This article is an excerpt from How to Master Lucid Dreaming: Your Practical Guide to Unleashing the Power of Lucid Dreaming by Sean Kelly.
Before we get into how so many people waste their time and effort by performing reality checks in the wrong way, I want to ask you a question. It's a question that if properly asked will shake your world to the core.
It's not complex. It's so simple we miss it.
Are you dreaming?
It's a good question really.
How do you know you are not dreaming right now as you read these words?
If you performed a reality check during that moment, well done. If not, that's what this chapter is for.
A reality check is exactly what it sounds like: a check to see which reality you are in: the dream world or waking life.
When you find yourself in a dream, you need to be certain you are dreaming. You must have some way of distinguishing between waking and dreaming.
This becomes your foundation.
It's something that will not mislead you even when you are in a subtle state of consciousness in the dream world.
If you have seen the movie Inception their reality check is the spinning top. If the top keeps on spinning, they know it is a dream. If it falls then they know they are in waking life.
For actual lucid dreaming purposes that's not a very good reality check. Why?
Simply because you need to have the top with you all the time. You probably won't have it with you in the dream. Then what?
In the movie Waking Life which is in my opinion the best lucid dreaming movie ever created, the main character has no reality check.
As a result he becomes very confused as to which reality he is in as he journeys through dream after dream.
There are many different kinds of reality checks, which I will list below. I will then give you by far the most effective one I have come across.
This is a crucial practice in lucid dreaming, and unfortunately one that many people do wrong. They read about the technique, but the essence slips by and it becomes mechanical. I'll show you the right way to do a reality check in a section below.
Here are many ways you can check to see if you are dreaming or awake:
After trying all of these, each one seemingly had a flaw in it.
Plugging my nose worked about 85% of the time, but there was still 15% of the time in which my mind would come up with some funny explanation like:
"Oh maybe you aren't closing your nostril all the way."
When you are at the crucial juncture of testing your reality and you are actually in a dream, you want a reality check that will work 100% of the time.
There aren't always mirrors around, or watches, or clocks, or light switches so those just aren't that great.
You need something that will always be there, and ideally you don't need to carry around with you.
Can you think of anything that fits the criteria?
Take your right index and middle fingers, and attempt to push them through the palm of your left hand.
Try it once. Then try it again.
If you are in a dream your two fingers will go through your palm. This happens every time if you really try to push them through.
You don't have a physical body in the dream world, so the same physical laws don't apply.
This engages your sense of sight in realizing it is a dream, as well as your sense of feeling in both hands.
These strong signals have the effect of waking your brain up. These signals engage the critical mindset that brings strong lucidity.
There is no more doubt when you have just pushed your fingers through your hand. Though it is always good to perform the check twice.
Now you are free to do whatever you set out to do when you become lucid!
You should attempt to perform the Palm Push reality check 10x a day.
You can perform it every hour, on the hour during your day.
However, the best way to perform these reality checks is by combining them with your prospective memory test.
When you see the item(s) you've chosen for the day, you perform the reality check.
If your fingers go through your hand, then you are dreaming. If they don't then you are in waking life.
Why is it important to do this 10x a day during waking hours?
Because anything you do consistently during the day will inevitably show up in your dreams.
Your dreams are filled greatly with the subconscious impressions from your day.
By doing many reality checks during the day we use this principle to send in a Trojan horse of consciousness into our dreams.
When the horse gets through the gate and into our dreams, our awareness can sneak out and take action inside the dream world.
With the thousands of people I've helped with lucid dreaming, one of the most common issues I see is how people perform reality checks.
Imagine you are walking down the street, and see the item you've chosen for your prospective memory test. You remember that when you see a dog you are supposed to do a reality check, so you take your two fingers and bang them against your palm.
Nothing happens so you move on, completely unaffected by what just occurred.
What's wrong with this picture?
Reality checks have two purposes:
We always think we know what is going on in our lives all the time. This is exactly what causes us to be zombies in our sleep.
Think about it.
How many times in just the last week have you been in your car, bike, or on a walk, and found yourself at your destination, or at least had a stretch you don't quite remember?
I'm here to tell you that you hardly ever really know whether you are awake or asleep. I'm also here to help you change that!
The reason we are not conscious in our dreams is that we believe ourselves to be awake.
Remember what was said just earlier:
Whatever we do consistently during the day will arise in our dreams.
That means if we walk around all day with an air of "knowing" we are awake, we will do the same in dreams.
But if we actively question our experience consistently during the day, we will question our experience at night.
Then when the person next to you turns into a dinosaur in your dream, you will say: "Wait a minute. That's not right." Your investigative mindset will be activated.
That is when you perform a reality check to see where you are.
To continue reading, download Sean Kelly's book on Kindle, How to Master Lucid Dreaming: Your Practical Guide to Unleashing the Power of Lucid Dreaming.
Inside you'll learn the crucial aspect of reality checks, more in-depth explanations of why you're stuck in your lucid dreaming journey, and the secrets behind mastering lucid dreaming.