Lucid dreaming and the butterfly effect

April 8, 2008

I’ve visited the question of the butterfly dream before on this blog. It’s relevance to lucid dreaming has until now been largely left as an exercise for the reader.

Today we’re going to revisit it briefly because there is another important aspect to the question posed by Chuang Tzu:


Paraphrased, the question put by the Chinese philosopher is this: “If I dream that I am a butterfly, how can I be sure which “me” (man or butterfly) exists in reality, and which one is merely a dream?”

Without delving too deeply into the question of what “reality” actually is, let’s take a look at the central theme as it relates to you learning how to lucid dream.

lucid dreaming - butterfly girl


Learning how to lucid dream often introduces people to dream journaling and reality checks. I’ve spoken about this before.

The point is simply this, although it may take a while to sink in:

Whether you’re the man or the butterfly, your reality is whatever you’re paying attention to.

The reason people fail to have a lucid dream despite their best efforts probably has something to do with what they pay attention to most of the time.

Think about it. Right now are you really paying attention or are you just skimming over the text on this page. Did you even make it this far? Does your mind jump from one thing to the next?


Most people unfortunately lack the mental discipline to make lucid dreaming work for them. Unless you can direct your consciousness to pay attention it won’t matter if you’re a man or a butterfly. You’ll be so caught up in your internal dialogue and following your mind as it wanders that you’ll miss the lucid dreaming forest for the metaphorical trees.

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False awakenings, positive lucid dreams

February 7, 2008
lucid dreams - false awakenings

“…so there i was, eating my breakfast as normal, going through my usual morning routine, when the alarm went off, and I found myself back in my bed again. It was… disorienting to say the least…”

This is a typical account of what’s known as a “false awakening”. A person believing themselves to be awake discovers either from visual cues inside the dream or external stimuli that they are still dreaming. In the world of lucid dreaming, the false awakening phenomenon is one of the more interesting. In some cases, false awakenings can be recursive – in other words the dreamer can “awaken” from a false awakening into another dream!

It could be argued that a false awakening is the ultimate lucid dream because the level of consciousness inside the dream is indistinguishable from reality. On the other hand, false awakenings could be considered to be the polar opposite of a lucid dream because there is consciousness without awareness.

So what good are false awakenings? If you’re learning how to lucid dream, a false awakening can be a sign that your unconscious mind is starting to pay attention to your desire to have lucid dreams. They are also a timely reminder of the value of reality checks.

If nothing else, next time you find yourself waking up going through your morning routine, check carefully. If you’re learning how to lucid dream make sure that the world looks and functions like it should.

This will help you, too.

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