- Dream journal entry, January 31, 2015
I am watching Alien vs Predator. Apparently, the Predators are sent to Earth in a rite-of-passage-like ritual wherein they have to hunt the Aliens... or something like that. I don't know. I tuned out - but I love crap, so here we are.
In between scenes of interest, my mind is on the dream entry cited above and its obvious irony. Maybe I am wrong about reality checks (you think?). Either way, I am not doing them. I just don't like them.
Back to the movie: The Predators are trying to master their hunting prowess by virtue of the Aliens. But my mind cannot turn itself off: reality tests, why I am not doing them, why I am not closing the deal in these dreams with blatant dream signs laid before me.
Like some sort of Inside Out character, my academic brain decides to throw itself into this mosh pit of thoughts and offer an Alien vs Predator analogy toward the goal of lucid dreaming and why it might solve a barrier that every potential lucid dreamer faces.
Bear with me on this - as part of our lucid dream experimentation 101, we need to get our inner geek on here and speak a bit of the language of the formal experimenter:
In any experiment, you want your IV to control your DV. The Predator is trying to control the Alien.
You and I are trying to control lucid dreaming.
Here's another example. Take a ubiquitous example of a DV: your weight.
Set aside the complex psychology of weight loss for a moment, and focus on the math. It's all math. If you treat food intake and exercise like dials with numbers (they go to 11!), you control your weight. Mathematically, it is impossible for it to be otherwise. Think Robert De Niro in Raging Bull(fit and fat). He controlled it.
Speaking of boxers, let me offer an example of an IV related to lucid dreaming, and ideally it will bring all of this into focus and why it might remove a barrier that we all find ourselves confronting.
I am reading Rebecca's article on How to Have More Lucid Dreams With Prospective Memory and decide to give it a try - specifically, waking up at a certain time. In that section, Rebecca writes, “As a teenager, I used to set my alarm for 7.30am on school days. It was pretty weird, then, when I started to wake up at 7.27am just minutes before the dreaded alarm call.” I am like that too, and I imagine a lot of you are as well.
On an index card that night, I wrote, “Wake up at 4:30am,” then I went to sleep. About 5.5 hours later, I shot straight out of bed. I had heard something. It was a boxer's bell. And it was loud. It scared the p*** out of me, really. I could feel my heart thumping against the wall of my chest. I hit the backlight of my clock and, sure enough, 4:30am.
I tried again the next night and it worked (no boxer's bell this time - thank god), and I got so good at doing this that I made it a thing - because I noticed that when I did it, either my dream experiences got funkier, more vivid, and more interesting or it just flat out induced a lucid dream.
I am thinking that those were WILDs, because when I went back to sleep, I either experienced that super-surreal buzzing prior to lucidity or felt that weird POP! sensation, like I was getting spat out of a wormhole in a part of the universe a trillion miles away. I felt like I was on to something here.
Out of all the ways to achieve lucidity, this one spoke to me - more than the dream journal, more than the reality tests that I never do, and so on. I found an independent variable for lucid dreaming.
It worked so well that I tweaked it and actually started a Google calendar to track it. Instead of waking up at 4:30am, I now wear a stopwatch to bed. Here's the challenge:
Learning to lucid dream is a huge pain in the ass but with a payoff that is nothing short of pure transcendence - like a backstage pass to any parallel universe (I am with the band!). The paths to achieve this state are overwhelming, not only in their learning curves (pain), but in their sheer volume (larger pain). There are too damn many. You need to control them. You need to control your Aliens. That is where the IV comes in.
Don't take on multiple paths at once. Take on one. If it is an IV like my boxer's bell, keep it. If not, move on with your life by going to the next one. This is a house built brick by brick.
You and I are experimenters trying to control our DV (lucid dreaming). The way that we ultimately do it might be akin to our fingerprints - unique - but we have to go through that cold, outdoor, army-like obstacle course to figure out what our signature technique is. Are you willing to climb that wall with the giant rope net and crawl on your belly under barb wire in the freezing rain while that guy from Full Metal Jacket is yelling at you, asking you what your major malfunction is? You should. It is so worth it.
For the rest of this article, I will set up my new experiment as a template for anyone who wants to systematically eliminate or incorporate an IV - any IV - into their lucid dreaming repertoire.
- Dream journal entry, June 30, 2015
I don't care if it worked. I still don't like doing them.
However... my curiosity is officially piqued. Maybe I am due for a much-needed attitude adjustment (you are). Maybe I can pleasantly surprise myself by proving how wrong I am about these inconvenient tests.
Now, if at this point, you are noticing how cavalier I am about openly disparaging such a staple of lucid dreaming, I ask that you frame it as a formal experimenter: When I freely - near blasphemously - declare my distaste for randomly interrupting my day with arbitrary reality tests, I am promoting what is called the null hypothesis (denoted as H0):
In other words, when you conduct an experiment, the null hypothesis is Move on - there's nothing to see here, people. This is all just a waste of time. This looks cynical, but it is far from it. You don't want ambiguity. You have a question and want your answer. It's like, S*** or get off the pot. Do we have something here or not? We haves lives to return to. (Or, in the words of Judge Smails from Caddyshack - “You'll get nothing and like it!”) So what is the real hypothesis - that is, in favor of reality tests?
Whether we prove H0 or H1, we win either way:
This is how an experiment should work.
What does that look like on paper? I am glad you asked.
In Pulp Fiction, Jules (Samuel L. Jackson... as if you didn't already know) asks a bunch of lamb-like youth, “What's Fonzie like?” He does this to reassure them that all will be all right (but all was so not all right - KA-BLAMMO!). The intrepid youth respond, “He's cool.” For our purposes, you want to be like the Fonz.
In the language of the experiment, you want to keep all other variables constant - except for the 1 potential IV. In practical terms, make it a point to stick to your routine and change only that 1 variable in question (in this case, the reality test). Otherwise, you risk getting what are called confounding variables.
Essentially, if you introduce both the reality test and a B6 vitamin and get a lucid dream... then what caused it? The former? The latter? Both? The variables are now confounding. But keep this in mind for a future experiment: a reality test + a B6 vitamin can be an IV together. Just make that declaration at the beginning, rather than changing the rules after the experiment has begun.
(With apologies to Beyoncé - oh god I am so sorry... that is just awful [but here we are]).
When you write an entry into your dream journal, you providing what are called qualitative data. Prominent in the psychology field, qualitative data are essentially testimony - how people felt or what they thought about whatever (variable x).
For our purposes, we need some numbers here - we need quantitative data. Take my prospective memory calendar from earlier. That comprises quantitative data. I can take a month's worth of numbers and try to glean conclusions about how much time I need to sleep before I spontaneously wake up so that I can return to sleep and achieve a lucid dream (for me, 4:50 appears to be the sweet spot [as averaged out over the year]).
I know adding numbers to this cool skill set might harsh some people's mellow, but actually this where things get exciting. What if you found the magic number of reality tests that you need to get the job done? There has be a sweet spot for us all, right? That Goldilocks number: that point at which anything more is a waste of time but anything less will yield nothing.
What if you found that? Think about how valuable that number is. In weight loss, I know exactly how many calories I need to either maintain my weight or drop a couple pounds (or stones... whatever they are [I am from the US]). It'd be nice to have that equivalent for lucid dreaming.
For our purposes, I am going to use 10 reality tests as my baseline value. Not only that, but I am going to standardize how they go down - that is, you know how you can go into any Starbucks or McDonald's anywhere in the world and order something, and it should theoretically taste the same no matter where you are. That product is standardized, subject to the same rules and processes to yield the same result.
Again, that might come across as a buzz kill to the free-spirit nature of this endeavor, but what if you found the magic formula? Wouldn't you do it over and over and over? Are there any bakers out there? (Stop sniggering. I mean the flour-and-sugar kind of baker.) Bakers know more than anyone that baking recipes are very standardized - one wrong measurement can yield something inedible that would otherwise be devoured by your greedy friends and family.
For this experiment, I am going to follow our fearless leader's lead: “A reliable way to do [a reality check] is set your digital watch to chime every hour” (see MILD).
I have a swimmer's lap watch with a vibration function that I am going to use for this experiment. So I am ready to standardize my potential IV. Remember - the more specific, the better:
For this experiment, I bought a sheet of temporary tattoos. Every night when I brush my teeth, I will apply a fresh one on my wrist. When I do my reality test, I will look at it 2 times: once to see if anything funky is going down (à la the animation cited earlier) and a second time as a reliability test (in experimental language, reliability means Let me see if I got that right - I am going to do it again to make sure).
This setup has an advantage in terms of discretion: in public, the watch can cover the tattoo (I really don't want to get into a lecture about Alien vs Predator and lucid dreaming if someone spots this temp tattoo and inquires about it). Also, when the chime goes off, I can discreetly look at my watch and take a peek at the tatt, and no one will be the wiser.
When I went through Rebecca's Lucid Dreaming Fast Track annotating it, I had a lot of shorthand for the terms. For dream journal, I often notated it as DJ, but then the further I got into it, I realized that DJ is not necessarily limited to mean dream journal - it is a data journal.
Any data are good data. Do not restrict yourself to dream recall only; write what happened in general. Again, this is near heresy, but sometimes I think simply writing what happened can be just as important, if not more so, than recalling the dream itself - for example:
- Journal entry, March 31, 2015
Earlier in this article, I allude to an operative word here: curiosity. When you embark on an experiment, go into it with a sense of curiosity rather than a sense of closing a deal.
For our purposes here, I am going to satisfy 2 criteria in terms of data collection (1 quantitative, 1 qualitative):
- Journal entry, July 31, 2015
My experiment officially commenced August 16, 2015 (the day I wrote this article), and I am very curious to see what happens over the next 4 weeks. I suspect that the above (successful) reality test was more so a result of my mind being preoccupied with this experiment and article, as opposed to the test itself - that cruel beginner's luck so often associated with lucid dream success.
So what about you? Where will you start? Pick an IV, any IV:
If only someone assembled a reference guide to potential IVs. Oh wait. She did - for each and everyone of us to find our own private Idaho.
I mean, come on. Do you seriously want one of Rebecca's flash mobs to spontaneously appear in your dreams to shame you into compliance? Start knocking these IVs out 1 x 1.
She didn't supply all this information to facilitate your rampant humping of unwitting celebrities. (Those poor celebrities... flailing their arms all about while you have your way with them.)
Conduct your experiment and find your boxer's bell (listen to it again - come on, you know you want to!).
Rebecca Turner is a science writer, illustrator, explorer of consciousness - and founder of World of Lucid Dreaming. She is currently studying for a biology degree in Auckland and blogging at her site Science Me.
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