QUOTE(ellmaring @ Apr 15 2010, 05:38 AM)
How does one tell the difference between a dream and a lucid dream? This may seem a bit obvious, but is it really? Could I not have easily dreamed I was in control of my actions through a subconcious desire to do so? Can anyone recommend any firm tests to tell?
Lucid dreaming implies that you are aware that you are dreaming. If you are not aware, then it isn't a lucid dream, although i believe there are degrees approaching lucidity. The point in a dream just before achieving a lucid state within it are usually incomparably vivid, and it is possible to reach that vividness and not actually achieve lucidity. Because of the influence of the conscious mind, that phase of dreaming usually progresses in a somewhat linear fashion, as opposed to a much less lucid state where no real concept of time or cause/effect is present in it's traditional form.
So the test is literally, in the dream, ascertaining whether or not you know you are dreaming - "Am I dreaming? Oh, wait, I am!"
Sometimes there are natural triggers, in my opinion one of the best ways is to focus on those. If you have a recurring dream, for instance, especially a nightmare of some sort, that makes an excellent trigger. I for instance have dreams about my teeth falling out, and have for over a decade now. For the first five years or so it was just a terribly disturbing dream. However, there came a point when I began to remind myself while awake that if my teeth start falling out suddenly I'm in a dream. I wore a little bracelet and continually fiddled with it reminding myself of this throughout the day.
The next time I had this dream, I was at a sink spitting my teeth out when I suddenly just realized "Wait, this would never happen, I must be dreaming." Now, there's a short period where you do at first worry that maybe your not dreaming, but in my case I was just conscious enough to hold onto it and insist that, "No, really, this has to be a dream." Then, *poof* just like that I was fully lucid. I think there's something about the stress response that does it very well.
So, even if it's not a nightmare of some sort, figure out if there is a reoccurring symbol or theme that you dream about, and try to make that into your trigger in a dream. Habits do sometimes carry into dreams, but it also will depend on the setting. Looking at your hands and checking lights, etc., are actually good ways to stay lucid in a dream more than they are triggering them, at least in my experience. Then, when you have checked in the dream more than once, getting there becomes a little bit easier each time.
Another way is to create a dream object of some sort. If you're able to invest a great deal of significance into objects, then a dream fetische can be a powerful tool. Essentially create some small, very interesting object, it doesn't matter what it is because it has to be personal to you and very catching to your attention. Keep this object with you all the time, under all circumstances where it is possible - sit it on the side of the tub while you bath, put it under your pillow or on your side table when you sleep, etc. Bring it out often to look at it and fiddle with it, and invest as much interest and fixation on it as you are capable of. Think about it all the time. After a few months, put it away in special place and stop thinking about it if you can. At this point the concept of the object becomes 'repressed', and you will dream about it. When you do, you will become fixated on the object in the dream, and will become lucid. It's a long method, but very powerful. You can invest certain qualities in the object - if you treat it and speak to it as a guide, or even invite a spirit guide to attach itself to it, then at the dreaming point you can communicate with that guide in the dream; their purpose in fact might even be to wake you up inside the dream.
Good luck, keep us updated!