
We remember all of that. We have these cognitive abilities in lucid dreams. Yeah. But we're too used to getting sucked in. We're used to just kind of losing consciousness as we fall asleep and not following the hypnagogia into a dream.
Adam Jacobs: You're making a great point though, that our normative waking consciousness is probably pretty limited also. And that what is possible now outside of dreaming is probably much, much grander than it is currently for most people. And there's something to think about there. But it looks like I have time for two more questions, and although I have several others that I, unfortunately, am not going to get to, but I think a lot of people are interested in being more creative, and many people who would not consider themselves to be particularly creative are all of a sudden extremely creative when their dreams kick in.
And I have had experiences, and I'm one of those people who doesn't remember most dreams in the back of the book. I'm one of those types that, like you said at the beginning, probably shouldn't be doing the falling slowly asleep kind, but trying to wake up within my dream. But I have had entire productions in my head with musical songs, motion, fully blown productions, is how I would describe it that I loved. And if only I could have written them down and captured them, it would've been amazing. Not that people would've understood it, but is everybody naturally creative?
Claire Johnson: Yeah…
Adam Jacobs: That's my question. Or is it something happened that awakens our creativity while we're asleep?
Claire Johnson: We are all hugely, enormously creative. And I always say to people, all we have to do to really believe in ourselves and believe in our own creativity is look to our dreams. I mean, look at it. It's just incredible. Like you say, I've had that experience as well. I can't write down the music that I've heard in my dreams, but oh my goodness, if I could just these amazing sounds that I've built up whole orchestras in lucid dreams before. Yeah, I mean, it is just fantastic. What we can do. As part of my PhD, I wrote a novel Breathing In Color, and I basically went into my lucid dreams to get plot ideas, to figure out what's the next plot twist, or to meet up with my fictional characters, which is really astonishing, actually. It's very astonishing to meet them in a lucid dream. All sorts of unexpected things happen.
They're not quite who you thought you were, they were. And that informs the novel writing as well as you go along. And I've also had lucid dreams where I've been working on a creative project, and I've asked in my lucid Geni, what's the next step? Help me out, guys. And of course, I'm not at all the first person to have done this.
Robert Lewis Stevenson, the writer used to do this. He called his dreams, his brownies, his helpers. They would play out entire story plots for him, and all he would have to do was wake up and write it all down. There are so many examples of dream creativity like Paul McCartney who woke up with the song Yesterday in his head and lucidity. I mean, we all have this incredible creativity. Yes, I truly believe that the mind is fantastic. It's like this machine that transmogrifies everything. Every thought we think will sort of leap up on this canvas and be reflected back at us, and it can take us beyond, well beyond the usual waking life creativity that we experience, so it can expand us on so many levels of consciousness. Very exciting.
Adam Jacobs: Yeah, and you actually mentioned in the book, I don't know if I'm pronouncing his name correctly, but a scientist named Kekule who discovered the structure of Benzene in one of these, I don't know if it was lucid or not, but by dreaming.
Claire Johnson: Yeah, I think it was probably lucid hypnogogic. He described it as a reverie. So he was just sitting in his armchair. He was trying to figure out the structure of Benzene. No luck at all. He thought it was a sort of a straight line. And then as he slipped into this lucid hypnogogic state while really working intensively on this problem, he suddenly saw these molecules kind of bunching up and forming together, and they formed this sort of snake, and then it began to whirl in a circle in front of his eyes, like mockingly, he said. And so he woke up going, it's a circle. It is a ring. The benzene molecule is a ring. And these stories are just, they're wonderful, but they can happen to all of us if we set an intention before we go to sleep. In that lovely hypnogogic state, very, very creative state, we set an intention to have the answer to a problem or to have maybe a new artistic idea can emerge in our dreams, and then we write down our dreams the next day we recall our dreams.
Then we will often receive some sort of really unexpected original solution that we weren't expecting. But it is like the unconscious mind continues, the work that we were doing while conscious. So these big breakthroughs always happen when the inventor in question had been working and working and working on this project. It's not something where you're just like, oh, I wonder if I can solve the hard problem of consciousness. It's like, you've got to be in it. You've got to be kind of obsessed with it in your waking life. And then you ask your dream or you release control, and then you go into the dream and just let it happen. Let that answer arise, because yeah, we do have access to this deeper wisdom. Yeah.
Adam Jacobs: Great. Great stuff. I've got two minutes to ask you one final question, and I'm sure this is more than two minutes, but what's the greatest lucid dream you ever had?
Claire Johnson: Right. Well, there've been so many, as you can imagine. I guess one that I'll really quickly try and go through since short of time is when I was experiencing a difficulty, I had publishers on both sides of the Atlantic, and there was an issue over a book that I was going to publish, and I was a bit worried about it. I went to sleep and I dreamed that I was in an underground cave, but it was all lit up. And I saw this massive green snake with black eyes staring at me, and I was like, oh my goodness, that's a beautiful snake. And it looks like it's not really aggressive, but I think I'm going to leave the cave. So I started to leave the cave and the snake came towards me. I was like, oh, no. So I carried on trying to get out of the cave, and then the snake touched my back.
And when it touched my back, three things happened. First of all, I became lucid. So I was like, oh, okay. I can relax. It's a dream snake. Okay. Secondly, I knew it had no bad intentions, and didn't want to hurt me. Thirdly, this amazing buzzing energy just started to go all around my spine and the snake. It was kind of on my back and going up my back and all this energy, this buzzing energy went right throughout the spine out of the top of my head, and I dissolved into this incredible buzzing, amazing light, fantastic dream. Woke up from that, still buzzing with all this light energy, and I decided to take steps to resolve this situation with the publishers. Made a phone call really easy. Everything resolved amazingly. Within two weeks, I had two different book deals, which had never happened before. So I was just like, wow, that's a snake. That lucid dream snake really just resolved all the energy. So that was pretty lovely.
Adam Jacobs: Yeah. Well, I want to thank you for joining me today. This is really a fascinating conversation, and I think that your work has the ability to really help a lot of people and really use them to a much deeper aspect of reality, which they would find very rewarding. So I encourage everybody to go check out the work of Dr. Claire Johnson and like me to learn a great deal more about this topic, something that we're all intimately familiar with but don't know just yet how to make the most of. So for everyone who is watching, please subscribe to our YouTube channel. Please visit Beyond Belief Blog and subscribe there and stay on top of all the great stuff that we have coming up. And Dr. Johnson, thank you so much for being here.
Claire Johnson: Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure. Thank you.
Adam Jacobs: Have a great day.
Claire Johnson: You too.