Lucid Dreaming: A Step by Step Guide to Dream Control

lucid dreaming night

Lucid dreaming is the doorway to your inner universe.

A lucid dream is a dream where you know you’re dreaming and have full control over the dream. Lucid dreaming is a natural phenomenon, a science, and an art. As a natural phenomenon lucid dreaming has surely existed as long as dreams have. As an art it has been practiced for thousands of years, and across many cultures. Lucid dreaming was first described as a practice in the Upanishads, various Yoga Sutras, and in many Tibetan Buddhist texts.

As a scientific practice lucid dreaming has existed since 1898, when Frederik van Eeden first coined the term “lucid dreaming” in his report, The Study of Dreams. Nowadays, due in large part to scientists such as Stephen LaBerge, lucid dreaming institutes are hard at work providing the study of lucid dreaming with unprecedented discoveries and evidence.

Lucid dreaming has been verified as a state of consciousness with “definable and measurable differences” from waking life and REM sleep. It has been physiologically verified as a legitimate occurrence using EEG scans, polygraphs, the intentional use of planned signals while a person is lucid dreaming, and more.

lucid dreaming mind

Controlling your dreams is easier than you might think.

In a 2008 report, scientists from universities in Japan and Germany analyzed five different studies from five different countries focusing on the prevalence of lucid dreaming. They found that the prevalence between countries varied greatly. 47% of the Japanese participants reported having had at least one lucid dream in their lifetime. About 70-80% of US, German, and Dutch citizens reported at least one. And a whopping 92% of Chinese people reported at least one lucid dream.

According to the above statistics, it’s entirely possible that you’ve experienced an unintentional lucid dream before. Lucid dreams involve varying degrees of vividness, control, and awareness, so likely your unintentional lucid dream was fuzzy, and lasted only moments. Regardless, the experience itself was surely unmistakable.

Or maybe you’ve never had a lucid dream, but still smile at the idea of becoming fully aware in your own dreamscape. There are proven effective methods for becoming lucid and gaining control over your dreams.

Lucid dreaming takes a bit of practice, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be flying through your favorite cities, using super powers, drinking light, and creating planets like a pro. Or, you can use lucid dreaming to benefit your waking life by practicing public speaking, learning languages, or delving deeper into your subconscious mind by having philosophical conversations with different aspects of yourself.

In a lucid dream, whatever you imagine comes true. You are the god of your own universe. Stick to the guide below, and you’ll be a master oneironaut (dream traveler) in no time.

———–A Step by Step Guide to Lucid Dreaming———–

Step 1: Don’t Get Discouraged

stephen laberge lucid dreaming

Stephen LaBerge heralded a quantum leap in lucid dreaming research.

According to Stephen LaBerge, founder of the Lucidity Institute, as well as the man credited with being the “Father of Lucid Dreaming,”

Although we are not usually explicitly aware of the fact that we are dreaming while we are dreaming, at times a remarkable exception occurs, and we become conscious enough to realize that we are dreaming. “Lucid” dreamers (the term derives from van Eeden, 1913) report being able to freely remember the circumstances of waking life, to think clearly, and to act deliberately upon reflection, all while experiencing a dream world that seems vividly real (Green, 1968; LaBerge, 1985; Gackenbach & LaBerge, 1988). This is all in contrast to the usual past characterization of dreams as typically lacking any reflective awareness or true volition (Rechtschaffen, 1978).

That all sounds fantastic, but here’s the truth: Unless you are a natural (you wouldn’t be reading this guide if you were), lucid dreaming will take a great deal of time and effort.

There is no participation trophy. The vividness and control you have in a dream is entirely dependent on how often you practice and follow this guide.  It will take time to have a lucid dream, sometimes more time than you’d like, so for that reason step 1 is NEVER GET DISCOURAGED. The more impatient and discouraged you get, the harder lucid dreaming becomes.  Stay relaxed, and you WILL be lucid dreaming in no time.

Some people I have spoken to claim that it only takes them a few days to become lucid for the first time. It personally took me four months to have my first lucid dream, and another month to teach myself to use basic super powers like flying and telekinesis.

Everyone has their own pace. Be patient, and stay diligent.

Step 2: Research Lucid Dreaming

As a 20 year veteran lucid dreamer I assure you that this guide is good. Stick to it and you’ll be lucid dreaming within weeks. However, the key to becoming truly great at something is to never stop learning.

Scroll down to the bottom of this article and read through some of the studies and articles I used as sources. Better yet, speak to some lucid dreamers directly at LD4All is one of the most wonderful communities I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of. I and other lucid dreamers like me want to help you start lucid dreaming, so you may as well take advantage of us.

Step 3: Keep a Dream Journal

Keep a journal or a tape recorder by your bed. Every time you wake up, whether it be to use the bathroom, drink some water, or begin the day, just stop. Don’t move. The moment you move the dream will become harder and harder to remember.

lucid dream journal

A dream journal is the cornerstone of any lucid dreamer’s journey.

Begin recalling your dreams. Focus on details, colors, emotions, words, locations, people; anything!

Once the dream is rolling around your mind like a pop radio song, write it down (or record your voice). Write anything and everything. If you can only remember a faint memory of the color blue, write that down. No detail is unimportant. The more serious you take your dream journal, the more likely you are to become a lucid dreamer.

If you can’t keep yourself awake long enough to write in a dream journal, sit up on one elbow to make yourself slightly uncomfortable. Also, make sure to keep your dream journal separate from other journals you may have.

A dream journal is the cornerstone of successful lucid dreaming. Keeping a dream journal will increase dream recall, as well as the vividness and detail of your dreams. Most importantly, a dream journal is the single most important factor in increasing your chances of having a lucid dream. Whatever you do, don’t slack on step 3.

It is common to witness a profound improvement in dream recall along with dream vividness after the very first entry in your dream journal. If it has been over a week and you still can’t remember any dreams at all, scroll down to the “Lucid Dreaming Troubleshoot” section of this guide.

Step 4: Wake Back to Bed Method (WBTB)

This is usually taught later on, but it is so effective that I want you to know about it immediately. WBTB is the secret weapon lucid dreamers use to make lucid dreaming significantly and consistently easier. It has the added bonus of improving the likelihood that you will remember your dreams. If you are having trouble having any dreams at all, then this method is your best friend.

1.  Set your alarm to wake you up 5 hours after you fall asleep. (I know you can’t get it to be exact, just do your best). The reason the alarm needs to be set 5 hours ahead is due to our natural sleep cycle.  

On average, after 5 hours of sleep, a person is at the very tail end of REM sleep, and easily woken. This is also the very end of a dream, and just before the beginning of another descent into deep sleep. 

In truth, everyone’s sleep cycle is slightly different.  In step 8 you will master your REM cycle. For now, just stick to around 5 hours. 

2. Wake up, then go back to sleep. It’s as simple as that. While WBTB works even if you only stay awake for a few seconds, for maximum effect, stay up for 10 minutes to 1 hour.

3. During the time you are awake, focus only on lucid dreaming-related material. Read your dream journal, tell yourself you will have a lucid dream, read about lucid dreaming online. It’s up to you. The more you focus, the more likely you will be lucid dreaming when you lay back down.  

4. WBTB can be used in conjunction with all other lucid dreaming techniques. 

Step 5: Do Reality Checks

At this point you’re confident, well researched, and have been sticking to your journal at least semi-regularly. Welcome to step 4.  If you have ever seen the movie Inception you are familiar with the totems that each character uses to know if he or she awake or dreaming. The same applies to lucid dreaming in real life. Every lucid dreamer does reality checks throughout the day, but it has less to do with staying sane, and more to do with creating patterns in your subconscious mind.

reality check lucid dreaming

Look at your hands. Are you dreaming?

Let’s say your reality check is looking at your hands. In a dream, your hands rarely if ever look normal. They usually have more or less fingers, or look alien and bizarre. Upon seeing a strange hand in a normal dream you wouldn’t even give it a second thought.

“Tentacle fingers? Makes sense.”

But in the mind of a person who has been constantly doing reality checks, those tentacle fingers are the answer to the question, “Am I dreaming?” Lucid dreaming time!

Simply put; the more often you do a reality check, the more likely it is that you will do the same reality check in any given dream. The key to reality checks is to do them mindfully and frequently. Ask yourself, “Am I dreaming?  Am I awake?” Or some other variation of the same question.

If you are not asking yourself the question in waking life, then you won’t ask yourself the question in the dream. It is the question, not the action itself, that will make lucid dreaming successful.

There are an infinite number of reality checks to choose from or create. Some of the most well known and effective reality checks include:

*Note: Always remember to ask yourself if you are awake or dreaming whenever you do a reality check.

Hands: As mentioned above, glance at your hands. In waking life they look like your normal hands. But inn a dream, hands are as variable as thought itself.

Light-switch: Flip a light-switch and see what happens. In a dream a light-switch rarely has anything to do with light. It might transport you to a new location, bark at you, or spray the room with confetti. Flip and find out.

Breath: Pinch your nose and try to breathe through it. In a dream you can breathe through your forehead or your hip bone. It makes no difference. 

Text: Just about the only font used in the lucid dreaming world is a strange mix between hieroglyphics and wingdings font. It just doesn’t make sense. Sure, there will be a few letters that look familiar to you, but the odds of seeing more than a few written words in a dream that make any sense are slim to none.  I have created text in dreams, but never have I stumbled upon a piece of text that makes much sense.

Clock: Check the time. Both digital and mechanical watches look strange in a dream. Watching the hour hand move backward and the minute hand move forward is always a fun time.

Mirror: Look in a mirror. In a dream your reflection could be anything from blurry, to horrifying, or even non-existent. If it turns out you’re dreaming, take a leap of faith and walk through the mirror. You never know where you might end up. 

Jump: Simply jump. In a dream you will often move in slow motion, float above the ground, or even start flying. Some of the greatest dreams of my life have been just flying through different lands, on different planets, through fictional universes, and through various mediums. It is very liberating. 

Poke: Poke yourself. In a dream your silky smooth skin might feel like any number of different textures. Mossy arms and prickly legs aren’t impossible in a dream world. 

*Note: Always use at least two reality checks.  Once in a while you will glance at your hand in a dream and it will look completely normal. That’s where the second reality check comes into play. I have never personally heard of two reality checks failing.

As you continue to do reality checks the question of whether or not you are dreaming will become a habit of thought, especially in your dreamworld. You’ll be holding a boa constrictor, falling through the sky completely naked, and suddenly ask yourself, “wait, am I dreaming?” Of course you are. You hate it when snakes interrupt your nude skydiving sessions. Boom! Now you’re lucid, and you will record your lucid dream in your dream journal when you wake up. Right? (Stop slacking on Step 3! :D)

The other benefit of doing frequent reality checks throughout the day is that it ensures that you are constantly thinking about lucid dreaming. The more you focus on something, the more likely it is to occur, especially in the case of lucid dreaming.

With practice your dreams will become extremely vivid and detailed, so much so that they will seem as real as waking life. Luckily reality checks always turn out the same in waking life, but rarely the same in dreams.

Step 6. Mnemonic Induced Lucid Dreaming (MILD)

There are a ton of techniques for becoming lucid, but I suggest you start with MILD. This technique was personally created by Stephen LaBerge and is ideal for beginners. This lucid dreaming technique can be split into five general parts. They are:

  1. Dream Recall
  2. Reality Checks
  3. Relaxation
  4. Affirmation
  5. Visualization

Lucky for you, you’ve already been working on parts 1 and 2. Let’s start with part 3; relaxation.

3. Relaxation

Any relaxation technique will suffice, but there are some tried and true methods that lucid dreamers, including myself, have found work best. Start by finding a comfortable position in bed. This is ideally a position you won’t move from.

lucid dream relax deep breath

Always make sure to take some deep breaths and relax before attempting to lucid dream.

Next, take 5-10 deep breaths, keeping in mind that you are preparing for a night of lucid dreaming. Remember that truly effective deep-breathing involves movement of the belly, chest, and shoulders.

Inhale using your diaphragm so that your belly pushes outward. When your belly is out, continue inhaling so that the chest expands. Don’t stop there! Continue inhaling so that your shoulders and collar bone rises. Hold this breath for 2-5 seconds, and release.

Your release should move opposite to your inhale, and be just as controlled. Begin with the lowering of your shoulders, the sinking of your chest, and finally the deflation of your belly. This entire sequence is called a yogic breath, and is a very powerful relaxation tool.

After you finish with your deep breathing, you are ready to begin muscle clenching. Start from the bottom up, clenching your toes, followed by your feet, legs, and so on. By the time you reach your forehead your entire body should be clenched tight. Release, and you will feel a powerful calm wash over you. Repeat muscle clenching at least two more times, or until you are in a completely relaxed state.

4. Affirmation

In this part of MILD you affirm to yourself that you will in fact have a lucid dream. Part 4 creates a solidified intention. It is like a manual override of the brain.

As you lay in bed fully relaxed, begin repeating in your head over and over again:

“I will become lucid,” “I will have a lucid dream,” or “I am dreaming, this is a dream, I am lucid dreaming…”

The words don’t matter as much as the intention. You WILL become lucid. Convincing yourself of that is the whole point of part 4.

If it’s been three weeks and you still haven’t had a lucid dream, it will be extremely hard to totally convince yourself that the next night will be different. Remember step 1: don’t get discouraged.

As your mind begins to wander, (it inevitably will), just gently bring it back to focus on the task at hand. “I will become lucid tonight.” Remember, just like with the reality checks, the words and movements don’t matter as much as your feelings and intentions. Believe yourself when you say that you will be come lucid, no matter how long it’s been.

5. Visualization

lucid dream fly

Visualize yourself flying, and you will fly.

Lucid dreaming is easiest when you have a clearly defined goal. What do you want to do in your first lucid dream? If you just stand around, amazed that you are actually awake inside your own dream, you will lose lucidity, guaranteed. Part 5 gives you a better chance at becoming lucid, and remaining lucid.

While you are affirming to yourself that you will have a lucid dream, visualize in your mind what you will do in your dream. If you want to fly, visualize yourself flying in your preferred location.  It also helps to visualize yourself writing in your dream journal about the lucid dream due to the mental associations you’ve made regarding the dream journal.

MILD Quick Overview:

  1. Stick to the dream journal.
  2. Keep doing reality checks throughout the day.
  3. Find a comfortable position to fall asleep in, and begin relaxing yourself using deep breathing and full- body muscle clenching.
  4. Use positive affirmation to tell yourself that you will become lucid. Know it to be true.
  5. Visualize yourself in the lucid dream. Have a clearly defined goal, and focus on that goal during your visualizations, and in your dream.

*Note: Remember that WBTB can be used in conjunction with MILD to maximize your chances of lucidity.

Step 7. Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming (WILD)

After you have mastered MILD you are ready to move on to the Holy Grail of lucid dreaming techniques, WILD. There is nothing wild or crazy about WILD. It is an extremely straightforward technique. Reading it over, it might even sound easier than MILD.  In truth though, WILD is an advanced lucid dreaming technique which transports your waking state awareness directly from waking life into your dream state. Stay with me here, because this is not science fiction. WILD is a tried and true method for lucid dreaming.

*Note: Use WBTB in conjunction with WILD. For experienced lucid dreamers, this is generally the quickest, most effective, and most relied upon method of lucid dreaming. 

1. Relax

Yup, same as MILD. This technique works best when you are in a totally relaxed state.  Set aside some time for stretching, deep breathing, and/or muscle clenching.

2. Observe the Hypnagogia

The hypnagogic state occurs at the onset of sleep, well before you being lucid dreaming.  It consists of a seemingly random roller coaster ride of visions, sounds, and sensations.  You may hear a phone ringing, followed by your name shouted by thirty different voice, followed by a leaf gliding acorss your skin, all while technicolor fractal geometries dance across your inner eye lids. The hypnagogic state can be fun, disorienting, or downright terrifying. Just remember that it’s all in your head, and go along for the ride. The hypnagogic state is actually the doorway to lucidity.

hypnagogia lucid dreaming

This is a great representation of what the beginning of the hypnagogic state looks like. Morphing dots, geometries, colors and sounds.

You must stay perfectly still during the hypnagogic state, or else you will wake up and have to start all over again. With practice you will be able to ignore itches, and reflexes, like the need to swallow.  It is also a good idea to experiment with different sleeping positions to find what is not only most comfortable for your mind, but your body as well.

In most cases, a person will experience a dominant type of hypnagogia. Visual and auditory hypnagogia are the most common, but it’s also possible to experience movement on or near your body in the hypnagogic state. Whatever you experience most, focus on it. Do not let your attention sway. If it does (it will) keep reminding yourself that you are dreaming. It is helpful to count, “1 I’m dreaming…2 I’m dreaming…3 I’m dreaming…”

As you stay aware during the hypnagogic state the hypnagogia will begin taking on distinct patterns and form. Begin to project your own visualizations onto the hypnagogia. Imagine the scene you want to begin your dream in. Imagine the hypnagogic imagery forming into your desired dream scene and it will do exactly that.

It is like focusing on something under a microscope. At first everything is blurry with many sounds and images all mixed together. But as you focus, or visualize a scene, the image becomes crystal clear. Layer upon layer, your dream scene is created.

Visualize yourself entering the dream scene you have created from a first person perspective. As long as you keep reminding yourself that you are dreaming, you will pop out of your sleeping body and into your new dream body.

3. Enter the Dream and Stabilize

Success! You’re lucid dreaming (do a reality check). Now that you’re in the dream the first thing you’ll want to do is stabilize.  Imagine a pilot suddenly entering an area with a wildly different air temperature.  Things are shaky. In your case, it’s your awareness that’s shaky. If you’re not careful, you’re going to lose lucidity and fall back asleep. This can be incredibly frustrating, but it happens to the best of us.

The first thing you should do is shout “Increase lucidity!”, “I am dreaming!”, or “I will stay aware!”  Something to that effect.  This will immediately increase the dream’s vividness as well as your awareness. You can also try spinning on your axis, or asking a dream character for help in staying lucid. Some dream characters respond like robots, while others are so complex and real that it fills you with awe.

At this point you are ready to start experimenting with what works best for you. Make sure to try out different ideas while you are dreaming and see what works best for you. Congratulations, you’re a lucid dreamer.

Step 8: Master your Sleep Cycle

This is not a necessary step, but mastering your sleep cycle will greatly increase the vividness and rate of lucid dreams you have.

lucid dreaming sleep cycle

Who knew scientists could graph sleep with such beauty.

As stated above, when doing WBTB, the reason you set your alarm clock to wake you up 5 hours after going to sleep has to do with the average person’s sleep cycle.  If you understand the basics of the sleep cycle and then master your own, I assure you, you will become a master lucid dreamer. So, here’s sleep in a nutshell:

Sleep architecture refers to the basic structural organization of normal sleep. There are two types of sleep, non-rapid eye-movement (NREM) sleep and rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep. NREM sleep is divided into stages 1, 2, 3, and 4, representing a continuum of relative depth. Each has unique characteristics including variations in brain wave patterns, eye movements, and muscle tone. Sleep cycles and stages were uncovered with the use of electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings that trace the electrical patterns of brain activity.

The sleep cycle itself could be its own article, so let’s stick to what you need to know.

*Note: Sleep patterns change with age and gender.

  • Dreams take place almost entirely during REM sleep.
  • 80% of all dream recall is associated with waking up during REM sleep. That’s why WBTB is timed at 5 hours.
  • brain wave sleep cycle lucid dream

    Your brainwaves wile you sleep.

    Each sleep cycle lasts about 90 – 110 minutes. If you sleep for 8 hours, you are sleeping through about 5 cycles of sleep.

  • It is your goal to figure out how long your personal sleep cycle is by the best approach that exists: trial and error. Set your alarm to wake you up after 4.5, 6, 7.5, or 9 hours. Don’t wake yourself up during the first cycle as it lasts for a slightly shorter amount of time and will throw off your findings.
  • Since each sleep cycle you go through in a single night is different, pick one of the above times and stick to it.
  • Each night, set your alarm to wake you up a few minutes earlier or later than the time you chose. Write down how you feel when you wake up. Are you groggy? You probably woke up during deep sleep. Did you wake up feeling refreshed? Than you probably woke up during REM sleep or Stage 1 sleep.
  • Do the math and figure out when your REM cycle takes place on average. That is your golden time to set your alarm for WBTB. You will experience significantly better dream recall, as well as greater vividness when you go back to sleep.

*Note: You can also use the knowledge of your sleep cycle to ensure that you don’t wake up feeling dazed and confused every morning.  Sleep only in intervals that match when you will wake up feeling refreshed.  Don’t forget to engineer the perfect morning while you’re at it.

Step 9. Alternative Techniques

Try out the copious amount of other techniques that lucid dreamers and non-lucid dreamers alike have come up with. There is certainly no shortage.

You can even look into using some lucid dreaming technology such as the NovaDreamer.

If you are a true experimenter you can give Calea Zacatechichi a try. Known as Calea Z for short, consuming this plant doesn’t have any noticeable effects while you are awake. Once you go to sleep though, it’s a whole different story. Your dreams become more vivid, more convincing, and in some cases, wilder. I have personally tried Calea Z on multiple occasions, and it is in my opinion like using a psychedelic in the dream world.  This is definitely for the experienced lucid dreamer.

Another tried and true alternative that you can mix with any other technique is the use of binaural beats. A binaural beat is a pair of two very similar but slightly different frequencies played in each ear.  The brain integrates each frequency, and by doing so creates the sensation of a third frequency called the binaural beat. If a frequency of 100 hertz is played in the right ear, and another frequency of 94 hertz is played in the left ear, the frequency of the binaural beat will be 6 hertz. That is equivalent to theta brain waves (4-7 hertz), as well as REM sleep.  In this way, you can guide your brain into REM sleep just by listening to specific sounds as you fall asleep.

Binaural beats are most effective when using headphones, and can be used at any time to induce a wide range of states of consciousnesses.

Turn your speakers way up:

Lucid Dreaming Troubleshoot:

–No Dream Recall

You’ve had a notebook sitting by your head for 3 weeks and you still can’t recall a single dream.

Just as writers experience writer’s block, lucid dreamers experience dry spells.  Sometimes you just can’t remember anything. Are you stressed? Do a quick scan of your body. Does any part of your body feel overly stressed? Stress is the ultimate lucid dream killer.

lucid dreaming food

All of these foods have the potential to enhance your dreams. Take your pick.

Another thing to consider is your diet. Alcohol has been known to decrease dream recall, as well as cannabis. There are many foods you can eat to help with dream recall though.

You can also check out Calea Z if you’re feeling adventurous, or just do some good old exercise.

Most importantly, take advantage of the WBTB method.

— Infrequent Lucid Dreams

You become lucid, but only rarely. How can you increase the frequency of lucid dreaming? 

First of all, being a lucid dreamer does not mean you will be transforming into Godzilla and saving the cosmos from interstellar doom every single night.  When you are first getting started 1-2 lucid dreams per month is normal.  After a year or more of practice 10-20 days each month is very common. I don’t have any clear evidence of this claim. I base it on the claims made over years of being active in various lucid dreaming forums.

The best advice is to stick to one technique and master it. Become the Mr. Miyagi of WILD, or the Yoda of DILD. As long as you focus on a single vehicle for lucid dreaming, frequency is sure to come.

Other than that, just stick to the guide and ensure that you master each step along the way. Be patient, and stay focused.

— Blurry Dreams and Difficulty Staying Lucid

Your lucid dreams are blurry and it’s hard to stay lucid. You usually just fall back to sleep. 

This is an extremely common problem, especially when you’re first starting out.  Check out the section entitled “Stabilization” in Step 7 (WILD) of the lucid dreaming guide.

Some quick tips are to spin on your axis, scream “increase lucidity,” visualize a new dream-scene, or ask a dream character for help.

— Sleep Paralysis 

Sometimes you wake up and your whole body is paralyzed. What should you do?

This is called sleep paralysis, and it can be a frightening experience. For those of you that have never experienced sleep paralysis, it feels like your whole body is chained down and that there is a heavy weight on your chest. Sometimes a menacing presence is felt in the room as well.

he menacing presence is likely just a result of hypnagogia (more on that in the next section). As for sleep paralysis, it’s totally natural.  It is not clear why it occurs, but it is thought to be directly associated with REM atonia. REM atonia is when the body shuts off production of motor neurons during REM sleep.  This is likely a way for the body to protect itself. Were it not for sleep paralysis everyone would be acting out their dreams.  Sleep walking would be the norm.

This best thing to do if you are experiencing sleep paralysis is to stay calm, and use it as a chance to become lucid. If you fight the paralysis you will only make things worse.  Instead, begin the WILD technique from the state of sleep paralysis. You’re already a step closer to lucid dreaming that way.

— The Old Hag

This scary old lady appeared last night, sat on your chest, and stared into your eyes with a look of death.  W-T-F!

Just about every lucid dreamer will meet the Old Hag at one time or another.  The truth is, there is no legitimate explanation for why thousands of lucid dreamers over the last 2000 years have been describing variations of the same terrifying old woman appearing in their dreams an sitting on top of them.

old hag syndrome

The notorious Old Hag.

It is known as Old Hag Syndrome, and it is arguably the single most terrifying experience that can take place during your lucid dreaming adventures.

The running theory is that the Old Hag is a combination of sleep paralysis, emotional instability/stress, and hallucinations/hypnagogia. Just remember, it’s all in your head. The old hag and the rest of the nightmares you will face cannot hurt you.  You are choosing to be afraid.  Recognize that it is not real, and just let go. The harder you struggle, the worse it gets.

Just let go, and remember that you are the one and only master of your dreams.

–Other Issues. 

If you have any other problems or issues not mentioned here I would be happy to answer them to the best of my ability as a lucid dreamer with 10 years of experience. Send an email to with any questions or concerns.

Lucid Dreaming Ideas and Inspiration

Are you tired of just flying around, exploring worlds, and talking to dream characters? Do you need some creative inspiration? Are you looking to push your imagination to the limit? Either head over to LD4all for more tips, tricks, ideas, and inspiration, or try out my own suggestions below.

  • Walk through a mirror.
  • Experience synysthesia, a mixing of senses. For example, try tasting light, listening to smells, etc.
  • Transform into an animal of your choosing.
  • Transform into an alien creature.
  • Explore the human body as a cell.
  • Engage in a Pokemon battle.
  • Create your own world, solar system, or even galaxy.
  • Have a party where you invite different aspects of yourself. Invite your artistic side, your murderous side, and your silly side, and watch them all interact.
  • Shout out that you would like to meet your spirit guide and see what happens.
  • Request something creative from your dream, like a poem, song, or picture.
  • Conquer an old nightmare you had as a child, or one you are currently having.
  • Practice a sport in your dream and you may very well see positive results in your waking life.
  • Try talking to a dead person from history, or a dead relative.
  • Experiment with time dilation. Try making a 10 minute dream feel like 10 hours.
  • Ask your dream characters highly existential questions such as “Are you in my dream, or am I in yours?”
  • Play with gravity and other laws of physics.
  • Travel through time and meet yourself in 30 years.
  • Become the founding mother/father of a dream nation.
  • Recreate the universe of your favorite book.
  • Experience life as the opposite gender.
  • Let go of your control over the dream while remaining lucid. Be a quiet observer of the changes inside and out.

If you must sleep through a third of your life, why should you sleep through your dreams, too? –Stephen LaBerge

lucid dreaming totem

Quick! Do a reality check. Are you dreaming?


MIT Scientists Incept Mice With False Memories

Director Christopher Nolan’s (of Batman and Inception) fame has a distinct fascination for memory, a theme he frequently explores in his films. In 2000’s Memento, protagonist Leonard Shelby suffers from a real (but extremely rare) condition that disallows him from making new memories. He remembers his childhood and his past but exists solely in a short-term memory present tense that fades after a minute or two, only to be erased and replaced again and again. In the film his wife is brutally raped and murdered. Unable to experience the tempering effects of time and psychologically incapable of moving on, he lives with a constant and fevered desire to catch her killer.

He frequently burns possessions of her in an attempt to gain some sense of closure, but these memories he tries to create never stick. He dispiritedly utters one of my favorite lines of the film:

“I can’t remember to forget you.”

Recently scientists at MIT may have found a way to replace memories or to erase them altogether.

Publishing in Science, a team of researchers claim to have created false memories in mice. The team was able to condition mice to behave fearfully in an environment that was different than the one in which they had actually been exposed to electric shocks.  The study, performed by Steve Ramirez, Xu Liu, et. al., could fundamentally alter our understanding of the physical, neuronal aspects of memory function. The team also speculates that this research could be used to literally turn memories on or off, a revolutionary idea that many people likely find liberating and terrifying in equal measure.

To train the mice, the researchers first had to locate a specific memory in their brains. In this Ted Talk, Liu and Ramirez detail how they were able to identify the specific cells responsible for a memory. When a mouse was put into a new environment, its brain would light up with neuronal activity. Liu explains that when these cells are activated, they leave behind a “footprint” that makes it possible to track their activity and put a sort of neuronal bookmark on them. Using a technique called optogenetics, the team was able to install an artificial “switch” that lets them literally turn these brain cells on or off by shooting them with laser pulses.

To summarize the complicated and detailed experiment: Individual mice were put into a new environment, a blue box. The neurons responsible for creating the memory of the blue box were traced and made to activate in response to pulses of light. The mouse was then put into a different new environment, a red box. While in the red box, the researchers administered mild electric shocks to the mouse while activating the cells responsible for remembering the blue box. The mouse was, in effect, being reminded of the blue box while being shocked in the red box. Then, the mouse was put back into the blue box, where it fearfully responded as if that were the environment it was conditioned to fear, despite the fact that the mouse had no historical reason to be afraid of the blue box.


The scientists very literally Incepted a mouse with a false memory that made it afraid of an environment it had no reason to fear.

In addition to being able to turn a memory on, Liu and Ramirez maintain that they can also turn it off, and even believe it will be possible to customize and edit memories in the future. These alterations can be viewed as a controlled version of the way our minds naturally distort our recollections, which is one reason why eyewitness testimony is so fundamentally flawed—our brains are famously prone to misremembering. This groundbreaking technology could change one of the most important aspects of being human: the obviously profound relationship we all have with our past.

The possibility of erasing bad breakups or the sources of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, to creating new versions of our old selves, can be both an invigorating horizon of opportunity as well as the introduction to an Orwellian nightmare, depending on both the individual involved and what memories are being tinkered with.

One of my fundamental beliefs is that every human being fully owns themselves and may do anything to their body they wish, with the important caveat that they alone are responsible for their actions. The idea of a third-party deleting or installing memories is of the utmost abhorrence. However, for better or for worse, I believe that individuals should be allowed to selectively modify their own past as they see fit, despite all the inherent troubles of getting the rest of the world to go along with the story you’ve created. (Imagine having to tell everyone to never bring up an ex before you get your memory of him/her erased…and how that totally wouldn’t work.)

I like to focus on this research as being a way for mankind to better understand memory and the neuronal processes in the brain. However, the idea of erasing or manipulating memories is interesting and does create a fundamental paradox. If I change my own recollections, my perception of the past that created my personality and worldview will have been altered by a person that I no longer fully recognize or accept as truly being “me.” The person who altered their memories would in a very real psychological sense no longer be the person that had the memories changed in the first place.

So who would you truly be? The Before or the After?

On a humorous note that I simply couldn’t pass up, writing about this story has brought up one of my favorite moments from Seinfeld. In the show, Jerry Seinfeld is dating a cop and is nervous about taking a lie detector test. Jerry asks George Costanza, the consummate and ubiquitous teller-of-fibs, for advice. George, absolutely deadpan, gives his counsel:

“It’s not a lie….if you believe it.”






3D Printing: The Next Revolution in Creativity

People sometimes mistakenly think that I’m an abject pessimist or even someone who actively finds joy in our oft-decrepit society. This could not be further from the truth. Despite America’s imperial overreach, a stagnant global economy and the encroaching police state (among other things that I indeed detest and fear), there are still myriad wonders all around us that point towards a future society that is more remarkable and liberating than anything the world has ever seen. The latest new technology that has got me all in a tizzy is one with near-boundless potential: 3D printing.

This fantastic development is a relatively new technological process that allows users to design objects that can then be “printed” into tangible, three-dimensional objects. Existing entities can also be scanned into a computer and replicated at will. These printers can make solid objects out of either composite plastic or metal (other mediums are also being explored), but the complexity of the fabrications are limited only by the imagination of the designer. (Size is also obviously a factor but that’s merely a problem of not having a big enough printer, rather than a limitation in the technology itself.)

Here is one of these amazing machines in action. I chose this vid because it’s short and very easy to see the process in action. As much as I love Yoda, this bust doesn’t begin to demonstrate the true potential of this technology.


Fascinating tech, this is.
Image Credit:

The complexity of some of the objects people have created is astonishing, as is the originality in their design. One of the more exciting things about these creations is how functional they can be. They can contain multiple moving parts that are printed in a fully completed state, with no assembly required. They can also be made strong enough to function as tools. In this NatGeo clip, a crescent wrench is scanned and recreated in a matter of hours. The pony-tailed host then uses it to tighten a bolt just as you would with a ‘standard’ wrench.



These creations can be as precisely intricate or as simple as the creator desires. This astonishing machine harnesses the wind and can walk along like some futuristic, 12-legged space spider.


sand beast

This thing will blow your mind.
Image Credit:


The designs can also be exceptionally subdued, such as Cobb’s totem from Inception. As happens naturally when the creative potential of humans is allowed to flourish, experimentation abounds and there truly is something for everyone in this frontier market.


Personally, I am quite drawn to this Möbius strip of the first level of Mario Bros., despite my being raised exclusively on Sega Genesis.

mobius mario

The creative process on display is a perfect example of how individualization and customization enhance our lives. Everywhere around us, our lives are constantly improving due to innovation and free markets. Amazon and Netflix have revolutionized how we consume media. Stem cells and other medical research are prolonging our lives. Smartphones, the ultimate all-in-one device, are constantly becoming cheaper, faster and more intelligent. There is plenty to be optimistic about when looking at these fantastic developments and the future fruits they will yield.

The spoilsport in me focuses on the most illiberal facets of society. The innovation and incredible experimentation in a field like 3D printing helps to illustrate how the worst aspects of our lives are things and institutions devoid of customization and individual control. Public education, health care systems, political and police corruption, military overreach, etc., are all failing institutions that are heavily centralized and largely outside public purview.

These institutions fail precisely because they are antiquated, top-down systems. They simply cannot compete in our largely liberal and diffuse world of information and talent. They only way they can compete with the spontaneous order of markets and collaborative efforts like Wikipedia is through brute force.

This technological movement is expanding into fields the government is fearful of. A chemist named Lee Cronin from the University of Glasgow has been able to print ibuprofen and wants to replicate other drugs. A group from Texas called Defense Distributed is attempting to design a printable firearm and has succeeded in producing gun components, most notably high-capacity magazines.

Predictably, the government is wary of such developments that would fundamentally undermine its presumed authority in controlling firearms and illicit substances. Congressman Steve Israel (NY-D) wants to include 3D-printed gun components in the Undetectable Firearms Act, which is up for reauthorization in December 2013. And although it’s fun to imagine the collective brains of Washington imploding from the shock, it’s difficult to fathom how severely the hammer of government retribution would strike if people could get around onerous drug laws with a simple ctrl+p command.

It's pretty much the exact same thing.

It’s pretty much the exact same thing.
Image Credit:

It is almost impossible to see how 3D printing won’t completely transform human society. Among its other sci-fi credentials, it has legitimate potential to fundamentally change the concept of scarcity, and in the future might eliminate the term entirely. It’s also eminently foreseeable that the government will attempt to control and curtail this technology, which politicians fear will make obsolete the type of authority they’ve grown accustomed to wielding.

The world is better off with individuals free to utilize technology to their benefit. Let’s just hope Washington realizes the detriments and futility of attempting to neuter such an impressive revolution in the way we live our lives. However, if history is any guide, I certainly wouldn’t bet on their quietly acquiescing to such dynamic transformational change.



Sources and Additional Resources:

Youtube: 3D Printing Time Lapse Photography – Yoda

Youtube: National Geographic Known Universe S03E06 Print Tools

Youtube: Super Mario Mobius Strip

CBS: Stanford Researchers Create HIV-Resistant Cells, May Lead To Gene Therapy

BBC: 3D printing: The desktop drugstore

Nature: Integrated 3D-printed reactionware for chemical synthesis and analysis

TED Talk- A 3D printer for molecules: Lee Cronin 

TED Talk- Anthony Atala: Printing a human kidney






Controlling Dreams and Implanting Memories


MIT researchers have successfully manipulated the dreams of rats using audio cues, leading scientists to believe we have entered the beginning of an age of “dream engineering.”

What do rats dream about anyway?  Running through mazes of course.  The researchers repeated the same audio cues while they were dreaming that rats heard at a certain point in the maze while they were awake. What they found was neural activity identical to the particular point in the waking life maze that they were trying to recreate in the dream.  Using a simple audio cue, they were able to control which part of the maze the rats dreamed of.

Even stranger, researchers are beginning to implant memories and produce artificial memory recall in mice.  They have located the neurons specifically responsible for memories, and manipulating these neurons, they can erase specific memories, or even create new ones!

While this could be a breakthrough for several types of psychotherapy, these studies are the stuff of paranoid nightmares.

Don’t be surprised if you wake up tomorrow and realize you’re actually a super agent from Mars, or a brain in a jar being tampered with in some distant future. Okay, fine, be surprised, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Substitutional Reality Helmet


Researchers have created what they are calling an inception helmet.  The helmet was developed to switch seamlessly between live feed and recorded footage in order to create a helmet able to realistically simulate and project reality.

The researchers found that many test subjects were unable to tell the difference between the live footage and the recorded scenes, leading to a breakthrough in cognitive research and therapeutic methods.

The researchers are focusing on “psychiatric applications, but the system could also be a powerful tool to investigate how our conscious experiences are constituted in daily natural scenes.”  They also want to use the substitution reality technology to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias by repeatedly exposing patients to traumatic episodes in immersive devices. The SR system provides the conviction of being in the ‘real’ world, which is absent in current VR technologies.”

Get your tokens ready, reality is about to add another layer to the veil.