Reality checks are an easy and popular way to become lucid in your dreams. By programing your waking mind to determine whether or you are dreaming or awake, you will soon find yourself asking the same questions in your dream, thus giving yourself the opportunity to become lucid.
This article discusses how to test your reality in order to determine if you are awake or dreaming. This may sound like a silly thing to do, but it’s actually quite practical, especially if you want to enter a lucid dream.
Are You Dreaming or Awake
Answer this question:
Are you dreaming right now?
Take your time and really think about that question. It’s an important one. Are you dreaming or are you awake right now, in this very moment?
What was your answer? Yes? No?
Chances are you said, “No, I’m not dreaming. I’m awake.”
And that’s fine. But more important than the answer that you came up with, is how you determined that you are awake. You might have said:
Because I can see things
Because I can hear things
Because I can feel things
Because I can read
Because I pinched myself and it hurt
Because I just know I’m awake
Guess what, my friend? You can do all this in the dream world too. Answering the question “Am I dreaming” with any of these answers, won’t give you a definitive answer to the question.
What are Reality Checks
Reality checks are an easy and habit-forming way to test your state of consciousness and to help you enter into a lucid dream. Reality checks work by increasing your self-awareness. They help you to become aware of your state of conscious: Are you awake or are you dreaming?
They help you to recognize the difference between your waking life and your dream life.
Generally, in dreams we don’t fully grasp the fact that we are dreaming as we experience the dream. We accept that whatever is happening in the dream world is the way that reality works – it’s just the way it is.
At best, our dreaming mind might think, “Gee, this is strange, why is this airplane flying through the ocean?” But that’s as far as we go. Because we are experiencing the airplane flying through the ocean, we accept it as reality, without questioning our state of consciousness: awake or dreaming.
It is only when we wake up that we have our “ah-ha” moment and realize, “Oh, the plane was flying through the ocean because it was a dream!”
You see, when we dream, the part of our brain that controls our self-awareness shuts down. So we are physically unable to understand if we are dreaming or awake.
But, there are ways to circumvent that and re-awaken our self-awareness while still in the dream world, thus entering a lucid dream.
Using Reality Checks: Is this a dream?
At the beginning of this article, I asked you if you were dreaming. Asking this question is the key to effective reality checks. I ask myself the following question several times a day:
Is this a dream?
You can use this format or something similar like: Am I dreaming? Am I awake? Am I awake or dreaming?
Or, you can use any other variation that works for you. The point is to constantly remind yourself to test your state of consciousness to determine whether you are awake or whether you are dreaming.
We often dream about situations we are facing in our waking life. So, by asking the question “Is this a dream,” throughout the day, you begin to program your subconscious mind to continually ask this question.
Eventually, the question will penetrate into your dream life, and you’ll find yourself asking it while you’re dreaming! That’s when the magic happens, and you have the opportunity to become lucid.
Reality Checks: Critical State Testing
Even more important than asking the question, “Is this a dream,” is how you go about determining the answer to this all important question.
We’ve already seen that determining your state (dreaming or awake) by the things that you can:
are unreliable tests because these things occur in both the waking world and the dream world.
So, what makes a good reality check? Anything that will always, or nearly always, be different in the dream world than in the waking world makes a good reality check.
Category 1: Unexpected Changes
In the waking world, our reality tends to be pretty stable. For example, right now I’m writing this article using a black laptop. If I look away for a moment and then look back again, I’m still using a black laptop.
This is not the case in the dream world. Objects have a tendency to be much more fluid – that is, they change appearance or form much easier than in the waking world. If I were dreaming right now, I might look back at my laptop to find that it is pink. Or I might be using an etch-a-sketch instead of a laptop. I may even look back to find that I’m no longer writing an article and now I’m changing a baby’s diaper.
Looking for these unexpected changes is a great way to determine if you are awake or dreaming. There are several ways you can do this:
Can you read the same word or sentence twice without it changing? Look for the words to change, and also the font, size, and color of the text.
Reading a Digital Clock
Look at a nearby clock and read the time. Look away and then back again. Is the time the same? Has the face of the clock changed – different color numbers, different type-face?
Changes in Appearance
Have a look at yourself in the mirror. Do you look as you expect yourself to look or do you look drastically different? You may have a different face, a different color hair, or look like the opposite gender.
Category 2: Your Hands
Using my hands for reality checks are my go-to reality check. I always have my hands with me wherever I go, so even if I can’t find any words, a clock, or a mirror, I can always look at my hands.
Looking at your palms is great way to determine your state. In dreams, your hands will almost always appear distorted in some way. Examples of how hands can be distorted in dreams include: having extra fingers, having fewer fingers, misshapen hands.
Finger Through Palm
Can you will your pointer finger to go through the palm of your other hand? If so, you’re dreaming.
Hand Through a Solid Surface
Try pushing your hand through a solid surface. Can you do it? If you can, you’re dreaming.
Category 3: Super Powers
Super powers are a dead giveaway as to your critical state. If you find yourself having any extra abilities than you normally do, you’re sure to be dreaming.
I find this category of reality checks to be less reliable than the previous checks however, especially for the beginner. It can take practice to develop super power abilities, so even if you are dreaming, you might not be able to perform these tasks and thus come to the wrong conclusion.
Try jumping in the air. If you jump higher than normal or if you float back down to the ground at a slower rate than normal, you’re dreaming.
Try willing yourself to fly or hover over the ground. If you can do this, you’re in a dream.
Can you turn the lights on or off using only your mind? Yes – you’re dreaming.
Place your hand over your mouth and plug your nose. Can you still breathe? Yes – it’s a dream.
Reality Checks: Final Thoughts
Reality checks are a great way to become lucid in your dreams. Ask yourself the question, “Is this a dream?” several times a day. When you do this, make sure you don’t just jump to a conclusion too quickly. Really take the question seriously and really attempt to figure out the answer.
There are many reliable ways to perform reality checks including looking for unexpected changes, using your hands, and attempting to perform super powers.
By consistently doing reality checks in your waking life, you will soon find yourself asking the critical question, “Is this a dream,” while you are asleep. If you take your time to critically answer the questions, you will be able to wake up in your dream and become lucid.
If you’re serious about mastering lucid dreaming, I highly recommend the popular e-course, Lucid Dreaming Fast Track written by long-time lucid dreamer, Rebecca Turner.