A pair of sophomores at Bennington College had an idea for a new student organization this fall. They called it the Lucid Dream and Tea Club.
Researchers have investigated lucid dreams’ effects on mental well-being for years. Some have concluded that they can ease depression and anxiety. Alice Kandel-Zasloff’s father told her about the practice during her childhood, where it helped her overcome challenges posed by persistent nightmares and severe sleep paralysis.
“I would describe lucid dreaming as not only knowing you’re in a dream, but having a certain amount of control over where you go, what you do, having a certain amount of consciousness and awareness you wouldn’t have in a normal dream,” Kandel-Zasloff said.
“These things can be accompanied by really vivid feelings,” she continued. “So if you’re flying in a lucid dream, a lot of people say, it really feels like you’re flying.”
According to Kandel-Zasloff, lucid dreaming sometimes comes easily to children. Adults may struggle to achieve lucidity during sleep.
“It takes a lot of time to learn how to lucid dream if you’re going to set yourself to do it,” Sisi Turner, who co-founded the club, acknowledged.
Beginners may use a technique called a “reality check,” whereby one repeats a specific action – such as looking at one’s hand and asking oneself whether it’s real – at intervals during the day, with a hope that the habit will carry over into one’s dreams, spurring lucidity. Tea, also, can help.
While certain herbal blends are said to promote lucid dreaming, the ritual of making, serving, and drinking tea matters more to Turner, a tea enthusiast, than its particular variety. She believes that a traditional Chinese tea ceremony can promote a “mindfulness” that helps make lucid dreaming possible.
“It’s very relaxing,” Turner said.
This semester, Turner and Kandel-Zasloff invited their classmates to drink tea and discuss their dreams with them. When they spoke to Counterpoint, their club, a small group thus far, had just had its first meeting. Alongside the “therapeutic qualities” of lucid dreaming, Kandel-Zasloff highlighted the healing capacity of community building.
Like other schools, Bennington College offers a range of student-run extracurriculars, such as a chess club, a soccer club, and a gardening club. Lucid dreaming may register to its 785 undergraduates as a less familiar hobby, but as far as Turner can tell, they seem open-minded.
“People are really into symbolism here, so I think there’s already a natural inclination to learn about dreams,” she observed. “We have hippies.”
“A lot of Iroquois groups would dream-share every morning, and that was a part of their daily routine,” Kandel-Zasloff added. “Most people have completely lost that. That’s, I think, a reason it’s so hard for a lot of people to remember dreams.”
Turner and Kandel-Zasloff don’t view lucid dreaming as a replacement for mental health treatment, but Kandel-Zasloff noted that some people who’ve experienced trauma may have related nightmares and can utilize lucid dreaming to transform those visions.
“I would say the benefit of lucid dreaming would be to know how to either wake up from that nightmare because you know you’re dreaming or, in that case, completely change the setting of the dream so that you’re no longer in that terrifying flashback,” she said.
Lucid dreaming is also, by Kandel-Zasloff’s account, a lot of fun.
“It stimulates your creativity because you basically unlock this world that you can travel around,” she said. “You can adventure around.”