Lucid Dreaming — Connections to mindfulness + creativity
For my semester long thesis project, I wanted to explore a topic that would not only allow me to create something beautiful on the surface — but something that could add further meaning to others lives as well as my own.
My Thesis Statement —
Designers typically have a vast amount of references and rituals in order to get the creative spark they need to realize a project put in front of them. With all of this information we’re bombarded with — there needs to be a way to filter out what is truly important to our process and ourselves as creatives. Distant memories, meaningful conversations, music, film and encounters that we take for granted can be sources of inspiration.
Lucid dreaming coupled with mindfulness can allow a creative to have a tool in their arsenal that helps them to be a bigger step closer to realizing projects that truly tap into their most meaningful desires. Dreams that are typically bizarre and illogical can end up being more personally significant and tend to incorporate daytime events. Those who lucid dream frequently also have a greater ability to deal with more creative rather than logical tasks.
Personally lucid dreaming has encouraged me to become more aware of myself and what I desire which causes me to expose myself to certain media, experiences, and open up to conversations that feed my subconscious journeys. These subconscious journeys are reached typically through days of self-awareness, broken down there are two main components Acceptance and Presence:
“While Acceptance relates to a nonjudging, accepting, and appreciative attitude toward oneself and one’s experiences (e.g., “I am friendly to myself when things go wrong”), Presence captures the ability to be fully aware of current internal and external experiences (e.g., “I am open to the experience of the present moment”)”
-Tadas Stumbrys, Daniel Erlacher, and Peter Malinowski. Meta-Awareness During Day and Night: The Relationship Between Mindfulness and Lucid Dreaming
This attention to what I see when I’m awake and being able to tell the difference between a dream and reality is important when it comes to the emotions and recall of dreams.
My goal is to create a language that shows the interconnectedness of lucid dreaming, mindfulness, and creative problem solving concepts. Along with creating a journey that imagines the desert as an empty canvas, a wide open space ready to have thoughts and emotions manifested in a more physical form.
This was an initial exercise where I captured thoughts and feelings from friends about lucid dreaming + mindfulness to see what people already knew. These helped to give me some thought starters, as well as figuring out what others believe influence their lucid dreams.
I started with asking a couple of questions that helped me to start drawing connections between lucid dreaming, mindfulness, and creative problem solving.
Truthfully, I was an outsider to lucid dreaming and meditation as a whole, so I took the steps to make sure that the outsider that was taking in this final product would be able to understand where I was coming from and where I was headed.
What classifies a non-lucid dream?
Dreaming is often described as a state of cognitive deficiency, characterized by a loss of self-reflection, bizarre, illogical situations or a lack of directed thought.
What is a lucid dream?
Lucid dreaming is being aware of the fact that one is dreaming, while within a dream.
How does one lucid dream?
By maintaining a higher awareness during the daytime, means a higher awareness when you’re asleep. The more mindful you are, the more you’ll have insight into whether your current experience is a dream or not.
How often does a person lucid dream?
“…half of the general population experience a lucid dream at least once in their lifetime and about 20% have lucid dreams regularly — once a month or more often”
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is better described by the two interrelated factors Acceptance and Presence*.
Key Words — dream attention, reflection, self-awareness, volition, and control
How can mindfulness help lucid dreaming?
Monitoring your stream of consciousness can increase cognitive abilities, such as cognitive flexibility, visio-spatial processing, working memory, executive functioning, and meta-awareness.
What is meditation?
Being attentive the the current moment and being in control of thoughts and emotions.
These questions where answered by a variety of academic resources that I gathered which were centered around lucid dreaming, creative problem solving, and mindfulness. This exercise of asking questions helped me to unearth a lot of terms that were key to understanding the connection between these three main topics I was covering.
What I found was that a lot of the pieces were saying some of the same things even through their overall focus was different.
My goal was to break this mind map down into pieces and make the connection to lucid dreaming, mindfulness, and the creative process much clearer. What I found throughout this process is that a lot of these terms are commonly used words — such as Presence, Acceptance, Insight, Problem Solving — but the key to understanding lucid dreaming was to ground these words in context.
The division of this mind map gave me the start I needed to help divide this language into understandable parts. That being said, I wanted these connections I was making to be weaved together with a larger narrative. With all of these terms I had discovered, I needed some sort of vehicle to help deliver this point I was making.
The ability to travel within a dream on a conscious basis.
Travelers in the dream world are referred to as oneironauts.
This was a term that I discovered from the book A Field Guide to Lucid Dreaming by Dylan Tuccillo, Jared Zeizel, and Thomas Peisel. This book did a great job of explaining some of the history and usefulness of dreaming, but it was more of a general guide on the topic.
I wanted this narrative I was creating to feel like an actual journey, further solidifying the idea that those who dream are also travelers.
The idea of distilling all this information into the form of a zine was not only born out of the time constraints that were imposed on this project, but because of how simple I wanted the delivery of this idea to be.
In terms of my audience, I could see a zine like this being sold at a place like Printed Matter.
Printed Matter is a place where I’ve come to find a lot of books by independent artists, and other individuals who enjoy telling stories often in new and interesting ways. I’ve always valued the PM audience because of their curiosity and broad range of topics covered from the obscure to the highly academic.
Main Point — Lucid dreaming presents versions of reality that we have been looking for all along. A heightened state of awareness when we are awake leads to a heightened ability to navigate and recall these versions of reality.
Key Themes — Solitary, Open, Meditative, Saturated Colors
These were the mood boards that I created which created this visual essay of sorts, and mixed the elements that stuck out to me throughout my research process and combining that with imagery that inspired this project.
Structure + Semiotics
After I developed the look and feel of this project a bit, I also developed the language and the reasoning for that language a bit more.
I felt that semiotics would be a good vehicle for the connections I was trying to make within this book. Not only would I be able to visually represent this language, but I could use very short description to help root them further in context.
Similar to how travelers (such as sailors) use symbols to make connections with one another, this guide intends symbols to make connections between lucid dreaming and creative problem solving. One example is the use of nautical flags to communicate between ships.
Structure — sketches
These were some initial sketches as I was exploring layout, breakdown of language, and type treatments.
Disclaimer — Apologies for the poor quality photos, I lost my notebook midway through thesis, but luckily I was taking photos just in case.
Color + Type Exploration
The color introduced throughout the icons and illustrations are intentionally very vibrant and graphic as the goal of this book is to create a world within this zine that reflects how I approach and visualize lucid dreams.
Color palette inspired by Ben Thomas, the colors in his photos remind me of an improved version of reality which is ultimately what a lucid dream is to me, a place or stream of thought thats familiar but slightly different in it’s appearance and overall mood.
Semiotics — sketches
For terms such as mindfulness and meditation, the part of the key to understanding them was through “sub-terms” — for mindfulness it was acceptance and presence and for meditation it was mindfulness meditation and concentrative meditation. Visually, I wanted to establish these connections up front, so I made the sub-terms a breakdown of the primary word.
Illustrations + 3D
The goal of this document is to take you on a journey — a journey that aims to make sense of how mindfulness and lucid dreaming are tools that go hand-in-hand for creative problem solving. But at the same time, I want to take a trip through a world created by my subconscious, bits and pieces of my everyday life that help to create a world that feels distant but still well within reach.
To give a glimpse of this world, I created a set of illustrations that builds a world adjacent from the symbolic meaning of the book.
My goal was to think of the dessert as an empty canvas, a wide open space ready to have thoughts and emotions manifested in a more physical form — perhaps in the form of a home, or an entire city.
This zine is ultimately two journeys happening at the same time — one is a journey that’s meant to help an untrained lucid dreamer reach lucidity, while the other is a journey through my own subconscious.
I wanted to make sure that the journey through my subconscious had a bit of a narrative to it as well so I chose to use excerpts from Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.
Here is the intro I gave within the physical zine —
Invisible Cities is made up of a series of descriptions, conversations between Marco Polo and Emperor Kublai Khan. In this book Marco Polo’s job was to travel the world and bring back stories to tell the emperor about his vast and expanding empire. The descriptions of the different cities throughout the book turn out to be the description of only one city — Venice. Just as Polo poetically constructs these cities with his imagination, I use this venturing through a desert landscape to show how these places that we create in our subconscious are also vast and expanding, waiting to be filled with physical manifestations of our thoughts and emotions. In this case, the desert landscape is empty, and a bit incomplete — this represents the fact that once I become more of a trained lucid dreamer, I’ll be able to fill places like this with more personally significant elements.
Cover + Type Treatments
Overall the cover and type treatments are inspired by the initial haziness of an untrained lucid dreamers dreams. At first I wanted the personality of the cover to reflect the sense of clarity that comes with lucid dreams, but this guide is intended for those who — like myself — are yet to master the sense of balance during the daytime that brings about consistent, memorable and personally significant lucid dreams.
**Side note — This is the second version I made — it reflected what I wanted, but not in the best way.
Selected Book Spreads
To view the digital version of my final book, visit my portfolio site.
The illustrations and 3D imagery that were added throughout the book take place in a desert landscape, and this represents how vast and open the worlds that we create in our subconscious can be.
Within this book the desert is left completely empty, intentionally. These empty spaces represent the fact that once I become more of a trained lucid dreamer, I — in addition to those who put the practices of the book to work — will be able to fill places like this with more personally significant elements. In addition to that, the dessert is also a personally significant symbol, especially because I find it to be a meditative space, free of distractions in a way that is conducive to deep thinking.
For the staging of this book, I wanted to bring this desert environment out of the book in a sense and use it to display the world that this book lives in.
This was a super challenging one especially since my goal was to create a visual language that lives within this book which explains these concepts in a very concise way. Overall it was a pretty fun project that helped me to uncover a lot, even about myself.
This is definitely a project that I plan to explore much further using another medium in the near future.