Adventures in lucid dreaming, part I

I'm content with my life. In part, it's been extraordinary.

I've stood, with studs on ball, wearing a yellow jersey with Garrincha to my left screaming for the pass. His gesturing drowned out in the noise the Maracanã is making as they chant my name.

I ignore him and just run forwards, beating every man and majestically passing the ball to the back of the net instead.

I've scored goals that defy gravity. Single-handily rushed into an away end to fight hundreds of hooligan fans because they dared to give me the finger having scored a last minute equaliser in the goal directly in front of them. World Cups, FA Cups, the North London derby. Been there, done that. Countless times.

Content I said, and I meant it.

I've also flown through a star going supernova, indulged in Roman orgies which involved no males other than myself (it's how I roll) and have visited places that to this day remain indescribable because they do not exist in the known universe. Mainly because they all exist in the depths of head.

Welcome to the world of lucid dreaming. It's fantastically tinged with Guillermo del Toro and a dab of David Lynch.

The subconscious mind is a vastly under-rated commodity we possess. We are mostly all far too busy in the waking world playing with our iPhones and Playstations to care about tapping into this rich tapestry of entertainment available when snoozing. And there of course far easier ways to achieve a higher state of consciousness if you wish to go on a personal journey every now and again. That particular route is bad for your health. No brain cells are damaged when partaking the path to lucidity.

Fact is we are too tired and consumed with the troubles of reality to bother about something that probably sounds quite whimsical and irreverent if you hear someone else talk about it in passing. When you go to bed, you do so to unwind and relax and boot-down. Yet it remains quite possibly the most intensely real 'unreal' reality available to us. And its free. However, it's not an easy task to achieve, which is why it remains a niche for casual dreamers like me and the true experts sitting on hills in Tibet mediating for hours on end.

There have been many instances of lucid dreaming in the mainstream, usually just borrowing one or two aspects and then exaggerating it all for the sake of box office. Vanilla Sky and Inception two prime examples. The latter borrowing a fair bit from it but not quite retaining its purity. There are countless books, guides and journals and even an institute. You can even buy an eye mask that sets off a red alarm when you hit REM sleep to aid with achieving lucidity.

I'm not about to detail how to go induce a lucid state and then retain said state. It's a long and labourious exercise. I've been doing this for a long time and struggled for years before I could even remain 'awake' within my dream for longer than ten seconds. Lucid Viagra isn't available as a pill sadly. If you want to last long enough to have an adventure you need plenty of practice.

I had the time to work on it all thanks to the insomnia that preceded it. When I finally got my much needed sleep, I found myself having vivid dreams. This eventually led to awakenings (you know how you wake up, get out of bed, make yourself a cup of tea, get dressed - then you wake up for real) which then led to lucid dreams.

The Internet is your friend if you're curious for a more complete guide. For the sake of the story I have to share, I'll explain some important fundamental basics.

You might think, what's the big deal? It's a dream. Big whoop. Well, imagine going from a small black and white tv with poor audio to a high definition television with 3D capabilities. I cannot emphasis the difference in clarity between a normal dream and a lucid one. It's monstrous in size. And when it happens, when the transition occurs, you get a rush from it. It's very dramatic.

When you become lucid it's thanks to the accompanying realisation of a trigger in your subconscious mind that tells you 'you're asleep, it's a dream'. Basically, a dream sign acts like a trigger which will wake you up only if you recognise it. Some people use binaural beats others use the mask that sets off flashing red lights that can appear in the dream (as red traffic lights or red sky or whatever) to give you a hint (a reminder) it's not real. Or you can simply train yourself to work out it out naturally.

I tend to work on these more traditional dream signs:

  • Turning a light switch on or off. No idea why the dream state struggles with this, but it's incapable of replicating it meaning you can't turn any lights on or off.
  • You can't feel pain. Numb feeling if something like a pack of wolves attacks you and attempts to break your skin open. The brain simply doesn't attempt to replicate the sensation here, probably as a means of protecting you from having a heart attack in your sleep. Much like the brain shut-downs the muscles so that you don't act out physically when dreaming.
  • Reading. Attempt to read a watch-face or a page from a book, turn away and turn back and continue reading. It will have changed each time you look at it because the subconscious mind does not bother with retaining consistency with such details.

The most common dream sign is the one most miss. If you're flying, you're obviously dreaming - but as obvious as this is, it's also quite difficult to question it during a normal dream. So in real life, back in the day, I'd always ask myself the question 'am I dreaming' if say I looked at the time. I'd then look away, look back and if the time was practically the same (spare a few seconds) meaning it's real life and I'm awake. Simplistic logic this, because if you test yourself often enough you'll end up doing it in a dream - which means you'll end up questioning what you see and working out you're actually asleep.

Slightly better method than say jumping off a tall building and then admitting it's not a dream because you're not able to float away into the clouds.

The dream scape is also in some ways much like those old style point and click pc adventure games in terms of design. Not everything works. The inconsequential stuff is partly ignored by the dreaming mind, tagged as filler and background details and retains no consistency - as cited already. Also when talking to people within the dream. Some will react to you, talk to you, others will stare blankly back because they are simply empty of any thought. Others will be reactive (depending on what you do to incite).

I am not at the standard of some who can wipe their dream canvas blank and create something brand new (Inception liked this). I can however think of something and have that something usually appear at some point in the dream. I can manipulate at a very low level but that's probably because I've never bothered too much with using lucid dreams to solve problems or create dream characters and places from scratch.

I prefer to interact with the dream I awake in.

Walking around and telling people you meet that they don't actually exist and they're a figment of my subconscious whilst attempting to explain 'I'm God' is not a constructive way to spend my time there. But it's joyful megalomania. You can quickly turn the dream against you (Inception sort of used this one too). I've been chased by dream characters as if they knew I shouldn't be so self-aware and tampering with the dream environment. Possibly the dream mechanics here relate to insecurities and in some deeper lying way I'm controlling the other dream characters without knowing it. But let's not delve too deep in it.

Fact remains, it's utterly mesmerising to go on a jolly wondering around the dream you've awoken in.

Now in an normal dream (the type you wake up from and remember for a few moments before it begins to disappear from memory) you feel part of it's arc but more so like you're watching yourself on television or following a script. In these dreams, I cannot ever partake in football. Everything slows down to snails pace. I can't run. I can't kick the ball properly. Other players around me blink in and out of focus. It's a mess.

Now in a lucid dream it's all akin to that World Cup Nike advert (or any big budget football boot ad for that matter). Loud, vibrant, ridiculously impossible physics with gorgeous sounds. Others around you are people who might exist in real life but they look different in the dream but you still know who they are. A thousand million colours compared to the monochrome of a normal dream.

Its important to understand that lucid dreams - they feel as real if not better than life. There's a buzz to it. You know it's not real but because of what you can do, it feels completely without restraint and yet somehow still dangerous. You'll still question yourself about it, but you know it's safe.

A lucid dreamer can describe how it feels to fly through the sky, above the earth's atmosphere and across the solar system. The sensation within the dream, the emotion and the feeling, it comes from the brain executing what it believes the experience would actually feel like if it was actually happening. Every emotion, every movement. So it's pretty f*****g special.

So what in the hell has any of this got to do with my beloved Tottenham Hotspur?

Allow me to tell you about the time that Goran Bunjevčević killed me in a dream.

With a lightsaber.

...will be continued in 'Adventures in lucid dreaming, part II'



This was part 4 of the International Break Diary II

#3 Back in the day, isn't half as good as it is now

#2 The Spurs Madrid El Clásico

#1 Hands up if you want to stand up at football matches