Are you dreaming or are you awake? If you aren’t sure the answer to this question then it’s time to do a reality check. But what is a reality check and how exactly should you go about performing one?
A reality check (or reality test) is an action we perform, while awake or asleep, to gauge which state of consciousness we are currently in. The action should always have a distinct effect in the waking state and dream state. The goal for lucid dreamers is to use reality checks as means of becoming lucid whilst dreaming. Reality checks also help to keep grasp of reality (i.e. not attempting to do something in the waking state which you’d normally do in a dream without consequence).
Reality checks should be done in waking life at regular intervals, thus creating a habit which should carry over to the dream state.
Here are a few examples of reality checks:
- Look at a clock and observe the time. Now look away and look back. Did the time change?
- Count the number of fingers on your or somebody’s hands. Look away and count them again. Do you reach the same number each time?
- Hop in place. Note the feeling of gravity. Do you return to the ground each time?
- Close one eye and look downward. You should see your nose if you are indeed awake.
- Flip a light switch on and off. It should work each time in waking life (if the bulb hasn’t burnt out).
- While reading text, look away and look back at the same line of text. Has it changed or become distorted?
Before I got into the habit of performing reality checks I’d often make false assumptions while dreaming to explain ridiculous situations. For example, I recall one dream where I was in a convenience store purchasing something. While at the cash register, I looked away and then looked back at the cashier (who now had a parrot on his shoulder). Instead of concluding that such a situation should only happen in a dream and questioning it further, I exclaimed, “wow, they must be having a sale at the pet shop next door!” Other times I’d make even more far-fetched explanations for the impossible.
I’ve had pretty good success becoming lucid since I began practicing reality checks. Most of the time I focus on one inanimate object, look away, then reexamine it to make sure nothing drastic has changed. I now do the same while dreaming and often spot when things are awry and then become lucid.
There are many reality checking techniques lucid dreamers use. Feel free to invent ones and see if they work for you. Just remember to use different ones as your brain can grow accustomed to predictable results and replicate the waking state result while dreaming, thus nullifying your reality check.
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