An Overview of Lucid Dreaming Tech
Today, I’m beginning a series exploring the mental technology I’ve used and am using to deepen my lucid dreaming practice and increase the proficiency in which I communicate to my personal unconscious.
This series will be heavy on practice and low on theory and interpretation, but before we begin I’ll provide two very brief caveats.
As you’ll see from a story I recount later in this essay it’s common that whatever these formulations are make themselves known in your dream life especially if they aren’t expressed consciously.
I’ll be touching on these techniques in a more comprehensive way, but for now here are the core exercises I’ve found helpful for working with the psyche.
Before diving in it’s not a terrible idea to start exploring these concepts so you’re not completely blindsided if something comes up.
Secondly, I’m a huge fan of the advice Nassim Taleb delivered during a commencement speech at the University of Beirut.
In short, he hates giving people advice.
Instead, he just shows them exactly how he approaches what they want to know about.
In that spirit, I’ll show the exact techniques I’ve used to lucid dream with some short personal anecdotes on how I’ve used these experiences to achieve enormous creative, therapeutic, and spiritual benefits.
In the 2010 film Inception the protagonist, Dom Cobb, often utilizes a spinning top to confirm that he’s not stuck in one of the nebulous dream realms he descends into during his escapades.
The idea is that if the spinning top falls he can confirm that’s he’s returned to reality.
Likewise, a good first step in beginning a lucid dreaming practice is to insert regular reality checks into waking life.
I began by inserting a quirky habit of regularly staring at my hands and mentally asking “am I dreaming”
It’s important to do this for two or three weeks at least 10–12 times a day and most importantly whenever the setting changes for example, work, home, car, etc.
What happens is you’ll start repeating this habit in dreams and when you notice things are completely insane visually then you’ll either wake up with a start or slip into lucidity.
In my personal experience and anecdotal conversations with other lucid dreamers this technique is a great start, but the best results come from layering some more reality check techniques in.
I made substantial progress in my practice after meeting a Zen teacher working from St. Maarten.
According to an unnamed story from Zen teaching you can make sure you’re still awake and alive by checking to see if you’re leaving footprints in the snow while walking.
At the time, I was living near a beach so this fit in well with regular walks on the sand.
However, you can easily replicate this technique by incorporating mindfulness checks into a regular routine of walking.
All you need to do is develop a habit of pausing and looking behind you curiously.
If this routine reoccurs in a dream the background behind you is apt to not be your typical route, and this is a fantastic vector into a lucid dream.
The final technique I’ll touch on is one I learned from a Shaman practicing within Taino tradition in Puerto Rico.
It’s quite simple all you need to do is have a glass of water in your restroom and every time you visit throughout the day go ahead and drink from it.
Afterwards, you can curiously observe the glass and the sensation of drinking.
I find that this is an easy habit to install and the particular scene of drinking from the glass appears in my dreams again and again.
It’s by far my most common entrance into lucid dreams.
A Quick Story to Illustrate a Key Point
Before wrapping this essay up and moving on to the next technique it’s worthwhile to recount an interesting experience that happened to me using the water drinking reality check I explained above.
One night, I found myself in the restroom and observed that I wasn’t actually drinking anything.
No matter what I did the water would not leave the cup.
This appeared to me as confirmation that I was dreaming and the excitement immediately woke me up.
Disappointed, I rose and returned to the restroom. To my surprise, I still found that the water wouldn’t leave the glass.
However, as soon as I tried to look up I immediately woke with a start.
Again, I repeated the pattern and again awoke with a start.
This kept happening again and again transforming from what I thought was a lucid dream into a terrifying nightmare.
From my perception, it felt as this repeated for an eternity and eventually I accepted that I was in some sort of hell.
Eventually, it was clear that I had to look into the mirror to escape, but every time I tried this I found myself “waking up” in my bed.
Finally, with what seemed like a gargantuan effort I looked into the mirror and saw a disgusting, deformed child looking back.
Immediately, a gigantic weight seemed to slip off my shoulders and I realized that I was again in full control over the dream.
As I walked downstairs, I came upon a broken lamp and a young child staring guiltily over it.
Suddenly, an overbearing authority figure from my childhood appeared and began to berate the child.
I grabbed the child, gave him a hug, and we escaped.
Soon after, I woke back into this world (only 45 minutes had passed interestingly) and I remember this incredible vivid feeling of optimism and warmth that was quite special.
I think the above example encapsulates the key ideas that I want to convey with the introduction to this series.
- It’s a good idea to sketch a rough map of the psyche before embarking into its depths
- Experiences tend to be highly personal in nature
- There are meaningful and significant benefits to interacting with this part of the brain
In the coming days, I’ll cover topics like dream journaling when you never remember your dreams, sensory techniques for inducing lucid dreams before sleep, and the various schools of dream interpretation.
Let me know if you have any questions or thoughts! I’d love to connect with fellow travelers.