Lucid Dreaming Spotlight: Uwe Kruger (Germany)
"I had black dreams, meaning I had no dreams at all, for at least 10 years, before I heard of lucid dreaming. That means, I didn't remember a single dream from any night." - Uwe Kruger, founder of Berlin Lucid Dreaming Meetup
Interview with Eva Steinborn of Mulberry Leaf magazine (English subs) - transcript below
I've always been interested in the different ways people experience, learn and teach lucid dreaming around the world. I spoke with Uwe Kruger, a psychology student and founder of the Berlin Lucid Dreaming Meetup, to find out more about the lucid dreaming community in Germany and hear about his personal experiences.
Try Uwe's lucid living technique: inhale and feel the emotion, exhale and smile at it. It doesn’t go away, but with little experience in this technique, you will see that every emotion wants to tell you something. Our intuition sends us emotions to reach our conscious given goals. So first: set your goals and second welcome your emotions as a map to get what you want. It is that easy. Try it.
Q: Tell me more about how lucid dreaming helped you decide to go back to university.
A: I didn’t dream my decision to go back to school. It was a process while I was becoming an oneironaut. I got more awareness and more courage to change my life. Self-efficacy as Bandura called it. I had many doubts about doing this.
I was afraid of whether it was the right decision and how my social group would react. My uncle wasn’t amused, because I was the best worker in his office. And he didn't understand the desire to gain real important knowledge and to develop. In his opinion, life is about duty. Like a soldier, you have to do what you're told to do.
My mentor Don Rinatos said that I shouldn't do psychology, because it's a boring subject. But everyone else said 'Great! Your mother would be proud of you.'
On the first day of university, I cycled back home and cried tears of happiness that I made this right decision. Since then there hasn't been a day that I don't observe myself at the campus and feel gratitude and satisfaction for being there. To be able to study again. It was the best decision of my life. When I went back home by car from the Neuroscience Institut Donders in Nijmegen I cried too. Because my dream came true: now I was a lucid dreaming scientist.
After my bachelor's, my dream is to study for a Masters at Harvard.
Q: How did you meet your lucid dreaming mentor, Don Rinatos?
A: He's the best lucid dreamer in Germany. Maybe in the world. He's amazing. You should read his dreams. Fantastic, creative, amazing. I am so grateful that he was my mentor. Unfortunately he stopped mentoring lucid dreamers a few weeks ago, including me.
After my decision to become an oneironaut I applied at the Klartraum Forum. There I found out very quickly that Don is the best dreamer of all oneironauts there, but I was too shy to ask him for mentoring. So I started with another mentor who was not very conscientious. So the mentoring died after a few days. Then Don got a mentee who was very new at the forum. I was jealous and asked him, if he want to be my mentor too. It took several days and then he accepted.
Q: I'm finding some interesting things about him online, like his 'Dreamcar' techniques.
A: I didn’t understand his concept of the Dreamcar although I can read it in the original German.
But I think more important than the Dreamcar is “basale Klarheit” (English: 'basal lucidity') and “Wachposten” (English: 'guardian').
Q: Can you tell me more about "basale Klarheit" (basal lucidity) and "Wachposten" (guardian)?
A: Basale Klarheit” (basal lucidity) is one of Don Rinatos's concepts. It's a level of consciousness like wakefulness or dreaming, but not everybody knows this. Mostly you reach it in the state between dreaming and waking up. Visually, it's a bright void. Pure consciousness, full awareness and a stable state. Don says you can lock or snap into this state. It's is very relaxing and gives you a lot of energy. And from this state you can start any lucid dream you want. Maybe it's the same as the bright light meditation state of dream yoga, I don’t know. I haven’t tried it yet, but I hope I will.
A “Wachposten” is a guardian. It's a concept from a Russian psychologist. I don’t know his name. You set a “wachposten” by intending: “When I leave the house, I will remember to buy rice.” The probability that your brain will give you this information increases by setting this “Wachposten” when you actually leave the house. It is a prospective memory. A good “Wachposten” will appear often to refresh your memory before you actually need it.
Q: What ideas have you had in a lucid dream that you've followed through with?
1) I got a cat. I had initially decided on a red cat, but then I dreamed about a black cat. So I took the black one.
2) One day I dreamt I was the prisoner of a sultan. It was a normal dream. When I woke up, I interpreted it using my usual method: What was I feeling? Where in my waking life do I know such a feeling? What did the waking situation and the dream have in common? Then it came to me: Being a prisoner is like being a student. And in my dream I thought, it would be difficult to make a career while being a prisoner. So I decided to apply for student jobs at my university to lose the student status and start working scientifically as early as possible.
I'll have the interview on Thursday.
Q: Have you ever had an out-of-body experience? Some people have told me it's the same thing, what do you think?
A: I've had a lot of lucid dreams starting in my bedroom and in my sleeping body. I think many would call it an OBE. I don‘t. It makes no sense to me to think I was leaving my body.
Maybe there are OBEs. But at this moment I think an OBE is a prelucid dream. Prelucid because, if you were lucid, you would know that you are dreaming.
Q: Just to double check, in the pre-lucid dreams you had, where you dreamt you were in your room/bed, would you say it was a 'false awakening'? Or did it feel different from a regular lucid dream (besides having less lucidity)? OBEs are often (but not always) accompanied by vibratory sensations or intracranial noises, etc.
A: Many times I've had either a false awakening and became lucid a few seconds after, or it was a WILD starting in my sleeping body in my bed. In both cases there were no vibrations or noise. But I've had acoustic hypnagogics while falling asleep or waking up.
I once had vibrations in a lucid dream trying to produce alphawaves with my prefrontal cortex. As an esoteric would say, I concentrated on my third eye. I did this many times, because it's a way to achieve basal lucidity (basale Klarheit), one of Don Rinatos's concepts. Normally when I do this, I fly automatically up with my dreambody through the ceiling and one time I had vibrations in my dreambody.
Q: Have you ever had a strange sleep phenomenon which you couldn't categorise as a lucid dream?
A: No. I have never had a strange sleeping experience.
Q: In your interview with Eva Steinborn, you mentioned that you want to find other reasons for why we dream, besides consolidation and filing. Have you had any lucid dreams, or non-lucid dreams that have given you any clues?
A: I think our intuition, our subconscious, is wiser than us. And I don’t think it works against us like Freud said about the It.* It is our partner. It sends us messages in the form of feelings and dreams in order to reach our goals.
So first: set your aims! Dream your dreams! Again and again. Your intuition will lead you there. You are the boss. Your intuition is your scout through the Dschungel of life. You just have to welcome its hints, meaning your emotions and dreams. Therefore my lucid living technique works very well.
* Freud claimed every person has an Ego (Ich) a Super Ego (Über-Ich) and an It (Es). The It is mostly unconsciousness and there are the drives (Triebe). If the Es ruled, you would be cruel to others and yourself. The Ich regulates the Es. I think this is completly bullshit. The unconsciousness is not our enemy. It doesn’t have to be regulated.
Q: What's the lucid dreaming community like in Germany?
A: The german community is very small, but the people are nice. And tolerant.
I think there are not more than 20 active members in the forum at the same time. Same hour: only two or three. Same month: 20 .
Q: Are there any books that have been particularly influential to German-speaking lucid dreamers (Whether German-language or other)?
A: I think most German lucid dreamers, especially the older ones, know Carlos Castaneda. I don’t know his work nor do I have any interest in reading it, because I don’t like the concepts of demons and evil entities.
The second book might be “Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming” by Stephen LaBerge.
Q: What was one of your favourite LDs?
A: I think my favorite lucid dream was one where I switched into another dream character. It was a task given to me from my mentor Don Rinatos. It took a few attempts, but I finally made it.
I became lucid and went through the wall of the home of my childhood onto the street. A teenage girl came along, and I asked her if I could switch into her body since she was my dream character. She said yes.
I jumped into her body, spun around in the air, and lost my dreambody. It took two attempts, but then I was in.
I felt what it feels like to be overweight, like the character. She went to a meeting point with her friends and there were two guys. One of them, her favorite, was playing ping pong with the wall. I could sense her thinking that she wanted to sleep with him. And that if he said No, she would sleep with his friend instead, to make him jealous.
It was a great experience to feel what it's like to be in a completely different body. To feel like a woman.
I was disappointed about her cognitions and her choice of potential boyfriend, though.
Q: What's the best piece of advice you would give to an aspiring lucid dreamer?
A: The best advice for a becoming lucid dreamer? I don’t know. Maybe:
Imagine there is a genie granting you 5 wishes. Write your wishes down. Compress every wish into one word. From now on every day, wish these 5 word wishes while you are bathing or showering. Every day.
Q: What are you most excited about, or curious about, right now?
A: I am curious about my future. I think there are so many wonders of life still hidden.
English transcript of interview (video)
My name is Eva Steinborn. I'm with the Mulberry Leaf, a local magazine in Treptow-Köpenick, and I am here today in the yoga center to interview Uwe and to see what he's doing in his Senoirunde and what it means to remember and talk about your dreams.
I am really curious what other people are dreaming as my own dreams are always strange and I’m curious to find out if my dreams mean something and what I can do with them. I think the subject of dreaming is a very exciting topic as dreams are very intimate. Nowadays we speak very openly about everything in our society, but in dreams we sometimes do things we don’t dare to speak about. I think it is very interesting to bring up what’s happening deep inside of us and then see if any of it can be made public.
Uwe, if I would ask my husband today what he dreamt, he would say: “Nothing at all.” Do all people dream all the time, and do some people just don’t remember what they dream?
Yes, that’s exactly how it is. I had ‘black’ dreams, meaning I had no dreams at all, for at least 10 years, before I heard of lucid dreaming. When I learned that everyone dreams all the time, and that we just don’t remember our dreams, and that remembering your dreams can be practiced by simply intending to remember them, I put a pen and paper next to my bed, woke up after 2 hours, and wrote down my first dream. I woke up a second time early in the morning during the same night and wrote down another dream I had, plus dreams I had prior to that one, and ended up with 3 or 4 dreams total, meaning I went from zero to four dreams in one night.
So does everyone have multiple dreams?
Everyone goes through various stages of sleep throughout the night. N1 is the transition, N2 is light sleep, N3 is deep sleep. There used to be an N4 phase, but they got rid of it. Then you have the REM phase, meaning you have a total of 5 awareness levels, including the phase when fully awake. Those stages take turns. You start with N1, then N2, then N3, then it can vary and just go back to N2, which is most likely. Then the REM phase starts, and this cycle repeats itself multiple times throughout the night. Towards the morning hours the deep sleep phases, meaning N3, become less and the REM phases become longer and more frequent. There are about 5 or 6, but you can simply not remember them.
In this model I assume that I have the time to experience these phases without external disturbances or influences. How is it when I am awoken by my child crying, or the ringing of my alarm, or a burglar who breaks the patio door, then I will be awoken during one of those phases. Will the phase in which I am awoken have an impact on how I will remember my dreams?
Yes, when you are awoken in the REM phase, then you will most likely remember the dream. When you are awoken in the morning, meaning in N2 or N3, then you could still remember the dream better as if you wait until you awake naturally. But we really dream throughout the entire night, even in Non-Rem phases, but then the dreams are just not so lively and realistic.
So if I ask you why it’s worth it to explore your dreams, what would your reply be?
I can only explain what it did for me. I hope it would be the same for other people; there are a lot of reports that support this. It brings upon a lot of self-efficacy, meaning the personal judgment of one’s own ability to change your surroundings; you simply acquire courage. I was pondering for a long time if I should go back to study for a degree at my age. Typically you wouldn’t do such a thing as changing your occupation after 15 years, at the age of 38. Lucid Dreaming helped me in my decision to go ahead with studying as it strengthens your sense of intuition, meaning you examine your inner self more and are more aware of your emotions.
Elise Filevich at the Berlin Max-Planck Institute found out that the Brodmann Area 10 in the pre-frontal cortex is enlarged in lucid dreamers. That is the brain area which is active during meta-cognition, which relates to ‘thinking about thinking.’ I think it’s not only the thinking about thinking, but also the thinking about your feelings, and in general, also your attentiveness, meaning your attentiveness towards what’s going on inside of you based on the reaction from the external influences. If you train this you significantly increase the quality of your life, as well as the control of your life. You then also realize when you are not ok with something. Someone else may simply think something is not happening the right way, but wouldn’t do anything about it. An attentive person would instead realize the options on what he can do, and be aware of the possibilities to change the circumstances. This means the 3 most important aspects are: higher self-efficacy, increased attentiveness, and the connection to your intuition. But there are a lot more important aspects such as life quality, stress resilience, creativity…
Can everyone learn how to lucid dream?
Most likely, but we cannot say for sure, but most likely – yes. I have never met anyone who wasn’t able to do it. Actually, yes, I did meet someone who tried it for years, but I’m hopeful he will be successful, too, one day. Thinking of my own story, I remember that I lucid dreamed as a kid, but then I lost the ability, or I stopped it.
Could it be that everyone really has the ability to lucid dream and we just lose the ability to do so?
There are people who can’t imagine the concept of this; they can’t envision it at all. For them it is like us trying to envision enlightenment. We simply don’t know how that feels, or how it looks like, or what we would think if we were to experience it. But most people have experienced it, and it makes sense to them. They are glad to hear that it can be learned, the phases can be extended, the dream content can be created, and lots of things can be done. Many people believe that we process our experiences in dreams, that we sort them in order to file them into the correct drawer of the brain.
Is that the purpose of the dream? You mentioned filing experiences into the right ‘drawer.’
It’s called memory consolidation. It has been studied quite a bit. People who learned something and then went to bed remembered what they had learned better than people of the control group, which consisted of people who didn’t sleep.
So that means sleeping and dreaming is for sure existing in order to file experiences into the right ‘drawer,’ as you explained, meaning to consolidate. I want to find out what other functions exist other than those.
So, you mentioned what dreaming is good for, and what it helps with; also that if you explore your dreams, you increase self-awareness and attentiveness, you will make decisions with more confidence.
What negative aspects are there that would impact dreaming? You are talking about alcohol and drugs in your flyers, but most likely stress also causes bad sleep, and with it bad dreaming, am I right?
Yes, it is a vicious circle. That means it’s worth it to explore dreaming, and to create the right conditions, it means to change your everyday life to reduce stress, and to see more clearly, also while you are awake. What goes hand in hand with that is abstinence from drugs. You should for sure not smoke pot. Marijuana reduces the REM phases. I’m not exactly sure if it reduces them, or if it simply reduces the memory of them, but most likely both. Therefore it results in the REM rebound when you stop smoking pot. You then dream a lot all of a sudden, and have wild dreams as well. You then realize that the brain required the dreaming, but was not able to do so. Alcohol is bad, coffee is bad, all drugs are bad. I don’t drink coffee, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t take drugs, I even eat very little sugar. Of course, now you can ask, where does this start? Is a healthy lifestyle increasing my quality of life, or is it the lucid dreaming? It’s simply both.
Overall a lifestyle, or a path you follow, in order to live a better life, or to achieve a better condition.
Maybe you can explain once more what the difference is between a lucid dream and a normal dream.
The difference is that, in a lucid dream, you know that you are dreaming, and in a normal dream you only know if after the fact, meaning in a normal dream you simply think ‘of course, right now I’m flying over the Donau Valley. Why not, why shouldn’t I fly? Why can I fly? Oh, yes, I grew wings yesterday...’ You simply try to reason everything and typically you come up with absurd reasons to explain that it’s real and not a dream. Only when you wake, you notice that it was, of course, a dream, and you wonder why you didn’t realize it while it happened, but typically you don’t realize it. But when you practice to realize it, then the following will happen: ‘I’m flying over the Donau Valley; it really can’t be!’ I will then do a reality check, meaning I will count my fingers - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 – there are 5, Oh well, I am most likely awake then, but I will try the next reality check: breathing through my nose...I’m awake, and then it can still be possible that I continue with the normal dream, because the reality checks failed. They can fail, and you can never tell exactly if you are awake.
You can only be sure that you are dreaming if there is a sixth finger all of a sudden, or if you can breathe, or something similar.
Very exciting. Does every dream have a meaning? We tried a little while ago to interpret our dreams. Is it true that everything has a meaning in one form or another?
I don’t know. Some seem to not have meanings, but that may be because you cannot figure it out. But is it because you cannot figure it out, or do they really don’t have a reason; we simply don’t know.
Yes, but if you find the meaning, it would be an incredible eye opener.
You are also conducting workshops, or you want to offer them, in which people can learn how to lucid dream. How would that look like? What would the workshop consist of? Would we all lay down on a matt? Would there be a classroom style setup as in school?
There would be a slide presentation and I would explain what lucid dreaming is, what the techniques are, how to get there. The most important part is homework. It means we will meet again the following week and you have to report; homework will be monitored, so you have to produce something. During the first week: keep a dream journal. Second week: during this time you start right away to attempt lucid dreaming. I hope, and I imagine it that way, that it will happen pretty quickly for most of them, so then we can move on to tasks such as flying, or move through walls, or to take on another dream character and with it their emotions. Those activities would require control of the dream. Controlling and awareness are different aspects. You can know that you are dreaming, but still be paralyzed and not be able to influence the dream scenarios. You could also be able to control your dream activities, but not know that you are dreaming. Typically both conditions are connected, but not always.
One more thing I want to know: You consider yourself an Oneironaut. Could you please explain what that means?
Oneiros is a Greek word for dream, and nautes means sailor, so it means dreamtraveller.
It’s not someone who teaches; it does not represent a certain status? Are you a tour guide for a dream trip?
No. Originally the group involved with Stephen LaBerge in Stanford called itself that way. He was the second person to prove that lucid dreaming exists. The first one was Keath Hearn. LaBerge created a dream group and they called themselves ‘Oneironauts.’ Nowadays people who practice how to have lucid dreams call themselves oneironauts.
You are a dream scientist and you like to explore dreaming, as one can tell. What is your dream? Where do you see yourself going with your dream exploration? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope it will be as popular as yoga is nowadays, if not more popular. My vision is that it will be taught at school, because that’s when they go through the natural phase, when it happens for the first time, when they are just starting school. So I want it to be a subject at school – not reading and writing; ok they need to learn that, of course, too – but add the teaching of lucid dream, and meditation. That’s my goal.