This little fella just realized he's alive. The same way you'll realizing you're awake inside a dream tonight. DING!
How do you become lucid in dreams?
For some, it's intuitive. For others, it's downright elusive.
It really depends on a few factors:
Experts agree that learning lucid dreaming is a naturally untapped skill that everyone can learn eventually. Your natural aptitude and performance of the above simply dictates whether you have your first lucid dream within two nights... two weeks... or two months.
To help prevent you giving up before you've even begun, I thought it would be helpful to define how I usually become lucid in dreams.
Here are five different ways to have lucid dreams. Some of these methods are more likely to occur than others. However, with experience, you will learn to use all of them as gateways to your lucid dream world.
This is the most common kind of lucid dream. In fact, surveys suggest that it happens to most people by accident at least once in their lives.
You'll be dreaming away, bathing in Willy Wonka's chocolate river (not a euphemism) when you'll have the sudden realization: "I'm dreaming!"
This will happen in the most vivid dream, because your dream became so strange, or your nightmare became so horrifying, that your conscious awareness kicked in with a rebuttal.
When dreams get weird... do you realize they're not real? To become lucid, you need to question everything.
Officially it's known as a Dream Induced Lucid Dream (DILD), the most common way people become lucid in dreams.
You can increase your chances of having a DILD by practicing self awareness techniques during the waking day.
Research into lucid dreaming suggests that dream characters are part of your unconscious psyche.
This means we can program dream characters to hint at us that we are dreaming. In this way, your unconscious mind creates the dream recognition in a more poetic way.
I once dreamed about giving a lecture on lucid dreaming, but this failed to trigger my self awareness (hey, it happens). At the end of the talk, a psychology professor came up to me and said "Let's try some lucid dreaming now."
This time, it worked. The dream character triggered my conscious self awareness into action and I became lucid.
You are dreaming. Said the butterfly.
Another way to become lucid in dreams is called dream incubation.
Plan your dreams in advance by meditating and visualizing dream themes such as a zombie apocalypse, a giant waterslide, or tea with Richard Dawkins. At the same time, think: "I will lucid dream tonight."
Sometimes, you'll find you start dreaming about the same theme you had in mind before going to sleep.
This is exactly how horror movies beget nightmares. Your waking experiences and day dreams make such an impression that they reappear in your dreams the same night.
Because you've attached this theme with becoming lucid, it's a lot easier to trigger spontaneous in-dream lucidity.
Having studied an entire set of movie credits one night, I then dreamed of being in a movie theatre. And as the credits rolled up, I saw a string of incomprehensible letters, like this: YCTUDKIL.
Then something clicked in my mind. The letters reassembled themselves into a word I could read: LUCID.
BAM! My lucid dream began.
Sometimes it's like your dream really wants you to become lucid.
This approach is great for your first lucid dream and is widely seen as one of the easiest lucid dreaming techniques.
Reality checks program greater awareness into your dreams through repetition, thereby creating habitual lucidity.
A reality check simply means trying to do something impossible in the real world - like pushing your fingers through your hand. When you do this during the day, of course, nothing exceptional will happen.
Eventually, this practice will filter into your dreams. In the bizarre dream world, your fingers will slip through the your hand (especially if you expect it to happen) giving you the opportunity to become lucid.
Your reality check should always follow with: "Am I dreaming?" This cements the mindset and your goal of apprehending the dream.
A reality check is a waking practice designed to filter into your dreams through force of habit. It could more appropriately be called a dream check.
Unlike the methods described above, with WILDs you can walk your waking conscious mind directly into a sleeping lucid dream state.
It's not unheard of for adult lucid dreamers to have developed their own version of the WILD technique as children. It becomes second nature, and they become lucid in dreams of fantastical nature every night.
However, it doesn't come naturally to everyone, and achieving your first WILD can be difficult at first. Ultimately, it's a matter of practice and patience.
This is a lengthy one to describe, even if the process itself can occur in as little as 20 seconds. See my Wake Induced Lucid Dreams tutorial to become lucid in dreams from a waking state.
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For centuries, Tibetan Buddhists have been working on waking up in their dreams, so that they can "wake up" at the moment of their death. They also believe that whatever cultural assumptions you have during life will become true upon death. Can lucid dreaming prepare us for the dying process? What might happen at the actual moment of death? Why are we scared of death and how might bodiless lucid experiences help to reduce our fear? In this interview, Dr Clare Johnson and Dr Keith Hearne dive into the lucid void, Tibetan Buddhism, and lucid dreaming as an emotional and spiritual preparation for death.
Does this face look familiar? It should. This is the result of image averaging - a technique in which multiple headshots are averaged out into a single face. In this case, our composite guy was generated by psychology student and photography enthusiast, Bill Lytton. Lytton averaged out 32 attractive male celebrity faces. To avoid personal bias, he referred to Maxim's Hot 100 and other opinion polls. He also averaged out a bunch of unattractive male faces for comparison.
It's a myth that you could exhaust yourself having a great big run in a lucid dream. After all, your real muscles are paralyzed during sleep. Your body isn't really running or burning up energy. So why would you feel depleted? So, in terms of physical energy depletion, there's really no logic to this argument. But what about dreams being mentally or emotionally tiring? The best way to test this is to survey lucid dreamers themselves. Go ahead, take our poll. My intuitive response is no - and that's based on my 17 years of personal experience. Lucid dreams aren't tiring for me at all.
Experts agree that everyone is capable of having lucid dreams. Dreaming itself is a normal function of the mind. We all dream every night, even if we don't remember. And we all achieve conscious awareness while awake every single day. So what does it mean to combine these states? Why, the amazing ability to have conscious - or lucid - dreams. Sounds simple, doesn't it? So why do I keep hearing from people who say they can't achieve their first lucid dream?