The Dream of your dreams:
Lucid Dreaming 101

Some of us fear their dreams, some of us embrace their dreams, and some of us even believe our dreams have a deeper meaning. And then, there are those of us who refuse to be bystanders of their own dreams, but learn to master them instead.

Lucid dreaming is actually about one thing: realizing that you are dreaming while you are still in the dream. Lucid dreamers consciously enter their dreams to examine the depths of their unconscious, just like Leonardo DiCaprio does in Inception. Usually, when we realize that we are actually dreaming, the dream world collapses and we wake up. So, lucid dreamers have found ways to train themselves to stay in the dream even after realizing that it is actually a dream.

The spinning top from Inception. Source:

The spinning top from Inception. Source:


Step 1: Start a dream journal

It doesn’t matter if you only write a few sentences. The important part is that you get into the habit of remembering your dreams. The more you write, the more details you will remember.

Step 2: Incorporate reality checks into your life

The important exercise here is that you look for things that make you realize you are dreaming. Good indicators are clocks or a look at your hand. In a dream, you will not be able to read the time (or anything else for that matter), and you will not be able to count your fingers. The key is to also work on reality checks while you are awake. This way you might dream about them – and realize that you are dreaming when reality doesn’t check out.

Step 3: Do not wake up

The biggest challenge with lucid dreaming is not to wake up once you realize that you are dreaming. The DILD – dream initiated lucid dream – is something most of us have already experienced: we somehow realize we are dreaming (which usually wakes us up). The MILD – mnemonic induced lucid dream – requires you to tell yourself “I am going to lucid dream tonight” over and over again before you fall asleep. (Tip: The MILD works best when you wake up in the middle of the night, stay awake for 30 minutes, and then go back to sleep with the intention to lucid dream.) The WILD – wake initiated lucid dream – consists in keeping your mind awake while your body falls asleep. (But beware: The WILD holds the risk of sleep paralysis!)

Step 4: Do it your own way

Not everybody thinks the same way. As a consequence, not everybody dreams the same way. Reality checks that might work for others, don’t necessarily have to work for you. Everybody has to find their own unique path to the dream world.

Photo credit: Cover image by Unsplash.

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About Verena Ehrnberger

Verena works as a data privacy legal expert and studies philosophy at the University of Vienna. Always juggling multiple projects, she is seriously addicted to coffee.

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