How to be an Oneironaut

Sir! There is NO sighing here! I will have to ask you to leave!

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?

20 responses to “How to be an Oneironaut

  1. My dreams are sometimes very detailed! I can see vividly in color, and I have long conversations. It sometimes seems like the dream are hours long! and sometimes I wake up and remember 3 or 4 dreams from the same night, although I usually don’t remember any dreams, or just a vague notion that dissolves from my head by the time I’m pouring cream into my coffee.

    Yes, I’ve had a few lucid dreams! Probably the neatest one was when I was flying (inside a huge building) and I kept flying by a large mirror on the wall. Each time I passed I saw a different version, or age, of my face. I’ve also remembered to try reading text (I think it was road signs) while dreaming and it does work!

    Once I thought I was awake, and then realized I was dreaming… I was holding something soft in my hand (I can’t remember what it was in my dream) and I thought…hmm, I wonder if I’m really grabbing my pillow? So I forced myself to wake up while firmly grasping the “pillow”. It was so hard to force myself awake, almost like swimming up from the bottom of the ocean toward the surface, while the whole time I just wanted to relax and drift back down to sleep. Well, I finally woke up, and guess what I was holding….nothing! I was so surprised bc I could actually feel how soft the object was in the dream.

    A crazy dream I used to have occasionally was waking up, taking a shower, getting dressed for work, etc…and then the alarm goes off, and you have to do everything again!

    Hope I haven’t exceeded the word limit for comments, I could write a book on my dreams! 🙂

    • Cool! I don’t remember you telling me about the flying-inside-building lucid dream, with the mirror. Sounds interesting.

      I remember one time I went lucid and started swinging around and climbing on walls like Spider-Man. I think the dream kept going for a good minute or two before I lost it!

  2. I sometimes dream lucidly, but it’s always fairly boring. I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do after I gain control of my dream- I just kind of sit there until I wake up. It helps when I have nightmares, though. Or when a dream starts turning into a nightmare, and I start feeling a bit creeped out, I can just wake up before it gets too scary. Actually keeping it from turning into a nightmare is a bit beyond me though.

    Other than the one about the vampire bunnies chasing me, probably the weirdest dream I’ve had was one in which I was reading. I started the prologue of a book, but then I saw what was happening, yet, I still knew exactly where on the page I was. I could have written it out- even while I was seeing an ambush happen, I saw where on the page the words were, and often I knew exactly what the words were, although it was more like I was saying them in my head, than that I was seeing them.

    Alot like real reading. Except it was a dream.

  3. Most of the time, my dreams are like movies. Sometimes I can control them but still not be aware I’m dreaming, or at least only slightly aware. Most of the time I don’t realize at all, but when i wake up, I quickly want to go back and when i do go back, i have that slight control again.

    Really it’s just daydreaming. A lot of times I daydream or just think about something right before bed and it becomes a dream. I’m not sure if that is a part of lucid dreaming or not.

    Probably the most challenging part for me regarding lucid dreaming is that the very moment I realize I’m dreaming, I wake up.

    I wonder if there’s any trick on countering that.

    • “Probably the most challenging part for me regarding lucid dreaming is that the very moment I realize I’m dreaming, I wake up.”

      A lot of people have this problem. I seem to remember it happening to me the first time I went lucid. I think the solution is to stay as calm as you can. That, and practice.

  4. Sounds interesting! i’ll try it sometime and see what happens! (Glances suspiciously at post, then nods head as it remains the same). Usually i can’t remember any dreams past a the first ten seconds of waking. The dream world usually seems to me like something inconsequential: I don’t even really make an effort to remember my dreams most of the time. I only remember nightmares.
    Interesting post! Thanks for posting.

    • Cool – let me know what happens. 🙂 For most people it takes weeks or months before they have a real lucid dream, but there are all sorts of exceptions too. Some people do get it right away.

      • It didn’t work, but I’ll keep trying. Instead of a lucid dream, I did start scribbling down everything I remembered on a sheet of paper. i only remembered the very last few minutes of my last dream, but when i looked at the sheet this afternoon I could actually remember my dream! That was new and interesting. We’ll see what happens over the next few months. After all, you’ve gotta start somewhere, and remembering half of a dream isn’t a bad starting spot.

      • Yeah, I wouldn’t expect results right away. For me it took a couple months, I think. Just be patient. And in the meantime, recording your dreams is pretty interesting. Good luck!

  5. P.S Lol sorry I forgot to log in with my above response.

  6. Pingback: We Control The Vertical | Ben Trube

  7. I tried experimenting with lucid dreaming several years back and had moderate success but found that it often ended up just messing with my night’s rest. Specifically, there were multiple occasions where I would have “false awakenings” where I would “wake up” only to find that I was still dreaming.

    Most disconcerting however, were the times where I would experience “sleep paralysis” and be lucidly dreaming but unable to move my body so that I basically would be dreaming I was in bed, unable to move, while small action figures or a Medusa-like zombie queen would be attacking me from my closet. So there’s that..

    @Amber: I did find that if you tend to wake up as soon as you start realizing your dreaming, that by imagining that your “dream” body is slowly spinning around in a circle while closing your eyes often is enough to help pull you back into the dream. Although with this method, I was rarely ever able to get back to the exact part of the dream where I left off, at least I was still lucid for the next dream sequence/setting.

  8. To tell you the truth I just knew what the world aneironaut means today. I’ve been doing this since I was 16 and I’m 39. I didn’t know this was something recognized scientifically. I thought it was just me. But let me tell you that what I this website shows is nothing more than the the tip of the iceberg. There is mush mush but mush more, in fact there is not limit of what you can do when you are in there. And what you do in there brings consecuens in our awake. Of course it’s an amazing experience and a gift not everybody can have but let me tell you that there are some rules you can not break on this thing because can be very dangerous. I stop doing it for 3 years once after a very bizarre experience. What the rules are? Simple, listing to your instints and your heart and behave yourself the same like when you are a guest in a house that is not yours “respect” remember, you are not alone where you going.
    I would like to shear with the world a simple method to do this, very effective and save to do the first step on this, now listen carefully:
    Wake up very early in the morning after going to bed the day before very late and tired because a lots of activitys that you had don’t sleep to mush like 4 o 5 hours its fine. Example: go to sleep at 2 am and wake up at 5 Am It’s gonna be hard to stand but the tired the body is the effective will be.
    Then, go out side, walk a little bit, do some exercises if you can. After an hour have cup of coffe and milk and a pare of toast and go strait to bed. Lie down. Star relaxing you body little by little, part by part, similar like when you are having an hipnosis therapy. Then , youll see……

  9. Ok I’ve been dreaming as a hobby and an escape since I was about five, I still have vivid dreams that i always will remember from back then. Regardless I have a easy lucid dream or at least good night sleep method. First I create a story in my head, but its hard to explain. I do not think about sex,play music or do anything like that. I just allow my self to slip into sleep, and sub-conciousness which in turn takes my already created story to new heights. Think of mediation or when you just ease your mind, but instead of concentrating you just slip away. So i can usually get a good 25-35 minutes of dreaming in my sub-conciousness, Sometimes I can get at least an hour or two, and those are the ones I remember for weeks. None the less, I am always awake and know i am dreaming, BUT sometimes i let my sub-concious take me on wild trips.

  10. Never knew the word for this. I always know when I’m dreaming save the few dreams of my departed dad. I can fly at will…but when I try to leave the atmosphere I get into an infinity of passing galaxies and my fear of my mind leaving my body jolts me awake very painfully. It’s like getting adrenaline and shocked simultaneously. glad to know others practice this.

  11. my dreams are always normal and unnoteworthy which saddens me, and when added to the fact that in my dreams i CAN read, its a real bitch to tell if i am dreaming.

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