While the Inception movie has hit nearly every theater near you, many people have become interested in distilling any truths about the film related to lucid dreaming. Especially ways to create one’s own totem for this purpose.
First it is important to know that in the movie, totems are used to test whether you are in someone else’s dream. Since dream sharing/entering is not possible in real life (as current technology does not allow that), we need to view totems in the light of lucid dreaming. Rather than testing if you are in someone else’s dream, you could use a more “dedicated” totem to test whether you are dreaming in the first place (your OWN dreams). These kinds of tests are called Reality Tests or Reality Checks and are part of any lucid dreamer’s skill set.
Create your own totem
So while baring in mind that we cannot use our totems as in the Inception movie, we could use them in context of lucid dreaming. How could you test whether you are currently dreaming? Well, the answer is based on a lot of dream research related to comparisons of the dreaming state to the waking state. What are the differences?
Testing whether you are now dreaming or not, relies on one main characteristic of the dream state: instability. Dreams are unstable. Much more unstable than waking life (for most of us ;-)). Minute by minute our dreams change and morph into different landscapes, with different people and different settings. Especially in relation to details. Since our working memory faculties in dreams are not as capable as in the waking state, our dreaming mind has much trouble in ‘holding on to’ any sensory details in the dream. Thus a proper and grounded Reality Test would be to make use of this inherent instability, pick something with much detail, and look at it for a while to see if anything changes by your own intention. If it does, you are most probably dreaming.
Making a totem
- Pick an funny/cool/mysterious/personal/etc. object that you would like to use as your totem (preferably small so you can carry it with you during the day but big enough that you can add text to it)
- Make sure that its texture is one that you could write or add some personal text on. You could always attach some writable sticker or piece of tape onto it.
- Think of a personal (short) sentence that really resonates with you and relates to learning lucid dreaming (e.g. “Am I dream right now?”, “I love to learn lucid dreaming”, or “I love to learn how to fly”)
- Write this sentence clearly on your totem.
- Decorate your totem to make it look personal and meaningful.
How to use your totem
Using your totem to test whether you are dreaming, consists of a couple of steps that you need to memorize:
- First, take a look at your totem and consciously read your personal sentence.
- Cover the totem with your other hand and look away.
- Now visualize your totem in your mind while imagining a totally different sentence displayed on your totem. Really try to “see” the other sentence being painted on your totem in your mind. Intent to change the sentence by your mind set (as if you were lucid dreaming!).
- Then look at your totem again, put away your other hand and see if your personal sentence has changed according to your visualized sentence.
- If the text on your totem has changed, at least one word, you are most probably dreaming. If not, you are clearly awake and have just started to question your reality in prospect of tonight’s dreams. Great job!
Keep doing these Reality Tests as often as possible during the day. And maybe, you will do one in your dreams tonight and discover that your totem sentence is changed, and so knowing, will turn lucid.