The Beginner’s Guide to Lucid Dreaming

A brief but detailed guide on controlling dreams to do whatever you can possibly think of

Lucid Dreaming is the art of becoming aware (lucid) in your dreams, where you become fully conscious and can do whatever you want in your dreams. You can go the Jurassic Park, run from the T Rex, you can go to a tropical island and swim with your loved ones, including the dead ones who live inside your memory. You can bring them to life as accurately as you can literally imagine, ask them that question you never got to ask or tell them you love them that one last time. You can fly to Pluto, go to the Hayden Planetary Association and NASA and demand they give Pluto its rightful title as a planet. And yes, all you horn dogs stuck inside during Covid, you can splurge and go have a threesome…with two copies of your spouse of course.


Lucid dreaming is, to me at least, by far the greatest psychological treatment, the greatest entertainment and the most insightful thing there ever was, while also being the amongst most unknown, underrated phenomenon there is. What else on this earth can promise you the ability to do literally whatever you can possibly imagine, with the added benefit of being able to literally explore your mind and subconscious? It can stop nightmares and turn them into a fantastic night, or allow you get past those recurring dream mysteries by letting you finally see what’s in that box, or what’s at the top of the mountain you can never fully climb. It sounds like a scam it’s so good, if it weren’t free I’d be suspicious.

I can tell you though, it is real, I’ve done it, and I know others who have as well. It’s also been demonstrated and proven, which, to spare you the scientific paper, was accomplished cleverly by having people move their eyes in the dream in patterns, which the scientists saw the patterns in the participants closed eyes during REM sleep. So, given the possibilities, how do I start, you ask?

Step 1: The Dream Journal

The first step is to remember your dreams, because what’s the point if you forget them? Everyone dreams at roughly the same rate, the people who say they never dream actually still dream but simply don’t remember when waking up, which is pretty common. People enter REM sleep, the stage of sleep where you dream, about every 90 minutes. There’s actually two methods as a result of trying to trigger a lucid dream (which I’ll get into later) but for now, the most important thing is remembering your dreams.

To do this, you’ll start a dream journal. When you wake up in the morning, first thing’s first: don’t move a muscle. As soon as you wake up and begin moving the memory of your dreams begins to fade quicker and quicker, so lie still and try to remember the last thing on your mind. I often would forget to immediately try and remember my dreams at first, but I could follow my thought process back enough to remember key clues that would trigger my memory and it’d come flooding back. Try and remember the entirety of your dream, make a mental note of keywords in your dream that would remind you of what happened and write those down. Then once you’ve remembered as much as possible, write the whole dream down in as much detail as you can. This tells your brain you are now looking to remember your dreams as a priority, but more importantly, you can now look for patterns in your dreams. What you’re looking for is any pattern, big or small, that occurs frequently in your dreams. It can be a yellow ball, or that box in your recurring dream you can never get open. It can be women frequently having brown hair, or a cool car. Whatever it is, that is your key to entering the world of lucid dreaming. This is where “dream checks” come in.

Step 2: The Dream Check

A dream check is the only thing that tells you with certainty that no, you’re not insane, you’re not dreaming. Or maybe you are insane and you’re dreaming. Either way, it tells you whether you are dreaming or not. If you’ve seen Inception, this would be the spinning top he has that tells him if he’s still in the dream.

Except you can use your mind rather than shelling out the 2$ those Hollywood propagandists want you to shell out for a cool spinny thing. Did I say cool? It’s too late for me…the propaganda has infected me.
Wait…I can lucid dream. I’ll go in my dreams and defeat the propaganda. I will no longer believe the spinny thing is cool. Damn I’m good.

Okay, okay, sorry got a little side tracked. So, dream checks.

The easiest dream check is to look at the time, or at a word, look away, then look at it again. A tattoo works well for this, I literally contemplated getting a tattoo at one point just to remind me to dream check. While dreaming, your tattoo might not even be there, which is an even more obvious sign you’re dreaming and something you could make a nice doorway from into the Nether. When you do a dream check in a dream, looking at the word, looking away, then looking back at the word, the words will change, and probably look distorted too. You’ll look at the clock, it’ll say 5:00, then look away. You look back and it says 12:00. Or it’s a menacing clown face. Either way, it’ll tell you your dreaming.

The only other method you really need to know is to look carefully at your hands. If there’s nothing to read, this is a good technique. Your hands in the dream world look very weird (apologies if you have hand insecurities) and usually have extra fingers on them, or are otherwise distorted. So if you look at your hands and see that, you’re dreaming. Once you know you’re dreaming, you’ve begun to lucid dream, and the opportunity begins.

I recommend doing as many dream checks in a day as you can. Ideally connected to the pattern you’ve identified in your dreams, but if not then randomly. I started out with a goal of 10 a day, every time I looked at the time, I’d do a dream check. Pretty quickly it seeps into your subconscious to do a dream check, and one of these days you’ll randomly remember to do it while dreaming. Then you’re in! It’s possible this happens when you see something dream like, but that’s usually as you get the hang of lucid dreaming and a feel for the dream world vs being conscious in it. Once you know your pattern, like if the yellow ball is in a bunch of your dreams, then whenever you see a yellow ball in the real world, you must do a dream check. That way when you see it while dreaming, you’ll do a dream check and it becomes a very effective way of entering into a lucid dream. So, now you’re aware you’re dreaming. Now what?

The Dream Check…when it’s the clown that appears

Step 3: Lucid Dreaming

The first thing to do when you’re lucid dreaming is try not to get too excited! When I first got lucid in a dream, I woke up almost instantly because I got so excited at the chance to do anything. I knew what it meant, and you will too now. So try to remain calm and relax. A useful trick when you feel yourself fading from the dream state is to focus intensely on something, like the ground. Try not to panic that you’re losing the dream either. It gets some getting used to before you can relax enough to do whatever you want, but practice makes perfect.

Keep reminding yourself that you’re dreaming. Especially while beginning, you can quickly forget you’re dreaming as you get absorbed into things happening, so keep telling yourself that. After this, it’s time to do whatever you want. Essentially, to bring someone or something or to do something, you must will for it and expect it to happen. It’s really pure faith at first, you must be as confident as you can that what you’re wishing for or whatever is going to work or happen. For example, to fly, it’s best to use your arms, again especially at first, and flap like a bird or fly Superman style. It gives you just a bit more confidence you’re flying will work. You can try a leap of faith off a building, but I also started from the ground.

The best way to summon someone in my experience is to call their name, as if they were just around the corner. At first I tried to will people into existence from nothing, but that is very difficult especially for beginners. Calling them implies you expect they are there, and it’s easier to simply summon their voice first, giving you evidence in your mind they’re there, and increasing the likelihood you’ll get them to be there when you tell them to come here or go around the corner yourself. If they still aren’t there, just keep trying, and try to boost your confidence it’ll work. Perhaps remind yourself you have total control in this dream world, or that you just heard them so they must be there. Maybe try to hear a rustling first, and work your way up to the person. For example, keep an ear out for a rustling, then when you hear it, wonder what it was. Perhaps footsteps? A whisper? Then a voice, then a name, a body. Just try to lay clues for yourself that will get you towards your goal, something that will make you increasingly confident they’re there. This is applicable for anything you’re trying to summon or do. If you can avoid it, never simply try to bring it to be from thin air, make it reasonable. Whatever you can do to be as confident as possible what you’re trying will work, do it in the beginning. You might be able to pop things into existence eventually, but that’s a matter of exercising your will power and confidence. This is also a reason lucid dreaming is great for you, you have to build up your will power and confidence to do it well and practicing by having as much fun as possible is a pretty great way to build both up. If you just want to strengthen your willpower though during waking hours, you can do something meaningless repeatedly. Write the same sentence 100 times or read this 200 times.

Now, as for changing scenes, or escaping nightmares instantly, the best trick in my toolbox is a good ol’ spin. I spun in place several times, imagining a different place, and each spin would erase a part of the nightmare or build the scene I imagined. For some reason, probably because your desperation to escape, nightmares were one of the things that came easy for me to master controlling. It helps that you know you’re dreaming too.

Essentially, the most important things to remember when you’re actually lucid dreaming is to not get too excited, be confident when trying something, and remind yourself you’re dreaming. Also upon waking up, always try not to move and recall your dreams.

I’ll try and answer any questions in the comments section so feel free to fire away. As far as the time needed before you begin lucid dreaming, it can vary from the same night to a month or two out, or longer if you don’t do something right or are just unlucky. Usually though, it’ll happen in a week or two. For me it took about a week before I had my first one where I woke up instantly, and about a month before I had one where I could explore. Do not give up though, too many do despite the fact it’s so little effort, so free, with so much reward. It boggles the mind, and it’s even more incredible so few practice this.

For additional reading I recommend Stephen Laberge’s Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming. This is the book I used to get started, and has great details, testimonials, and ways to explore your mind that are fascinating. I’ve also written a bit about how psychologists and people can use lucid dreaming as an incredible means of therapy, ranging from helping phobias to getting past PTSD. After all, what if you could go back to that moment of traumatic stress and live it the way you wanted to? Maybe talk to the people in it? Or have a tarantula crawl on your hand that you can control if you believe it won’t bite you? There’s so much potential, but so few have explored it. I hope this guide creates some more “oneironauts” (dream explorers), and hope to see lucid dreaming be used more by everyone.

Psychology graduate and law student. I'm a paraplegic writer interested in everything, especially psychology, science, history, law, politics & philosophy.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store