How to Perform Reality Checks— Lucid Dreaming

A key ingredient in learning how to lucid dream is performing frequent reality checks.

Reality checks are exactly what they sound like— taking a moment to recognize your surrounds, and asking yourself… Is this a dream?

Ultimately it boils down to practicing awareness and being present— traits that provide a lot of value, even outside of lucid dreaming.

My process is adopted from Stephen LaBerge— one of the pioneers in lucid dreaming with a PhD from Stanford in Psychophysiology.  His book Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming is one of the earliest in the space, and a personal favorite of mine on the subject.

Dr. LaBerge lays out various reality checker cues to apply to each day.

I took his method, and made some slight modifications.  I found myself having trouble remembering the reality checkers, so I applied skill sets I’ve learning from memory grand masters— largely the same techniques I use to learn any language.

Here are the daily cues I use to perform reality checks, as well as my added method of mnemonics to create a more visual story around the cues.  Lets begin…



  • next time i see a pet or animal

  • next time i look at my face in a mirror

  • next time i turn on a light

  • next time i see a flower

I visualize myself in the bathroom near the front door of my parents house (what I use as my memory palace).  As I enter the bathroom, I flip on the light switch, and see myself looking back in the mirror.  The wallpaper has flowering print on it, and they quickly bloom to life from the heat coming from the light.  A lilac & lily spread covers the whole room.  Sitting on the toilet, is our long past dog Charlie (rest in peace).  He’s getting a massage from our cat, Jazz, while reading the newspaper. “Do you mind!?” He says in a strong British accent.   “I’m trying to get a massage here.”



  • next time i write anything down

  • next time i feel pain

  • next time i hear someone say my name

  • next time i drink something

I am sitting on the couch in my parents living room.  In front of me is a note book where I am scribbling thoughts.  Suddenly, the room is surrounded by friends and family chanting my name and yelling at me for not writing in cursive.  Dammit, how did they know!  I begin to write out all my pains and frustrations in my notebook, scribing furiously.  Tears begin to well in my eyes, and fall into a nearly glass cup.  I suddenly realize, you know what, I’m a bit parched— and take a drink.



  • next time i see traffic light

  • next time i hear music

  • next time i throw something in the garbage

  • next time i hear laughter

It’s Tuesday.. begrudged trash day.  I go out to the curb to throw something away.  It’s cold outside, just a couple days before Christmas.  Houses are dotted with christmas lights, and our neighbor across the street has this obnoxious “Christmas” light that is nothing but a large traffic light blink at our house.  The cold brittle wind is strong, so I quickly make my way to the trash can to throw the garbage away, when I hear family in the living room playing the piano, singing Christmas carols loudly, and laughing together.  



  • next time i turn on a TV or radio or electronic device

  • next time i see a vegetable

  • next time i see a red car

  • next time i handle money

I’m sitting in my parents family room, and I turn on the TV to see what’s on.  Its a high speed chase on the news!  A giant carrot is racing downtown LA in a red convertible, doing his best to try to shake the cops.  He’s got the car’s top back, and a thick pair of aviators on his face.  In the passenger seat is the loot— a Kroger bag full of $100 bills.  A wake of bills fly loosely in his trail blaze.    



  • next time i read something other than this list

  • next time i check the time

  • next time i notice myself daydreaming

  • next time i hear the telephone ringing

I’m sitting in my parents living room, with a large book opened in my lap.  I’m looking out the window, my thoughts drifting, when the phone rings.  Could that be mom or dad calling for me?  At that same moment, the mounted clock in living goes off.  I glance over to  make note what time it is.  I wasn’t expecting them to call until 3, so I ignore the phone, letting my eyes drift back to the book in front of me.



  • next time i open the door

  • next time i see a bird

  • next time i use the toilet after noon

  • next time i see the stars

I’m on the toilet on the first floor at my parents house.  I’m minding my business, where I hear someone knock.  I slowly reach over to open the door.  Staring back is the glowing hollow outline of a parrot.  He’s staring intently at me.  Through his body, I can see dark deep space dotted with glowing stars.  What a beautiful sight, I thought.



  • next time i put a key in a lock

  • next time i see an advertisement

  • next time i eat anything after breakfast

  • next time I see a bicycle

I am walking up to my parents front door.  As I put the key in the front lock, a bicycle delivery boy throws up a magazine that lands right on the front porch.  Ironically, there is a fresh stack of maple syrup pancakes waiting for me on the porch!  The magazine ad smacks right into the flapjacks, causing them to topple.  On the top cover is an ad for a breakfast diner.  I can’t help but chuckle about the irony, as I go to unlock my phone to tweet about the experience.  [Note: in this case, put a key in a lock applies to my phone as well.  I found this was something I do more often than use a regular key, and the whole point is to create frequent reality check reminders].


That’s it!  I have these visual stories in place for each day, and then remind myself to replay the story throughout the day.

Throughout the day, I pause and think back to moments I missed— moments that should have triggered a reality check.  Very often I forget, but I don’t beat myself up about it when I do.

When creating any habit, its optimal to start with goals that are so exceedingly simple, its impossible to fail.

Overtime, you’ll see drastic improvements, and your gradual baseline of practicing presence and awareness will increase.

Sleep is such an integral part of our lives— where we compound memories, record thoughts, make sense of the world, solve problems, and face our internal conflicts.

We spend an estimated 1/3 of our lives asleep.  That’s a long time to be spent in a basal state of unconsciousness!

Lucid dreaming is an important skill to learn, because it opens up our world to the bigger story of life’s mysteries.  You come to realize and recognize the beings of creation that we are.

What worlds will you choose to create?