The night before last, I had the craziest dream. I was in a dark room with a pocket full of coins. If I took out a coin and rubbed it with my thumb in a clockwise motion, it would make a little gear-like noise, and then light up. I’d throw the coins into the room so I could see. The catch was that the coins only stayed lit for so long – quarters for fifteen seconds or so, dimes a little less, pennies only a couple seconds. So I had to keep rubbing and tossing coins to see my way through this room.
Bizarre. But then, nobody ever says, “Hey, I had the most ordinary and straightforward dream last night.”
What if you could control that strangeness? What if you knew you were dreaming, and could do whatever you wanted, safe in the knowledge that you could always wake up? What if you could become an oneironaut – an explorer of the dream world?
It’s possible. Difficult, but possible. Several years ago, I spent a few months pursuing this path, and I did have some success.
The state of being aware that you’re dreaming is called lucid dreaming. It’s pretty hard for most people to reach this state, but it gets much easier with practice, and with the right technique. And once you’re lucid, the only limits are what you can imagine.
How to have a lucid dream:
1. Learn how to tell when you’re dreaming. This one’s easy. There’s a simple test. Look at some text – words on a page, a sign, whatever – and remember what it says. Look away for about three seconds, and then look back. If the text is the same as before, then you’re awake. The dreaming brain doesn’t do well with precise, rational details like that. It’s important, though, that you actually wait the three seconds before looking back. Do it too fast, and the text will be stored in sensory memory, sidestepping the test.
2. Get in the habit of reality-testing regularly. In order to know when you’re dreaming, you have to start doing the reality test while you’re awake. That way you’ll get in the habit, and sooner or later you’ll naturally try it while you’re dreaming. Once you fail the test, you’ll realize you’re dreaming, and by definition, you’re in a lucid dream.
3. Keep a dream journal. A lot of people say they don’t dream, or rarely dream, but the truth is they just don’t remember their dreams. And if you don’t remember your dreams, how will you know if you’ve had a lucid one? The solution is to keep a dream journal. Anytime you wake up – first thing in the morning, or even during the night – deliberately ask yourself whether you’ve had a dream, and what it was. Then write it down, because no matter how firm the memory seems, it almost always fades in minutes or hours. With practice, this gets much easier, and you’ll often find yourself recording two or three dreams per night.
Essentially, that’s it. Using just the techniques above, I’ve managed to have several lucid, controllable dreams. Tough, but totally worth it.
There are other techniques too, including a method for directly entering a lucid dream by staying conscious through the whole process of falling asleep. (No, I’m not kidding.) Google “lucid dreaming” and you’ll get plenty of useful hits.
What are your dreams like?