How I started having lucid dreams – Insights on lucid dreaming: This article sums up my lucid dreaming endeavor, aka “from zero lucid dreaming to hero“. During this article, I will describe you exactly what I did in order to experience the beauty of lucid dreaming and show you the important insights I gained during my endeavor. I’ll furthermore show you what exactly you’ll need to know if you are also interested in lucid dreaming. As a sideline and for your better understanding of this article; I started writing this article months ago and have added each day important occurrences in regards to my lucid dreaming endeavor. Whenever I noticed something very important I have marked it as an “INSIGHT“. If nothing really mentionable has happened I skipped the day and continued writing on this article whenever I experienced something that was notable. Doing so allowed me to summarize and concentrate this article on the most important information for you and shall help you in answering the question “how to start having lucid dreams?“.
Definition of Lucid dreams and what is lucid dreaming all about? Regular dreams feel like realistic events to me until I woke up and started to realize that “it was just a dream”. As opposed to this, lucid dreams are dreams in which the dreamer is aware of the fact that he is dreaming and wakes up from his unconscious state of mind and becomes “lucid” (mentally clear). During a lucid dream, you know exactly who you are and you’ll start thinking in logical structures. What makes lucid dreams even more interesting is the fact that all these dreams are being perceived through your physical senses, which makes them feel totally realistic to you. The majority of lucid dreams start as a normal dream; until the dreamer concludes that he is dreaming and reaches a lucid dreaming state (dream-initiated lucid dream [DILD]). During this state of mind, when the dreamer is “lucid” he can manipulate the dreaming experience and participate actively in the dream environment. For further information see neurophysiological approach to dream research.
Day 1 – The beginning –
Up to this day, which is the start of my lucid dreaming endeavor, I’ve never had a lucid dream, at least none that I could remember of. No matter how ludicrous and unrealistic my dreams became, I never concluded that I was dreaming, which is why I never experienced a lucid dreaming state as of late. Nevertheless, I’ve also read that you don’t necessarily have to be aware of the fact that you’re dreaming, as some consider even the slightest manipulation of one’s dream as lucidity. In consideration of that, I can remember myself having “manipulated” some of my dreams, but I’ve never reached a conscious level, which therefore doesn’t count for me as lucid dreams.
The main event that encouraged me to spend more time with the topic lucid dreaming was the Blockbuster Movie Inception where a talented lucid dreamer is being portrayed, who can enter the dreams of others and extracts information from their minds and plants ideas within their subconscious, shown with stunning visual effects and accompanied by an amazing soundtrack with booming basses and humming trombones.
During my initial research on lucid dreaming one of the best articles about lucid dreaming I found on the internet was published in the New York Times, called “Living Your Dreams in a Manner of Speaking”, which also helped me to gain my very first insight about lucid dreaming:
In the movie Inception, the main character has a so called “totem“, which is a unique object only he knows of, that shall help him to determine if he is still dreaming or already awake. When I first read the above-named article in the NY Times on lucid dreaming I noticed that Hollywood has included a lot of true aspects in terms of lucid dreaming into their fictional movie, inclusively this kind of “reality check“.
The first insight I gained was that the performance of reality checks during the day can help one to become cognizant of dreaming. The theory behind performing reality checks, such as repeatedly looking at one’s watch during the day, is that if one performs these checks in a regular way he will most likely repeat these while dreaming, which will help the dreamer to detect surrealistic aspects of his dream, which finally will help him to become lucid… That’s what the theory says.
From this point onwards I’ve chosen to implement the following reality checks into my daily routine…
- Looking at my clock; time might change in dreams
- Looking at my hands; differences might alert my conscious
- Looking at text; strange letters might appear in dreams
- Flipping switches; the light rarely changes in a dream
- Looking into mirrors; reflections might appear to be blurred
Several of these reality testing exercises are also performed by the character in the movie “The Good Night“, such as flipping light switches on and off, as the light levels rarely change as the direct result of flipping a switch, within a dream.
The Dutch psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden, who came up with the term for lucid dreams in 1913, was one of the very firsts who started investigating in 1896 the fact that there were people “who are quite clearly aware during the night that they are asleep and dreaming and who thus seem to possess the faculty of consciously directing their dreams” (~ Sigmund Freud). It was van Eeden’s brilliant idea to start studying his dreams from 1896 onwards, by writing every aspect he could remember into a dream journal in which he recorded all the thoughts and impressions he had during the dream.
Keeping a dream journal is said to be one of the most important steps towards lucid dreaming, as it helps to identify signs that one is dreaming and increases one’s awareness of dreams in general. Frederik van Eeden applied – probably unintentionally – one of the most effective methods to encourage lucid dreams: writing a dream journal, which is the second insight I gained about the term of lucid dreams.
Beginning on the morning of the second day of my endeavor I will start recording the impressions, thoughts, and feelings I’ve had into a dream journal, if possible from the moment on that I awoke out of a dream. My final goal is it to recollect the memory of all dreams I’ve had in a night, which can vary from 4 to 6 dreams, within one night. At the moment, I can hardly remember more than one.
Day 2 – Remembering the dreams –
I’ve noticed that it can be quite difficult to remember all the dreams I have during a night, which is why I will start recording the dreams as quickly as possible after the alarm clock has woken me up while keeping my eyes closed to recall all the details of the dreams. (Editor’s note: I’ve noticed during my lucid dreaming endeavor that trying to remember all dreams when the alarm clock woke me up isn’t necessarily possible. Over the time I’ve started to write down everything I could remember whenever I awoke in the middle of the night, which often allowed me to remember dreams that I had already forgotten when I got up in the morning! After several weeks I started waking up naturally after a dream [beginning at 2-4am], write down the most vivid impressions and continue sleeping).
Day 3 – WILD’s –
At this point, I’m applying various reality checks during the day and have started to write down my dreams into a dream journal. Something that really helped me to remember more dreams was to tell myself to remember as many details from each dream as possible, before going to bed, “I shall remember all the details of my dreams”. By putting out the intention to recollect my dreams before falling asleep it somehow allowed me to remember more details of a dream, than I could one day before… Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night, having in mind the dream I dreamt very clearly, which is why I have placed a notepad and a pocket lamp on my nightstand. Furthermore, I’ve also started applying another technique to encourage so-called “wake-initiated lucid dreams” (WILD):
While further investigating the topic of lucid dreaming I became aware that it was not only possible to initiate a lucid dream by becoming cognizant of dreaming via discovering surreal aspects of one’s dream, but also by applying wake-initiated lucid dream techniques. These techniques are no rocket science; it simply requires you to remain as conscious as possible until you finally start dreaming, in order to enter the REM sleep phase directly from a waking state. The motive behind this WILD (wake-initiated lucid dream) technique is to successfully stay conscious when one crosses the border of being awake and falling asleep. People who have successfully crossed this border often experience vibrations, noises, slight paralysis and OBE (outer-body-experiences) during this stage.
One rather difficult way to encourage such a wake-initiated lucid dream is by keeping one’s eyes open as long as possible when going to bed. The other way is by sleeping for more than 2 hours, waking up and then trying to keep one’s eyes open as long as possible, until finally, one falls asleep. The WILD method sounds very interesting to me, which is why I will include this into my lucid dreaming endeavor and will start applying it from this day on, whenever I go to bed.
Day 4 – The most important insight –
I had my eyes open last night for hours when mentally counting and climbing stairs down on a never ending stairway. Unfortunately, I found it rather difficult to fall asleep with my eyes open and after some hours I gave up and fell asleep, without noticing it. The WILD technique is as difficult as predicted, but I’ll try to continue it for some more days.
At the fourth day, I have already written down more than 7 dreams and I’ve noticed that doing so helped me tremendously not to forget the details of my dream. It often happened that I completely forgot what I had dreamt about a few hours ago, but reading just a view lines from my dream journal allowed me to refresh my memory and the most important impressions came up again. In some cases, I just scribbled down a few lines what increased the difficulty to remember the dream, but that’s not so bad, as I can remember most of my dreams. It has become a habit for me to read in my dream journal before going to sleep and I furthermore started to mark awkward/unnatural impressions as dream indicators, whenever something happened in my dream that would not have happened in reality (which is the fourth insight I gained about lucid dreaming). None of the experts on lucid dreaming have given this advice, but I hope doing so will further help me to spot unnatural aspects of my dreams more natural, which will finally help me to become lucid. (Editor’s note: it turns out that this insight was one of the most important ones to induce a lucid dream, even though it wasn’t mentioned in any of the articles I read about lucidity.).
I’ve gained this insight on lucid dreaming by coincidence when I accidentally set up my alarm clock on a Saturday morning, even though I didn’t have to go to work. I did what everyone else did in these situations; I disabled the alarm and went back to bed when I realized that doing this allowed me to remember the dreams I had up to this point in the night more easily. The psychophysiologist Dr. LaBerge found that setting one’s alarm earlier than usual, staying awake for half an hour and then going back to sleep could also help inducing a lucid dream. Hoping that Dr. LaBerge’s theory could proof correct for me I will start to set a second alarm clock two hours earlier than my regular waking time. When I have awoken I will try to write down the impressions and memories I can recollect from the previous dreams I had in the night, before going back to sleep again.
Day 10 – The first lucid dream –
At the tenth day of my lucid dreaming endeavor, I finally experienced my very first lucid dream! During the time from day 4 to day 9 nothing happened that would be worth mentioning here, as I continued (unsuccessfully) to apply the WILD method and (successfully) wrote down whatever detail I could remember of my dreams. Furthermore, I also gained another insight on lucid dreaming, that I would apply the first time on day 10!
Another important insight I gained from Dr. LaBerge was that the chances to keep the lucid dream alive increase when one was spinning his body inside his dream or rubbing one’s hands when the dream started to come to an end.
But let’s have a look at the details of my very first lucid dream:
I awakened at a Saturday morning at around 8am out of an awkward dream and continued sleeping as I didn’t wanted to get up before 10am. After I had fallen asleep again I found myself in a dream – without noticing the fact that I was dreaming. Apparently, I was an architect as I inspected the house of one of my best friends. I looked at the façade of the building and everything looked just fine after I had inspected some walls and the balcony, so I decided that I did a great job and went to my car to go home. After a quick chat with the brother of my friend I started the engine of my car and drove home. I know the route from my friends house back to mine inside out, but apparently I was driving past a completely different environment. That was the moment when I realized, “Hey, I’m dreaming! This is a dream!” and I became lucid for the very first time of my life. I felt how I was lying in bed, even though I was in a dream. Unfortunately, my dream started fading away in the moment I wanted to test out how much control I had over my dream, which was maybe 10-15 seconds after I became lucid. I immediately started to spin my body around and rubbed my hands (I’m amazed that I had remembered these techniques!), nevertheless it was quite difficult to spin around while sitting in a car, so it became a mixture of trying to spin around and rubbing my hands. Nevertheless, I became more and more conscious and finally had awoken out of my dream.
Retrospectively, I think that writing my dreams down in a dream journal and marking unnatural elements/dream indicators was the most effective technique to induce lucid dreams. By reading through the thoughts and memories of my own dreams and continuously trying to spot dream indicators and things that would not have happened in reality I encouraged my mind to also identify these when I’m dreaming, which finally helped me to become lucid.
By the way, I also know now why exactly I awoke out of my very first lucid dream, as I found a pretty good explanation for the reason by Dr. Stephen LaBerge (see INSIGHT #6). The technique of spinning helps to decrease the sensitivity of external sensations (e.g. feeling oneself lying in bed) as the brain is fully engaged in producing the sensory experience of spinning around within the dream. Dr. LaBerge says that whenever our brain is presented contradictory interpretations of the state of our body, it will choose one over the other. Apparently, my consciousness chose the sensation of lying in bed to be more realistic than spinning, which is why I woke up so early!
Day 21 – The first OBE –
In the night of the twenty-first day I was really ambitious to succeed in applying the wake-initiated lucid dreaming method and finally, after I had counted up to a little bit more than 300 in my mind, something started to change. It wasn’t an awkward feeling and I didn’t feel strong vibrations as many had described; nevertheless, it felt somehow as if my mind started to separate from my body, slowly but continuously, until it wasn’t attached to my body anymore. I concluded that it was an OBE – an out-of-body-experience – and what can I say… it felt completely different as I had imagined it from what I had read, but it felt somehow exciting. It’s quite complicated to explain what I felt at this stage, but somehow it felt as if I could move and bend my whole body while hovering over my bed. Still, the sensation of lying in bed was omnipresent, even though it felt as if another part of me could move at will. I was pretty awake during this time and was fascinated by the sensation. The state lasted for several minutes (maybe 5-7 minutes?) until it started to end as slowly as it had begun and I felt my body returning to its normal state – lying in bed.
Day 29 – The second lucid dreaming experience
Yet, I experienced another lucid dream on the 28th day of my lucid dreaming endeavor. In between the time span of my very first lucid dream at the tenth day to the 28th day nothing in particular happened that would be worth mentioning here, except my out-of-body experience, described in the above. So, nearly one month after I started my lucid dreaming experiment I already experienced my second lucid dream, which is quite impressive for me. I hadn’t expected that it would be possible to learn how to have lucid dreams within such a short amount of time or to have my first senses of achievement that fast. Nevertheless, this lucid dreaming experience was quite different than the first one. This time, there wasn’t any contradictions or dream indicators that made me aware of the fact that I was dreaming – instead, the realization that I was dreaming came more natural or even automatic if you so want. I remember that I was at some airport with my friends and while we were chatting the thought that “this is a dream” started to arise and within seconds it evolved so that I started to recognize that I was dreaming. Once again, I felt myself lying in bed at that point and I guess I was even searching for the sensation of lying in bed, in order to support my claim. However, this time, the feeling was much weaker, as the impressions of the dream outweighed it by far. At the point I became lucid I immediately tried to change given aspects of my dream, which wasn’t as easy as I had anticipated, which could have been the reason that I started to forget about the fact that I was dreaming and continued my non-lucid dreams some minutes later.
During the tenth day of my lucid dreaming endeavor, I had gained the insight that rubbing one’s hands or spinning around could help to keep the lucid dream alive. At first, I didn’t question the reason behind this, but after having a closer look I found out that it was being done in order to decrease the sensation of external feelings outside of the dream world (e.g. noises, the feeling of lying in bed, etc.). Now, as a logical conclusion I think that it isn’t necessarily required to spin around in order to keep the lucid dream alive, but everything else that “intensifies the feeling” of dreaming can help you to remain in the state of dreaming. I awoke out of my first lucid dream, as I wasn’t able to spin and rub my hands effectively enough – imagining it was quite complicated as I was sitting in a car – during my dream. Nevertheless, I think it wasn’t necessary to apply the spinning technique, as I simply could have “intensified the sensation of dreaming” by stepping on the gas and racing through my city. I think the method to intensify the feeling seems to be a lot more natural and easier to apply – at least it is easier for me to do so, than spinning or rubbing.
At this point, I can clearly say that my attempts to encourage wake-initiated lucid dreams (WILD’s) were not as successful for me as I had anticipated it to be, as it is really tough to fall asleep when trying to apply this method. Still, I decided to continue applying the WILD technique as it is a great way to overcome sleep deprivation in the night; I think it calms my mind down and helps me to fall asleep very fast. Furthermore, I think that especially the wake-initiated lucid dreaming technique evokes out of body experiences (as described above), which are quite exciting for me, so there is no need for me to avoid applying the WILD technique. Nevertheless, it seems that I have completely ignored the counterpart of the WILD technique, the mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD). I’ve coincidently read about it today and I found it sounded promising, which is why I will include the MILD technique into my daily routine. The MILD method basically consists of:
- The waking from a dream
- Returning back to sleep, while concentrating on the purpose to recognize that you are dreaming, without thinking about anything else
- The visualization that you’re back in the dream you awoke from, with the difference that you now recognize that you’re dreaming, as you identify the dream signs
Finally, this article is coming to an end and at this point, I’d like to share my last insight on lucid dreaming with you that I gained during this experiment. The last insight is called “never give up”, but this time there are no helpful tips and tricks on lucidity included, as it comes with a general message to everyone who is as well interested in lucid dreaming. I think – above all other insights I shared with you – the hint to never give up is the best advice I can give you when it comes to your own ambition to experience lucid dreams as well. Have in mind, that there will be certainly days where you lack the motivation to continue as your endeavor might seem purposeless and not crowned with success as of yet, but being persistent pays off very well, especially in terms of lucid dreams. You might not be able to see astonishing results within the first days, weeks or even months of your experiment, but if you never lose faith you will succeed one day! Try to sustain your motivation by noticing and acknowledging even the smallest successes or positive changes, such as being able to remember more than 3-4 dreams of a night, etc. I remember that there was a period in my life (some years ago); where I simply couldn’t remember that I have dreamt at all. Having this in mind, you can guess how happy I was when I remembered more than 4 dreams in one night after I started my journey into the world of lucidity. I see my attempt to have lucid dreams as a step by step adventure, whose final destination cannot be reached by taking a short cut. I know that I can only reach the targeted destination by taking one step after another, from dream to dream, without stopping to walk.
I don’t know what the future will bring in terms of my lucid dreams. Nevertheless, I hoped you enjoyed reading my lucid dreaming diary and that it will help and support you to experience your own lucid dreams!
The day I started this lucid dreaming endeavor, I had anticipated that it would take me several months until the first signs of progress showed up, which is why I’m quite excited that it workout so far very well for me. Within the first month of my lucid dreaming experiment, I was able to experience two lucid dreams and one OOBE; something that is a huge success for me, as I had never experienced anything comparable before and I must say it’s quite exciting. At this point of my lucid dreaming endeavor, I can clearly say that lucid dreaming is no hocus pocus or scam at all; all it takes is persistence, effort and a basic overview/knowledge on the “how to trigger lucid dreams” and lucid dreaming in general.
This article on how I started having lucid dreams was presented by our Personal Development Blog.