Unwinding the Dream Stack

I started practicing lucid dreaming several days ago and wrote a few blog posts about my experiences, thoughts, and suggestions for other beginner oneironauts. I managed to remember and record my dreams, but I wasn’t successful in achieving lucidity for the first week. But soon after my last post, I had a short lucid dream.

My experience was as follows. I woke up at 6:00 AM and went back to sleep. Every time I woke up, I would review my last dream. I then imagined I was having that dream, but imagined I knew I was dreaming. I did this until I fell asleep. I was essentially practicing MILD. After three or four times trying this, I eventually found myself lucid at the beginning of a dream. I was so excited since it has been years since I last had a lucid dream. My past experiences taught me strong emotions could abruptly end lucidity, so I tried to stay calm and casually explore this world my mind had conjured up. I did this for a quarter minute until I lost lucidity and woke up. I was happy I finally succeeded, so I turned over and told my girlfriend. She didn’t share my excitement and appeared quite apathetic. She went back to sleep left me half-sitting gawking in disbelief. Then I woke up, again.

Unwinding the Dream Stack

Most people had this ‘dream in a dream’ experience at least once. You wake up, brush your teeth, start having breakfast, then wake up. Then you wake up again. This ‘waking up to another dream’ is known as a false awakening. The recursive dream stack continues to unwind until you finally find yourself in your waking life. All this silliness teaches us an important lesson: The very first thing you should do when you wake up is a reality check. This gives you the chance to seize the opportunity to have a lucid dream if you do have a false awakening.

Analyzing Lucid Dreams

In my other blog post I wrote about the importance of analyzing your dreams. But what about analyzing lucid dreams? How can you analyze something which you can control or at least partially control? This subject borders analyzing your non-lucid dreams (which makes sense) and analyzing your waking life (which makes less sense). This subject gets pretty interesting, especially if you decide to analyze your lucid dreams while they occur. Cooool.

So after my true awakening, I began to analyze my lucid dream. I found it a bit frightening once I realized what the themes and symbols likely mean. So, I’ll have to keep them between me and my unencrypted text files. The dream wasn’t long, which is typical to the beginning lucid dreamer. So practice, practice, practice until you get your second-long lucid dreams. Then practice, practice and practice until you can lengthen those lucid dreams.

Keep Dreaming


A Week of Lucidity: Night Seven (SW & HW)

It’s been seven days and thus concludes my week of lucidity. Not surprisingly, I didn’t have a lucid dream during these past few days. At least not one I recall, but I’m getting back in the habit of recording my dreams in my dream journal, doing autosuggestions as well as practicing other techniques. If I have any interesting discoveries or actual lucid dreams, I’ll probably blog about those. Otherwise this will be my last blog on this subject for a while since I’ll be busy with school.

Lucid Dreaming Software

In my other blog I mentioned some features I would like in a dream journal application. Organizing dreams in a digital form can be helpful to define symbols for later analysis as well as identify recurring ones to help achieve lucidity. I’ll start looking for a program which suits me. Once I decide on one, I’ll have to go through the boring task of typing out all the pages I had written by hand. Maybe I’ll start keeping my laptop near my bed so this won’t be necessary in the future.

Lucid Dreaming Hardware

I decided that in the event that I don’t achieve lucidity by the end of the month, I will start to design a lucid dreaming induction device. I already started brainstorming different possibilities such as an individual-based and room-based versions. A room-based version could solve the problem of comfort, since wearing something on you head at night will probably interfere with sleep. Having three devices synchronized (maybe one affixed to the ceiling?) to the same time could increase the chance of the foreign light entering your dream world, but this may be a problem if you have a spouse.

It would be a great learning experience and very fun to build such a lucid dreaming induction device. I would of course make the final diagram, notes, and plans publicly available and any software open source so anyone else can build one for themselves. Or at least take some of my ideas and merge them with other designs already available online.

Keep Dreaming

A Week of Lucidity: Night Six (Games)

The last few days I’ve been practicing lucid dreaming. This is something I practiced a few years ago and I wanted to get back to it. I haven’t had any success in becoming aware of my dream state this week, but I have made progress in recording my dreams, which is a key component of mastering the skill. You can check out my past few blogs here:

To try and attain lucidity, I have been recording my dreams in my dream journal, doing reality checks often and writing blogs. Blogging may seen like an odd way to practice, but anything which involves thinking about lucid dreaming can help. To further immerse myself, I decided to start re-reading Stephen LaBerge’s Lucid Dreaming book. This is a great introductory book on the subject. It explains the subject, the sleep cycle, some techniques and many other useful facts. The book mentions how dreams inspired and helped famous individuals in their work. For example, Robert Stevenson credits much of his work on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to his dreams. And it was Friedrich August Kekule who had a day-dream of an ouroboros, at which point he realized the chemical structure of benzene. There many other cases, but they aren’t that surprising. Sleep relaxes and helps us make interesting neural connections. Dreams present us with sensory imagery which we can interpret and use to create innovative ideas.

Lucid Game Design

While reading the list of famous stories credited to dreams, I remembered I read something similar in one of my Game Developer issues. It was an article about a DS original IP titled Scribblenauts. In the game, the user controls a cute avatar and provides it with objects to solve puzzles. Objects are created by writing down their proper names such as “pencil”, “book”, “bazooka”. Whatever the user writes is spawned in the game and reacts appropriately. Jeremiah Slaczka is the director and cofounder of 5th Cell, the developer of the game. How is this a related story? Well, the game started with a dream of course. Jeremiah was trapped in a room and was required to escape to the next room by using the objects at hand. He later played with the idea of rooms and words and came up with the concept. Again, this is only one case, I’m certain many other games have similar stories.

Games are an interactive, graphical and story-based media. They are therefore an excellent subject in which to import interesting concepts retained upon waking from dreams. But what if these dreams are lucid? The walls of creative content melt away. Imagine what a game designer and master oneironaut could create. They could place themselves in a world and feel what it would be like to actually be within their game. What ideas would work, what mechanics would be neat, what characters would be interesting to interact with. An extremely useful form of game prototyping!

Whether you’re a biochemical student trying to figure out an assignment or a marketing director looking for a fresh new idea, dreams are a source of great ideas and answers which you can tap into. Going lucid is the obvious next step where the possibilities are endless and benefits are only limited to your own imagination.

Keep Dreaming

A Week of Lucidity: Night Four

For the past few nights, I’ve been practicing lucid dreaming. I used to be an avid oneironaut and wanted to resume this hobby for week. Now it’s looking like I might continue even into my school semester. I haven’t had any success in the last few nights, but I’m making progress in my dream recall, a very important part of learning to control your dreams.

Many people I know say they don’t remember any of their dreams, which is unfortunate. And I can’t count the number of times I heard people say “I had these really cool dreams, but can’t remember the details”. In my other blog post I detailed some techniques to help improve dream recall. I mentioned keeping a dream journal close to your bed and writing down anything you can remember as soon as you wake up. If you don’t remember anything, write down any emotions you feel the moment upon waking. You can then extrapolate what you could have been dreaming about. Put some effort into it. After a few nights, you’ll start having some success. But if you can remember some vestige, you’ve in a good position to amalgamate the rest.

Working Backwards

One method I find which is helpful is working backwards. As soon as you wake up, ask yourself what you were just dreaming about. Once you remember, start figuring out how you got there and what was happening prior to those events. Then figure out what happened before that. Continue this until you have a substantial story. As you go backwards, write out the main details in point form. Once you have the main concepts down, it will be easier to fill in what was happening in between. In the end you’ll have some sort of er, cohesive story. This is what I did this morning and I managed to get one page (both sides!) filled up with three disparate stories. I’m pretty satisfied even though I haven’t reached lucidity yet.

To get a better understanding of the context of the dreams, note any obvious connections you can make to what had happened to you the day(s) before. If you were driving a red sports car in your dream and in waking life the day before you were starring and thinking about a red car, make a note. This becomes even more important months or even weeks after the dream, when you probably forgot about the car in the real world. Once you have your dreams written out, you might as well take a few minutes and analyze them. Brainstorm what they could mean or consult your dream book. Hmmm.

Your Personal Dream Dictionary

Well I said a few days ago dream dictionaries are an invalid resources since symbols are almost always personal. Since everyone is different, wouldn’t it make sense that dictionaries should exist on an individual basis? I believe they should. You could construct your own dictionary which would not only be valid, but a very valuable resource for analyzing future dreams. Of course this would be difficult without the aid of an application.


I considered using an application when I used to practice lucid dreaming a few years ago, but I was never fond of the idea of putting all these personal dreams online. I’m sure there are applications now that aren’t online. I’ll have to look into those. Thinking about it now, the most important features for me would be the following:

  • Must allow adding/updating dream entries with text and diagrams
  • Must allow highlighting text with different colors
  • Must allow adding details such as sleep start and end, along with any conditions (had a great sleep, couldn’t sleep at all)
  • Must allow adding/updating dream symbol definitions each with its own date
  • Must offer some form of security
  • Must allow generating statistics. (Does longer sleep equal more dreams?)
  • Must be free, because I’m still a student : )
  • Automatic dream connections (This dream has 20 words which match this other dream)

Unfortunately I can’t recommend anything since I’ve never used such an application. But I suspect my suggestions might not coincide with your needs. Maybe you need something that’s online because you do want to share your dreams. Browse the Web and find one suitable for you. The more write your dreams, the better you’ll get at dream recall and the better your chances will be of recalling your lucid dreams.

Keep Dreaming

A Week of Lucidity: Night Three

For the past few days I’ve been trying to get back to lucid dreaming.

I didn’t sleep too well last night, so my dream recall suffered quite a bit. I wrote down what I could in my journal, however little there was. The only thing I can do now is hope some of it will come back to me during the day. I’m staying optimistic, but this is the sort of thing that can be pretty demotivating. Failure after failure after failure.

Staying Motivated

Exercises in lucid dreaming are very much different than physical exercise. If you go to the gym everyday, you’ll start seeing or feeling results pretty quickly. On the other hand, there’s only so much you can do when trying to control you dreams. In the end you have to forfeit control of your body and hope for the best. Failure after failure can be pretty frustrating and demotivating. So how can you stay motivated? I found one method was to concentrate as much as you can on any successes rather than your failures. If you wrote down ten words in your journal, like I did this morning, focus on that. Hey, at least it’s something! Use whatever method that worked for you in other areas. But don’t give up. Well, maybe for just a bit.

Giving Up is Okay

Sometimes you try and try for months and get nowhere. In those cases it’s actually okay to quit. Stop doing reality checks, stop autosuggestion, stop thinking about success, and stop obsessing over it. Just keep writing entries in your journal. Because sometimes you just have to let go and let it come naturally. It’s like solving a terribly complex puzzle. Put it in the back of your mind, and let your brain work it out. Trying too hard could be creating a bit too much stress, which is very counter-productive. So if you don’t see any success, quit trying so hard for a few days or weeks, note any changes and resume.

Is Cheating Okay?

Or you can cheat. What if you use technology as a little crutch? For example, you could get a dim light to turn on in your bedroom a few hours after you go to bed. By that time you’ll probably be dreaming. The light will penetrate your eyelids and enter your dreamworld. Suddenly everything will be red or green or whatever color you like. I love the concept. Input from the real world traveling into the dimension of your dream world. What will happen is you’ll either wake up and try again or after a few nights, you’ll catch on since you’re pretty much forcing a reality check into your dream.

So, how is this cheating? For some reason, I always felt like it was. If I didn’t attain lucidity from just training my mind, how will tools like this help? Will I just start relying on this device entirely? If you don’t want to practice for weeks or months to attain lucidity and are okay with this, go ahead. You could see success in only a few days. The thought of building and not buying such as device has made its use more acceptable, but never enough for me to actually try it, yet. I’ve been thinking about it more and more in the past few days and it is now something I’m now considering. Especially if I can build it and help others make similar devices.

Keep Dreaming

A Week of Lucidity: Night Two

For the past few days I’ve been trying to get back to lucid dreaming.

I was able to recall about half a page worth of dreams last night and this morning, but no lucidity yet. Since I had them written down, I decided I might as well analyze them. Most of them elude me, but a couple are fairly obvious in their meaning. As my ‘wife’ and I were discussing our dreams this morning, she was able to help me out. I told her what transpired in these nebulous stories and she offered possible meanings and solidified some metaphors. It always helps to have someone else brainstorm with you, someone with a different perspective.

I find it a bit sad most of us don’t discuss our dreams with others. Most of us just disregard dreams as random junk between our ever so ‘important’ waking lives. We’re always on the run to do the next thing, but where are we running to? The finish line is just that, the end. We need to slow down and take a few minutes and really think about these marvels. Stories with characters, dialogue, metaphors and beautiful landscapes. Stories that fill us with hope, stories that terrify. Each one should be cherished. They are intangible yet invaluable gifts, full of purpose. Perhaps we don’t care because we don’t understand. For those who can recall their dreams but don’t take the time to analyze them, they probably just label them as random stuff. Or maybe they do the bare minimum and look up the symbols in those dream books.

Book of Dreams

Dream books can help motivate people to understand themselves, but they do it in the wrong way. You know the books I’m talking about? Those massive ‘dictionaries’ with myriad of pre-analyzed dream symbols? They have almost every symbol you can fathom figured out. Or do they? Regular dictionaries are great because languages evolve slowly making them valid for many years. But dreams are dynamic, living things. How can a book just define them? Especially when all of us are different. A book can’t tell you what the symbol of a cat represents to you. Symbols for the most part are entirely personal. A black cat in my dream could represent love and happiness because of my own individual experience. However, you may see it as a threat or a problem. Moreover, the emotions felt and associated with the symbol can greatly change the symbol’s meaning. A book will probably lead you astray. But if you tried just about everything and can’t figure out your dream, you could refer to one of these books, but only to brainstorm. And even before then, check with your close friends and family. Until tomorrow,

Keep Dreaming

A Week of Lucidity: Night One


This is my first response to the blog post I wrote last night regarding a week of lucid dreaming attempts. In short, I didn’t have a lucid dream last night. But that isn’t a surprise, nothing worth doing is that easy. Before going to sleep, I did some meditation to relax. If your goal is to learn how to control your dreams, you can’t be too anxious. I then did a few minutes of autosuggestion. “I’ll have a lucid dream tonight, I’ll have a lucid dream tonight, I’ll have…”. The great thing about this technique is that it works for some and it promotes drowsiness. Eventually I lost consciousness and woke up at 6:30AM. I then spent a few minutes vocally reciting my dreams so I would remember them when I actually woke up. I didn’t write them down immediately since I wanted to try the Wake-Back-To-Bed technique. Sleep researchers found when you wake up in the morning, you can immediately skip a few sleep stages and fall right into REM sleep very easily. You can use this to your advantage. You can keep repeating to yourself: “I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming” and in a few minutes you will be. With some luck you’ll be telling yourself this as you find yourself in your dream world. I tried this as I fell in and out of dreams, unfortunately without success. I then got up and wrote everything I could remember in my dream journal.


Whether one technique works for you or not, keeping a journal will almost always help you achieve lucidity. Firstly, it helps identify recurring symbols and secondly it helps dream recall. Because it is possible to have a lucid dream and then forget you had it. When I used to practice I once remembered a lucid dream I had many hours after waking. It’s a bit like finding money in your coat.

To properly record your dreams, keep the journal close to your bed with some writing implement. The moment you wake up, start writing. Don’t omit details. Write what you were doing, people you saw and any sensations. How were you feeling? Scared, happy, anxious? Write everything down. Saw an image? Sketch it out. Write as much as you can remember. If your trying WBTB, at least say your dreams out loud so you won’t forget when you actually get up.

If you’re starting from nothing, as in you can never remember your dreams, think about what you could have been dreaming about. Make up a short story. You’ll see this can help if you keep doing it. As nights go by, you’ll start recalling fragments of dreams and eventually recall them entirely.

I managed to sum up two separate dreams I had with a short, point form list. It’s not much, but it’s okay for the first night back. This tells me I’m extremely out of practice since I used to have pages of writing of a single night. No matter, tonight is a new night.

Reality Checks

One technique which helps induce lucid dreams are reality checks. The principal is this: Find recurring dream symbols, let’s say you often dream about cows. Every time you see a cow in real life, check if you are currently in reality or not. You can do this a number of ways, but keep in mind reality checks need to be fast, accurate and easy to do. Some people like to flip light switches since for many, lights switches don’t seem to work that well in dreams. I have tried this, but found it inaccurate and confusing in dreams. Personally I have adopted the ‘letter checking’ reality check. Since our world is full of letters, they are always available. Since dreams tend to skew letters when seen ‘twice’, it can confirm dream state. Oh, and if you think you’ll just ‘know’ you’re dreaming, trust me, in most cases you won’t. Your mind will come up with some crazy reason why your chandelier is now a disco ball and you’ll be suggestible enough accept it.

Because reality checks were so simple to do, I kept doing them. They became a habit and now I still do them even though I haven’t had a lucid dream in months (Sometimes I get lucky and get one even if I’m not practicing). I do reality checks at least in these occasions:

  • When I see something ‘out of the ordinary’, like one of these
  • When I talk about lucid dreaming
  • When I’m on the subway

So a ‘failed’ reality check for me would involve being on the subway and remembering to do a check. I’d look at some word on an advertisement. It says ‘car’, I look away and check again, now it says ‘cat’, therefore I must be asleep. Reality checks might seem silly, but remember: The ends justify the means. If this tool works, believe me, it will be well worth it.

Don’t Cook Like You Code

I want to take a step back and discuss the value of dreams, apart from lucidity. If you’re not into controlling your dreams consider doing regular dream analysis, which can be very enlightening and beneficial; find out what your unconscious mind is trying to tell you.

Now, in our waking life we communicate with words, letters and numbers. On the other hand, the unconscious mind speaks in symbols. So you’ll have to do the conversion. But it’s worth it. I’ll share a personal account to illustrate. While I was taking the Myths, Dreams and Consciousness course at Seneca College we had to keep a dream journal and analyze our dreams. One of my most successful interpretations greatly benefited my life. The problem began when I had moved out a few years ago and had to start making my own meals. Being a perfectionist, I tried following recipes exactly which mostly led to a lot of double-checking, stress and frustration. Being too stubborn to change this went on for a while. A part of me didn’t like it of course…I had a dream in which I had to prepare a meal, but it involved writing code (aren’t dreams funny?). It was stressful and in the end a total failure. I felt pretty down about it. But it wasn’t an accident my mind chose this ‘symbol’ of failure. I have learned if there is something I need to fix in my life, I’ll have a dream about failing a course somehow. It’s the best way to get my attention.

I didn’t understand the dream at first, but kept thinking about it. I really just wanted to finish the assignment at the time. But then I started fitting the pieces together. Wait, isn’t this what happens to me like, everyday? Am I trying to cook like I write code? I had an epiphany I’ll never forget. My unconscious mind was telling me I had taken the joy out of cooking and turned it into a science. And for me, it wasn’t working. I had been trying to measure everything exactly, cook for exactly the right length of time…The message was clear: don’t cook like you code. Some might say I could be ‘reading too much’ into the dream. Let me say that once I figured it out, it was stupidly obvious that was what it meant. Not to mention that once I thought about it, I knew it was true. Something I knew deep down, but it just hadn’t surfaced. I take my dreams seriously even if they have flying elephants. Well, I stopped measuring most things when I cook now. I don’t stress out making food and it’s no longer a chore. I had a problem and fixed it, and a ‘silly’ dream helped me get there. There is something quite amazing when you’re able to understand your dreams. It’s a very unique sensation you get. It’s as if your dichotomized mind has been unified and harmony is restored. So don’t dismiss your dreams. Don’t think you’re smarter than your own mind. Trust me, you’re not.

Keep Dreaming