I’m fresh back from a viewing of Inception, a movie that I whole-heartily give two thumbs up to. It was one of the few movies that I can label amazing without qualification. If you haven’t seen it, go do it. It’s not “good” in the sense that Toy Story 3 was “good”, it was “good” in the sense that The Birds was “good”. It’s a brilliant story with an ending that requires thought, one that doesn’t spoonfeed the idea to the audience. Yes, friends, it’s a movie that doesn’t assume that we’re utter morons. I loved it.
I know that every person that sees that movie will go home and try to jump into their dreams and control them, that is a fact. Most will also do it unsuccessfully.
I used to be fairly well-versed at this practice, which is called “lucid dreaming”. It takes some work, but it can lead to very interesting results. Thus, I’ve decided to do create a quick guide to help anyone starting out. It’s a complicated process, so this might be lengthy, but detail is needed. Thus…
Catalyst’s Guide to Lucid Dreaming
Learning to lucidly dream means learning three habits: remembering your dreams, recognizing your dreams, and controlling them.
1. Remembering your dreams
This is a rather obvious one, there’s no point in dreaming correctly if you can’t remember them! Thus you need to learn to recall your nighttime adventures. This is much more difficult than you might think, and it takes a lot of work. The easiest way is to sit and force yourself to remember as many details about your dreams as you possibly can, no matter how minute. I’ve heard that writing them down in a journal can drastically help you gain this skill. And it is a skill, this is something that you should remember. You have to train it, and then you have to keep in practice to keep it. This has an added benefit of allowing you to find symbols (next section). Over time you will remember more and more of your dreams, and eventually you will be able to learn more and more.
A very important warning about lucid dreaming falls into this category. Once you train yourself to remember your dreams then you will remember them, whether you want to or not. Anyone who has had a steady stream of nightmares can tell you that dreaming is not always a pleasant experience. Approach this knowing that you are accepting the good and the bad. You will want to think that you’re in reality while you are dreaming, and it is rather hard to check for symbols when you’re terrified due to the giant monster chasing you. A giant monster might not be logical in reality, but you won’t want to stop and check because, like I said, you’ll assume that you’re awake. After all, you could be dreaming right now! Okay, not really, but you get my point. This caveat is why I stopped trying to dream.
2. Recognizing that you’re dreaming
This takes a little more integration past the waking up. In short, you need to learn to recognize certain signs that you are dreaming. However, you need to be checking for these signs with frequency, regardless of where you are. Inception had a few of these, but missed others, so here’s a short list. Pick a sign and check it with great frequency.
1. Check the time. I don’t mean a quick glance at your cellphone, you need to study your watch and know what time it is. In dreams clocks and time are usually muddled and warped, so you may have difficulty reading your watch or it might be completely impossible. This is how I used to check, I wore an analog watch (analog requires minor interpretation, less chance of a half-hearted glance) that I would, to sound insane for a moment, check reality on. It worked! The thing about an accoutrement for a marker (Inception’s “totems”) is that you have to keep it with you at all times, otherwise it won’t be present in the dream.
2. Read something twice. Much like time, words get muddled and warped. Pick up anything with full, coherent sentences and try to read the same sentence twice. If it is hard to read, or if it changes when you reread it, then you’re probably dreaming.
3. Personal symbols. While the above two usually worked for me, keeping a journal with your dreams can allow you to spot patterns of symbols that indicate that you’re dreaming. Supposedly this helps, but I can’t say from personal experience.
4. Try to remember how you arrived at where you are. Inception featured this: most dreams start in media res, so if you cannot remember how you traveled to where you are then there’s a chance that you are dreaming. Either that or you are forgetful and/or drunk.
5. Pay attention to mechanical objects. Our minds remember the form and function of machines, but we usually miss out on key details that we take for granted. For example, if a toaster has a power cord that simply runs into the wall, no outlet, then you’re obviously dreaming. You take the outlet for granted, so it’s not featured in your dream. Other examples might include doors that lock with no visible locking mechanism, cars with oversimplified engines, or light bulbs without filaments (just the light emanating from inside).
Some say that you should try flying, but it’ll only work if you already know that you’re in a dream, otherwise you’ll remain tethered by gravity. This defeats the purpose of the test.
Also, it’s a misnomer that you can’t feel pain in dreams. I’ve received minor injuries plenty of times and woke up with pain in that particular spot. Of course, if you believe that you can’t be injured then you won’t, but remember that pain is the body’s response to stimulus, whether it is real or not. If you think that it is real, then it is. Except for death, of course, you’ll be shocked awake if you die.
Really, pick an indicator and stick with it. Check it often to get yourself in the habit of checking. If you check in reality, you’ll check in your dreams.
3. Controlling your dreams
Think of the Matrix, you are only as free as your mind thinks that you are. If you believe that you can fly, then you can. It’s all in how far you let yourself go.
Bear in mind that you should try to do something impossible before you try something that might get you killed. Try flying or lifting things with your mind before you decide to jump off a building is what I’m saying. I don’t want the police knocking on my door because some idiot committed suicide because he interpreted muddy letters to dreaming instead of the fact that he wasn’t wearing his glasses.
So… yeah. Go at it, give it a shot. The best of luck to you. But like I said, be warned: not all dreams are pleasant.