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Although science has proven that we all dream every night, many people often remember no dreams at all, and even when they do, it is almost exclusively upon awakening, after the fact.
Lucid dreams are uniquely different. One realizes that one is dreaming while the dream is still happening. The scene often suddenly expands in richness and color as the dreamer becomes aware that the world being experienced, although appearing very believable, is actually a dream and that his or her physical body is elsewhere safe asleep in bed. With this new understanding, the lucid dreamer is free to explore remarkable worlds limited only by imagination, and now not just as an actor, but also to some degree as a producer and director.
Lucid dreaming was brought into the academic and public spotlights around the world once it's scientific validity was separately proven by researchers at Stanford University, California (where it has also been proven to be a learnable skill), and at Liverpool University, England. Proof was achieved by performing, during REM sleep, a series of extreme left-right eye signals which were agreed upon prior to sleep. Though most of the body's muscles are de-activated during REM sleep, the eye muscles are not, and repeated experiments at Stanford, the Sacré-Coeur Hospital Dream and Nightmare Laboratory and elsewhere have proven that the eyes (and to some extent other physiological responses) can be brought under conscious control by a dreamer who realizes that she or he is dreaming.
If you have a good recall of your dreams, you may be ready for the next step: lucid dreams. Lucid dreams are usually referred to as dreams in which the dreamer is awake. This means that the dreamer can recall the events in his waking life while still asleep and dreaming.
Increased awareness - Lucid dreams are a somewhat strange phenomenon. Usually you can't remember your dream life when awake and vice versa you can't remember your waking life when you're asleep.
However, when you think about it, many people can barely tell you what they were doing at this time two days ago. Most of the day passes by on automatic pilot while the conscious part of your brain is on vacation. Exactly the same happens while you're dreaming. You go from one event to another, but you only pay superficial attention.
This lack of consciously registering what is happening, could also explain why we simply do not notice when we're dreaming. You just move from one automatic pilot to another.
Levels of lucidity - Lucidity is not like an on-and-off switch, but a continuum from not lucid at all at one end to hard to describe and highly impressive events on the other end.
Depending on the level of lucidity, lucid dreams can have varying benefits. Just being able to have a simple lucid dream is in itself a huge achievement, or at least a sign of a flexible mind. Things really start getting interesting when you can interfere with the dream while being lucid. Basically you will get the same benefits as with normal dreaming, but a lot faster. Not to mention that it's an incredible experience!
Getting lucid - Many dreamers become interested in lucid dreaming sooner or later. The lucky ones are natural lucid dreamers, meaning they don't have to do anything for it. But if you're not that lucky or you want to improve your lucid dreaming skills, you will have to work for it.
Your first lucid dream - Using reality checks is probably the method that will give you the best chance to get a lucid dream. Granted, it takes a lot of effort and about two or three weeks of consistent and continued practice, but on the positive side you don't have to be an accomplished meditation guru to do reality checks.
So what are reality checks? A reality check comes down to asking yourself if you're dreaming. This should be done regularly during the day and the more often you do it, the better it will work. The simplest form of a reality check is literally asking yourself "am I dreaming?". Don't be too fast with answering no. Check you're environment. How do you know you're not dreaming? You should really investigate your surroundings. To help answering the question you can ask yourself other questions like "how did I come here?", "what is the time?", etc.
When it comes to asking questions, you can get help from Lucille. Lucille is part of the Alchera Suite Software package (available o the Internet) and can ask you all kinds of questions at random time intervals. Most of the questions Lucille asks are based on typical differences between the dream world and the physical world. In dreams you're always walking, running or otherwise moving around, in the physical world you sit most of the time. In the dreaming world if you look at your watch twice it will tell you completely different times but in the physical world only a second or two will pass in between. Of course Lucille can be customized with your own questions so you can experiment with what works best for you.
To make reality checks a second nature you can use anchors. An anchor is whatever will lead you to do a reality check. A common anchor is the chime of clocks on the whole or half hour. But you can also use events like walking into a new room, opening an application on your PC or hearing the phone ring.
A gentler way - Reality checks really are brute force and after you had your first lucid dream you will want to use more subtle methods. One thing you should realize is that lucid dreams can vary between being simply aware of the dream or using your awareness to influence the dream to nearly overwhelming experiences more real than life itself. Also there isn't solid border between normal and lucid dreams. In many normal dreams you will have very brief moments were you are aware of the fact that you're dreaming, but you simply forget this in the next instant.
A gentler way to train your lucidity is to pay closer attention to the changes in your level of consciousness in all your dreams. A good way to get started with this is to keep track of the number and kind of potential anchors in a dream. In this case anchors and reality checks could actually be the exact thing. You can use the event of flying as an anchor to do a reality check. The mere realization that you're flying should be enough to make you lucid, but in dreams abnormal things can look very normal if you don't keep your head clear. So, if you had a dream where you were flying, add flying to the list of missed anchors. By using Alchera dream software you can work with missed and used anchors by right clicking on the Hall and Labels list in the right margin of the dream description page. This will bring up a menu. Choose one of the anchor entries to launch a dialog with a list of anchors. Choose the anchor you missed and it will be added to the list.
If you keep score of anchors in your dream for only a few days, you will probably be amazed by the number of opportunities to become lucid in dreams. You will also develop a better feeling for all those moments you were very close to becoming lucid. Finally, there's a good chance that the increased focus on anchors in dreams will significantly increase the frequency at which you have lucid dreams.