Note: Participants in The Lucidity Institute's Dreaming and Awakening workshops will be offered an opportunity to use the NovaDreamer2. This new model is more comfortable than earlier versions of the device.
Adventures with the NovaDreamer
Although I've been a lucid dreamer since childhood, the thrill of being awake within my dreams has never diminished. Throughout the years of exploration, I've encountered a vast array of "dreamsigns" (anomalies within the dream) which can be effective lucidity triggers -- when I manage to catch them. And though I can become lucid without the aid of an external cueing device, using the NovaDreamer adds a pleasurable anticipation and challenge to the night's adventures.
The NovaDreamer is one of the lucid dream induction devices developed by Dr. Stephen LaBerge, founder of the Lucidity Institute. Infrared sensors, positioned above the dreamer's eyes in a comfortable sleep mask, pick up the rapid eye movements that give REM sleep its name, and the device's microprocessor delivers a lucidity cue in the form of certain pre-set patterns of light and sound, (selected by the dreamer from a variety of possible combinations) which enter the dream to encourage lucidity.
There's a certain comfort and advantage to knowing that the NovaDreamer will deliver a definite light-related cue. Whether or not it's recognized, of course, is a different matter. But one of the benefits of utilizing light as a signal is that training to become aware of the cue in dreams can be done while awake. Rehearsing is essential because the NovaDreamer is simply a tool, a provocative nudge from the outside world. It cannot force or guarantee lucidity. Awareness must be cultivated, intended. Since working with the NovaDreamer, I've found it helpful to keep a written notation of reality checks inspired by waking life occassions in which any change of light has caught my attention. Not only has this discipline increased my chances of catching a cue incoporation while dreaming, it has enhanced my enjoyment and awareness in waking life as well.A frosty, Winter morning. The sun breaks through a darkening sky and suddenly my attention is captivated by a sparkling chandelier lying amongst the folliage before me. It's as if someone had flipped on the light switch. In the next instant, it is transformed into a cascade of slender branches, each one delicately encased in ice. The simple, quiet beauty is so mesmerizing, it takes my breath away! Am I dreaming? Could this be a cue from the NovaDreamer? A reality check declares not this time. Even so, I feel the same rush of joy as at the onset of lucidity in a dream.
Habitual reality checking in waking life pays off in the dream world.I'm with some friends when the room light begins to flicker. Though I assume there's a logical reason for it, I explain that I have to do a reality check as part of my training to catch NovaDreamer cues. As I examine a digital clock, the numbers begin to transform right before my eyes. My companions look at me like I'm crazy, but I've become lucid and realize they are dream characters.
The NovaDreamer's light cues have appeared in a great variety of forms in my dreams. Incorporations such as blinking traffic lights, flash cameras, lightning and fireworks seem a bit more obvious than geometric patterns in brilliant color, a dozen full moons, neon pink flamingos in sudden flight or the shimmering tail of a mermaid. With the possibilities being limitless, my curiousity remains piqued. I know the cues will appear, but will I be alert enough to recognize them? In one instance, two soft, pulsing lights a short distance away from where I was standing led me to conclude that someone very nearby must be dreaming! It never ceases to amaze me how clever the mind can be when inventing rationalizations for incorporated cues.A light in the kitchen is blinking off and on. I think someone who knows how the NovaDreamer cues can appear is playing with the switch, trying to get me to do a reality check. I watch a red brick wall illumine and darken a couple of times before realizing it is the cue and I am dreaming!
Sometimes the first few cues in a dream slip by undetected.
While swimming with dolphins, I visualize scooping water with my hands. I think the streaks of bubbles might entertain them. The imagined movement becomes very vivid as my visual field is suddenly filled with bands of shimmering water...
A short while later, though I see a bright flashing within the dreamscape, I fail to become lucid, as my attention is detoured by a totally new scene. I'm with some people from the Lucidity Institute. One of them notices I've fallen asleep and makes a little alarm noise. I "wake" slowly (still within the frame dream), to the apparent amusement of those nearby...
Again there is a bright flash, but this time I recognize the cue and attain lucidity. Spinning stablizes my sense of dreambody and soon another scene emerges. I fly easily through walls and window glass, then swoop low to shadow the course of a clear, meandering river.
As illustrated above, when the cue does not incorporate in disguise (e.g., flashes of light fill the entire visual field as compared to cues which blend well into the dream scenario), it can disrupt the current scene. Spinning and other techniques that actively engage the dreambody encourage the continuation of the dreamstate and help stablize lucidity. Since false awakenings can be common in these situations, reality checks become all the more important. This is where the Reality Testing Button on the sleep mask can be especially helpful. Electronic machines are notorious for misbehaving in dreams, but the NovaDreamer takes full advantage of this quirky tendency. Although the following example does not include a false awakening, it demonstrates this exceptional feature.Lying in a bed on the beach, I'm wearing the NovaDreamer and trying to get to sleep in order to do a dream experiment. Loud music is coming from an apartment next to a cafe situated on the cliff above. I climb up and enter the cafe through a window, scrambling across a table at which some people are dining. The partiers next door are oblivious to my shouting at them to turn down their music, so I return to bed. Thinking I'm awake, I press the Reality Testing Button. When there is no corresponding flash, I realize I'm dreaming!
If the cue leads to true awakening, this can be a perfect opportunity to attempt a wake-initiated lucid dream.The ceramics studio appears to have been drastically rearranged and expanded to include other arts and crafts programs. A bright light flashes repeatedly from a nearby area. I assume the new curriculum now includes photography and that someone is using a flash camera. Then I awaken and realize it was the cue, so I lie very still and visualize spinning. A new scene emerges in which I am standing infront of a simple wooden door. Knowing that I'm dreaming, I tell myself that the ceramic studio is on the other side, turn the door knob and re-enter the previous dream scene.
Awareness and resolve can increase throughout the night. In the first dream, one particular evening, the cue appeared as flickering room light. In the second dream, it was a candle flame that refused to be extinguished. Finally, in the third dream:A man sets a large portfolio on the floor so that it opens like a standing book. After turning a few pages, he demonstrates a row of flip-up windows. He snaps each one up quickly, revealing bright, red squares beneath. For some reason, I feel exceptionally tired and decide to recline on the futon where I've been sitting during the presentation. Casually reflecting on the red squares, I suddenly realize this could have been a cue from the NovaDreamer! Immediately, I become lucid and proceed to carry out an experiment I've been wanting to try.
More like a spectrum of awareness than a fixed state, lucidity can waver dramatically within dreams. Another advantage the NovaDreamer offers is that it continues to repeat the cue every few minutes during a REM cycle.I'm cavorting in the air, thoroughly enjoying the awareness of dreaming, when I notice a sparkling, rainbow-colored fish flying a short distance away. Fascinated, I gently capture it in my hands. It flutters and buzzes, creating a slight vibratory sensation. Its effervescent radiance becomes a pulsing white light which I recognize as the NovaDreamer, cueing to remind me that I'm still dreaming.
When I first began using the NovaDreamer, I was very sensitive to the cue and kept the brightness factor set relatively low. As the years have passed, I've become more conditioned to the light and achieve better results with a higher setting. In working with the adjustable cue settings in Mode One, the acronym "NIRTS" helps me remember the dial number/setting relationships, where N=number of cues, I=intensity, R=rate, T=type and S=sensitivity. It has taken some experimentation to find my optimum, personal settings and I will probably need to continue making slight adjustments as time goes by. The mask, which didn't take long to get accustomed to, is also convenient for sleeping in past sunrise (perfect for those nap experiments) or whenever my companion chooses to read in the middle of the night.
Lucid dreaming is a magnetic mystery to which I am passionately attracted. Throughout the years, I have found countless opportunities to apply what I've learned specifically from lucid dreaming to my waking life, particularly in the areas of creative decision making and alternative thinking. It is this blending of dream and waking worlds that continues to intrigue and inspire me. By observing how things manifest in lucid dreams, I can better comprehend how my impression of waking reality corresponds to my perception, expectations, intentions and actions. Now, when I am confronted with a challenging situation (and when I am living lucidly) I can ask, "If this were a dream, what would I do?" It is personally empowering to realize that getting sucked into the on-going drama is optional! Of course, this reflective state takes practice, and more often than not, I am seduced into habitual reaction as opposed to more mindful response. Still, that awareness, be it in the waking or dream world, is worth striving for. Working with the NovaDreamer helps keep me focused on this intention by reminding me of the magic, wonder, humor and lightness that can be found in both realities.A patch of brilliant sunlight catches my eye. I reach for it, pulling myself towards its radiance...
About the Author
Keelin is a long-time friend and member of the Lucidity Institute. Keelin freely admits to an unrestrained passion for lucid dreaming that borders on the obsessive. If addressed, any time of day or night, she is quite likely to respond: "I'd rather be lucid dreaming!"