When you read the papers of the late Gestalt psychologist and lucid dream researcher Paul Tholey, you discover a pioneer in developing a lucid mindset. I define a lucid mindset as a persistent mental habit of reexamining one’s perceived environment or state of awareness. This reexamination naturally leads to conscious awareness in the dream state.
In 1959, Tholey wondered if he could bring conscious awareness into the dream state by asking himself numerous times during the day, “Am I awake, or am I dreaming?” Reasoning that this question would occur to him in a dream, he then might become critically aware and conscious in the dream. After about a month’s consistent repetition of this question, he succeeded with his “Reflection Technique” and became lucid.
Some lucid dreamers have begun to call Tholey’s “Am I awake, or am I dreaming” the Critical Question. It definitely seems “a” critical question about one’s state – but it does not appear to be the only one, or the only one that leads to lucid awareness.
As previously mentioned, one ultra frequent lucid dreamer routinely asks, “What was I just doing?” This memory check prompts her lucid awareness, as she realizes she had been going to sleep, so this must be a dream. For her, the Critical Question that elicits greater critical awareness is a memory check about activity.
Other ultra frequent lucid dreamers appear to develop greater vigilance as a result of frequent nightmares in childhood. Apparently, they habitually scour the perceived environment to determine if they are dreaming and, therefore, possible prey for nightmarish figures. Perhaps their Critical Question might be, “Am I safe here?” or some expression of vigilant awareness which naturally leads to lucidity.
I imagine that young Buddhist monks learn to develop a lucid mindset when they repeatedly hear, “All of this is like a dream.” If you consistently consider all perceived environments to be “like a dream,” then you may enhance your ability to discern dreaming as being like a dream and become consciously aware in it.
In my experience, I began to develop a lucid mindset after reading the works of Jane Roberts, who put forth that our perceived experience came as a direct outgrowth of our beliefs, thoughts and feelings. Therefore, understanding our experience required an investigation of our beliefs, thoughts and feelings. So when something notable would happen in my waking life, I would wonder, “Why did I create this? How does this relate to my beliefs, thoughts or feelings?” Like Tholey, these same questions began seeping into my dream life, prompting lucid awareness, as I reconsidered an outlandish event and determined “This could only occur in a dream!”
These examples show how a lucid dreamer can easily develop a lucid mindset. By consciously adopting a Critical Question that appeals to you and requires you to reexamine your experience and by using it consistently during the day, it transfers to your dreaming and causes you to reexamine the dream experience. This questioning mindset naturally leads you to lucid awareness.
The Critical Question does not have to be philosophical; it can be simple, like “What was I just doing?” or “Where am I?” However it must be used consistently during waking hours.
Imagine an entire society and culture persistently asking a Critical Question. Maybe over time, lucid dreaming will lead to a worldwide lucid mindset,