Think You’re Dreaming? Check Your Hands

In the context of lucid dreaming, a reality check is a technique used to determine if one is dreaming. Lucid dreamers (LDers) practice these checks during waking state. A few common reality checks include reading the same text twice (in a dream, the text will shift or warp), reading a digital clock or watch (like text, the digits will not be stable), and attempting to fly (gravity is a shoddy little theory in the REM world).

Practiced LDers often have a regiment of performing these reality checks throughout the day. Strong anecdotal evidence, mine included, suggests that this habit carries over into the dream state, that the dreamer performs such checks during REM. Flick the lights on and off and find that the lights are “stuck” on? Check. Well then, time to fly, explore Io, and consult the oracle at Delphi in a matter of minutes!

After following some of the advice in Stephen LaBerge’s Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming, I have been able to attain lucidity four times over the past few weeks, but my reality checks have been nothing like what I’ve practiced during the day (text checks usually). With the exception of my last LD–in which I noticed that the words on my computer screen were gibberish even though I was typing correctly–my reality checks have been the simple act of looking at my hands.

When I looked down at my hands, I noticed something askew: in dream 1, there was a psychedelic glow to them; in dream 2, a dopamine-rush aura glowed around them; in dream 3, all but my left-hand thumb was invisible. Some people describe that their hands are disproportionate. One thing is certain: there’s usually something off about them (in my case, several digits off). The nice thing about this reality check is that you need only your traditional ‘body image’ to see if you’re dreaming.

Reality checks all share one similar theme: mindfulness. Just as a meditator stops to observe the frenetic goings-on of the mind, so too does the LDer take an inventory of his/her assumptions about reality. Sometimes we are fooled by a test, or something doesn’t quite work. Trying to fly is an excellent second test. If you can hold your jump for longer than Michael Jordan, it’s time to explore your dreams.