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.

Things Fall Apart: Deviant Devices in Dreams

Hello, fellow oneironauts!

If you’re reading this blog, you probably have an interest in lucid dreaming (dreaming in which you become aware that you’re dreaming), and you likely didn’t need those two links. So, you probably also know that devices don’t work very well in dreams; they either break down or do some strange stuff. One standard reality check is to test a light switch, which will likely fail in a dream. Of course, you have to be in the habit of testing devices in waking state in order to remember to test during dream consciousness. Most important, to hone your lucidity skills you should be cultivating mindfulness during waking state (meditation helps), and maintaining the habit of asking yourself whether you are dreaming. Cell phone appointment reminders are my mindful method.

A case in point about device failure in dreams: During my final REM cycle this morning, I was bowling and hit the reset button. The pins that came down were randomly ordered, and sometimes even mannequin legs replaced the pins! If that weren’t bizarre enough, on a couple of resets World War II dioramas were built at the end of the bowling lane. Instead of questioning this wacked-out reality, I was infuriated with the owner, who had no idea how to fix the problem. (Of course he didn’t: He was part of my own machinations to dupe myself. Ah, what a rich conspiracy the mind is!)

Some lucid dreamers might be upset with themselves for failing to perceive a dream sign that’s right under their nose. As a newbie LDer, I find it fascinating how my mind played along with the beautiful breakdown of the bowling pin setting machine. I consider it progress in my dream-life studies that I should remember and record this potent dream sign. It tells me that lucidity is near, and just one phrase away: the simple, skeptical question, “Am I dreaming?”

10 Reasons to Lucid Dream

1. Life is too short. You spend nearly one-third of your life asleep, so why sleepwalk through your sleep when you could be playing cello at Carnegie Hall–and flying there at will?

2. Pick up a good habit. Lucid dreaming techniques require mindfulness, and the diligence of meditation. In fact, meditation can be quite useful as a relaxation technique for preparing for lucid dreaming.

3. Overcome your fear of heights. Or snakes. Or the minotaur chasing you through a labyrinth. You can confront and overcome any phobia–perhaps even post-traumatic stress–if you wake up in a dream and realize you have the power to transform your dream world. With a little practice, your worst nightmare could be dissolved, or even become a lovely rendezvous.

4. Sex. Lucid dream sex is the main motivation people try lucid dreaming. While it may not appear to be the most high-minded goal, exploring wild fantasies–without repercussions–is no doubt an exhilarating, and potentially edifying, experience. Here’s a thoughtful article on erotic dreaming by a blogger far more articulate than myself.

5. Change your mood. Anecdotes from lucid dreamers tell of dream emotions carrying into waking life. We’ve all had the experience of waking from a plausible nightmare and feeling in a funk for the rest of the day, if not for several days. Consider how lucid-dreaming bliss could carry you through daily work!

6. Become a Tibetan dream yogi. Although Dr. Stephen LaBerge was one of the first scientists to meticulously outline the techniques of lucid dreaming (only a couple decades ago), lucid dreaming has been around since ancient times. Your LD adventures aren’t a kooky new-age invention, they’re part of a long tradition of psychological exploration. Read up!

7. Be your own therapist. A good therapist is a true treasure, but the best of the best will tell you that you have to do your homework. By awakening during and sometimes willing your dreams, you can empower yourself and overcome the greatest anxieties.

8. Flying. This one should probably be higher up on the list. Flying is one of the most sought-after and memorable experiences by lucid dreamers. Whether you soar over the Pacific or drop by the Cayman Islands, you’re bound to be positively xxxx xcharged after a flying dream.

9. Heal thyself. The LD experience can help one to heal mentally – e.g., overcoming fears, or talking to a deceased loved one. The effect of lucid dreaming on physical healing is a whole ‘nother topic, but there are some anecdotes (and quite anecdotal to my thinking!) to pick up from the literature. According to the Lucidity Institute, some “potential healing applications of lucid dreaming include … more rapid recovery from injury or disease through the use of lucid dream imagery, and an increased sense of freedom for anyone who feels limited by disability or circumstance.”

10. Tap your creativity. Inhibitions are the waking-life boundary bumpers that keep us in our proper social role and behavior. But the creative mind is uninhibited. When we strip away those inhibitions during lucid dreaming, our basic explorative mind can finally dance—and without a cocktail.