I’m sure many of you have heard of learning through osmosis: listening to a tape of material related to your desired skill, even sometimes while asleep, to intake and retain information about the topic. It’s been sworn upon by language-learning gurus around the world–and I’ve even dabbled in it myself (it’s certainly more productive than listening to white noise)–the method of using your free time to learn while putting in relatively little effort. The theory is generally that your subconscious takes in the information even if your conscious mind isn’t paying attention, and this is the concept behind learning while asleep: the fact that your subconscious is active while your conscious mind is shut down. In theory, you could learn endlessly in your sleep.

There are flaws in that theory, but that’s not what I’ve come to talk about today.

I’ve come to talk about learning or cultivating skills in your sleep through dream activity.

Let’s use drawing for our example skill. It takes knowledge as well as practice to master, and the amount of time spent practicing is generally partially proportionate to the level of skill.

Say you go to sleep one night, dream, and become lucid. In theory, you could practice drawing until you woke up. Whether you would retain the information your mind gathered by practicing in that dream could be debated, especially given how little of dreams is actually remembered upon waking, but it’s an interesting proposition.

And for an artist, and invaluable one. Imagine having several more hours each day to practice drawing or painting whatever you wish. For a busy artist with little time in his waking life, this could be an incredible opportunity. It could even double the amount of time the artist actually gets to practice his practical skill, depending on the case.

Now think about applying that to any other skill in your life–math, a language, reading, sports… and imagine the experience you can add to your life by adding intention to your dreams.

I actually experienced this phenomenon last night in a dream where I was instructed to speed-paint. While there is an amount of breathing room to be had in any dream circumstance, where logic may be thrown to the curb, in this instance the movement of the brush and the finished product were quite realistic. I would even go as far as to count it as my first experience with painting portraits.

Think about how you can apply this concept to your life and your dreams. Leave a comment telling me what you plan to do to become more adept in skills you consider most important.

For the past few months, I’ve been partaking in something I’ve come to call “The Dream Challenge.”

The background behind this is basically the curiosity of a friend and I regarding just how powerful conscious intent is in creating and affecting dreamscapes. We decided one night that we would pick something, an object or a topic, to dream about for the night, and keep track of who would have a dream including the topic first, at which point we would come up with a new topic.

This has trained me to the extent that I actually consciously ask myself in dreams “What was the dream challenge tonight?” Sometimes this brings me toward lucidity, sometimes lucidity precedes it, either way I become lucid. And though sometimes I get excited and distracted, I usually have the power to complete the dream challenge once I become lucid.

Sometimes the challenge is completed unconsciously; this typically happens the-night-of, when there is the most hype regarding the topic. The seeminly increased probability that I will dream about a given thing on a given night I don’t believe to be chance. It’s likely because each time I start a new dream challenge, I give my unconscious the instructions for my dreams for the night. Whether consciously or not, the content we intake during the day affects our dream output.

And thus, I have increased the purpose to each night of sleep I indulge in. I implore you to try and do this yourself. For one night, choose something to see or experience in your dreams. Keep track of it, surround yourself with it, leave a conscious intent to dream about that thing. Record your results each time you succeed, and form a new goal. See if this leads to any changes in dreaming patterns. You might be surprised what you come up with.

I should probably stop using words like “implore” when I’m trying to persuade people.

I’ll make it a point.