Dream Recall: How to obtain the best results

Dream Recall

Dream Recall (henceforth “DR”) is the ability to remember your dreams, lucid or not.
I am making this topic because a lot of folks are coming up here and asking about remembering their dreams. I have made many posts about it, and I always have so much to say I always feel I post them without the full range of information that I have to offer. So, instead of posting the same stuff over and over, I’m going to leave this information for you all here, and please feel free to contribute if you have anything to add.

Dream Journal
Well, I suppose the first step to remembering your dreams is to have a medium with which to narrate your dreams. This can be the classic journal with a pen and notebook, or it could be your laptop, or it could be an audio recording. No matter how you decide to record it, make sure it feels comfortable. I personally prefer a notebook and pen. I also got a book light which I attached to my journal so I can light it up and see what I’m writing down in the middle of the night.
Now before we go deep into DR, there are a few things about the dream journal that I want to go over.

The information presented in your journal should include a few basic things:
The time and date when you woke up to remember and record your dreams. This is important because it will help you gauge at what times you are most likely to dream. This has the obvious benefit of, now you know what times you are also likely to lucid dream. The date is just for reference, like, I had such and such dream on such and such a date. If you are writing your dreams down, a title can be helpful, and it personalizes the dream, so its not just ‘another dream’.

How to write in your journal?
Well sometimes, getting up in the wee hours of the morning can be bothersome. You don’t want to wake up and write down every little detail of the dream (unless you feel you can). So just scribble down some major points and this will cement the memories in your mind so when you fully awaken at your normal waking hour you can finish writing down the dream in full detail.
When to write in your journal?
It depends on when you go to sleep. I personally wake up every two to four hours (out of habit) because I have a baby, and though he sleeps through the night my habit of waking up has remained. This works for my advantage because I get up fully, write down my dream and try to fall back asleep (try being the keyword here).
Try not to lose any sleep over this because you still want to get a good nights sleep.

Now for the meat and potatoes of dream recall…

Dream Recall Techniques
There are several ways to achieve better results for DR. I will outline only with what I am confident with what works, though there are as many ways to achieve better DR as there are techniques to LD. So while this is an extensive overview, this is not the be-all end-all guide to DR. Remember, DR is always an ongoing process. Even if you do remember every single dream, you could always remember them more vividly and in more detail so never give up practicing your DR.

Technique # 1: MILD (or MIDR), Mnemonic Induction of Dream Recall
This is a simple one, anyone who is familiar with MILD should also be familiar with doing this for DR. It goes like this, while you’re going to bed, having the intention to wake up in the middle of the night to remember your dreams, in your head say your mantra for dream recall. Mine is “When I wake, I will remember my dreams.” The point here is to let your Subconscious know that you have the intention of remembering your dreams. When you are repeating the mantra, visualize yourself waking up and writing in your dream journal. Make sure that you mean what you say, and aren’t just repeating the phrase in your head automatically. It took me 2 days to find a mantra that was right for me, so experiment with what sounds and feels right to yourself.

Technique # 2: Activate your throat chakra
This isn’t meant to sound like the new-age kind of bullcrap that it sounds like. The Tibetan Dream Yogis believed that the throat chakra allowed us to remember our dreams. The way to activate it is fairly complex, but if you have an active imagination or are good at visualization then this might work for you. This is personally, difficult for me to achieve, but when it does work, my dreams are recalled extremely vividly. Here is a step by step:

  1. Visualize a white letter “A” or the corresponding letter for the “ahh” sound. This sound is synonymous with the throat chakra (according to tibetan buddhist thinking)
  2. Make the letter glow as bright as you can.
  3. Now move the white letter “A” to your throat. Do not force the image, if your mind gets distracted don’t worry, just put your attention back to the letter at your throat. Try to feel it working, warming up your throat, opening it up. Allow the image to work on you, and don’t force anything.
  4. Continue this visualization until you fall asleep.
    A master Dream Yogi will still be visualizing this upon waking. This is an extremely hard thing to achieve, but don’t be discouraged. If the white letter doesn’t work for you, Norbu Rinpoche in “Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light” says that you should visualize a black letter, and continue as you would, except instead of a white letter, you visualize a black one.

Technique # 3: The Alarm Clock Method
I’m not so much in favour of this method, because I have a bedside partner. Quite frankly, if I employed this method I’m sure I would be strangled to death before I could get up to write down my dream. However, if this works for you and you are not like me in that you do not automatically wake up every few hours in the night, this might work for you.

  1. Set your alarm clock to go off about 4 or 5 hours after your bedtime. Unlike with LD it is not exactly necessary for the time of awakening to intersect with REM sleep (although being awoken from REM is the best way to recall a dream vividly), you simple need to wake up. Experiment with the time and find out what time is best for you.
  2. When the alarm goes off, get up and write what you remember about your dreams.
  3. go back to bed, set the alarm to go off in about an hour
  4. repeat step 2
    The reason you want it to go off again so soon is because once you figure out when your long periods of dreaming start, they all kind of mash themselves together towards the end of the night, so you’ll have several long dreams back to back towards the end of your sleep cycle… which brings us to our next technique

Technique # 4: Sleep-in!
As you just learned, your REM cycles are much closer together towards the later hours of your sleep. You can use this to your advantage to remember dreams, and increase your chances of lucidity as well. It’s simple. All you gots to do is sleep in a few hours. Keep your Dream Journal close by!

I have to go at this very moment, but I have more to say. I’ll chime back in tomorrow. In the mean time feel free to add your own suggestions.

Alright. Sorry for the abrupt ending last night, I had some stuff to do. Anyway, let’s continue, shall we?

So, now that we have a basis to start our dream recall with, where do we go from here? After a week or two of this you ought to remember a dream a night, at least. You may feel you are ready to start Lucid Dreaming! That’s great, and you should definitely stick with it, however, don’t lose track of your Dream Recall! Don’t start to think of it as unimportant because you can now become Lucid! DR is still important, even if you have mastered LDing. So, lets go over some ways for you to come up with your own methods of increasing Dream Recall.

The science of Dream Recall
Ah, this is where almost all my research will finally pay off. What do we know, exactly, about dream recall? Well, we know for one that the REM stages are when we dream (however, our dreams are not limited to REM, we can indeed have sleep during slow-wave sleep). REM dreams are the ones in which we become lucid. At what times do we enter REM? According to some prominent scientists like LaBerge REM dreams happen approximately every 90 minutes, with the periods between REM getting closer and closer towards the end of the night. This diagram will explain better

(thanks to OmkAR for the image)

So what exactly does that mean for us? That means that the great majority of our dreams happen in the later hours of our sleep. You’ll find that if you wake up 90 minutes from when you fall asleep, if you do remember a dream, it is very short and not very detailed. These aren’t ‘pointless’ to remember, but very difficult, and they don’t give us much information about the dreamworld, compared to later in the night.

Now, lets take a break from REM, and talk about slow-wave sleep. Why is it so hard to remember dreams, anyway? Stephen LaBerge theorizes in his book “Exploring the world of Lucid Dreaming” that the evolutionary advantage to forgetting our dreams is because other animals who dream, such as cats and dogs cannot distinguish between waking and dreaming states, so if they were to dream a dream they might mistake it for reality. This might be dangerous for animals of lower species. It is unfortunate that nature didn’t adapt us to remember our dreams because then we could all remember our dreams.
What makes us forget? Slow-wake sleep, or delta frequency brain waves. During this stage of sleep, many people mistakenly think that they are ‘unconscious’. Not true, but not exactly false either. We are still conscious however, our thoughts during this stage are usually very dull and not exactly present. It IS, in case you are wondering, possible to become lucid during this stage. In fact, it is what the Tibetan Buddhists call “the clear light”. I won’t dwell on it as it has nothing to do with DR. Moving on…

(thanks again, OmkAR for the image)

This diagram beautifully depicts the different stages of sleep.
You may be asking yourself, but Cosmocrator, why are we talking about this, it’s boring. How can I remember my dreams TONIGHT!?!?
Well, I am getting to how you can make your own technique to remember your dreams! Now that you know the basics of dreams and dream recall, why not try applying the knowledge to make a personalized technique (that you will share with us!!!). Experiment and conquer slow-wave.

Remember, that Dream Recall isn’t something we are born with, but as with anything perseverance will pay off and we will be able to re-connect with our lost dreaming selves. Some nights it may seem hopeless, but don’t abandon your mission just because it gets hard. I’ve had nights when I couldn’t remember a damn dream to save my life. But I continued to try. Most nights I remember 2 or 3 dreams. There are still nights when I don’t remember dreams, however, it’s natural, the way of the world. We can’t all be perfect all the time, so don’t expect to be.
And always remember what this is really about: It’s about fun, about connecting with ourselves. I wouldn’t take it too seriously, be playful with it. Don’t treat it as ‘work to do’ but let it ‘do’ itself. As the Tao implies, let the Tao work for you, and to do that you must, ‘not-do’. “not-doing” is something that we in the West have forgotten how to ‘not-do’. It is a state of being in which we are aware and receptive to our surroundings but we let our higher selves do the actual ‘doing’, and so our lower selves are ‘not-doing’.

I really and truly hoped this guide helped someone. I may have more to add as I continue to read about this subject (or if I find I have forgotten something.)
Thank you for your time to read this and may you remember your dreams.

Thanks a ton for the guide Cosmocreator! I believe it truly deserves a sticky.