The first time I lucid dreamed, I played dream soccer. I took penalty kicks over and over again in my dream, the ball flashing back to the twelve-meter mark like magic. I knew that I was dreaming, but I also felt like I was really at Emirates Stadium, out on the pitch practicing before a big match. The funny thing about lucid dreaming is that whether you use it to go on a date with Kate Upton or for practicing soccer (or both), it opens up a world which feels entirely real but that, inexplicably, can deny the laws of physics. You can fly over Paris, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in one hour, buy out every store on Fifth Avenue, master an instrument, or improve your penalty kicks. And, weirdly, the skills you work on in lucid dreams translate directly to real life. If you speak a foreign language in your dreams, you’re actually getting better at it, or if you shoot hoops, you’ll improve your technique.
The craziest thing is that anyone can lucid dream if they want to. You could live an average life from 9 AM to midnight, but once your head hits the pillow you could find yourself halfway across the world on a safari or atop the Eiffel Tower, everything feeling nearly as real as when you’re awake.
There are, however, a few steps that one usually must take to initiate a lucid dream though. Thankfully, they’re not too hard.
Oh, and Kate, call me back in real life please.
1. Perform Reality Checks
In dreams, you might have a headless man chasing you or the clock on your nightstand might just be letters and ampersands. If you routinely check whether you’re dreaming while you’re awake (I do it every time I pass through a doorway), then you’ll be more likely to realize you’re dreaming when you’re asleep. Most everyone dreams each and every night, it’s just that often we don’t recognize we’re dreaming and we don’t register it as anything important. If you’re used to checking whether the people around you have all turned into half-zebras during the day then you’ll be more likely to notice something’s awry when you’re asleep. Once you know you’re dreaming, then the fun can begin.
2. Start a Dream Journal
So as not to forget your dreams and to facilitate a keener memory in the future, you should start keeping a dream journal (or “diary” if you’re cute and saccharine like that). Think about how many mornings you wake up, roll over, maybe grab your phone, and start thinking about the day ahead. Stop that. If you remain still immediately after waking up and think through your dreams, you’ll be able to mentally record them, write them down, and then recognize dreams when they’re actually happening (leading to a lucid dream).
3. Meditate More
Train yourself to stay in a dream state for longer by meditating during the day. You’re less likely to be jostled out of a lucid dream by changes in your real-life surroundings (e.g. light changes, noise, wind from fans, etc.) if you practice staying in this state during the day.
Dr. Stephen LaBerge, a neuroscientist and lucid dream researcher at Stanford, recommends intentionally waking yourself up in the middle of the night, telling yourself that in ten minutes you will lucid dream, then going back to sleep. The idea is to blur the line between sleep and real life so that your mind allows you to enter a lucid dreaming state. Ideally, you’ll have a lot of time and can wake up early at, say, 7 a.m., hit the snooze button, fall back into a lucid dream, awake with another alarm, and fall back asleep again. Reality and dreams will morph together so your mind can stay aware that it’s dreaming.
5. How to Stay In Your Dream State
G. Scott Sparrow, a clinical psychologist and author of the personal account, Lucid Dreaming: Dawning of the Clear Light, recommends looking at your hands to stabilize yourself once you’ve begun dreaming.
As Sparrow writes, “…I walk on down the street. It is night; and as I look up at the sky I am astounded by the clarity of the stars. They seem so close. At this point I become lucid. The dream ‘shakes’ momentarily. Immediately I look down at the ground and concentrate on solidifying the image and remaining in the dreamscape. Then I realize that if I turn my attention to the pole star above my head, the dream image will further stabilize itself. I do this; until gradually the clarity of the stars returns in its fullness.”
It’s also advised to rub your hands together so you don’t start to concentrate on the fact that you’re sleeping and lying in bed, which could wake you out of your dream state. You can do anything though really, whether it’s snapping your fingers, shaking your foot, or nodding your head, as long as it further immerses you in the dream state.