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.