Thursday, 15 February 2018

Lucid Dreams – How to Experience the Ultimate Virtual Reality

Lucid Dreams – How to Experience the Ultimate Virtual Reality

By Casey Douglass

The other day I realised that the subject of lucid dreaming is something that I’ve not written about for almost two decades. When I was at high school, and later college, it was something I was truly fascinated by, but not really having any kind of platform to write on back then, those scribblings have likely been lost to the winds of time.

Here is a lucid dream related how-to post, drawing on techniques and tips that I can remember as being useful in helping me experience the lucid dream state. Others will likely have different techniques, but as with many things, it’s a matter of finding what works for you. If these techniques don’t produce results, a quick web search will likely bring up many more for you to try.

First a warning though. Anyone that has trouble with differentiating reality from non-reality, maybe due to mental illness for example, would probably be wise to not venture too far into the idea of lucid dreaming. Only you can decide if it’s right or wise for you to try, but it can be pretty head bending at times.

If you do decide to push ahead, you will find a wonderful, quirky world inside your sleeping mind, one in which you can be a superhero, a supervillain, or anything that you can conceive of. You own imagination is literally the limit. Without further ado, let’s get started.

What is a lucid dream?

A lucid dream is a dream in which the dreamer knows that they are dreaming. A bit like Neo knowing that he is in The Matrix. It’s a moment of realisation that often comes with a “Holy shit I’m dreaming!” excitement, only for said excitement to wake you up and leave you feeling annoyed, like someone who’s just been locked out of paradise. There are ways to get around that however, but I'll get to those later.

What is a lucid dream like?

Knowing that you are dreaming is a pretty intoxicating feeling, marvelling that your mind has created this whole seemingly real world for you to play in. I once wasted an entire lucid dream running my fingers over a leaf on a tree, and I’m not even a hippy-type guy. The “realness” just felt so uncanny, my mind kind of got lost in the novelty. I would add that it was only a 30 second or so dream, I didn’t spend ages doing it. I’m not weird. Honest.

Lucid dreams are like the ultimate VR, one which has a very low financial cost to enter, but that takes its payment in the form of the effort and patience in trying to get inside. Some will likely experience lucid dreams without trying, but others might go their whole lives and not really experience a single one. I remember a good friend at high-school who could never remember having had one. He was ecstatic when he came in one day beaming that it had finally happened! It’s one thing to know something is possible, it’s another to know it because you’ve experienced it!

How do you trigger a lucid dream?

In the years that I’ve been reading and studying the subject, a wide variety of methods have emerged. I will describe just two for now, two of the most straightforward, and to me, the two most successful.

Keep a dream journal

If you are going to be doing anything with dreams, it is very worthwhile to note them down upon awakening, whatever the time of day or night. Even if it’s just a few keywords, getting something down on paper creates an anchor that can unlock other memories when you mull it over at a later time.

Keeping a dream journal with any kind of regularity will boost your dream recall. Those initial handfuls of keywords upon starting will soon expand to fill pages in your notebook. You are basically signalling to your mind that you are interested in these things, and so it puts more effort into remembering them. As a handy side-effect, just keeping a dream journal often seems to cause a higher occurrence of lucid dreams in and of itself, maybe due to said heightened interest, so it’s a win-win.

Test your reality

The second method for having a lucid dream is to periodically check or test the environment around you as you go about your day. The dream world is strange at the best of times, and even in seemingly hum-drum dreams, our usual mindset of blank acceptance makes everything seem normal. How many times have you seen things in dreams that in waking life would have left you incredulous? It is in their strangeness however, that dreams offer up the key to picking up on the fact that you are dreaming.

There are a number of clues that you can look for to see if you are dreaming. I mean, after all, how do you know you aren’t dreaming now? It’s possible. This is where keeping a dream journal comes in handy, as you can pick up on the behaviour of your own personal dream world and note down its tricksy ways.

Firstly, settle on a trigger that will prompt you to do your reality check. Maybe whenever you check the time? Every time you open a door? It could be anything really, as long as it happens quite frequently during your day. It will also help if it’s something that you know you do in your dreams too. The idea is that you will perform your trigger enough that the habit will carry over into your dreams. Personally, I like the time checking one, as it kind of comes with its own built-in reality check.

Writing and numbers tend to change in dreams. They certainly do in mine. If I read something, even a simple sign, turn away, and then turn back, there will be some kind of change if I am dreaming. The same goes with digital clocks. This makes reality testing when I look at the time a big no-brainer. I simply see my clock, remember the reality check, and then look away and appraise my environment for any weirdness that doesn’t make sense. Then I look back at the time to see if it has changed beyond the few seconds it should have. If it has, there is a strong chance that I am dreaming. If it hasn’t, chances are that I’m not. I should also add that if the time has changed in a strange way, one more look at what is going on around me will usually give a blatant clue that I am dreaming, such as seeing someone who I know to be dead, walking and laughing across the street. The checking sometimes makes the weirdness come out of the woodwork, so to speak.

I should probably add that it’s important to do more than one reality test if you suspect that you are dreaming. I tend to try to levitate on the spot as if that works, it’s game time, and it’s something I’ve yet to achieve in waking life. Another test is trying to remember my day or night up until that point, as dreams often have a pretty broken narrative. Can I remember getting here? What did I do before that? and that, and that etc. If I’m at a loss, it’s another sign that I am likely dreaming.

Another great exercise that aids in this narrative-based test is, before going to sleep at night, try to remember your day, but backwards, as far as you can. So, starting from the act of getting into bed, and then getting ready for bed, having that biscuit, watching Netflix... until you get all of the way back to the morning and when you first woke up. It doesn’t matter how far back you can actually remember, but the act of trying will see you get better and better. This will help a great deal with the “narrative” questioning reality test, and also help your memory in general, even helping you remember your dreams more easily. A virtuous circle if ever I saw one.

Be sensible with your tests. No trying to see if you can fly by jumping off something dangerous, or assuming you’re dreaming and going on some kind of bender. You need to use your common sense and with practice, you’ll soon know with more certainty. The first time you think you are dreaming, a good bet is to just go along with the dream but doing so while trying to hold onto your knowledge of the fact. It’s quite easy to forget you are dreaming again. If you can hold onto the notion, you’ll remember things more easily, and you can explore your mental landscape in a more considered way.

I think that about wraps up this first post on lucid dreaming. You have a few techniques and tips above that will, over time, help you to experience a lucid dream, but persistence and patience is what is needed. My aforementioned high-school friend tried for months before it happened. It might happen on the first night for you. Who knows.

If this article does well, I will write more. The next ones will feature ways to prolong the dream state, techniques to manifest the things in your dreams that you like (maybe that celeb you’d like to do naughty things with), and other fun things you might like to try, such as causing false awakenings and going recursively deeper into the dream state.

Thank you for reading, and if you’d like to chat more about lucid dreams, leave a comment or send me a message on social media.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Ice Daggers as Anxiety Cure

Ice Daggers as Anxiety Cure
(or “shiver me timbers it’s fucking cold out!”)

By Casey Douglass

My heart was doing the thing it does when I start to get anxious and stressed. Often, I can sit with it and mindfully watch it settle again, but yesterday it felt like it was growing into something approaching a “state”. I found myself checking something inconsequential on my phone over and over and realised I needed to break that state. Lacking the patience to sit with it, I swiftly decided to go for a short walk in the biting wind. I pondered how well to wrap up against the elements but, maverick that I am, purposefully left my gloves off. I did this even hearing dad moaning about how cold it was when he came in earlier, rubbing his hands and eager to get them around a cup of coffee. I decided that I was going to focus on the cold in my hands as a pattern breaker. I know, hardcore doesn’t come close to describing me.

The wind hit me like a punch in the face, but the sunlight kissed it better again. Leaves flew as birds hunkered down in the bushes, an ironic exchanging of position. My hands felt the paradoxically hot-feeling bite of the cold, my fingers bending slightly as if trying to curl into the digit approximation of the foetal position. I’m not sure what my balls were doing, but I’d imagine if they had been exposed, I would have needed a search party to find them again once they’d retreated. While I didn’t solely focus on my hands, there were just some parts of my body that I overlooked. Maybe next time...

I paid mindful attention to the sensation of cold, the way it throbbed and ached in my hands, shivers racking my body, my teeth chattering and my torso tingling with pins and needles. I knew that it wouldn’t take long for the carbon dioxide of muscle use to build up and heat me from the inside, but my god it felt like ages. The sunlight was a milky yellow, the orb hanging low in the sky like a pervert trying to look up a short skirt. It was warming, but there were plenty of shadows to scupper its view. I found myself anticipating each strip of glowing luke-warmth as it splayed across my path. I tried to take a more accepting stance by paying attention to my attachment to the warmth, and my aversion to the cold bleak darkness of the shadows; it was as interesting as it was painful.

It wasn’t a long walk, but by the time I had heated up a little and arrived back home, that pattern or mode switch that I was half-hoping for seemed to have happened. I was dog tired though, which brings about other problems, a higher propensity for anxiety not the least of them. Much like my occasional walk, you nearly always come back to where you started when you try to get away from things, or even change them a little. That being said, I quite enjoyed having my mind on sensations that weren’t linked to stress and anxiety for awhile, and I even managed to turn it into something to write about on a day where I am struggling again. It seems to be the walk that just keeps on giving.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Dark Music Review – The Infinity Coordinates

Dark Music Review – The Infinity Coordinates

Review Written By Casey Douglass

The Infinity Coordinates

Pavel Malyshkin ( Ugasanie ) presents us with his dark space project Silent Universe. Explore the anomalies that lurk in the infinite dark. Listen to magnetic readings of dark space as you probe the unexplored. This album brings dark rumbling sounds in the raw isolated style that is Pavel's expertise. Recommended for fans of space ambient.

There’s something seductive about the harsh, empty vastness of space. One of my favourite meditative practices is to imagine myself resting on some kind of spacecraft as it journeys from one galaxy to the next, the light of a million stars glinting on its hull. When a dark ambient album comes along that fits that theme, I take to my bed and indulge those images with eyes closed and blanket warm. The Infinity Coordinates is the latest that has accompanied me, and it did its job wonderfully.

The soundscapes created are smooth and expansive, the tempo fitting the shape of a universe in no hurry to provide entertainment for a puny human on an intergalactic jaunt. That being said, there are quirks and interesting events that you almost feel lucky to have witnessed, rather than them being orchestrated just for you. One example is opening track Spiral Space, a composition that creates a soundscape of flaring sounds; a shimmering environment in which you wouldn't be surprised to meet your own self coming towards you from the other direction. Things seem to move on later in the track, giving the listener the feeling of being left behind, much like seeing a jump-ship speed away from the vantage point of a desolate moon.

The idea of desolation brings me onto another track that I wanted to mention by name: Emptiness of Other Worlds. The deep drone and what appear to be robotic sobs meld with the other sounds to create the impression of a space traveller finding a deserted city on some backwater planet, but one that is millions of years unoccupied. The music gave me the impression of harsh shadows picking out the remains of architecture as the nearby star casts its rays over the lifeless dust. A melancholy soundscape but one well worth spending time inside.

Pulsar is another great track, one that builds into an electromagnetic soundscape that tunes the listener into the sounds of a pulsar. Other elements in this track create a pulsing momentum, and I half got the impression of the beam of the star, when it came my way, resembling a giant eye staring at me. And no, I’ve not just watched too much Lord of the Rings.

The Infinity Coordinates is a very fine album, one that leads the listener through a space that, at times, seems impartial, and at others, seems to be half aware of being visited, even if millions of years too late. If you enjoy the setting of space, The Infinity Coordinates is an album to pick up when you can.

Visit the The Infinity Coordinates page on Bandcamp here for more information, and be sure to check out Pulsar below:

I was given a free copy of this album to review.

Album Title: The Infinity Coordinates
Artists: Silent Universe
Label: Cryo Chamber
Released: Dec 26, 2017

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

On American Truck Simulator & Death: Who Wants to Live Forever?

Another installment of my Connection Lost series is now up on New Normative, called: On American Truck Simulator & Death: Who Wants to Live Forever? This time, I ponder how games that don't really feature death make me feel, and how the prospect of living forever can be just as scary as dying. Click here to read the full thing.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Dark Fiction - Burrow


By Casey Douglass

International Space Station Log Entry #82256 : 27-12-17:

This is Commander Mills, one year into what should have been a six month stint on the I.S.S. I am writing this so that there is some record of what has happened, in case there is no-one left to tell the tale. I will be ejecting the log cluster before the station’s orbit degrades enough to drag it down with us. Hopefully the cluster will stay in orbit indefinitely for future generations to find, if there are any that is. With this in mind, I will give a brief recap of events.

A nuclear power station in Asia went into meltdown eight months ago. As it was later discovered, this power station was particularly near a fault in the Earth’s crust. Once the radiation levels spiked sufficiently to penetrate this area, Burrowing Syndrome began to manifest in the human population nearby. This then gradually spread until it was global, a pandemic that brought about the downfall of humanity.

Someone afflicted with Burrowing Syndrome would, without a moment’s hesitation, drop to their knees and begin to claw at the ground. It didn’t matter what type of ground or surface, when it struck someone, they fell to their knees and began to dig. People in cities and towns fared the worst, scraping at the ground until finger nails broke, fingers cracked and flesh began to be grated away by the friction. Early victims were restrained for their own good, but as the outbreak hit critical mass, there was nothing that could be done. The souls who were lucky enough to find themselves on soil or soft ground would dig and dig until they burrowed out of site, reacting violently if anyone tried to drag them from their hole. It took only a few weeks for the world below to fall silent, leaving us adrift and staring open-mouthed at the blue planet in our view ports.

We watched on from up here waiting for fresh news, monitoring ourselves for the syndrome in case someone got it into their head to puncture the station in some misguided frenzy to get out. I am happy to report that all crew seemed to be unaffected by the condition, which was about the only good thing we held onto as we rationed ourselves and floated around in a state of zombie-like starvation. Marlow died just over a month ago, his body seeming to shut down due to malnutrition. I thought we were all going to slowly follow suit, until the quiet planet below started to broadcast again.

We were orbiting above the Himalayas when the weak signal reached us. It was fuzzy and racked with interference, but we were able to clean things up. It was them, the people who had burrowed. We weren’t sure whether to believe them or not but they were people, which was enough for us at the time. They explained that they had been drawn to an inner zone of the planet, some oasis of advanced technology, the biome from which humanity literally sprouted. They sent us co-ordinates and invited us to join them. They chose a landing spot that the station would pass over, the ground there soft and easy to push through. Yes, apparently when we are nearer the surface, we will be afflicted with B.S too. Ha! B.S! It sounds it doesn’t it. They told us to keep our spacesuits on as it would stop us suffocating in the ground, a fate that apparently claimed 95% of all those who did burrow into softer stuff. We tried to ask questions, such as what had caused all of this, but beyond confirmation that the nuclear meltdown triggered it, they would say little else. Apparently they were using the mountain range below as a giant antenna, and we would be leaving it’s range in mere minutes. It sounds incredibly fanciful but what else could we do but take the chance.

Here we are, out of options. The station is decaying as much as the crew. We took the decision to degrade its orbit, using the one capsule we have to try to achieve the landing area our ‘friends’ below have chosen. I’ve never been more scared in my life, but I’d rather die doing something than waste away floating in a tin can so close to home. The I.S.S just shuddered so I am guessing we are beginning to hit the atmosphere. I need to get this finished and ejected. If you read this, whoever you are, I hope history will show what happened to us, and if it all ends now, in this way, who’d have seen that coming!

Commander Mills. Crew Number #15-653


Thursday, 21 December 2017

Metal Bands That Have Done It For Me This Year

Although this year has been full of big metal releases, I can't say that many have actually stuck with me. I find myself returning to albums a few years old rather than the newer stuff, although there have been some exceptions. Zeal & Ardor's Devil is Fine probably sticks in my mind the most as it really is a fusion of musical genres that you'd never imagine putting together, that of chain-gang spirituals and Norwegian black metal. I did review it here if you fancy a more in-depth read. Below are some embedded YouTube vids of the bands that are on my permanent rotation.

Oh, and being metal vids, there is probably gore/self-harm, nudity, the usual stuff, so if you don't like seeing that kind of thing, best not watch them.

Zeal & Ardor



The Cumshots

The lyrics and music of this band probably best express my feelings 90% of the time. I'd love to see them live one day.

Ghost B.C


I'm wracking my brain for more but I keep coming up empty. I couldn't get into Mastodon's new album, which is a shame as I loved Once More 'Round The Sun. I've also not been able to get connected to other new albums this year, for whatever reason. Not a very musical year for me, in any genre particularly. It's probably just something with me that is different at the moment. Oh well. Happy holidays/ Merry New Year.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Urban Sounds and Skies of Autumnal Norwich

I made a few short clips when in Norwich a few months ago, as it was such a pleasant day. Here are the best ones, merged together and slung on to the YouTube.