Perhaps you want to know how to lucid dream because you’re interested in experimenting with alternate reality. On the other hand maybe you have recurring nightmares or dreams where you feel as though you are helpless in the face of sinister forces or events and you want to take control.
“I think we dream so we don’t have to be apart so long.
If we’re in each other’s dreams, we can play together all night.”
–Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes
A lucid dream is different from a vivid dream because the dreamer is in full control of the experience of dreaming. In a lucid dream the dreamer not only realises that he or she is dreaming, but makes a conscious decision to change the course of events in the dream itself. Whatever your reason for wanting to learn how to lucid dream, there are many methods available to help you in your quest. Few people have the ability to lucid dream at will. For most learning how to lucid dream is a skill that takes time and effort to develop.
Chuang Tzu told a story of a time when he dreamed he was a butterfly. In the dream he had no awareness of his existence as a human being. He was only a butterfly.
When he awoke he wondered, “Was I a man who dreamed he was a butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams he is a man?”
Have you ever gone about your daily business and had some small event trigger complete recall of a dream you had the previous evening? Or perhaps you’ve woken from a dream in the middle of the night and been unable to recollect what it was you were dreaming about. If you’re like most people, the chances are that this has happened to you on more than one occasion.
Recalling our dreams is not something that comes naturally to most people. Lucid dreaming will occur when you are consciously aware that you are dreaming. If you’re going to be able to differentiate between “reality” (the man) and “dream” (the butterfly) it is important to first be able to recall your dreams.
Not to mention that if you can’t recall your dreams you won’t remember actually having had a lucid dream when it happens!
Here’s some tips to help you with dream recall:
- Keep a dream journal beside your bed. Write down any dreams that you have immediately as you wake from them. Don’t worry if you can only remember a few fragments, just jot down whatever you can recall. The longer you leave this, the less you will be able to recall so it is important to get into the habit of writing in the journal as soon as you are aware that you have had a dream.
- Focus on dream recall as you go to sleep. As you are getting ready to go to sleep, focus your mind on recalling your dreams. It may help to prepare an incantation or an affirmation beforehand that you will repeat to yourself as you fall asleep. Tell yourself that you are going to recall your dreams and record them in your journal. If you find yourself waking during the night, repeat the process.
- Focus on dream recall as you wake. When you wake up you’ll probably find that your mind begins to race at a hundred miles an hour, preparing you for the day. As you wake in the morning make it a habit to focus on recalling any dreams you have had the night before.
Remember – the more dreams you can recall, the more familiar you will become with how your dreams work: common themes, imagery, locations sights and sounds are all things that will help you differentiate dream from reality.
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
— Albert Einstein
Reality testing is just what it sounds like. Take a look around you and ask youself: “Am I dreaming?”. We could debate what exactly reality and consciousness are for hours on end, however I think most people have an intrinsic understanding of the concept.
Get into the habit of regularly stopping and assessing whether or not you are dreaming. Here’s some thing to watch out for:
- Written words: Unless a particular sign or piece of text is relevant to a dream, any written text you encounter in a deam state is likely to change as you look away and back again. Take notice of signs, newspaper headlines, bumper stickers – anything that jumps out at you throughout your day. Once they’ve grabbed your attention for a moment, look away and then redirect your focus to them. Notice any differences.
- Unusual physics: Are you able to hover above the ground, or perhaps fly? Can you teleport from one place to another? For many people one of their goals in lucid dreaming is to be able to accomplish things that are physically impossible in their waking lives. Don’t worry about whether or not you know how to actually fly, just see whether or not you can.
- Look at your watch: (You are wearing one, right?). Pay close attention to the time – can you make out the numbers? Do they change as you look away and back again? If you are wearing an analogue watch, do the hands elongate as you look at them, or do they perhaps move irregularly? Does the time on your watch match the level of light and surroundings in your environment? Is it bright daylight at 1am?
- Does it make sense? Is there anything that seems out of place in your surroundings? Dreams by their nature distort reality. If your current environment was totally a construction of your own mind, would it look like it does right now? (How would you know?)
Once you have got into the habit of peforming regular checks, you will be better equipped to notice any dreams you may find yourself in. You may feel a little foolish at first as you see whether or not you can fly while you’re waiting in the line at the grocery store, but remember it’s the process which is important – directing your conscious mind to be aware of a dream state.
Some people find it useful to have a series of triggers that they can use that will cause them to perform a quick “reality check”. Quite often in daily life we are in a trance-like state. For example – driving a car or walking down the street. Having a trigger to remind ourselves to stop and refocus ourselves on our environment is a skill that can be very useful when trying to notice whether or not we are dreaming.
For this to work effectively it helps if the triggers are:
- Unique: Something that only happens in a given set of circumstances, in a specific place or at a specific time.
- Regularly occuring: Happening more than 3 or 4 times each day.
- Meaningful: Something that triggers a memory or reminder of something.
- Visceral: Something that triggers an intense emotion is more likely to be useful as a trigger to interrupt your regular thought process.
Some examples of triggers that people have reported using include:
- Looking in the mirror
- Opening a door
- Seeing a particular symbol – a company logo, tattoo or street sign.
Another use of triggers is to notice commonly occuring themes that you have encountered when filling out your dream journal. For example, you may find that certain people, places or things regularly occur in your dreams.
You may for example see a red car, or hear a particular song. If that happens you may choose to be on the lookout for those particular triggers in your waking life and using them as a trigger to perform your reality checks.
Once you’ve practiced these techniques, you should be well on your way to your first lucid dream. Good luck! If you’d like to accelerate the process, click here.