There are various ways in which to become lucid in dreams. The western practices have cataloged quite a list of methods. These are the acronyms with the suffix "-ILD" ( ....Induced Lucid Dream). There is mnemomic induced lucid dream (MILD), dream induced lucid dream (DILD), and so on. All these methods are very valuable and effective and we should make use of any of them that work well for us. However, as dream yogis, what we should be striving for is to master the Wake Induced Lucid Dream (WILD).... This is when one passes from wakefulness straight into sleep and dreaming without losing awareness. This method often produces a different quality of dreams as well, including experiences of being out of body and similarly strange yet useful experiences.
One reason why the wake induced lucid dreaming method is special is because as yogis one of our goals is to not lose awareness as we pass from one mental state to another. Every time the thread of our awareness is cut we succumb to ignorance and then it is up to karma how and where we wake up. In the bardos between death and rebirth, for example, this is very important and it is very risky to succumb to unconsciousness. We could wake up in any situation as a baby animal, hungry ghost, or a human in an unfortunate situation, and so on. Rather, it is very important to keep the thread of awareness intact, and choose rebirth consciously. But I digress....
The wake induced lucid dream can be a challenging method to learn for some so some technical support might be needed. This is why I offer this tech from the dream yoga traditions. This is the "dream lotus." It uses visualization to pass straight into sleep and dreaming without losing awareness so it also is a method of "Visualization Induced Lucid Dreaming (VILD)"
Tarthang Tulku tells us:
"In dreams we can do the impossible - we can transform our bodies, use telepathy, even fly. Our dream state is like plumbing the depth of the ocean, while our waking state is like sailing on the surface of the sea. Because dreams are not developed consciously, but pop up spontaneously, they bypass the filters present in our waking consciousness. Our dreams can lead us to a knowledge unreachable in our waking state.
"However, it is not always easy to work with the dream state, for we still must use our ordinary concepts to make contact with our dream experiences. There are ways, however, to attune ourselves to the density and rhythm of the dream pattern, and thus to tap this source of knowledge. One of these is to practice certain visualizations just before going to sleep.
"To encourage this type of visualization, it is best to create the right feeling-tone by deeply relaxing just before sleep. In particular, relax your head and eyes, your neck muscles and back, and finally relax your whole body. Let go of all tension, and, clearing your mind as much as possible, simply lie there and breathe very slowly and softly. Let your mind and body feel the light and soothing quality of relaxation.
"Next, lead the mind in the gentle way you might lead a small child. The mind loves feelings very much, so settle it down with warm, joyful, calm feelings. The mind will stop jumping about; your worries and concepts will slip away, and you will be able to deeply relax. Now you can visualize effectively.
"When you are feeling very calm and peaceful, visualize a beautiful, soft lotus flower in your throat. The lotus has light-pink petals which curl slightly inwards, and in the center of this lotus there is a luminous red-orange flame which is light at the edges shading to darker at the center. Looking very softly, concentrate on the top of the flame, and continue to visualize it as long as possible.
"This flame represents awareness, which has the same luminous quality as the energy in dreams. The experiences of our dream life and our wakeful state have different characteristics. But since their makeup is essentially the same, the awareness of one state can pass unhindered into the other.
"Continue to hold the image of the lotus and the flame. As you do so, watch how thoughts arise, and how the visual image of the lotus intertwines with them. Observe how these thoughts and images reflect their past and present associations and their future projections. Watch this process, but continue to concentrate on the lotus, so that your visualization stays clear.
"Other images may keep coming into your mind, and you may feel that you cannot keep your mind free from thoughts even for one minute. Do not worry about them, just observe whatever appears. Even though other images and thoughts arise in the mind, as long as the thread of the visualization remains intact, it will carry over into the dream. However, trying to interpret or
`think about' your visualization will break this thread. A gap between the waking and dreaming state is created, and your visualization and your awareness will be lost. Your awareness will be lost in the dream. So, be careful not to force your visualization; just let it happen, but keep your concentration on the lotus.
Let the form reflect into your awareness until your awareness and the image become one. There will then be no room for thought - this is full contemplation. When concentration is complete, subject, consciousness, object, images, all become one.
"At first when you pass into the dream state and images arise, you may not remember where they came from. Your awareness, however, will naturally develop until you will be able to see that you are dreaming. When you watch very carefully, you will be able to see the whole creation and evolution of the dream. The dream images, which at first are fuzzy and diffused, will become clear and encompassing.
"This clear awareness is like having a special organ of consciousness which can enable us to see from the dream to the waking state. Through this practice, we can see another dimension of experience, and have access to another way of knowing how experience arises. This is important, for when we know this, we can shape our lives. The images which emerge from dream awareness will intensify our waking awareness, allowing us to see more of the nature of existence.
"With continuing practice, we see less and less difference between the waking and the dream state. Our experiences in waking life become more vivid and varied, the result of a lighter and more refined awareness. We are no longer bound by conventional conceptions of time, space, forth, and energy. Within this vaster perspective we may also find that the so-called supernatural feats and legends of the great yogis and masters are not myths or miracles. When the consciousness unites the various poles of experience and moves beyond the limits of conventional thought, psychic powers or abilities are actually natural.
"This kind of awareness, based on dream practice, can help create an inner balance. Awareness nourishes the mind in a way that nurtures the whole living organism. Awareness illumines previously unseen facets of the mind, and lights the way for us to explore ever-new dimensions of reality."
~ Tarthang Tulku
from his book 'Openness Mind'
Likewise, the Vajra Guru himself, Padmasambhava, passes along these instructions for our benefit:
"If you still find it difficult to apprehend the dream-state, visualize at your throat a [Red] four-petaled lotus with OM in its center, AH in front, NU on the right, TA in the back, and RA on the left. First direct your interest to the OM in the center; then when you become sleepily dazed, focus your awareness on the AH in the front. As you are falling asleep, attend to the NU on the right. When you are more soundly asleep, focus on the TA in the back. When you have fallen fast asleep, focus on the RA on the left. While sleeping, focus your interest on OM, and with the anticipation of dreaming, without being interrupted by other thoughts, apprehend the dream-state with your sleeping awareness."
From the book "Natural Liberation, Padmasambhava's teachings on the six bardos" Commentary by Gyatrul Rinpoche, Translated by Alan Wallace