A reality check is a common tool used by dreamers practicing all techniques, but mostly DILD. They are practiced during the day, either spontaneously, or with help of some reminder.
Why do I need to do a reality check?
1. Repetitive action of checking reality will start happening in regular dreams.
2. Heightened awareness during practice helps gain awareness in regular dream.
3. Once having awareness, it confirms lucidity.
How to do a reality check?
RC starts with an awareness question, something like "Wow, am I dreaming?" (When I ask this, I personally do believe that I'm dreaming. But even if you don't, do not ever think to yourself "Of course I'm definitely awake". If you believe that you are awake, then you will have same thoughts in your dream and you will not get lucid.)
Examine the nature of your current world. Analyze if you feel strange and if the visual field looks normal. Check your cognitive function. Ask yourself "Do I remember things from earlier in this day?" "Do I actually know what day this is and if I should really be here?" "How did I get here, what was I doing 2 hrs ago?"
Examine your surroundings and try to compare what you see with how you remember it should look like.
Do a Reality check and fully expect it to work. Then you say your mantra. I use "Next time I'm dreaming, I realize I'm dreaming".
Since it's not really the RC that will get you lucid, but the awareness question and questioning of your reality, it's very important that you believe you are dreaming and that your RC will work.
Important: Even if you come to the conclusion that you are not dreaming, don't acknowledge it. Don't say/think "I'm not dreaming". Instead, say a mantra "Next time I'm dreaming, I realize I'm dreaming", or "Next time I RC, I realize I'm dreaming." Otherwise, you may RC in your dream and out of habit you will acknowledge that you are not dreaming.
How often should I do a reality check?
You can RC every time you remember to do so. Or if you hear/see a reminder that you set.
It can be a few times an hour to few times a day. In general, the more you do it, the better—as long as you don't do them mindlessly or as a routine chore, without paying attention to the real point of doing RCs which is questioning your reality and expecting to be in a dream.
Different Reality Checks
It's always best to practice at least 2-3 RCs at the same time.
Some of the best RCs based on ease of practice in a dream and success rate:
1. Looking at hands + Counting fingers Or without counting fingers - Very reliable
2. Nose plug - Very reliable
3. Thumb/palm - Very reliable
4. Gravity - Very reliable
5. Try to change something - Very reliable
6. Switches - Less reliable
7. Reading - Less reliable
8. Make your own
1. In Waking Life (IWL) Look at your hands, palms up and notice details. Count your fingers. Do they look normal (color, shape, size, can you make your finger longer?) Do you have the right amount? Don't expect to count 10 fingers. Don't expect them to be normal.
This is a good RC because your hands are always there, IWL and in a dream, and you can practice this discreetly.
2. IWL - pinch your nose shut with your hand and try to breathe. Fully expect to be able to breathe. If you can breathe, you are in a dream. Also a good RC because your nose is always there, little less discreet to practice.
3. IWL - Try to gently push your thumb through a palm of your other hand. Pay attention to the sensation. Anticipate that it will go through. In the dream, do the same. If it goes through, you are dreaming. Good RC also because you don't have to go and look for them and quite discreet to practice.
4. IWL - Say, "If this was a dream, I could levitate" and expect to float up. Gently push off and expect to start rising up. Do the same in a dream. Good RC, you can do it anywhere and totally discreet.
5. IWL - look at something and try to change it. Say "if this was a dream, that [something] would be [something else]. You can think of an item being some other item, or try to change color, size, movement... It's fun and it transfers into your dream very well. Don't forget to use emotions when doing it - be sure you are in a dream, so the thing will change. If you have a dream goal, like summoning something, you can try to do that, as if you were in a dream.
6. Try to turn on a light switch. In a dream, flipping a switch may/may not work. But people do report that they can turn on lights in a dream. And if there is no light switch near in a dream, you would have to look for one and waste your time.
7. Try to read. In a dream, you can read, but when you take a second look, it will say something different, or gibberish. Also time on a clock may have letters instead of numbers. But it can also look correct. And you have to find a clock in a dream before you can do RC.
8. Make your own. You can make pretty much anything into RC. Just make sure you preceed it with an awareness question and you genuinely believe you are dreaming. For example if you wear glasses, articles of clothing, how far can you throw something, try to summon something or make it walk through the door. If you have something that you only see in your dream, like a dream watch (BrandonBoss's RC), you can keep checking if you have that. The possibilities are endless.
If you have problems finding some item in a dream that you practiced RCs on in Waking Life, switch to something that doesn't require any external object. For example, if you RC on your bracelet, and you don't see it in your dream, that may stop you from RCing and losing your chance at becoming lucid. This is another reason why practicing 2-3 RCs is recommended. You may pick them from different categories. For example, 1 RC - [item], 2nd RC - your hands, 3rd RC - gravity.
Tools to remind yourself to RC
You don't have to limit yourself when and how and why you do RC. It is best to use all possible reasons to better your chance that some of them will work.
1. Use an activity reminder - something you do often. RC every time you:
- walk through doors
- use the restroom
- notice a specific color
- get a phone call
- get a drink
- and anything else you can think of
2. Use a physical reminder - audio or visual
- set your watch to beep every hour
- set your timer
- put some sticky notes all over your place, school books, laptop, door frame, wall above you bed, first thing you see in the morning
- put a rubber band or bracelet on your wrist
- and whatever else you can
All these are just to help you get into habit of RCing. Pretty soon you will find that you will start RCing even without them. And that's the best way to do it. Spontaneously. Whenever the feeling "OMG, what if this is a dream" strikes you.
3. Dream signs - anything that occurs often in your dreams AND in your waking life.
You RC on these in WL every time you see it, think about it or say it out loud. Then, when they show up in your dream, you are likely to RC there as well.
Side note: Sometimes you get a dream sign that is not so common in your waking life. For example, a school you used to go to years ago, friends that moved away, deceased family members, or even things from movies, like dragons, actors, or anything similar.
Obviously, if you don't see these in waking life, you can't RC on them. But, not all is lost. You can RC on photographs, even on pictures you draw or find on the internet. Also, every time when you think of the person/item/place, you can say it out loud and imagine how it looks.
4. When you notice something strange. It can be strange for real or you just pretend it is. Let's face it, our lives are not that strange, so we have to make up some stuff.
- a classmate shows up when you know he is at home sick
- you thought you still had some beer in your fridge but it's all gone
- it's lunch time, you should be hungry, but you are not
- boy/girl that has been ignoring you is suddenly talking to you
- you see or hear anything and you think to yourself "that's strange"
5. At random
-every time you get the sinking/exciting/freaky/exhilarating feeling in your stomach, that what if this was a dream and you didn't notice
Did your RC fail?
This is one of the most common questions about RCs. Why did my RC fail?
For example, you are in a dream, you get the urge to RC, or you decide to RC because you get suspicious that you could be in a dream. You RC and it doesn't work. Your thumb won't go through your palm, you can't breathe with pinched nose...
This can happen if during your waking life practice, you don't believe that your RC will do what it's suppose to do. If you think "I know I'm awake, so I know my thumb will not go through my palm". This thought will also happen in your dream. And since our dreams are ruled by our thoughts, what you say/think/believe, will happen.
And since we know that it's not really the RC that gets us lucid (although sometimes it may seem so), it is absolutely critical that we believe that we are in a dream, and that our RC will do what it's supposed to when we are practicing during day. If you are not able to believe that you are asleep, then at least be opened to idea, that you are dreaming. Have some doubts, don't be sure that you are awake.
Then, this thought "I'm dreaming and my RC works" will manifest itself in our dreams and it will get us lucid.
The truth behind "I never RC in my dream and yet I get lucid. So RCs are not needed."
You may notice that sometimes you get lucid and you didn't even do an RC. It may seem like you just got lucid out of the blue and RCs are not working, because you didn't even use it and got lucid. Important part of RC is the awareness question, when you ask yourself if you are in a dream and you truly believe that you are. So this belief may happen in your non-lucid dream, and you will suddently believe that you are in a dream. You may or may not follow that up with RC. But this realization didn't come from nothing. It came from your hard work of practicing awareness and RCs.
After practicing Reality Checks together with awareness and mantras, pretty soon these actions, and most importantly, feelings, will start to happen in your non-lucid dreams naturally. Awareness question and associated feeling will give you some awareness and possibly even make you lucid, and RC will either help you realize that you are lucid, or it will help you confirm it. Happy dreams.