Monday, 30 March 2015

Lucid Dream Tutorials - Dream Journals, Dreamsigns & Reality Checks (LUCID DREAMING FOR BEGINNERS TUTORIAL SERIES)

Tutorial Aims
  • Experience Level: Beginner (Level 1)
  • Explain the importance of maintaining a daily dream journal and the benefits for lucid dreaming
  • Provide advice on how to keep a daily dream journal
  • Provide an explanation of dreamsigns and how to recognise and use them for lucid dreaming
  • Explain the importance of reality checking
  • Explore how reality checking relates to dreamsigns in DILDs (Dream Initiated/Induced Lucid Dreams) and how both can be used to effectively trigger lucidity within the non-lucid dream state

This tutorial provides a more in-depth guide to dream journals, dreamsigns and reality checks. These are all elements of DILD (Dream Initiated/Induced Lucid Dreams) which we are learning using Stephen LaBerge's MILD Technique (known as either Memory Induced Lucid Dreaming/Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreaming). 

The introduction to my 6-step MILD Technique Tutorial in the Tallulah La Ghash Lucid Dreaming for Beginners Tutorial Series can be found by clicking this link. It is strongly advised that you read that Blog post before this one, if you have not already done so.

Dream Journals
If you want to lucid dream, it is essential that you begin training yourself to recall as many dreams as you can. If you can't remember your dreams when you wake up, you will never know if you are being triggered to have a lucid dream. Some people say if you don't remember you dream, you might become lucid and not know about it. I tend to think that this misunderstands the nature and experience of lucid dreams. When we become lucid in a dream, we have access to our conscious mind - our waking brains - in the dream state. Therefore, it is likely that becoming lucid would be enough of a 'eureka!' moment to have a significant impact on our psyche (even when asleep) to process that memory so that we remember the lucid dream when we wake up. However, if we don't tend to recall our normal non-lucid dreams every night, we might miss value triggers which would allow us to experience a DILD. 

A dream journal helps us to recognise dreamsigns which the prompt us to reality check when we next notice one in a normal non-lucid dream. 

Some people like to use a Dream Anchor to help them set an intention to remember their dreams. This could be a picture on your bedroom wall which you look at last thing before you go to sleep and first thing when you wake up. While looking at the Dream Anchor, you perform your Dream Affirmations - which might be 'I will remember my dreams' or 'I will experience a lucid dream'. The affirmation creates a trigger which the subconscious brain can relate to, encouraging you to focus on your dreams and associate the Dream Anchor with the act of remembering your dream.

Here are my core techniques for successfully keeping a Dream Journal:

  • Keep your Dream Journal (a notebook or a piece of paper and a pen) right beside your bed, or even under your pillow. It needs to be within arm's length every time you go to sleep.
  • When you first wake up, remain in the same position that you awoke in and keep your eyes closed. Do not let any thoughts distract you - focus only on your dream and attempt to recall it in full. Get it clear in your head.
  • If possible, I sometimes speak my dream out loud to myself as I recall it, to properly affix it in my waking memory.
  • If I cannot recall my dream very well, I use a stream of conscious/free association technique. This means saying/writing everything and anything which comes into your mind, without censoring or editing your thought process. It is a completely free flow of thoughts, which should not be restricted in any way. This may allow your subconscious mind to 'recall' lost aspects of your dream. You can write your stream of conscious exercise in your Dream Journal - do not bother about spelling or grammar, as long as your entry can be read by yourself.
  • Us your Dream Journal to write down as much of your dream as you can remember - in as much detail as possible.
  • Even if you cannot recall all of your dream, note down anything that you do remember in your Dream Journal, such as colours, shapes, sounds, words, thoughts, emotions etc.
  • Try to write in the immediate first-person - i.e. from your own present-tense perspective. Record your dream like: 'I am walking on a beach' rather than 'I walked on a beach'. I admit that I do record my own dreams in third-person on my Dream Journal/Blog, but I recall them in my mind in first-person. 
  • If you can draw a sketch to illustrate any aspects of your dream in your Dream Journal, do so. I use the internet to find photographs which relate to the dream content - particularly if I dream about celebrities or objects from the waking world. This can help with later Dream Visualisation. 
  • Give your dream a catchy title and date it.
  • If you know specifically when your dream occurred - i.e. what approximate time it occurred within your general sleep pattern for that night, you can gain an understanding of your sleep cycle and when you are most likely to experience the longest, most vivid dreams. This should be quite easy if your dreams are occurring during a WBTB/WB2B (Wake-Back-To-Bed Method).
  • Identify key themes in your dream. You may find that this reveals certain Dream Signs, making them more obvious to you (see below). You should use keywords to highlight strong themes, such as 'Sex', 'Death', 'Nature', 'Education', 'Family', 'Zombies' etc, and use these keywords to annotate your Dream Journal. This makes it possible to recognise recurrent themes - another way of using Dreamsigns to trigger lucidity.
  • Read through your Dream Journal as much as possible - and particularly before bed or if performing the WBTB/WB2B (Wake-Back-To-Bed Method) or an afternoon nap.
  • You will use your dream journal to note Dreamsigns (see below).
  • If you experience a lucid dream - note this in your Dream Journal. Include any lucid dream triggers which caused you to have a DILD. 
  • Note down any Day Residue - Day Residue was Freud's term for the events or experiences of the previous day (i.e. the day before the dream) which seems to have influenced the content of the dream. For example, if you see a pink rose at some point during your waking day, you might dream of a pink rose when you go to sleep at night. Your Day Residue may be even more obscure or symbolised - for example, you may meet a female dream character named 'Rose' who is dressed in pink. Try and note any waking influences on your dream content as you read your latest entry in your Dream Journal after writing it. I try and analyse the past few days before any of my dreams to see if I can recognise any Day Residue. 
  • Use your Dream Journal to note down your immediate waking thoughts and emotions - as well as any lingering feelings created by the dream affect or influence your waking life. This is known as Dream Residue. Did your dream make you feel happy? depressed? exhilarated? anxious?
  • Note any major life issues in your Dream Journal - you can do this underneath each dream entry or just at regular periodic points throughout the journal, which should be organised in chronological order.
  • Think about interpreting or analysing your dream to enable you to understand your subconscious mind and dream ego. Interpreting your dreams can reveal a lot about the real you, as well as focusing your waking mind on the act of dreaming, which in turn will stimulate you to pay more attention to your dreams generally. Note down any interpretations in your Dream Journal - using either dream interpretation guides online; the stream of conscious/free associate technique favoured by psychoanalysts; or in any way you feel helps you unlock the secret meaning of your dream. There are no bad dream interpretation methods.

Many lucid dreamers use Dreamsigns to help them become lucid. Dreamsigns are the odd, bizarre, weird or impossible events or objects which occur/appear in dreams which make us think: 'I must be dreaming!'

When we are asleep and dreaming, the pre-frontal cortex and the orbital frontal cortex of our brain (our 'conscious' which is located behind the eyes) is deactivated. This is the rational fact-checker part of our brain. When it is shut down, we do not tend to question the reality of our dreams and just accept the action/events without necessarily recognising that they could only happen in a dream. The amygdala - the part of the brain which controls our fear and emotions is very active while we are in the dream state. 

There are many levels of lucid dreaming.  I tend to use the following: 

  • Pre-lucid - The dreamer recognises the dream-like quality of the dream, although the dreamer doe not actually become lucid).
  • Semi-lucid - The lowest level of lucidity - the dreamer realises that they could be dreaming due to the impossibility of the dream content, but either wakes up or remains in a halfway state, still accepting the reality of the dream content. The dreamer has access to some of their waking mind, such as thoughts, memories and emotions, but does not have their full waking cognitive processes).
  • Fully-lucid - The dreamer is triggered to become lucid and is consciously aware that they are dreaming. They have access to their waking mind and may be able to control some aspects of the dream).
  • Super-lucid - The dreamer is consciously aware that they are dreaming and can exercise high levels of control over the dream, in the style of a 'Dream Architect').

Due to the de-activation of the fact-checking part of our brain which occurs when we are asleep and dreaming, it can be very difficult to spot Dreamsigns when we are in a dream. This is why writing them down in your Dream Journal will help you. You will be able to note any recurrent Dreamsigns/themes which will remind you to notice/question next time they appear in a normal non-lucid dream. When you are able to spot a Dreamsign in a normal non-lucid dream, and you start to wonder if you are dreaming, this is the optimal time to perform a Reality Check to make sure. We will discuss how Reality Checks relate to Dreamsigns below. 

So a Dreamsign is any clue/cue that you are in a dream and that the dream reality is not real. Dreamsigns can be very obvious (you can talk to animals) or it may be very personal and subjective (your dead father is still alive). 

Stephen LaBerge identifies 4 categories of Dreamsign:

  • Inner Awareness - There is something odd/bizarre about your own in-dream thoughts, memories, sensations, perceptions or feelings.
  • Action - A physical action or activity is impossible, or significantly different/wrong in the way it is experienced.
  • Form - The shape or appearance of a person. object or location is significantly different to how it appears in waking reality.
  • Context - The situation you are in is contrary to real life or so odd, bizarre, weird or impossible that it could only occur in a dream.

When you recognise a Dreamsign in your Dream Journal entries, mark it - for example, by highlighting it or underlining it. Categorise your Dreamsigns according to LaBerge's 4 categories (I, A, F or C) and make sure you identify recurrent Dreamsigns. The more attention you pay to Dreamsigns in your waking reality, the more chance you will have in spotting them when they next occur in your dream. The art of lucid dreaming is to stretch the limits of your conscious when you are asleep, but it helps if you exercise your conscious awareness while you are awake, and entrain your memory to help you trigger lucidity.

Here is an example of a previous Dream Journal entry of my own, which I have used to show you how to mark and categorise your Dreamsigns:

'An Alcoholic Ghost Child & the House of Rats'
Dream date: 29 May 2014
Myself (and others - maybe my family, or friends) were being given a new house. This house was being given to me/us by the game The Sims (C - Context: only possible in a video-game) - it looked like it was made of computer-generated graphics (pixelated) (F - Form: reality does not look like computer-generated graphics). All houses which were given by The Sims came with a bonus gift - a piece of furniture or something related to the house. There was a computer-game like flash of light and a sofa spawned from nowhere (A/C - Action: objects do not spawn from a flash of light; Context - this is an impossible scenario) - it was beige leather (three-seater) with wooden arm rests. Unfortunately the sofa also came with a ghost baby (C - Context: this is an impossible scenario). I then realised that my mum also lived in new computer house with me. The ghost baby was now a ghost child, although she seemed to age quickly, as it did not seem as if any amount of time had passed since we first moved into the new house (I/C - Inner Awareness: perception of time feels odd; Context: this is an impossible scenario). *The ghost child needed a lot of care because she was an alcoholic - she was white and translucent - like ghosts appear in The Sims3. She held two bottles of vodka, which were also white and transparent quality - she drank from them with straws. It was her first day of primary school and she was wearing a transparent school uniform and carrying a backpack. It was very bright - I think the lights in the house were on. When the alcoholic ghost child returned from school, she had aged into a teenager - she had short black hair (cut in a pudding-basin style) and huge, white-rimmed glasses on, which made her eyes look massive behind the lens. She was tall and big-built, almost masculine in appearance and body shape.* (All content about a ghost baby/child is a Dreamsign) She seemed to be very unintelligent, but now she was solid in form, like a normal human (F - Form: there has been a transformation within the dream which is impossible). I am not sure what she was wearing. In hindsight, she was very similar to the unknown female dream character (recurrent Dreamsign/theme?)  described in Dream 243 and Dream 242 (to a lesser extent, but there is something 'familiar' about these female dream characters who are all larger than me, with shorter dark hair and often wearing glasses). I felt annoyed that we had 'inherited' this tedious and needy alcoholic ghost child along with our sofa.

I was then with my mum sitting outside a pub, which appeared in some respects to the The Crown in Sheringham, which is a popular seafront pub. We were sat at a table, drinking. I think at this point in the dream it seemed to be sunny. To my right there was an old, dilapidated house (I/F - Inner Awareness: I recognised this location well-known to me in real-life looked different; Form - a location is significantly different to real-life) - which seemed to be made from rotting wood. I went closer to the building. On the side (which was crumbling) there was some kind of ledge, tilted at a diagonal angle, attached to the exterior wall. I think this was on the front, to the right of the entrance, which was just off-centre to the left of the building - just an open door with rubbish or litter outside. There was one huge rat (about as big as a lion) (F - Form: impossible size for a rat) resting on this ledge, and smaller rats (the size of a cat) running backwards and forwards over its back. I watched this in amazement for awhile. As I turned to walk back towards the pub, I saw I was still on the seafront, but it looked completely different from Sheringham - more industrialised and city-like (I/F - Inner Awareness: I recognised the location which is well-known to me in real-life looked very different; Form - the location was significantly different to real-life). The wooden building was still run-down and abandoned, but now seemed to be made of grey brick, in a very Soviet-like architectural style (F - Form: there was a transformation in the appearance of the building within the dream). There was graffiti on the outside walls. The road in front of me was very grey in colour and wide, with the beach to my left as I faced the direction The Crown had been in. I saw one man doing some form of manual labour on the roadside, and a cloud of dust blew up from the concrete. I realised that it was actually quite sunny again, whereas just seconds before everything had looked dreary and grey.

I then found out that DL's friend 'Gracie' (a dream character) (I - Inner Awareness: DL does not have a friend called Gracie) was planning on moving into the dilapidated seafront house. She had applied to the local council and was going to be paid housing benefit to live there. I thought that this house must have been broken up into smaller flats on the inside for this to be possible. I visited the house once again to have a look at the renovation work. Now, the house was no longer on the seafront, but instead a short distance away at the top of Sheringham town, where the new Tesco building is situated, beside the railway line (C - Context: the location of a building cannot just change). This area looked as it had when I was a child growing up in the town - there was the old fire station and also the 'Teen & Twenty' which was a community centre/youth club with a skateboard ramp to the side (I/F - Inner Awareness: I knew this location was different now to in my childhood memory and that I was dreaming of how the area looked in the past; Form: the location looked different to how I know it looks in real-life) - a popular skate spot before asbestos was found and the ramp got removed because of changes in use of the building. The dilapidated, ruined house still looked terrible, but it was now positioned behind the back of the Teen & Twenty. There was some kind of flowery garden which was elevated (F - Form: there is no elevated flowery garden in this location and it appeared to be an unrealistic area, not physically possible). It was where the skateboard ramp used to be - I found myself seated in the flower garden looking down at the house. There were other people there - it seemed to be twilight hours and some sort of party was happening, but it was genteel and calm, with people sat around conversing and enjoying drinks. 

I then found myself standing outside the ruined building, on the path in front of it. I had a huge syringe in my hand - it was much bigger than me. I injected the house with rats, using the window as an entrance point into the building (A/C - Action: impossible; Context: impossible). What came out of the needle-end of the syringe looked like wet, slimy white icing sugar or something like that. The syringe appeared to be made of ornate white and red cake decorations (F - Form: an operative syringe will never be made out of cake decorations or be filled with icing sugar). As I walked away from the building the sun began shining brightly and I realised that the local council offices were now situated right beside the ruined, rat-infested building - where the old fire station once was. I looked through the battered entrance to the ruined building and saw that there was a rave happening inside - I could see the vague outlines of lots of people dancing inside, either unaware or not caring about the rats I had just injected into the building with my massive syringe, which I no longer had in my hands.

I then found myself in my downstairs lounge in my house in Norwich. I was sitting at the dining table, either reading something or looking at my laptop screen while DL and 'Gracie' were sat behind me on stools. The room appeared exactly as it does in real-life. 'Gracie' was a very petite girl (she only reached my shoulder in height and looked very skinny) who  had bright red dyed hair in a punky style. She was wearing big pink earrings and denim dungarees. She and DL were talking, while I was annoyed because they were disturbing me. Gracie suddenly started crying hysterically and uncontrollably. DL explained that Gracie was very upset because she had just found out that the singer Lily Allen had died (C - Context: Lily Allen has not died). We all looked at a picture of Lily Allen on my laptop, and Gracie continued to cry loudly.

The scene changed and I was in my nan's bathroom in her house in Sheringham. There was another female with me (C - Context: why is there a random, unknown female in my nan's bathroom?), changing clothes. This female was tall and very wide. She was wearing a black top and black leggings. She had shoulder length black hair and an unattractive, masculine face. She turned round and cupped her breasts, which were long and saggy, down to her waist, despite the fact she was a young woman. She said: 'I was born with these, genetically'. I took this to mean that the breasts were a family trait. She said: 'I can't do anything about them because they are stuck like this' - she attempted to lift her breasts, but they were stuck to her waist (F - Form: it is physically impossible for a woman's breasts to be stuck to her waist). I felt sorry for her, but also contempt. I wondered why she was in the bathroom and had the sense that she was an intruder in the house. I wanted to get rid of her, but she seemed somewhat depressed about her breasts. 

Using your Dream Journal to note your Dreamsigns entrains you to start recognising them when they occur in a dream - and help you to start activating that fact-checker part of the brain while in the dream state. 

Reality Checks
Reality checks are a very simple lucid dreaming technique which train you to be more aware of your waking consciousness during the day. Using Reality Checks makes you more self-aware and once you establish them as a habitual activity, should begin to penetrate your dreams and become second-nature. Once your Reality Checking habit is strong enough to start to occur in your dreams, you will perform it when you recognise a Dreamsign.

A Reality Check is therefore a mental habit. You should choose an activity which has different results when you perform it awake and when you perform it in a dream. The brain creates 'neural constructs' which are based on experiential learning (learning from experience). By employing critical thinking and self-awareness exercises in your waking life, soon this learning will transfer into your dreams and help you become lucid. Some common Reality Checks include:
  • Looking in a mirror - in the dream our appearance is often distorted - sometimes to a small extent, and sometimes significantly.
  • Trying to push the fingers of one hand through the palm of another - this is impossible to do when awake, but can often happen easily when attempted in a dream.
  • Looking at your hands - they often appear distorted or odd in a dream.
  • Reading text/numbers - in a dream this is often difficult, impossible or yields bizarre results.
  • Maths - performing simple arithmetic may give unusual or bizarre results in a dream.
  • Holding the nostrils closed and trying to breathe through the nose - impossible when awake, but possible in the dream.
  • Jumping - when awake, gravity brings you back down to the ground, but in a dream, you may float.
Some Dreamsigns and Reality Checks may involve the same action. For example, if you are in a normal non-lucid dream and you look at your reflection in a mirror and notice that it appears bizarre and different from your waking expectation, this would be an example of a Dreamsign. If you have recognised a different Dreamsign within your dream (you can hold a conversation with your cat) and then use your reflection in the mirror to check whether you are dreaming, this is a Reality Check. Reading text in a dream can be a Dreamsign (if it makes you question whether you are dreaming) or a Reality Check (if performed to ascertain that you are definitely dreaming). Dreamsigns and Reality Checks are therefore interwoven in lucid dreaming practice.

The aim is to perform the Reality Check regularly throughout the waking day, to entrain your memory to remember to do this in your dreams. Set an alarm to remind your to Reality Check, or perform a Reality Check every time you do a regular, routine activity, such as passing through a doorway or walking up/down a flight of stairs. You should perform as many Reality Checks during your waking day as is possible - preferably upwards of 20. 

When you perform your Reality Check, you need to engage your self-awareness. This means critically analysing your current consciousness, perception, thoughts and feelings, to make sure whether you are actually awake or dreaming. Ask yourself: 'Am I awake, or am I dreaming?' during the Reality Check. Use your perceptions and senses to guide you in reaching a conclusion, and make sure you focus your mind. Reality Checking often fails because the dreamer does not apply themselves to the self-awareness tasks properly, and simply perform the physical element of the Reality Check without questioning their reality and consciousness. Also, make sure you really attempt the physical action of the Reality Check - of course you know what the outcome should be in waking reality, but do not become complacent and go through the motions - put effort in and treat each waking Reality Check as a fresh test of whether you are awake and experiencing reality or asleep and in the dream state. 

Pay attention to your surrounding environment and scrutinise the details - note the sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feeling of everything around you. When asking yourself if you are awake or dreaming, ensure you come to a reason-based conclusion each time (i.e. 'I know I am awake because I can see my reflection in the mirror and I know it to be what I expect to see when I am awake. I am in my bedroom and it looks as I expect it to look in my waking reality. I can feel the ground under my feet and smell the flowers in the vase. I know there are flowers in a vase in my bedroom in my waking reality').

A Reality Check is therefore a simple question about your reality and a simple, pre-determined and often physically impossible action.

Numerous and regular mindful Reality Checks are the key to learning how to lucid dream. Perform a Reality Check every time you wake up - this will allow you to realise if you are in a False Awakening, which is a dream state often mistaken for waking reality because the dreamer is tricked into thinking they have just awoken from a sleep, when in fact they are still asleep and dreaming.

In your dreams, when you spot a Dreamsign, you should be prompted to Reality Check. A failed Reality Check (the performance of the Reality Check gives different results to what you would expect in waking reality) proves to you that you are dreaming. Sometimes, Reality Checks behave 'normally' in a dream i.e. they give the same result as you would expect when awake (i.e. the fingers of one hand cannot pass through the palm of another, or your reflection in the mirror looks the same as in waking reality). This is normal, and you should continue with your practice even if you miss opportunities to become lucid. Lucid dreaming is a journey, not a destination and can take a lot of dedication and practice. Remembering to Reality Check and question your reality is a key foundational aspect of learning how to successfully lucid dream. 

Linked posts: 


  1. I appreciate the effort you have put into your Blog.

    I was led to your Blog by someone else that had copied what you wrote which is also taken from elsewhere.

    I am a Sleep Paralysis Researcher and have 37 Years of personal experience with OBE's - Lucid Dreams and have studied various form of mystery school teachings of the Occult.

    I have noticed a growing trend of people just taking from one another and just basically putting all the same information you find elsewhere. Just presented in a different fashion.

    Dream Journals are fantastic.

    My advice is to cram less into one page as it is all over the place and the colors make it even more confusing.

    If I knew nothing about Lucid dreams and came here first I would be confused. Seriously.

    You should start of gentle and keep it simple. You cram too much info in one page and it makes one reluctant to read more.

    that's why stopped reading and came straight down to see if I could leave a comment because it's just too much for beginners.

    If you want to make a great page use a website builder that is less difficult, more professional looking and most of all, easy on the eyes.

    I suppose it's just your blog and the presentation is kind of messy as well as crammed.

    And for your own protection. NEVER put your true location down on your blog and people will disrespect you more than anything if you continue making videos half-dressed.

    You could do so much better.

  2. The DILD Technique?