They say that there are stages to lucid dreaming. Like anything worthwhile, lucid dreaming must come as a result of training and mental preparation.
God help me. This is going to involve effort.
Step One: Research
Why does everything boil down to research? Is it because the world is now, literally, at our fingertips, or have we just made an intimidating name for something that should sound much more fun? Maybe we should call research “Internet adventure time” instead. That is the implication of a search engine, after all.
Lucid dreams have been around long before the fancy modern name. You can see it in the biblical story of Jacob and the Ladder and as a part of Asian philosophy (they have a yoga devoted to it). Long before it had any sort of scientific credibility, people were controlling their dream experiences. People probably thought it was witchcraft at some point… I assume several people were executed in connection with it.
The concept of lucid dreaming is pretty cool. You go to sleep in your bed, and you wake up inside a dream. That could be a beach, your living room or a shuttle station on a space colony. Once you are lucid inside the dream, you can control what happens to you in your environment. If you want to practice violin, rosin that bow! Artists, get out that easel and get to work! Golfers, work on your swing!
Plans C, A, D and B
Basically, I have several options to induce lucid dreams. I can meditate myself into a lucid dream state, which I thought would take more concentration than an entire semester’s worth of meditation condensed. This option is set aside as Plan C.
Or, I could go with Plan A. I will learn to trigger a “wake up” moment in my dreams. The “wake up” moment is when you realize that something is wrong with the dream around you. I make a comparison here with the “ah ha!” moment, which is more akin to discovering the word that defeats writers’ block or understanding a mathematical concept after an intense three-hour study session.
There are some contradictions between dreams and reality, so the best way to trigger a “wake up” moment is to practice them and constantly ask yourself “Am I Awake?”. Here are some daily reality checks:
- Look in the mirror. Are you blurry, lumpy, grainy, fuzzy or otherwise distorted? If so, you either need to clear your eye boogers or wake up. Right now!
- Check your watch, note time, check your watch again. Did the time jump forward by an absurd increment? We all know that time ebbs and flows in dreams, so unless you’re a stoner or have narcolepsy, time in real life should be constant. I’m not talking “let’s check the atomic clock” or suggesting we learn theories of relativity; just look at the wall clock.
- Can you hold your breath and still breathe? In real life, no. But you can induce a nosebleed. Be careful.
- Read a book. No, seriously. Read words, look away and then read them again. If they’ve changed or become jumbled you’re dreaming. Dyslexics need not apply.
- Make sure you have all ten digits. In dreams you often lose or gain fingers and toes on a whim. Disgusting, especially if you hate toes.
- Jump around! I’m not going to try this one because nothing except helicopters, bugs and robots fly in my dreams. The idea of human flight is just silly. Who am I, Icarus?
- Pinch yourself. No, not really. This doesn’t actually work, but it’s a common rumor. Besides, why would you want to pinch yourself when everyone knows the intense physical sensations that can accompany dreams? I’m calling shenanigans on this one.
- Does the lighting change when you turn on the lights? No? Oh buddy, you’re screwed.
There are other methods, of course. I could “wake back to bed,” which requires setting my alarm clock for 4 – 7 hours after falling asleep. When I supposedly wake up (because I would never just shut off my alarm), I need to spend a full hour thinking, meditating and researching lucidity. Then, I go back to sleep. If possible, I’d make this my Plan D simply because it requires me to get up at 3 a.m. and think.
I could keep a dream journal and write down everything I remember as soon as I wake up. This will help me remember odd scenarios, make my dreams more vivid and make me more likely to call out any dream antics the next night. I would call this my Plan B except I already do this. It’s called Twitter, folks.