How to control reality like Dr. Strange

I’ve come to bargain! Image credit

Dr. Stephen Strange, Sorcerer Supreme, master of the mystic arts, and bearer of the Eye of Agamotto, is one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe. Certainly one of the most powerful humans.

His power is so great, that he is seemingly able to control the very world around him, whether that’s party tricks like refilling Thor’s beer, or life-saving manoeuvres like turning a blast from the infinity gauntlet into pretty green butterflies.

Is it possible to develop this skill set? Can one learn, through training, practice, and dedication, to manipulate the reality around them?

Well, yes! Technically. It does kinda depend on your definition of “reality around you” though…

The dream world – your own personal Mirror Dimension

The Ancient One introduces Strange to the Mirror Dimension in Marvel’s Dr. Strange (2016).

The Mirror Dimension is a parallel universe. According to the Ancient One, the Mirror Dimension is “ever present but undetected. The real world isn’t affected by what happens here. We use the Mirror Dimension to train, surveil, and sometimes to contain threats.”

Something similar to the Mirror Dimension exists in our own reality – and it exists within your own mind. The dream state shares many similarities – it isn’t governed by the familiar laws of physics, and what happens there has no bearing on the outside world.

Many people see dreaming as an unconscious state, but that’s arguable. When we dream, some aspects of our usual conscious experience are clearly still online – we can see, think, feel, hear, and act while dreaming. The only thing missing is control.

Lucid dreaming – learning to control the dream state

As shown here, Dr. Strange uses his powers to keep learning while he’s asleep. You can learn this skill too!

If we could bring that sense of control back online during a dream, we’d essentially become the Sorcerer Supreme of our own Mirror Dimension. We’d remain in this physics-free zone, able to manipulate and control it at will, while still feeling as conscious and awake as you do right now.

This is possible, and it’s known as lucid dreaming.

The practical applications of lucid dreaming are – quite literally – only limited by your imagination.

You could soar through the sky without need of the Cloak of Levitation. You could walk on the surface of the sun. You could conjure whatever, ahem, “nocturnal activities” you desired.

But the benefits go beyond simple pleasures. You can learn skills more quickly by practising in your sleep (and summon a world-class coach to help you). You can practice foreign languages. And if you’re facing a difficult decision, you can speak directly to your subconscious mind for guidance.

What is it like? Does it really seem real?

Everyone remembers their first. It took weeks of training, but I got there.

I was walking along a trail in single-file with my fellow tribesmen. On my left was a large, gently-flowing river. On my right, a high, steep embankment.

I suddenly realised something was wrong. I’m not part of a tribe. I don’t know these people. And furthermore, I’ve never seen this place before in my life! Suddenly, I snapped into the lucid state. I realised I was dreaming, became conscious within the Mirror Dimension. And I felt as awake as I did during my normal waking hours.

I decided to climb to the top of the embankment, and sit at the top for a moment. With a glowing orange sunset in the distance, I looked down at the grass beside me, waving in the light breeze. I ran my hand through it, and felt each blade pass across my fingers. I was captivated by the grass, I could see each individual blade in clear, vivid detail, just like in real life.

And then, abruptly, I woke up. And that was that.

Through this and many experiences since, and through reading the reports of others, I can assure you that the resolution of a lucid dream is very high indeed.

How to actually do it

Dr. Strange had to train hard before he could conjure things like this. You’ll have to put in some training too.

The good news is that this ability exists, and that it’s a learnable skill. The bad news, is that it does take a little effort and practice. You don’t need to fly off to Kamar-Taj, but you do need to invest a certain degree of commitment.

Keep a dream journal

There are many books, websites, podcasts, and guides dedicated to lucid dreaming, and they all ask you to do this as a first step.

Keep a pen and paper by your bed, and as soon as you wake up each morning, write down the details of the dream you were having.

You’ll be tired, groggy, and you won’t want to do it, but don’t wait until later – your recall diminishes quickly. Switch on the lamp, grab your pen, and start writing.

After a few weeks of this, something magical happens – your dream recall increases significantly. You’ll remember more dreams each night, and you’ll remember more of them.

This is crucial, because there’s little point in lucid dreams if we don’t remember them.

Check your reality

To become lucid in a dream, you have to realise that you’re dreaming.

As noted earlier, the laws of physics are different in the dream world. Certain things just work differently:

  • Gravity is weaker. If we jump, we may stay in the air longer, or even continue to float upwards.
  • Writing is strange. The dream world is less persistent than the waking world, and this is especially true of text. Writing may appear garbled, like the Predator’s language, or it may warp and change before our eyes.
  • Memory is poor. Have you ever noticed that you don’t really remember anything whilst in a dream? Like you don’t think back over your day, or wonder what you were doing yesterday?
  • Things are weird in general. Dreams are an outpouring of our subconscious mind, and it’s not always accurate. Objects can be the wrong sizes, in the wrong place, or look differently than they normally do.

If we notice one of these discrepancies while in a dream, we may become lucid. But how do we do that?

Well, you may have noticed that aspects of your waking life often show up in your dreams. You were talking to someone about Star Wars one day, and in the dream that night, you’re holding a lightsaber for some reason.

We can use this to our advantage by performing reality checks throughout the day. If we do that enough, we’ll eventually do one in a dream. The dream will fail the reality test, and we’ll become lucid.

Gravity seems to be weaker in dreams. Try jumping – if you linger in the air, you’re dreaming!

It’s important to take reality checks seriously. Ask yourself, right now, “Am I dreaming?

  • Try jumping up and down a few times. Did you fall to the ground quickly, or float a while? If you floated, you’re probably dreaming.
  • Look at some writing. What does it say? Can you read it? Look away from it and look back. Has it changed? If so, you’re probably dreaming. I keep a piece of paper in my pocket that says “REALITY CHECK” on it, and I check my watch three times whenever I check the time.
  • Check your memory. This is the trick used in Inception – “How did you get, here.” What have you done this day? If you can’t remember clearly, you may be dreaming.
    Look around for weirdness. Is everything the right size, shape, colour and location for its purpose?

Perform these checks as often as you can.

Wake induced lucid dreams (WILDs)

The above methods are “Dream Induced Lucid Dreams” or “DILDs”, because you initiate lucidity from within the dream. A “Wake Induced Lucid Dream,” or WILD, is a lucid dream that you initiate from the waking state.

Essentially, the trick is to hold the idea of lucid dreams in your head as you fall asleep. So as you lie in bed, you could repeat in your head “I will have a lucid dream tonight,” or something similar. Or you could visualise becoming lucid in the dream, and imagine what you’d like to do.

The idea here is that by remaining as conscious as you can while you fall asleep, you “carry” your consciousness with you.

There’s a problem though.

Throughout the night we cycle through a few different stages of sleep. Dreams happen during the “REM” (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep – and we don’t always hit REM sleep when we first drop off.

The more tired we are, the more quickly we tend to enter REM sleep – so WILDs can be particularly effective when we’ve had a long day.

Also, the REM stage of sleep gets longer with each cycle – so if you set an alarm to go off 4-5 hours after you fall asleep, and then use the WILD method, you’ll probably have more luck.

To really supercharge the method, set the alarm as above, but instead of trying to get back to sleep immediately, get up. Spend 30 minutes or so doing reality checks and reading articles about lucid dreaming. Drill the idea into your head. Then when you do go back to bed, use the WILD method.

This is very intrusive to your sleep schedule, but it’s the most sure-fire way to get results.

Welcome to your new reality

As I said, the results won’t come overnight (pun intended). It took Dr. Strange a long time before he was able to develop his mystical skills – and he was born for it.

I’m not saying this to put you off, but because it’s inherent in the process. To get results, you genuinely need to put your mind to it. If you do your reality checks quickly, without much effort, then that’s exactly how you’ll do them in your dream – and they won’t be effective. You need to put conscious, mindful attention into your training in order for that to be replicated in the dream state.

If you that, persistently and consistently, you will get results – and the door to the multiverse will open.

Recommended Reading

If you want to explore this topic further, I can only recommend one book: Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming (Note: Amazon affiliate link – I’ll get a kickback if you buy the book after following that link) by Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold. This is your Book of the Vishanti, it covers all the techniques I mention above, and more, in much more depth and detail than I’m able to provide here. It also discusses some of the fascinating scientific research that has been conducted into lucid dreaming. Highly recommended.

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