A Course in Miracles advocates that we teach our children lucid dreaming. Sounds wild, but I don’t see any way around it.
Here is the relevant passage, from Section V of Chapter 6 (I’ve preserved the original emphases from the Urtext):
You do not inform [children] that the nightmares which frightened them so badly were not real, because children believe in magic. You merely reassure them that they are safe now. Then you train them to recognize the difference between sleeping and waking, so that they will understand they need not be afraid of dreams. Then when bad dreams come, they will call on the Light themselves to dispel them.
Jesus is using children as a metaphor here to talk about all of us, but for the metaphor to work, it has to apply to children, too. So what does this have to say about children and dealing with their nightmares?
First, when you first encounter them right after their nightmare (my three-year-old wakes up crying about every third night, usually about 11pm), you don’t say right then, “Don’t worry, it wasn’t real.” At that point, it still seems quite real to them. So you just say, “I’m here. You’re safe now.” And that’s what I do (although after a couple of those I usually add in “It was just a dream. It wasn’t real.”).
But you don’t leave it at that. Afterwards, when they are fully awake, you “train them to recognize the difference between sleeping and waking.” This training seems to have two purposes: first, so that they will realize that dreams aren’t real and so need not be fearful (it’s not you telling them; it’s them really getting it), and second, to teach them how to “call on the Light” in the midst of a bad dream, in order to dispel it.
That’s the part I want to focus on. If we put it all together, we get this: You’re teaching them how to recognize the difference between waking and sleeping, so that they can recognize when the bad situation they’re in is really just a bad dream, so that they can then call on the Light to dispel the dream. I don’t really see another way to read that passage.
What else can we call this but instructing our children in the art of lucid dreaming? Obviously, calling on the Light is a response to the child recognizing that he is, in fact, in a dream.
This really hit home for me this past weekend when I was reading an excellent book by Steve Volk called Fringe-ology. It contains a chapter on the work of Stephen LaBerge, the most visible advocate of lucid dreaming. One of the key elements in LaBerge’s method is to realize that dreams are different than waking in that they contain unrealistic things. Realizing this, you learn to perform frequent reality checks during your day, as a way of programming your mind to do reality checks while asleep. Then, when you’re in a dream, you can look at the ten-foot spider, do a quick reality check, and realize you must be in a dream.
I’m going to try this with my soon-to-be six-year-old. She too has her share of bad dreams. Based on this passage, I’ve been encouraging her to realize she’s in a dream and then call on the light. But after weeks of this, she’s had no success. So I’m going to read her a bit from Fringe-ology and see if we can’t use some of what LaBerge teaches. I don’t know if it will work, but it’s worth a try. Her bad dreams are an important feature of her little life. It would be great if we had a way to dispel them.
I find it interesting that this material in the Course was dictated in 1966, many years before LaBerge’s work made lucid dreaming a well-known topic in our culture. To talk about practical training in lucid dreaming—here is yet another way in which the Course was way ahead of its time.