As a long time lucid dreamer, I'd been eagerly awaiting the release of Inception. It is such a rare opportunity that I get to enjoy a sci-fi flick based almost entirely on self-awareness in dreams. I think much of the lucid dreaming community felt the same way.
This movie -- while not actually mentioning the words lucid dreaming once -- gives many courteous nods to the concept of lucidity that will leave you with no doubt of it's intention: to thrust its viewers into the topsy turvy world of unconscious reality. And if you're not a lucid dreamer... well you'll probably love it anyway; there are many other aspects that make Inception a thrilling movie experience.
Inception is something else. Directed by Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Memento) - a lucid dreamer himself - this is a work of art designed to push the limits of your imagination. The richly detailed plot twists and turns through imaginary dreamscapes and physical reality. Whether you can actually tell the difference is all part of the awesome journey.
Inception is just complex enough to keep the viewer on their toes the whole way through, with a central theme of reality checking, something lucid dreamers will be familiar with. This is the idea of questioning whether you are awake or dreaming, in order to take control of the dream... or wake up. Cobb (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) has a spinning top for this purpose; where in reality it will always fall - but in a dream it will illogically spin on forever. There are several other clues to watch out for, like upside-down clock faces. If you can tell from the outset which scenes are dreams, you will probably enjoy this movie a lot more.
Aside from these tells, the lucid dreamscape is remarkably solid and real - until the dream collapses and it all comes crashing down, Armageddon style.
I was enthralled by the concept of the unconscious thwarting itself in this movie. This is something that happens in lucid dreams all the time. When you don't have a firm grip on your conscious lucidity, your unconscious begins to play tricks on you. This manifests itself in the inability to fly (not ideal at 35,000 feet) or frustration when specific dream figures elude you.
Inception reminds us that no matter how much consciousness we have in our dreams, the unconscious mind still has its own games to play. It is an illogical beast, at times, and intent on delivering us to our worst fears and insecurities, even in lucid dreams. As Cobb himself finds out: your deepest beliefs, however hidden, become real in dreams.
The rules of Inception were admittedly a bit convoluted. I felt myself squirming in my seat when Cobb announced that in order to wake yourself up from a dream, you first have to kill yourself. What happened to simply opening your eyes?
I did lilke, however, the poetic notion of The Kick, required to wake the dreamers from their shared dream scenario. In reality, this feeling of falling that wakes us up is called a hypnic jerk - an involuntary muscle twitch used by the brain to test if the body is awake or asleep. It most often occurs during the onset of dreaming, and bizarrely the unconscious simultaneously incorporates this sensation into the dream scenario. For me personally, hypnic jerks always occur as I'm walking down the street in a dream, and suddenly fall off the kerb...
Another rule that these advanced oneironauts had to live by was that, because they were sedated, they must not die inside a dream-within-a-dream. Otherwise, they'd descend into limbo, a bland dream world that was slowed down so far, decades in limbo might only translate to minutes in reality. That's a terrifying concept in itself! But don't be fooled by this lucid dreaming myth; where Inception's rules stray from the truth, most people realize it's just a bit of speculative fiction and nothing to get your knickers in a twist about.
Commit to these rules and you will be rewarded with a gripping adventure, delving deeper into lucid dreamscapes which are rarely stable and open to invasion by unconscious demons operating on an entirely different agenda.
Inception has an all-star cast: Leo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock from the Sun), Ellen Page (Juno), Cillian Murphy (28 Days Later), Marion Cotillard (The Passionate Life of Edith Piaf), Ken Wantanabe (Letters from Iwo Jima) and with brief appearances from Michael Caine and Pete Postlethwaite.
These lucid dream explorers form a crack team which penetrates the minds of other dreamers and roots around in their unconscious, looking for secrets.
Inception is, for Cobb, one final job in which he must plant an idea in the mind of Fischer (Murphy). If successful, he can return to his family, free of criminal charges arising from corporate espionage, and live the life of his dreams...
The score to Inception (created by Hans Zimmer) adds a further dimension to this story, drawing us into the infinite lucid dream world. Zimmer added a curious musical cue to denote when the dreamers moved from one level of reality to another: he slowed down the "wake-up music" (Edith Piaf's 1960 Non, je ne Regrette Rien) to create the haunting brass blares which recur throughout the movie and trailer. Check out this neat Inception music cue to see the effect broken down.
If the central plot of Inception sounds too predictable - don't worry, because this movie is a lot more complex than any non-spoiler synopsis will have you believe. Inception weaves multiple threads into an exquisite tapestry, leaving you reeling as you walk out of the movie theater with myriad questions and insights. The ending is deliciously ambiguous allowing for post-movie debate.
There are parts of this movie that resonate with all-time sci-fi favorites. At times, Inception felt like The Matrix (for its original reality-busting storyline and special effects) as well as Donnie Darko (for its mysterious and interpretive themes and conclusion).
As a whole, this is an original and gripping movie balanced on the concept of lucid dreaming and the wily unconscious mind. Even with extended gunfire scenes (its only real downfall, in my opinion) there is so much thought-provoking material here to keep you entertained for the long haul. Inception is a must-see movie for lucid dreamers and definitely among my new top ten favorites.
If we're completely honest, lucid dreaming isn't really known for being the most social of interests. In fact, often it's a lone pursuit - just you, your dream journal and the landscape of your mind. But this technique called PAL (or Partner Assisted Lucidity) breaks down that wall and turns lucid dream exploration into a social event.
Members of our lucid dream forum have been asking how to create dream characters in lucid dreams. The most common problem is having characters who look nothing like they should. Or they seem disinterested in your company. Or they fail to show up on command altogether. So, how to combat this? It's a matter of finding creative solutions that bypass logical expectations.
To lucid dream, I recommend being able to remember at least one vivid dream per night. That will boost your self awareness in dreams (making lucidity more likely) and also means you can actually remember your lucid dreams. Which is nice. Here are four detailed tips on how to remember your dreams more frequently. And if you don't think you dream at all - trust me, you almost certainly do. It takes an extraordinarily rare sleep disorder to deprive someone of dream sleep.
It is estimated that these wise and wily Indians have been using mugwort in their healing and ritual practices for 13,000 years, where it is known as the ‘dream sage’. They use the herb to promote good dreams, which they consider an essential aspect of normal human functioning! But that’s not all...
Silene Capensis has been used for millennia by the Xhosa shaman of the river valleys in the eastern cape of South Africa, where it is known as Undela Ziimhlophe or 'white paths'. It's fragrant white flowers open only at night, when they emit a fragrant and almost hypnotising aroma. Also known as African Dream Herb or Ubulawu, Silene Capensis induces spectacularly vivid dreams - yet has never entered the mainstream and remains a fringe taste within western culture.
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?