Categories
Breathwork dreams healing

Lucid Dreaming: Definition, Triggers, and Controlling Your Story

It’s around Christmas time. I’m at a holiday party with friends, many of whom I have not seen in decades. 

I am back home in Des Moines, IA. I hug old friends as I greet them, and we laugh hysterically at one of our friend’s drunken grandma, who is so wasted that she goes to bed early.

It’s great to catch up with Kelly, Murph, Shuter, and Kelly’s sister. Their smiles are big. Everyone is cordial, and we are having a hysterical time. 

Except I’m not physically in Iowa. I’m having this dream while in my bed in Los Angeles.

This isn’t an ordinary dream. It’s a lucid dream—a dream where you feel like you are in control. In some cases you can actually control what is happening.

What is a lucid dream?

In a lucid dream, you are aware that you are dreaming, and the dreams feel vivid and real. Imagine if you were an active participant in your dream rather than a witness? 

In lucid dreams you are controlling the dream like it is a real-life video game. You control the story. When you wake up, the dream is deep enough that it feels like it happened in real-life. 

After the dream I wake up and jot down a few notes in my dream journal about what happens. I feel calm.

I get out of bed and walk down the hall to check on breakfast. I feel happy.

I last recall seeing these people drunk at high school parties or in the summers after we all went off to college. 

In the dream, I made amends with people who I have not seen in twenty years, enjoying one last party together. It was like we were all younger. Their hugs make me feel loved. 

My last meaningful memory with Kelly was in freshman year geometry class with Mr. Cummings. She was a cute older girl that I acted cool around, trying to keep everything low key. Our teacher, Mr. Cummings died of brain cancer that year, and I remember hiding my tears from my Dad as I walked away from his funeral towards our car. 

People like her were my surrogate family, who I confided in to help me get through the ups and downs of life.

Murph and I played baseball together in little league, where I struggled to get hits and make plays on the field. Baseball was never my sport, yet guys like Murph remained optimistic and light around me. His freckled face and monotone voice helped me to feel calm. 

Shuter and I played a lot of front yard tackle football together, and sometimes sat together at lunch in middle school. He was another person who I wanted to act low key around. 

Getting back into my morning routine, I have positive energy from this dream, lots of it, as I recall these decades-old childhood friendships.

I carry this loving energy with me as I drink my morning smoothie, drive to run an errand, and type at my computer to start my work day. 

The waking state after this lucid dream is can feel better than an orgasm. 

If you can believe it, my body feels more relaxed than it does after I have sex. 

Do you want to have lucid dreams? 

How to trigger lucid dreams

The chances for lucid dreaming increase when you practice meditation, specifically sound bath and breathwork meditations. Since I started practicing breathwork, my dreams are more alive. 

Keeping a dream journal helps me to remember these dreams.

When I wake up at 5am and have a dream, I grab my phone and type out a quick recollection of the dream. This helps me to recall my dreams in case I forget them. 

My dreams are fleeting and I need to write them down. 

Breathwork and a dream journal are my two devices to help me experience lucid dreams and train myself to write out these moments. 

Studies show that if you wake up after 5 hours of sleep, stay awake briefly, and then go back to bed to try to enter an REM  (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep period,” than you can possibly trigger a lucid dream.

You can also trigger a lucid dream if you use a Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD), which uses “prospective memory,” the act of remembering to do something in the future. When “you wake up after sleeping for 5 hours,” you “tell yourself several times that the next time you dream, you will remember you’re dreaming.”

In my recent dream, making amends at this party helped me to open up a part of myself. 

I never officially said goodbye to these friends when we all went off to college. It’s like these childhood friends were dangling in my mind and I cleared out old cobwebs. 

Lucid dreams allow me to look at my dream as if I have the full awareness of my waking state. 

Lucid dreams give me energy. 

One of the cooler benefits of practicing breathwork, meditation, and other reflective practices is that they give me a chance to have these dreams.

I was embedded in the fabric of Des Moines, IA for the first 18 years of my life, and then I moved away. And thus all my friends went away too. 

You remember old habits, ways of life, and friends from your past. Meditation helps heal lost parts of yourself. You uncover parts of yourself that go beyond the conscious mind. My brain helped me to pick specific people from my past, and have a healthy and fun interaction together. 

It is freeing, cathartic, and quite enjoyable. In this case, my dream helped to close the loop on past connections. 

If I practice breathwork before crawling into bed, I’m almost certain to have a lucid dream. It calms me down, and opens my mind to the benefits of dreaming, and it’s a lot of fun to take these dreams with me the next day.

If you want to try a breathwork class with me, you can explore the possibility of having more clear and lucid dreams. I teach virtual classes every Thursday at 6:30 PST, and you can RSVP here.

Thanks to my editors: Katherine Canniff, Sara Campbell, David Burt,Drew Stegmaier, and Joel Christiansen.

Categories
healing psychiatry Recovery

I Fired My Psychiatrist, Experimented with Ancient Healing Methods, and Feel Healthier Than Ever

Sitting on a brown leather chair, wallet and car keys resting on a side table. It is winter and I’m wearing a black sweater, blue jeans, my right leg rests on my left knee. 

Tears streaming down the side of my cheeks, I wipe them with a tissue, and take deep breaths to calm myself down. 

Next to my possessions lay a white notepad with Pfizer emblazoned on the top, a pen with Zoloft printed on the side, and a box of tissues. The musty room smells like an old library. 

On the wall straight ahead are numerous awards from organizations such as The American Psychiatric Association and plaques with MD, PHD, and other degrees. To my right is a bookshelf of literature, many of the books are written about medicine, art, and Greek history.

Across from me sits a seventy-year-old Greek woman, with eyes wide open, a witness to my tears. She is my psychiatrist. I see her a few times per year.

“Ryan, you aren’t well. How often are you crying?”

“I don’t know. I am not keeping track. I guess once a month.”

“You aren’t well. I’m recommending an antidepressant for you. I recommend that you go on Lexapro.”

I exclaim: “I’m supposed to cry in here. This is why I come to see you. You are prescribing me a drug for crying. What the f*ck?”

She pulls out her pen and paper.

“No, I won’t take this drug. I am not going back on antidepressants,” I push back.

Noticeably uncomfortable, the psychiatrist gets up from her chair, and walks over to her desk. She grabs a notebook that contains the details of my work with her. She grabs the files and comes to sit back in her chair, acting as if the files will somehow validate her decision. 

The tension rises, I’m not supposed to reject the prescription from a doctor. 

Smiling with calmness, I retort back, “I’m not going to fill the prescription. Feel free to write it. I am not going back on an antidepressant because I cried in front of you.” 

She is frustrated and so am I. Our session ends.

At this point, I am done with this psychiatrist. Going back on antidepressants isn’t happening. 

What a joke. 

I march down the stairs from her second story office, to the parking garage.

Opening the door to my Toyota Prius, I see the psychiatrist’s Mercedes in the spot next to mine, I think, ”What the f*ck?” 

I drive home past a Whole Foods, Starbucks, and local overpriced West Los Angeles coffee shop – I’m stressed. Looking back, I’m in one one of the most expensive neighborhoods in the city, of course my drug pushing doctor drives a Mercedes.

I am embarrassed to admit that charges $600 per session. We meet for less than an hour of work.

When I fired my psychiatrist

I call my Dad a few days later and tell him: 

“My psychiatrist is a con artist. She writes her prescriptions with a pen that says Pfizer, on a sheet of paper that says Serzone, and has stress balls in her office from Eli Lilly. She is sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry. I’m done. It’s over.”

I had to fire my psychiatrist. 

I was done with the pharmaceutical industrial complex. 

I take control of my health, ending my relationship with a white collar drug dealer, who practices corporate psychiatry.

For decades I went down the conventional pharmaceutical route for treating anxiety and depression with Big Pharma drugs, psychiatry, counseling/therapy. The treatment had some benefits, but I hit a brick wall. Does this sound familiar?

If you have been on and off antidepressants, I can relate. 

If you have seen enough therapists that you can count the number on two hands, there are millions of us.

If you have experienced the sexual side effects you hear about on antidepressant TV commercials, then I’m right there with you. 

And if you’ve wondered WTF, why are prescription mental health drugs being advertised on TV to begin with, I’m feeling you.

Going the modern mental health route made me desperate. It took me decades to figure it out.

The drugs managed some of my pain by treating symptoms, while not healing the root cause.

After firing my psychiatrist, I forged a new path, which was unconventional. Using ancient methods, a recovery program, and native/indigenous techniques for healing, I got results. 

The ancient healing methods I tried

It took me six months to familiarize myself with the different modalities, and a year to truly feel like I had a handle on my health again.

Here is what I did to improve my mental health the natural way:

  • Meditation – Practicing meditation became a daily ritual. Whether it was alone listening to an app or practicing with a teacher at an in-person studio, I worked to ease my body, mind, and soul through the practice.
  • Journaling – I journaled after every meditation session. Sometimes I would write long outlines of ideas, other days I would write anything that brought me to tears, some days I wrote my ideas for future writing projects.
  • Psychedelics – I experimented with microdosing psychedelics. For each session, I set an intention of a phrase like “I am healthy” or “I am well,” and repeat the intention for several minutes. I integrated what I learned through talking to professionals and journaling. 
  • Yoga – I practiced yoga 2-3 times per week on the mat. The poses (asanas) helped me calm my body, increase my physical stamina, and decrease my physical pain. I also practiced the breathing part of yoga, yoga nidra (yogic sleep), which helps PTSD survivors.
  • Breathwork – Breathwork helps me calm my body down, giving myself permission to relax my mind. During the first months of sessions, my left side body would get triggered. I learned to calm myself down as I unpacked a lot of trauma that resurfaced.
  • Therapy – I went through three different therapists during this recovery process. I found that my therapists did not have a tool kit to talk about integrative healing and mental health, which is why I went through three different ones.
  • Recovery program – Spiritually I was unwell, and I needed a new peer group to aid in my recovery. With weekly meetings, the program acted like an ancient healing circle, which became a “chosen family,” that helped aid my rehabilitation. 
  • Advocacy – I got very interested in uncovering racism in American culture. I looked at racism as more of a disease, exploring the root causes of my own role in it. I marched in a Black Lives Matter protest and started talking to my white friends about racism. 

I was spiritually unwell, and corporate drugs weren’t helping anymore

Looking back, I realize how unhealthy my psychiatric experience was. I trusted a doctor who wanted to prescribe drugs for pain management, rather than helping me to heal.  

When I told her that I ended our relationship, she demanded that I come see her. She acted like I was doing something wrong or ill-conceived by stopping our work together.

She wanted to see me for another session, where she would charge me another $600. It was like she couldn’t quit me or let it go. And somehow I was in the wrong, like she had some strange attachment issue.

We went back and forth over email for months with her wanting to talk to me. I had nothing to say.

I sent her a check for $600 and I did not realize that I owed her for two sessions, which was $1,200. 

Wanting to end the relationship, she discounted my final two sessions to $300 each, for $600 total, and stamped my invoice as PAID.

Mental health in the corporate system did not work for me. Healing comes from within, not from a bottle of pills you pick up from Rite Aid. Paying $600 in retrospect was a total rip-off. 

Doctors are profiting off a system that is taking advantage of depressed, anxious, or unwell people. While we are like guinea pigs, testing our moods with chemically created pills, they are beholden to these corporations.

We are not cars that need to be serviced. Mental health isn’t like checking wheel alignment, rotating our tires, or servicing our engine.

Human beings are complex creatures. We have a heart, a brain, and a soul. 

My psychiatrist lacked a true sense of spirituality with her practice. 

Meanwhile the solutions for healing laid before me the entire time. While breathwork, psychedelics, and meditation may seem fringe or new wage to some, they have been around for centuries.

In retrospect, I was spiritually unwell. My sickness contributed to unstable moods, anxiety, depression, and suffering. The natural medicines helped increase my spirituality, which subsequently improved my health. 

Through the years I tried Serzone, Zyprexa, Lamtical, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Lexapro, and other drugs. 

I was looking for a magic drug to save me. There is no silver bullet in healing. I had to experiment to find out what worked for me. It’s not like weightlifting where you can see your muscles grow, and an increase in weight. 

I learned to be gentle on myself. Accepting that no one was going to rescue me, no corporate drug pusher was going to be my savior, and I had to do the work myself. 

I implemented some of my own ancient healing practices, and they helped. I feel good, and my health is what matters. What is important is how I feel, not a clinical definition from a psychiatrist. 

What has been your experience with psychiatric drugs? Leave a comment or subscribe to my newsletter and shoot me an email, I’d love to swap stories.

Big thanks to my editors: Chris Holinger, Ali Q, Drew Stegmaier, Lyle McKeany, and Joel Christiansen.