In the past, we have given some tips on how to start lucid dreaming through the preparation of the room and through the use of binaural beats. But ultimately, once inside your dream, it is important that you recognize that you –are- dreaming, and not really awake, in order to start the lucid dream experience. This is important because dreams can be so vivid that you may accept it as reality, only to realize upon –truly- waking up that something was amiss in what you experienced, and that it was a dream instead! This is where reality checks come in.
What are reality checks?
Put simply, a reality check is an action or trigger that will help you distinguish between the dream world and reality. This is because the normal sensory experiences we have in the real world are not enough, because, in a vivid dream, they are virtually indistinguishable from the real thing! There is a need for something more for the mind to know whether it is awake or it is dreaming, and that is what a reality check is.
Usually, it is something very simple, something easily recognizable in the real world, but will yield a different experience in the dream world. When your mind realizes that the reality check does not match what happens in reality, this is usually when it accepts that it is dreaming, and triggers the start of the lucid dream experience.
How to do a reality check
The reality check starts, as with everything about lucid dreaming, with the mind. More specifically, the mind doubting whether or not what it is experiencing is real. “Is this a dream? Am I dreaming? Or am I awake?” are very potent questions that, once the mind is trained to ask, can make the act of doing a reality check much easier.
Once your mind begins to “doubt” what it is experiencing, perform a reality check. There are many ways to do a reality check; below is a shortlist of the most common and most effective reality checks
- Check normal body functions – can you hold your breath without difficulty? Are you having trouble seeing or hearing things, or actually see or hear better? What do your hands and arms look like when checked up close? A common practice is to try to push a finger through the palm of the other hand. Does it go through? If the answers to these questions are not what you’d normally answer when you’re awake, you’re dreaming!
- Recognize words/numbers – attempt to read something –a book, a clock, anything you might think is words on numbers-. Try to perform basic arithmetic, or answer very basic questions. If you cannot or are having much difficulty doing so, you are in a dream!
- Recall common information – try recalling your own mobile number, or home address, or your license plate. If you are awake, this will be easy. But because the part of your brain that controls this is shut off when you’re asleep, if this becomes a near-impossible task, you are dreaming.
- Break the laws of physics – check your feet and see if you can will yourself to hover or fly. If not, jump up and see if you’ll float back down instead of fall normally. Try to lift the first thing you see, and check if there’s weight, or if you need the effort to do it. If you feel like you’re starting to turn into a superhero, you’re in a dream!
When to do a reality check and building self-awareness
As a basic rule of thumb, you do a reality check when you feel like it. If you feel like something is wrong or out of place, and have even a small inkling of doubt whether or not you’re awake, perform a reality check. Even if you feel like you’re absolutely positively sure you’re awake, if you feel doubt, perform a reality check.
What this does is it reinforces in our minds what is real, and also makes it second nature for us to doubt and check our reality on a regular basis. Not only does this increase your self-awareness, and awareness in general, in the real world, this habit will also be carried over in your dreams. And this is when it becomes easier and easier to use reality checks as a key to unlock and start lucid dreaming.
To be used to doing reality checks, set triggers that will remind you to do so. A popular and effective way is to do a reality check when you do habitual actions, like when you check your phone, or open your bedroom door, or step out of the house. Any event that you do regularly can be a trigger for you to spend 1-2 seconds of your time on doing a reality check.
If that isn’t enough, you can also remind yourself via notes. Place a note on your door, or your steering wheel, or your laptop or book.
Despite all these things, however, sometimes reality check will fail, and this is not your fault. It simply means either your will to do a reality check isn’t as strong yet, or the dream is so powerful and vivid that it is almost more real than reality itself, which can alter the results of your checks. If this is the case, just go with the flow until something happens that will reveal the dream. And when that happens, do a check again, and keep doing so until you enter the lucid dream state!
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