As I lay in bed, I go back to sleep mindfully by visualizing a surfer picking up her board—the intent to have a lucid dream—and walking into the ocean holding it against her. As she (me) walks through the surf—my breathing—I become more and more relaxed, and soon she spreads herself across the board and begins paddling out toward the open ocean, the rhythmic motion of her arms my heartbeat. I picture the bed beneath me being as soft and deep as water, ever deepening water. Then, where the two opposing currents meet—waves flowing toward the shore and the waking world and the strong, irresistible undertow below the surface rushing out into the depths of sleep and dreams—the surfer spreads herself across the board of her intent and observes the hypnogogic waves while waiting for the one she senses is ripe for riding into a lucid dream. And even if I don’t succeed in consciously entering a dream, remaining mentally awake until this point dramatically increases the odds that once I fall asleep I’ll be able to raise my head above a dream’s wild currents and gasp, ―I’m dreaming! This visualization is so much easier and fun for me to practice on a nightly basis than concentrating on my breathing while focusing on successive parts of my body in an effort to relax. I totally lose patience with that, whereas every night I have fun deepening the surfer visualization by adding more sensual details—the temperature of the water, the feel of the ocean spray on my face, etc.—and the more real I make the experience, the more effective the technique becomes. I also find it invaluable to wear a sleep mask after 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, when lucid dreams are more likely to occur. I found this particular mask on amazon.com Lewis N. Clark Comfort Eye Mask and it is amazingly comfortable; I have no problem whatsoever falling asleep with it on, and the gentle pressure of it helps focus my intent. Wearing a sleep mask also eliminates the concern my eyes will open—the board will tip over—and abruptly return me to the waking world even after I realize my body is asleep as my mind surfs the hypnogogic waves, such an exciting state. I got the idea for this technique from a dream character who appeared outside my front door dressed as a naval officer. I let him in and he stayed to talk to me, and although I don’t remember our conversation, lying in bed later that night, I suddenly found myself practicing this technique.
Once awake in a dream, physical sensations help anchor me. I find that touching different parts of my body, and if necessary stripping off pieces of clothing and planting my bare feet on the floor, deepens my lucidity and helps to prolong it, as does the classic technique of periodically raising my hands in front of my face and thinking or saying I’m dreaming. It also helps me sustain lucidity when I look around me instead of focusing for too long on one object, person or action. Even when engaged in a dream conversation, I’m careful to look away from the person’s face every now and then.