The process of dreaming has been at the center of great interest and scientific research since the first time someone woke up from a nap and said, “What the fuck just happened?”
The fascination with dreams derives from the remarkableness of the brain’s continued, and even increased, activity, while the rest of the body is seemingly paralyzed. Dreams provide people with an escape, however brief, from reality, and evoke such positive connotations that many people even express their lofty aspirations as their “dreams.”
But, what if one were able to control what was occurring in their dreams, therefore giving them free range to do whatever they wanted? Kick back in the Virgin Isles with a daiquiri? Sure can. Punch that kid in your class who always wears shorts mid-winter? Encouraged. Finally have that romantic encounter with your neighbor, Susan, who’s elderly, but not that elderly and is always waving to you in her bathrobe while she gets the newspaper? Uh, yeah go for it.
Well, ladies and gentleman, pop a couple Melatonin and settle into your bed, because guess what? All this and more is possible through the wondrous enigma known as lucid dreaming.
For an activity that is so commonplace in the lives of every single one of us, it’s surprising how little information there actually is about dreaming and what really occurs while you’re snoozing, besides your roommate stealing your Pop-Tarts. Typically, when sleeping, one passes through five stages of sleep, culminating in the final stage, REM or rapid eye movement, sleep. REM sleep accounts for around twenty to twenty-five percent of sleep in adults.
It is also during this stage that dreams typically occur, usually during the latter portion. I would attempt to go in depth about what is actually occurring in the brain during this time and throw words at you like “thalamus” and “cerebral cortex,” but that would just make you fall asleep, and you’re not ready to do that yet. So, forget about all that scientific jargon and let’s just get into the cool shit.
Lucid dreaming occurs when you become aware that you are actively dreaming while in your dream. Once aware, one is able to then consciously shape and change what is occurring in their dream, essentially gaining control of the dream environment, which your brain has constructed. Yeah, I know, holy fucking “Inception,” right?
With this new realization, the dreamer is free to do whatever he or she could possibly fathom. Unrestricted by the laws of physics, social constraints and personal insecurities, it is perhaps the absolute pinnacle of pure freedom. It’s like playing first person “Grand Theft Auto,” minus the incessant crime, drugs and scantily clad women…on second thought, it’s exactly like “Grand Theft Auto.” However, in this case you’re absolutely consequence free, and it is this aspect that allows lucid dreaming to be an incredibly valuable asset.
Once you get past the initial, obligatory things one who has total, uninhibited freedom would do (touch Kylie Jenner’s butt, touch Rihanna’s butt, touch Beyonce’s butt and diligently restore peace and unity amongst all nations), lucid dreaming actually offers a platform for personal improvement and growth.
You are able to play out scenes in your dream, like confronting a classmate, or giving a presentation, with no consequences or restricting anxieties or fears. It’s almost like having a trial run, and although the results will likely be different in your dream than in reality, it still offers the dreamer an experience that can potentially help alleviate or even completely eradicate fears they may have.
The benefits of the empowering, yet elusive ability to lucid dream extend beyond the ability to practice skills; it allows you to experience the freedom of flying, meeting your heroes and even traveling back in time to different generations. Lucid dreaming is so incredibly stimulating and mind-boggling that one has to experience it in order to be able to conceive its wonder.
Let me be clear, lucid dreaming can be incredibly difficult to do; some people are naturals, while others are simply unable, and are forever doomed to dream that they forgot to wear pants to school. Even when one becomes aware that they are dreaming, the lucidity can be incredibly fleeting as the meta-ness of the realization can be perplexing, causing the dreamer to quickly become distracted and forget their discovery.
However, if your dreams consist of you strapped to a chair eternally doomed to watching Amy Schumer’s comedy special on loop while in the confides of a dark, putrid smelling Abercrombie and Fitch, then fear not, because there are tips on how to incite lucidity.
Perhaps the most essential step to take in order to achieve lucid dreaming is performing frequent reality checks. Reality checks should be done at least ten times a day, but the more often you do them, the more likely you will be successful. There are various types of reality checks, but here are a few of the most effective techniques.
Look down at your hands periodically throughout the day. Your hands will always have a strange appearance in dreams, which will trigger the realization of your dreaming state. Next, attempt to push your finger through your hand, and if it successfully goes through, then you know that you are either dreaming, or should quickly go to a hospital. Lastly, check digital clocks periodically throughout your day, as digital clocks cannot be read in the dream world, and instead will be a bunch of jumbled illegible symbols.
The most important aspect to remember with these reality checks is consistency and frequency. If you make it a point to do these checks regularly, your body will eventually develop muscle memory, and you will subconsciously do it in your dream, allowing you to realize your lucidity and subsequently take over the world (dream world that is).
An additional practice that will help you in your quest for dream freedom is keeping a dream journal next to your bed. Immediately upon waking up, write down everything you can remember about your dream. Write every morning, and frequently read past entries; eventually your mind will begin to recognize certain patterns in your dreams that will allow it to perceive when it is in a dream state.
Lucid dreaming is an amazing ability that the human mind possesses. The ability to experience a world where you have full control and absolutely no consequences is something that almost anyone would desire. However, tread carefully when experimenting with lucid dreaming, because you might just find that you prefer your dream life to your real one.