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.
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.