Seven Steps to Better-Than-Reality Dreams
Dreams: Cool-ass movies you can watch for free with no download times and which often star you and often have porn. They can even tell the future (maybe), help resolve the past and give you insight into the present. What’s not to love about these flickery little bastards? Next time you’re complaining about life, just remember this: your brain, clever fucker that it is, has automatically provided for a good solid few hours every day where you get to be the star of the show, unicorns are real, you can fly, you get to have any kind of sex you want, and also Rodney Dangerfield is trying to kill you with a machete for stealing the plans to the replica of the Empire State Building he’s constructing from light and candy in his garage. Wait, forget that last one. That’s, uh, personal.
A lot of people complain they don’t remember their dreams. That can be fixed. A lot of people claim their dreams are boring. That can be fixed, too. In fact, turns out that dreaming is a skill you can build just like any other with a little persistence and some simple techniques. With a little practice, you can activate Lucid Dream Mode and have conscious control while dreaming.
So if you’re ready to throw out the TV and the YouTubes and get into some real deep inner territory, like balls deep, read on:
1. Write your dreams down every morning.
This is the most important thing in this list. If you don’t do anything else, do this. Get a journal, stick it by the bed with a pen, and write down all the crazy shit you remember from your dreams the instant you wake up. Don’t stall; if you switch gears even a bit to check your e-mail or take a shower, you’re going to lose most, if not all, of what you dreamt. The more you do this, the more you’ll remember from your dreams. This is basically the lock and key that opens up your dreamspace. The more detail you record, the more detail you’ll remember the next night, and the more you’ll start to gain control of what you’re dreaming.
2. Set your intention.
Tell yourself what you want to dream about before you go to sleep. Visualize the type of dream you want to have. Ask yourself a question. Pick one thing, and stick to it; maybe write it in your dream journal and then see how you net out in the morning. Coupled with the practice of dream journalling, this will help you gain more and more control over the dream state, allowing you access to new capacities for problem solving and satisfaction.
3. Dream-Induced Lucid Dreaming (DILD).
This is, simply put, a dream in which you remember that you’re dreaming. This is harder than it sounds, but can be done. The key is reality checking. Throughout the day, you want to constantly check if you’re in a dream or not (a la the Dream Tokens from Inception). There are a lot of ways to do this. Try setting your phone to go off every hour, and every time it beeps, ask yourself “Am I dreaming?” Now try doing something you’d only be able to do in a dream, like flying or walking through a wall. If you can, holy shit: You’re in a dream, you are now aware that you’re in a dream, and you should now be able to do whatever the f*ck you wanna do in that dream. If you can’t, you’re still awake, but the idea is that if you do this enough while awake, eventually it’ll become so ingrained into your consciousness that you’ll do it while you’re dreaming, and successfully go lucid.
4. Wake-Induced Lucid Dreaming (WILD).
This is a more direct technique that tends to be favored by lucid dream researchers. It’s weird as shit. As one passes out of wakefulness and into sleep, one drifts into a state where what’s known as hypnagognic imagery flashes before your eyes. It also happens in the morning when you’re just waking up. In the weird in-between state between wakefulness and sleep, you start getting hypervivid dream imagery while still conscious. When WILDing, you focus on that imagery and drift into it directly, keeping the mind awake by an act of will while the body falls asleep. This works best when taking a nap during the day, or after waking up in the middle of the night, and it works best when lying on your back. Reaching total sexual exhaustion with or without a partner is also immensely helpful. WILDs are fast, frantic and often potently meaningful, like a DMT trip, but you’re likely to only retain a fraction of what happens. This is where your journal comes in handy.
(Bonus: Salvador Dalí developed his own approach to what might now be called a WILD called the paranoiac-critical method. His version: Sit in a comfy lean-back chair and pass into sleep. In your right hand, hold a rock, which is positioned directly over a steel plate on the floor. At the moment you pass out, your hand will relax and the rock will hit the plate. Now immediately write down whatever you just saw.)
5. Wake Back to Bed (WBTB).
Get yourself up after you complete a sleep cycle in the middle of the night. Tough, but possible (low doses of melatonin can help to clearly regulate and demarcate your sleep cycles), especially if you don’t have to be anywhere early the next morning. Get up and putz around for an hour. Drink some water. Look at the stars. Meditate or do some other deep shit that lets you stay awake without totally switching into normal consciousness. Now go back to bed. This is the primary time to initiate a WILD or DILD.
These are “dream psychedelics” that create a more fertile ground for lucid dreams. First and foremost, you want some melatonin, which isn’t an oneirogen per se, but which will help put you in a more regulated, deeper sleep, allowing greater periods of REM. You can combine this with GABA and Valerian for more restful sleep overall. (Protip: If you’re in the US, Costco’s brand of Melatonin comes with GABA and Valerian already in it and is super cheap for big quantities.) Now, if you want to get into some real territory, go on Amazon or elsewhere and get hold of a Galantamine and Choline combo. There are a lot of oneirogens but I have it that this is the favored compound of lucid dream researchers. Galantamine is a memory-booster that is currently being tried out with Alzheimer’s patients; Choline (a.k.a. Vitamin B6) activates it (and helps with sleep and cognition in general). To use this Dream-DMT, you need to do a successful WBTB (you can’t just take it before bed). Stay up for an hour and then scarf 400-800 mg of Galantamine/Choline, and go right into a WILD. Now enjoy your exit from this reality. You can also try taking Piracetam, a nootropic which is conveniently also potentiated by Choline, for overall dream clarity and recall. However, let me underline that without a steady practice of the above techniques, without the developed ability to recall and journal your dreams, and especially without the discipline and will it takes to successfully execute a WBTB, this stuff is going to be useless to you. You can’t just take it and go to bed; without interrupting your sleep schedule it’ll all wear off before you get to the part of the night you’ll be able to recall details of your REM cycles from.
7. Dream Yoga.
If you want to get even more serious, the Tibetans have a whole arsenal of techniques for fucking with dreams. Check out Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep for an introduction, or Between the Gates by Mark Stavish for a slightly more Westernized version.
Don’t forget to set intentions (use sigils if you like) and record everything—Happy Travels!