How often have you said: ‘follow your dreams’ or ‘all my dreams have come true’ without really thinking about the literal meaning of the word and the complex process of actually ‘dreaming’. In today’s Western society the word dream is often used in a very flippant manner, and quite possibly never fully understood or taken seriously. Dreams have become fantastical, more often linked to fairytales and unreachable goals than as a genuine scientific process that can have an incredible affect on your waking life and mind.

According to Dream Expert and Author, Lauri Quinn Loewenberg, we dream because we think, and when we’re dreaming we are thinking on a much deeper level. The process of dreaming starts when we enter the REM or Rapid Eye Movement sleep phase and the brain begins to work in an unassociated manner to when we are awake. Loewenberg explains: “Different parts of the brain become dormant while other parts become highly active. Because of this difference in brain function, our literal thoughts, our stream of words turn into images, symbols, emotions and metaphors … our dreaming mind puts a microscope on our life and figures out what is wrong and what we can do to make it right. Essentially, our mind is trying to tell us how to improve upon our life.”

But what if it was possible for us to have more control over this seemingly insensible state of mind; to intentionally engage with our inner most thoughts and feelings on a whole new realistic level? And amazingly enough dipping your toe into dream limbo actually exists. Step forth Charley Morley and the intriguing process of lucid dreaming – the art of becoming conscious within your own dreams, as part of your brain reactivates allowing you to experience the dream like state with self-reflective awareness. “Once you know that you are dreaming you gain access to the most powerful virtual reality generator in existence: your mind … [allowing] you conscious access to [it’s] deepest depths,” says Morley.

Through this awareness we are opening our minds up to the prospect of incredible things. Once understood, lucid dreaming has been known to aid problems including nightmares, insomnia and even significant physical illnesses, and according to Morley we are barely scratching the surface.“I believe that within a few years time we may be able to apply the healing potential of lucid dreaming to a much wider range of ailments and perhaps help with the treatment of some of the most serious conditions.”

This practice of controlled awareness is very different to the traditional dream like state, explains Morley because due to the activation of the prefrontal brain areas that accompany full lucidity we can begin to engage the “wonderful potential of neuroplasticity”, in which the human brain rewires itself in favour of a newly learnt or repeated action. “In our lucid dreams neural pathways can be strengthened and created in just the same way as they can while we are awake. So, lucid dreamers who consciously engage in certain activities within their dreams are creating and strengthening the neural pathways associated with those activities, which may then become habitually engaged in the waking state.”

Like any ambiguous concept there is always an array of theories, and analysing the dream state is no exception. Loewenberg believes that we can programme ourselves to dream about what and whom we want, through the process of Dream Incubation. Used by many people as a method to solve current issues, or inspire creative ideas for a project, the process of dream incubation is actually quite a simple concept.The key, according to Loewenberg,“is to obsess about it all day long – [as] we tend to dream about what is on our mind the most – and then at [night] write down your request in a journal …Then turn out the lights and as you drift off, think about your issue or fantasy and odds are your dream will address it!”.

Living in Western society processes such as lucid dreaming and dream incubation are rather alien concepts that we more often than not tend to associate with Eastern culture. But perhaps it’s about time we started to open our minds to what else is out there and embrace these perhaps less traditional thought processes. Morley explains that the Western tradition of lucid dreaming is still in its infancy compared with the 1000 year plus head start that the lineage of Tibetan DreamYoga has had. But far from questioning our potential to compete, he feels that “the combination of Western pragmatism and scientific scrutiny has allowed the Western dream researchers to create a series of techniques, some of which are just as effective as the Tibetan ones for inducing lucid dreams.”

Of course I am aware that the word dream has a plethora of separate connotations, each as acceptable as the other but I can’t help but wonder if a better understanding of the process in its original state, could in fact encourage us to bridge that gap and really acknowledge our dreams.To stop fearing the unknown and start controlling these thoughts and musings because who knows, perhaps one day we’ll be able to turn those ‘dreams’ into reality.