How to know if you’re dreaming

Now that you’ve learned how to remember your dreams more, it’s time to tackle another vital aspect of Lucid Dreaming: How to know if you’re dreaming.

Reality Checking is the conscious act of determining if you are dreaming or awake. There are several methods of reality checks. In reality (pun intended), however, the basic function of reality checking is to notice something out of place or something that doesn’t seem quite right, and use this as proof that you are in a dream.

So, what to notice? Well, that is up to you. After you’ve written down the content of several dreams, you may begin to notice a pattern of emerging objects, people or themes that run through most or all of you dreams. These are called dreamsigns.

So, assume that one of my dreamsigns is a French Poodle. I may begin by setting the intention that every time I see a French Poodle, I will try out the reality checks which I”ll discuss shortly. This is somewhat of a Pavlovian anchoring exercise, designed to install the habit of doing a reality check.

Along with checking for the presence of dreamsigns there is the possibility of noticing something that just should not be happening. Flying pigs, cars that drive themselves, or speaking to a deceased relative at a fun carnival are just a few examples.

In my experience, this is somewhat harder to do. You may want to give it an honest go and see if it works for you, though. In case you’d like to, it involves becoming more aware of your surroundings than you normally are. This is akin to the exercise of describing everything in as much detail as possible that I described in my post on Remembering your dreams. This is a powerful skill to have if you can get it to work for you.

A popular reality checking method in dreams is to look at printed or written text or words, then looking away and looking back to see if the words are the same. If the wording is different than the first time, you are probably dreaming. I’ve personally not ever gotten this to work well, because for the most part words and text don’t change in my dreams. In one dream, in fact, I was reading words on a whiteboard like you see the restaurant “specials of the day” on. I looked away, then back, and the words were the same. I ended up going lucid from another method I use that I will tell you about later on, as it warrants a post all by itself. After going lucid, I looked at the whiteboard, and the words were still the same! Once I noticed that, I was intrigued. Why would the words be the same for me? I then had an idea. I started “willing” the words to change to other words, but instead the entire thing just jumbled up into a bunch of smudged symbols.
My personal favorite technique to do while awake is to look at my watch. I have a G-Shock watch and I have a little litany I do with it. I’ll look at the time on it, then I look at the words on it in a set pattern going around the face. Then I look away for a second or two, and look back and do the whole thing again. The whole process takes only about 2 or 3 seconds at most. The reason I like this so much is that it works for me, but also it meshes well with the next thing I’m talking about, which is the timing of your methods.

I’ve written before that these tricks and tips work best if they become subconscious habit. What better way to make it a subconscious habit than through lots and lots of practice? An awesome way to do this is to set a timer of some sort, and perform your favorite reality checking technique each time the timer goes off. This goes hand-in-hand with the idea of doing a reality check each time you see one of your personal dreamsigns. I prefer the watch method for two major reasons. First, because it can be set to go off whenever you want it to, so you’re not at the mercy of finding a dreamsign or not. Second, and probably best of all, is that sometimes in your sleep, if you’ve got one of those watches that goes off every hour, you’ll do reality checks each time it beeps.
You will know that you’ve made it into a habit when you notice yourself doing dream checks without being consciously aware that the watch has gone off. 🙂
So, in summary. If you want to be able to tell if you are dreaming or not, pay attention to your surroundings, look for your own personal dreamsigns and also keep on the lookout for things that are simply out of place. Try out the different methods for at least 3 weeks, to ensure each has a chance to turn into a habit. Find which methods work best for you and work with them.

Dream on!

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