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 DreamSigns: Doors to Lucidity

I was standing on the pavement outside my London home. The sun was rising and the waters of the Bay were sparkling in the morning light. I could see the tall trees at the corner of the road and the top of the old grey tower beyond the Forty Steps. In the magic of the early sunshine the scene was beautiful enough even then. Now the pavement was not of the ordinary type, but consisted of small bluish-grey rectangular staones, with their long sides at right-angles to the white curb. I was about to enter the house when, on glancing casually at these stones, my attention became riveted by a passing strange phenomenon, so extraordinary that I could not believe my eyes-they had seemingly all changed their position in the night, and the long sides were now parellel to the curb.

 The solution flashed upon me:though this glorious summer morning seemed as real as it could be, I was dreaming! With the realization of this fact, the quality of the dream changed  in a manner very difficult to convey to one who has not had this experience. Instantly, the vividness of life increased a hundred-fold. Never had the sea and sky and trees increased a hundred-fold . Never has sea and sky and trees shone with such glamorous beauty;even the commonplace houses seemed alive and mystically beautiful. Never had I felt so absolutely well, so clear-brained, so inexpressibly "free" the sensation was exquisite beyond words; but it lasted only a few minutes and I awoke.
Thanks to a strange little detail-the apparently changed position of the cobblestones-a single out-of-place feature in an otherwise convincingly realistic scene, this dreamer was able to realize that he was dreaming. I have named such characteristically dreamlike features  "dreamsigns." Almost everydream has dreamsigns, and it is likely that we all have our own personal ones. Once you know how to look for them, dreamsigns can be like neon lights, flashing a message in the darkness: "This is a dream! This is a dream!" You can use your journal as a rich source of information on how your own dreams signal their dreamlike nature. Then you can learn to recognize your most frequent or characteristic dreamsigns, you will enhance your ability to use this natural method of becoming lucid.
People don't become lucid more often in the presence of dreamsigns because of a normal tendency to rationalize and confabulate - they make up stories to explain what is going on, or they think, "There must be some explanation. "Indeed, there must be, but too rarely does such a half-awake dreamer realize what it actually is. If, on the other hand, the dream sign occurs in the dream of someone who has learned to recognise it, the result is a lucid dream. 

In a dangerous part of San Francisco, for some reason I start crawling on the sidewalk. I start to reflect: This is strange; why can't I walk? Can other people walk upright here? Is it just me who has to crawl? I see a man in a suit walking under a streelight. Now my curiosity is replaced by fear. I think, crawling around like this may be interesting but it is not safe. Then I think, I never do this-I always walk around San Francisco upright!This only happens in dreams. Finally, it dawns onme: I must be dreaming1 (S.G., Berkeley, California)

I once awoke from a dream in which my contact lens, having dropped out of my eye, was multiplying like some sort of super-protozoan, and I resolved that in future dreams like this, I would notice the mutant lens as a dreamsign. And indeed, I have become lucid in at least a dozen dreams by recognizing this particular oddity. Each of us has his or her own individual dreamsigns, though some are familiar to most of us, like the case of going to work in your pyjamas. The illustrative inventory of dreamsigns below can help you look for your personal dreamsigns, but remember your dreamsigns will be as unique as you are.

The dreamsign inventory lists types of dreamsigns organized according to the way people naturally seem to categorize their experiences in dreams. There are four primary categories. The first one, inner awareness, refers to things that dreamers (egos) perceive as happening within themselves, such as thoughts and feelings. The other three categories (action, form, and context) classify elements of the dream environment.The action category includes the activities and motions of everything in the dream world.-the dream ego, other characters, and objects. Form refers to the shapes of things, people, and places, which are often bizarre and frequently transform in dreams.

The final catefory is context. Sometimes in dreams the combination of elements - people, places, actions, or things, is odd, although there is nothing inherently strange about any item by itself. Such strange situations are context dreamsigns. Also included in the context category are events like finding yourself in a place you are unlikely to be, meeting other characters in unusual places, finding objects out of place, or playing an unaccustomed role.

Each category is divided into subdivisions and illustrated with examples from real dreams. Read the inventory carefullyu so that you understand how to identify dreamsigns. The next excercise will guide you through the process of collecting your own. The lucid dream induction techniques in the following chapters will make use of the dreamsign targets that you come up with in this exercise.

Reference:Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming: Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D. & Howard Rheingold

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