Im not the kind of guy who tries to analyze his own dreams. People spend so much time trying to decipher their own dreams and derive some greater meaning out of them, but I believe dreams should be taken as what they are: the involuntary firings of a sleepy pink brain.
Sure, maybe our thoughts and actions can influence our dreams, and I’m sure people have found genuine inspiration from them. But some dreams are just too weird to spend much time analyzing. Why would I look for hidden meaning in a scenario where I pay Bret Michaels $50 to participate in a threesome? (And yes, this is a real dream I once had.)
Lucid dreaming, on the other hand, is a concept I can behind. Simply put, a lucid dream is a dream in which the person dreaming knows they’re dreaming, and can exert some degree of control over their dreams. It's sort of like the movie Inception, but not as pretentious or predictable. (Oh, wow, a movie about dreaming. As if this same concept isn't pitched by first-year film studies majors every semester.) Lucid dreaming is common - at least 47% of people have had a lucid dream at one point, according to one study - but other than knowing that it tends to take place during the REM phase of sleep, we don't know much else about it, let alone how to induce it.
When I was younger, I used to have lucid dreams all the time. Often, I'd try to turn my dreams into sexy dreams. (I was 13 - what do you expect?). But now that I'm an adult, I rarely have such vivid dreams. That's why I spent the past week trying to give myself lucid dreams using a number of different methods, including apps, audio totems, and alarms. The result? Let's just say some weird shit went down.
I attempted to enter the world of lucid dreaming by using an app called Awoken. With features like "totem sounds" (essentially, a low-volume alarm that goes off every few hours while you sleep, ostensibly to trigger your conscious brain and help you realize you're dreaming) and an integrated dream journal, Awoken “aims to connect you to your mind and dreams on a whole new level," according to the developer Andreas Rudolph. Excited to start micromanaging my dreams, I got into bed, turned the volume up on my phone, and fell asleep.
I woke up in the morning to realize that I had missed every totem. Every single one of them. I double-checked my phone volume to make sure I hadn't accidentally muted the totem sounds, and was dumbstruck to find that I had simply slept through every one of them. Needless to say, though I did have a brief dream that night (it was about going to a mountain-top bar with my best friend from middle school), it didn't count as a lucid dream, because I wasn't aware that I was dreaming in the dream and couldn't control my actions in it. It was an uninspiring start.
On Tuesday night, I went through the same rigmarole to at least ensure I had an interesting dream. I went to bed, opened the app, made sure the volume was up all the way, and went to sleep. While I didn’t have a lucid dream, I did have a dream about using the lucid dreaming app, which I diligently recorded in my dream journal. I attribute this minor success to Awaken's totem “coconuts” sound. Thanks, coconuts!
Frustrated by my lack of success, I turned to an always reliable source: the internet. On YouTube, I came across Rocky Ullah, a “former professional basketball player turned Edible Arrangements driver” who posts videos like “How To BELIEVE IN YOURSELF and Be FEARLESSLY Confident!!” and “Why You Should DISCONNECT Every Evening!!”
In his video about lucid dreaming, Rocky laid out some simple-ish steps he uses to take control of his dreams:
The purpose of this last step is apparently to train yourself to be in control, so if you see a lamp in your dream, you can turn it into, say, a can of Campbell's chicken soup with ease (though why anyone would want to dream about eating a can of Campbell's chicken soup, I'm not sure).
While I'm sure this works for Rocky, it did not work for me. When I woke the next morning, I could not for the life of me remember what I had dreamt about.
I devoted much of Thursday night to telling myself that I was going to dream. This time, instead of using the "totem sounds" on the app, I set two alarms on my phone, just to spice things up. Then I kissed my wife goodnight, kissed my dog goodnight, and went to my sleep. I proceeded to have one of the weirdest dreams of my life, which I then texted my friend about:
Needless to say, I was not lucid in my dream about Hoofs.
On Friday night, I once again failed to have a lucid dream - but I did have a nice dream, anyway. In the dream, I was running a 5k with my younger brother. We were running around this school, and people kept getting angry at us for bumping into them. Then I was suddenly on a beach in Cape Cod (a recurring theme in my dreams), taking surfing lessons with a bunch of people who were all inexplicably naked. As I paddled out into the ocean, the instructor yelled at me to take off my shorts. I told him no and continued to paddle. The last thing I remember is the instructor commending my excellent form.
I did look up some of the themes in my naked surfing dream, and apparently, the fact that I was surfing parallels the ups and downs of some emotional situation or relationship. But dream analysis is not reliable or scientific, to say the least, so I'm not sure how much weight I should give this interpretation.
So what did I learn during my week of trying to lucid dream? Admittedly, not much, except that the brain is a powerful - and very, very weird - organ. I do wonder why my ability to have lucid dreams, which once came so easily to me, has become so difficult during my older years. But like most things involving dreams, I'm also not sure it's worth looking into.