[center]The Master Key[/center]
The Locked Door
I’ve made this topic to deal with a sad truth. The sad truth is: a lot of lucid dreams suck. Have you ever had this experience? You wander around your house, thinking that everything looks a bit grey. You realize you’re dreaming, but it all seems so fragile and unreal. You try to call people you know, you try to escape to another realm, but you feel somehow trapped, confined, unable. Is your voice even making a sound? You lose the dream.
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Or how about this one: You become lucid. It’s so exciting! You have to stabilize. You spin, try to look at your hands. It’s going, it’s going…it’s coming back. You’re at your cousin’s house, but for some reason a famous actor is here. You try talking to them but now you’re somehow at a zoo and for some reason you have to save the President of the USA and now you’re no longer lucid.
There are lots of variations on the theme. Here’s the rub. You came to lucid dreaming because you had nightmares that you wanted to master, or because you had an amazing, beautiful, heartbreaking dream once that you wished you could go back to, or because you saw Inception and wished its vision of adventure without limits could be real. And frankly, the lucid dreams you’re having don’t add up to that. They’re a constant battle for control and stability. You’re always on the edge of losing them and the ones you don’t lose are elongated out of mere frustration and thinness of material. Lucid dreams were meant to be a thousand times better than films, a thousand times better than virtual reality. So where are the planets with their untold billions of lifelong stories; where are the spires and the stars more ancient than stone? Where are the lost loves and old thrills and the ache of waking up from beautiful things? Why am I wandering aimlessly around my old school yet again?
If this is what you sometimes feel, or often feel, then I’m writing this for you. The full possibilities of your dreams, the reasons you became a lucid dreamer, seemed to be locked behind a door you can’t open. I’ve written this topic for the sake of the happy truth that this door has a key, and you already own it.
Why the Door is Locked
[spoiler]The short answer is, you locked it. Before you first typed “how to control your dreams” into Google, your idea of a dream was what you remembered from that dream, the special one you woke up from one morning and just…lay there, wishing it hadn’t ended. You know the one. Maybe she, maybe he was in it. Maybe you married her. That’s the one you wanted to control.
Then you read lots of articles about the topic. You learned how you’re not supposed to get overexcited. You learned how light switches don’t work and text can’t be read. You learned how flying can be really, really difficult and summoning needs all these tricks to get it working. You read dream diaries and saw how many were set in schools and houses. Most importantly, you learned how lucid dreams are usually extra short. And when you first had a dream you could control, it wasn’t the sweeping epic of secret love and loss that you’d set out for; it was a monster checklist of “don’t get excited”, “oh I’m getting excited!”, “wow it’s difficult to fly”, “oh the light switch doesn’t work”, “hmm it’s one of those school dreams”. And it was short.
Now, dreams are made from expectations. I bet there’s a monster behind this door. Oh look, there’s a monster behind this door! We have to understand that that process doesn’t apply only to dream events, but also to the whole dreaming experience, its parameters and its internal logic. Through everything you read, your mind became saturated with a vague but strongly atmospheric picture of what a lucid dream is: heady, hectic, untameable, confusing, short. Read the first of C.S.Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, the one with the British Museum. You’ll see how important atmospheres are. They make our souls, since an atmosphere is only a habit turned inside out.
I’m going to try to explain how you can fix these expectations. There are two big parts of the problem which this method attacks. First, the inconsistency of dreams. You had a blast running around, flying and shooting energy at people, trying to find that pretty girl and kiss her, but when you wake up, where was the narrative? Where were the deep, fleshed-out characters who feel like more than sock puppets? Second, the difficulty of controlling dreams. Why can it seem even harder to do what you want in a lucid dream than in a normal one? Why is it so fragile and unconvincing?[/spoiler]
How to Unlock the Door - putting the key in the door
[spoiler]My “master key” is not a trick. There are lots of tricks. Spin. Look at your hands. Shout, “maximum lucidity”. These tricks are not your friend. They were created by well-meaning people who found that they worked in a particular situation; that once upon a time they saved a dream from an ignominious disintegration. But they planted a seed in your mind with a fruit more bitter than any other of your expectations. Lucid dreams became a video game, a slot machine. You have to pull the lever at the right time, or it won’t work. The tricks that were meant to help you out in a bind became the all-important ritual without which full enjoyment would forever elude you. Oh no, forgot to spin! Quick, I’m losing it: yell “clarity”! And because this just isn’t true, chasing after the tricks will never get you where you want to go. You’ll just spend your whole time, the time you should be spending on utterly absorbing adventures, shouting and spinning like a lunatic. The good intention behind these tricks is to replace your negative expectations with positive ones. What I want to do is to liberate you entirely from being enslaved to expectations: to reach a level of lucidity where you are as critically aware of your expectations as you are now, reading this; and therefore able to, transform, adapt and transcend them at will.
The fact that there is no trick may seem like bad news. But it’s actually wonderful news. A trick is something you have to remember and execute in the heat of the moment - something you have to desperately scramble for after you become lucid. What if you don’t even get lucid tonight? The master key is a slow, methodical process which may seem boring. But like all the other slow, methodical processes - writing down your dreams, remembering to do reality checks - it actually works without having to rely on your in-dream reflexes. That’s the great advantage: like keeping a journal and incubating a dream, the master key is something you can do while awake, in full possession of your faculties, without any fear that you’ll forget how to do it, or that you won’t be lucid enough or any of the other uncertainties that come with trying to do things that only work when you’re ***** asleep. If you just stick to it day after day, year after year, it’ll work day after day, year after year. And every time, it’ll make your dreams a little bit better, even when you’ve already doing it for a decade. It’s not sexy like shouting and spinning lucidly while hurriedly grabbing onto sensations and popping lucid pills. It’s unsexy, like sitting in your chair and thinking quietly. But hot damn, it’ll work!
Now, if you’ve ever read my Dream Journal, you know I read a lot of text in my dreams. This is because, even before I was interested in LDs, I spontaneously remembered large chunks of books and letters from my NDs. So when the internet told me you couldn’t read in dreams, the suggestion never sank in. I also intuitively rejected the guff about light switches. Now, I passed through a phase when my LDs were as unsatisfying as I describe above. I was by no means a natural. Looking for help all over these forums and in other places, I saw how many people were in trouble, and I formed the ever more concrete expectation that it was going to be difficult. But one day, during a lucid dream, I said to myself: “Hang on. If it isn’t true that text is unreadable, and if it isn’t true that light switches don’t work, why should it be true that you have to scream for control, or spin, or any of the rest of it?” And what happened? The dream started working. I could control it just as the creator of an entire universe should do - right down to the atoms. I could close my eyes for minutes on end without losing any awareness. And I said to myself, “What if it isn’t true that dreams are inconsistent and confusing, either?” And after many times meditating on those two questions, I now find I can sit down in a dream chair, read a dream book with a glass of lemonade and the ceiling fan turning, and when I’ve finished the chapter, I’ll look up and the glass will still be as full as it was before, and the fan will still be turning at the same speed. My two memories of what proper dreams were actually like, before I started reading other people’s opinions, had saved me from a whole slew of damaging indoctrination - but only by a whisker.[/spoiler]
How to Unlock the Door - turning the key
[spoiler]Now, this didn’t come instantly. Despite my sudden realization, I still had dreams that sucked and continued to suck for some time. But I had made the breakthrough, and understood that in a universe I had created, there were to be no limitations except the ones I gave myself. Did you ever find diving scary? People told you it would be ok. You didn’t really believe them, but it was enough to give it a go. For a long time, you kept trying, and you still found it scary. And now, somehow, you don’t believe it’s scary anymore. Dreams are the same. You won’t really believe it can be this easy. Not to begin with. But each time you trust yourself a little bit more, you move towards the time when you won’t even remember why you were worried.
“All you have to do is believe”. It’s one of the few instances in life where this is actually true, because it’s one of the few instances in life where your mind has no objective constraints. But as we know if we’ve tried to use door portals or summon DCs, thinking really hard and believing are not the same thing. So, how do you actually come to believe? You can’t do it by screwing up your little fists and wishing really hard. The fact that you can’t do it this way should relieve you. That’s a really annoying way to have to do anything, since it’s self defeating. “Why would I be telling myself I believe this, if I actually believed it?”
You improve this the same way you improve everything else to do with lucid dreams. While you’re awake. When you wake up in the morning, think about why that lucid dream went off the rails. Think about why it was unsatisfying; why you lost control or lost your sense of logic. In the cold light of day, was there a good, logical reason why that dream was less than it could have been? Was that reason anything other than your expectations and fears? Then, when you prepare to dream in the night, put yourself back where you were when it went wrong. Don’t think, “Aha, I’ll just spin this time.” Actually run through in your mind, while you’re awake, the thought process that would have rejected that faulty expectation. Analyze and correct.Then the next night: analyze and correct. Just as you would analyze for dream signs: it’s exactly the same technique, and in the end, as that man LaBerge knew, it’s the technique that always works. Not everyone can WIlD. Not everyone can create a CALD character. But everyone can read a diary and note down a sign; just as everyone can read a diary and note down a faulty thought. If you like, write down a paragraph on how you went wrong in your mind and how you would correct that train of thought next time. Sexy? No. Quick fix? No. Effective? Yes.
(EDIT: See the exercise below, next post! )
The moment where you got overexcited and lost control. Think: my normal dreams don’t end when I get emotional. Lucid dreams are better, not worse. I created this universe. I don’t need to beg. I can feel whatever I want. The moment when you ended up in your house or your school yet again, and couldn’t escape to the beautiful place you wanted to visit. Think: my normal dreams have taken me to planets and kingdoms so vivid and real that when I was a child, I dreaded the fearful ones, even when I was awake. Lucid dreams are better. I created this universe. I don’t need to beg. I can go wherever I want. The moment you met your hero, and he was made of cardboard. Think: my normal dreams have made me fall in love with people so captivating, so full of profundity, wisdom and tragedy that I seemed to know them, every contour and line of their personality, better than I knew myself; so real to me that if, even now - yes, years later - I heard the trail of her dress…Lucid dreams are better. I don’t need to beg; beg you or my dream guide or my subconscious. I can see whomever I want. My normal dreams have told stories that swept me off my feet. Maybe not all of them, but I’ll bet they have, and more than once. Why can’t my lucid dreams do the same? There’s no reason. Don’t beg. Please, don’t sell out for less- don’t beg for what is rightfully yours. It breaks my heart.
Lucid dreams are supposed to be better, not worse. Perhaps a friend has asked you, “in your wildest dreams, where would you go, whom would you meet”? When you were asked that, did you look for the answer in your lucid dreams or in your normal dreams? If you don’t think of your lucid dreams as your wildest dreams, then they’re not good enough yet!
Now, if you faithfully practise these thought processes every time you have a lucid dream - after you’ve had one, before you expect to have one - you will find that you start to shake off your expectations. Maybe it’s gradual at first, but, as with diving, it can only get better. Eventually you find that you despise those expectations. A dream character seems wooden - you laugh in their face and send them away. Dream is inconsistent? Run that bit again. Dream is ending? Not so fast, mister. No longer will you fear your subconscious, its power and its caprice. No longer will you beg.Try again, dreamworld. I made you; you are mine and you obey me. No one else sustains you. Without me you are nothing. You are dismissed when I say you are, and not before. All you have to do is ask yourself, “why is this not better?”, and then remember the answer: “no reason!”.
As for when you’re in the dream itself, try to remember what you were planning while you were awake; same as doing reality checks, same as incubation. This is not a new technique - it’s been proven by hundreds of people. It’s just applied to a different goal. Remembering is the limit of in-dream mental effort, and the more you send yourself little packages from waking life and pick them up in-dream, the more continuous, aware and lifelike your dream consciousness will become. The more your waking and dreaming selves will knit together. And the great news is that all the work comes at the waking end, not the dreaming end - which means it’s work even the worst dreamer can do.
What’s Behind the Door?
[spoiler]When I joined this forum in 2011, I read WritersCube’s diaries and thought, “Oh gosh, I’ll never be able to do that.” Now, I read his diaires and think, “Hey, maybe I’ll do that tonight!”. I wasn’t a natural. You can probably find early posts of mine which demonstrate abundantly how flawed my approach was. But, after years of analyzing and correcting, identifying, interrogating and eradicating limiting beliefs and prejudices - just as carefully and methodically as I would hunt down my prejudices in academic writing and research - I have got to the point where, if I awake from a lucid dream, I won’t even feel that I’ve “woken up” or changed state. I’ll feel as if I’ve teleported from the dream world to the real world with no change in my level of awareness, mental acuity, memory. And I don’t remember my dream as something exciting but weird, broken up and, in the light of day, a bit cheap. I remember it as something I was doing just a second ago, same as I remember walking the dog before writing this post. All those dreams in my diary, even though some were years ago, I remember in the same way I remember my schooldays or my family holidays. Even if it took place in ancient Rome or across the galaxy, in the orbit of a black hole. That memory is part of me now; as much as a book published in my name, as much as the childhood books which made me who I am. Lucid dreams can be strong, rich and powerful enough to take their place alongside your real memories, not flit about in shadows like unworthy ghosts.
In my dreams, I carry a master key in my right pocket and a padlock in the left. It’s not trick - it’s a symbol. A symbol of what I’ve learned over the years, and a reminder that connects me to everything I’ve come to understand in real life. At the beginning of a lucid dream, I take the key (which has certain other uses besides, like opening doors and portals) and put it in the lock. When I turn it, the lock clicks twice. The first click locks my dreamworld. It reminds me that the world will be as consistent and stable as reality. The second click unlocks my control. It reminds me that I created the universe and command its every detail from sand to galaxies to human beings. You don’t need to use this symbol, you just need the knowledge behind it. But the totem is nice to carry, and that’s why I’ve named this topic after it.
You can write a story. Your mind creates it. It doesn’t shift or distort or get weirded out when you remember it. It comes back just the way it was. Your mind is capable of fixing problem one: consistency. When your mind writes a story, it shapes it exactly the way you want. Characters in your novel don’t fight back or resist. The world doesn’t disintegrate or fade when you change it. Your mind is capable of fixing problem two: control. Anyone who’s ever made a painting, programmed a game, told a tale or any other creative endeavour should know that this is the case. You need to stop thinking of dreams as different. They should be as consistent, controllable and compelling as the novel you could write if you wanted. Knit your dream and waking selves together, and novelist you will become dream-master you. They’re products of the same mind. Expectations are all that are stopping you. Kill them - not by screwing up your willpower and wishing really hard. Kill them with work and dedication. You have the knowledge. Now make it a belief. [/spoiler]
Don’t beg. Lucid dreams are supposed better, not worse.
De Ruyter out.