There have been many theories regarding the meaning and purpose of
dreams. Some believe dreams are messages from one’s subconscious or a
representation of inner desires or needs. Others, like myself, believe that
dreams may merely be another form of entertainment. That in mind, I
realized that if my mind controlled my dreams and I controlled my mind,
then I should able to control my dreams. After approximately 11 days of
on-and-off practice and mental exercise, I achieved a quasi-lucid dream.
I should have realized it from the beginning. Like almost every other horror
flick, it involved (from what I remember) running for my life. I was beaten and
breathless, but I didn’t have time to stop. My goal was to get home and lock the
door behind me. Terrified and ignorant of the reason why, I was puzzled to discover
upon entering my apartment that I was somehow transported to my bedroom in
the Philippines. I then realized I was dreaming.
In order to achieve lucidity in a dream state, there must be a trigger. One
may become aware that they are dreaming through an unlikely event,
such as flying or meeting the deceased. One may also realize that they
are dreaming through more mundane circumstances, such as a rapid
time change or observing that something is happening that should not
Once lucid, the person may be able to enjoy the occurrences within the
dream while fully acknowledging that none of them are real. Eventually,
the person may even be able to control the occurrences of the dream itself.
Therefore, the quicker one realizes that one is dreaming, the more likely
that they will achieve lucidity and even gain control.
I was starting to calm down when there was a pounding on the door and
a rattling of the doorknob. Panicked, I quickly searched for a way out. I attempted
to “will” myself awake without success. The noise outside continued and my desperation
intensified. Spotting the window, I climbed onto the ledge, only to realize
that jumping from the third floor would probably hurt like hell. Suddenly, there
was silence... THWACK! The blade of an axe broke through the door “Where the
hell did he get an axe?!” As he began to break through, I helplessly stared below.
“Screw it. I’m jumping.”
Many have dedicated their time to furthering lucid dream research. Dr.
Stephen LaBerge, a researcher in the field since the 1980s, founded the
Lucidity Institute in 1987 for the same purpose. The institution intends
to “advance research on the nature and potential of consciousness and
to apply the result...[for] the enhancement of human health and well being.”
Through time, the researchers at the institute developed a number
of techniques and devices to aid in their work.
Primarily, they suggest keeping a dream journal to record accounts of each
dream. Entries may be fragmented or focus on describing a single person,
place or feeling. The purpose is to write anything that will help one recall
the dream. Each account should be written immediately after awakening
because many of the details are forgotten by the time morning comes.
However, one should also take the time to recall the dream in detail before
writing. Additionally, events or scenes that remind the person of his or
her dreams throughout the day should be noted.
Reality testing is also helpful. Reading text carried in one’s pocket or glancing
at a watch and then waiting a few moments before rereading is supposed
to help detect dreaming. Research by the Lucidity Institute indicates
that text changes 75% of the time when re-read once and 95% of the time
when re-read twice. Obviously, if the characters change, seem abnormal
or nonsensical, it is likely a dream.
I was running again. I was about to round the corner when I came face
to face with the cause of my nightmares: an axe-wielding clown-faced circus freak
that only a Stephen King novel could accurately depict. “It just had to be clowns.”
My childhood coulrophobia had resurfaced.
Another technique, the Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams (MILD), was
personally developed by LaBerge as an essential component of his doctoral
dissertation. The first step, which we already tackled, is setting up
dream recall. Next, the person must focus one’s intent on remembering and
recognizing that they are dreaming. Finally, the subject must see oneself
becoming lucid by imagining that he or she is dreaming and searching for
signs to indicate this fact. One must also envision oneself carrying out
plans for the next lucid dream. The second and third steps are alternated
as one drifts off to sleep.
Moreover, napping has improved the chances of lucid dreaming. According
to a study conducted by LaBerge and his colleagues, “Wakefulness
interjected during sleep increases the likelihood of lucidity.” The study
showed a 15 to 20 percent increased likelihood of lucid dreaming for those
practicing the nap technique. They recommend rising two hours before
one’s normal wake-up time, remaining awake for an hour, and then taking
an hour long nap—supposedly allowing your mind to retain part of that
waking consciousness during the nap.
There are many other lucid dream induction methods. For example, controlled
and illegal substances such as alcohol, marijuana, and drugs in the
LSD family such as psilocybin and tryptamines are used to induce REM
sleep, which is criticized by the Lucidity Institute. Another example is
the use of specifically engineered devices such as the Lucidity Institute’s
NovaDreamer, a sleep mask that detects rapid eye movement and cues
the dreamer with flashing lights and sounds.
All’s a blur. For a few moments we danced: an axe swing here, a dodge
there... but somehow, in all the excitement, the axe wound up flying into the swimming
pool, and I wound up falling to the ground. He started strangling me. As I
struggled in his grip, I felt the terror and panic, but not the pain, bruising, or suffocation.
“If I die in a dream, do I die in real life?”
In the end, some may wonder if all this work is worth it. The answer is
purely subjective. Some do it for the freedom from social and physical
consequences within the dream state; bending the rules of reality seems
intriguing to many, so for them, it is definitely worth it. But the possibilities
do not end there.
Recently, lucid dreams have been used to rehearse for success in waking
life, and profit seekers have been taking advantage of this. Since brain
activity within dreamed events are very similar to those of the actual
event, lucid dreamers are able to practice for real events such as public
speaking, facing difficult confrontations, or exercising artistic and athletic
I had had enough of dying in dreams. My mind wandered to thoughts of
gauging eyes out and breaking noses as I struggled. I would either die and start a
new dream, or wake up; now fully cognizant of my options, I decided I wanted to
see this bozo for what he truly was. I unmasked him. The faux flesh and adhesive
made a sickening sound as it tore off. “You have got to be kidding me.” It was a man
in a bunny suit. I felt—and indeed, still feel—embarrassed, and a little weirded-out.
Deciding that this wasn’t worth my time, I walked away. “Man, I have a screwed