Month: May 2015

Erection Induced Lucid Dreaming – New Kickstarter Campaign

There you have it, the NPT Lucid Dreamer promises to turn the inevitability of morning wood into cues for inducing lucid dreams. While the temptation is strong to let fly with dick joke after dick joke, as a lucid dreamer, I should appreciate better than anyone how unfair it is to immediately dismiss something because it sounds ridiculous at first. Lucid dreaming still gets the brush-off for sounding ridiculous in certain circles.

The phenomenon of Nocturnal Penile Tumescence (NPT) referenced in the video is legit. Men get spontaneous erections while they sleep that seem to be correlated with periods of REM sleep. However, even after putting the giggle factor associated with a cock ring-ish lucid dream inducing device aside and considering it’s merits, I still have serious reservations about the NPT Lucid Dreamer.

The Use of Audio Cues

The NPT Lucid Dreamer includes a set of headphones that play an audio cue upon detecting an erection. The example heard on a Kickstarter page video is a reverb-treated voice intoning, “You are dreaming.” The campaign implies that the final product’s cues will be customizable to some degree.

Evidence that sensory cues can effectively remind sleeping people that they are dreaming is promising, but not conclusive. For an in-depth explanation and overview of how most lucid dream induction devices work (and often how they don’t), check out Ryan Hurd’s excellent article.

Ryan notes that early versions of the NovaDreamer, a sophisticated light-based lucid dreaming mask, used to incorporate audio cues as well. During a lecture put on by the Lucidity Institute, the organization that develops and sells the NovaDreamer, Dr. Stephen LaBerge advised us that they found audio cues were more likely to wake a person up than visual cues. Dr. LaBerge’s explanation is that we have evolved with a propensity to be awoken by sounds because early humans who woke up when they heard rustling in the grass would have  greater odds of avoiding nocturnal predators than those who slept through those noises. [Update: I’m not satisfied including this as an anecdote. I’m going to do my best to get the actual relevant data from Dr. LaBerge.]

My guess is tolerance for, and success with, audio cues is going to vary from person to person; they may very well work for you. The Kickstarter campaign for the NPT Lucid Dreamer seems to take the effectiveness and unobtrusiveness of sleeping with headphones that play voices while you sleep for granted, while I would urge caution in absence of convincing data that this method produces results.

It Seems Like It Can Only Detect One Hard-On Per Sleep Session

There could be something to the suggestion in the video above that it’s more comfortable to fall asleep with a small device hugging your junk than a larger device hugging your face. The one time I tried a NovaDreamer, I could only tolerate it for half a night. I dreamt that it was keeping me awake, so I ripped it off my face. Upon waking up from this, I actually ripped it off my face.

However, even if we assume for the sake of argument that the NPT Lucid Dreamer is comfortable and that audio cues are effective and unobtrusive, this  probably not the best way to generate those cues. There is an SFW prototype demonstration at the bottom of the Kickstarter page (it’s demonstrated on an inner tube, not a penis). It shows that the audio cue is triggered when an increase in girth causes the magnets holding the band together to separate. In both the prototype demo and the animated video I’ve included with this post, this separation causes the band to fall off. As far as I can tell, strapping yourself into the NPT Lucid Dreamer will give you only one cue to and, thus, one chance to recognize that you’re dreaming, before you have to wake up and strap yourself in again.

This is a pretty serious disadvantage when compared to dream masks like the NovaDreamer. The NovaDreamer detects REM sleep periods through sensors that detect the namesake Rapid Eye Movements associated with this stage of sleep. It can continue to detect these movements for as long as it has power. There is no need to wake up and strap in and out of the device.

Previous Kickstarter Drama

The back-and-forth in the comment section of the NPT Lucid Dreamer Kickstarter page suggests the person, or persons, running this campaign was previously associated with the cancelled LUCI Kickstarter campaign. That cancelled attempt at crowdfunding a lucid dream inducing headband got so acrimonious that coverage of the drama made it all the way to a Wall Street Journal blog.  If you are interested in the NPT Lucid Dreamer, I would encourage you to keep this in mind and do your research before donating.

I’m Going To Pass

I have to commend the minds behind the NPT Lucid Dreamer for taking an extremely novel approach to lucid dream induction and for having the maturity to seriously consider the potential of a biological function most people find mildly embarrassing. That being said, even after getting past the giggle factor associate with the device, I don’t think I would spend money on a device that provides audio cues to become aware in my dreams, much less one that provides only one such audio cue before awakening.

My Life Is In Shambles, Is This A Good Time To Learn Lucid Dreaming?

hannibal

It’s easy to see why lucid dreaming can become wildly appealing to someone in crisis. It’s a state in which it’s possible to: speak with lost or estranged loved ones, heal ourselves emotionally and physically, do whatever we want unconstrained by physical laws and social norms, or face down our greatest fears in a safe environment. Antidotes for many strains of human suffering can be found in lucid dreams. When going through hard times, an experienced lucid dreamer can adjust their practice to address whatever issues they are currently facing. Lucid dreams can even assist us in determining what those issues are if this is not clear.

What about someone in crisis who isn’t a very experienced lucid dreamer, or someone who has come across lucid dreaming for the first time as a potential way to work through their suffering? Can hard times be good times to learn lucid dreaming? In most cases, I think they can be. Just keep in mind that there are some obvious, but important, exceptions, as well as some snags that can loom larger during periods of above-average stress or sorrow.

Before anything else, if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts seek professional help immediately. There’s no shame in letting professionals work with us to gain a healthier perspective on our lives and sorrows. Seriously, if this is what you’re dealing with, look into help now. If you are having trouble distinguishing reality from constructions of your imagination then, again, professional help needs to come first. If this is something you have struggled with, any experimentations with lucid dreaming should only be attempted after being cleared with a mental health professional.

Apart from those particular situations, developing a lucid dreaming practice in response to hard times is often a far better alternative to hitting the bottle or getting stoned regularly. It may seem like escapism to pay so much attention to dreams (literal figments of our imaginations), but I would argue otherwise. Having lucid dreams requires a familiarity with our minds, especially our habits of perception. Learning how to lucid dream cultivates a familiarity with who we are and how we work at some very basic levels. This kind of inner work is the opposite of escapism; we end up getting reacquainted with ourselves.

It can also be incredibly empowering to know that there is a learnable skill that offers the possibility of relating to grief, sorrow, and anger in more fruitful and creative ways. This was the main appeal of lucid dreaming for me when I started: that I didn’t have to sit around and be a victim of my own sadness, there were steps I could take to improve my own inner experience. I became driven to make the positive changes to my life and shifts in attitude necessary to be a proficient lucid dreamer because of the potential to confront and untangle my dissatisfactions at a very deep level.

Strong motivation is good, because developing the capacity to become aware in our dreams can require a lot: patience, dedication, some background knowledge, and the right attitude. All of this hard work can seem like an insurmountable barrier when all we are looking for is some closure, but think about how important that list of qualities is in every aspect of life. Putting the work in and cultivating these qualities within ourselves often starts the healing process before we have even a single lucid dream. In Exploring The World of Lucid Dreaming, Stephen LaBerge defines health as “a condition of adaptive responsiveness to the challenges of life.” Simply cultivating greater awareness and performing reality checks with lucid dreaming in mind on a regular basis can greatly expand our capacity for adaptive response well before the lucid dreams start flowing.

Just be wary of these potential sandtraps when trying to have lucid dreams during life’s rough patches:

Relax, Your Future Happiness Is Not Entirely Dependent On You Getting Lucid Tonight

The potential pitfall of taking lucid dreaming seriously as a tool for overcoming difficulties in our lives is putting way too much pressure on ourselves to pull it off. Too much pressure when we’re in bed, and we’ll be lucky to fall asleep at all. If we do somehow manage to sleep and dream under that kind of pressure, a tidal wave of disappointment awaits in the morning if the dreams don’t go exactly as planned. Take it from someone who has been through the insomnia and the mopey mornings, neither are productive.

With a healthier attitude, the potential disappointments of not getting lucid, or getting lucid but the dream not going according to plan will not overshadow the potential for immense healing through lucid dreaming. There is a saying that I like, commonly attributed to Zen monk Suzuki Roshi:

“Enlightenment is an accident. Spiritual Practice simply makes us accident prone.”

While there are plenty of stories to be found of people who heal themselves of something after just one relevant lucid dream, it’s going to take more than that in some cases. It’s best to think of healing lucid dreams as happy accidents, and all the work we put into having them as the process of making ourselves accident prone. Putting work into your lucid dreaming practice is never a waste of time, but there are no guarantees as to when you finally trip over the exposed root of your own wisdom. There comes a point every night where the best thing to do is to let it all go and fall asleep.

What Are We Really Trying to Accomplish Through Our Lucid Dreams?

It could be that some people have the kinds of healing dreams they are incubating more quickly than others because they begin with a clearer understanding of their underlying issue. Let’s say I’m hurt and embarrassed because I just lost a job I enjoyed. Incubating lucid dreams where I can work to uncover the underlying reasons for my job loss, or work through my feelings towards it is more likely to be fruitful than trying to have a lucid dream that shows me exactly what I need to do to get my job back. That latter may be possible and worth trying in some rare cases, but would likely be dependent on both your conscious and unconscious minds being in agreement that you truly need that job back.

Disharmony between the conscious and unconscious mind on the major issues of our lives is not uncommon. Bringing them into harmony is often the exact kind of healing we need. For example, let’s say I was dismissed from this job unfairly. On a conscious level, I could want the job back because of my comfort with it, its familiarity, and the material security it brought. However, on an unconscious level, I may recognize how poorly I was treated  and have serious doubts about my ability to be content working for those same people again.

It is hard to imagine my unconscious mind constructing my dreams in ways that will encourage me to get my job back under these circumstances. That deeper part of me feels strongly that getting the job back isn’t what I need. What would be possible though, are dreams on this subject that unfold in ways that reveals to me how much better off I am moving on. They could even provide ideas for a future career. Dreams along these lines could facilitate greater harmony between my conscious and unconscious mind, whether they’re lucid or not.