Electric Dreams

 Review: NovaDreamer


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Psychonaut (1997 February). Review: NovaDreamer. Electric Dreams 4(2). Retrieved July 26, 2000 on the World Wide Web: http://www.dreamgate.com/electric-dreams

There comes a time in the early life of every new lucid dreamer when the question arises whether or not to purchase one or more of the various devices that were invented and designed to aid the likelihood of achieving that much desired state. When somebody claims that some technological gizmo can have an impact on altering your state of consciousness, you should be skeptical. My complete confidence in Dr. Stephen LaBerge and the Lucidity Institute was the deciding factor. I first purchased their NovaDreamer.

The NovaDreamer sells for around $250 and is available from the Lucidity Institute in Palo Alto, California (1-800-465-8243). Admittedly, that is a chunk of change for taking a chance, but it is truly a scientifically slick and cleverly thought out device.

The mask is attractive in blue, black and silver, and you simply wear it over your eyes when sleeping. An elastic strap with velcro makes it adjustable to the size of your head and (usually) keeps it in place as you toss and turn throughout the night. Adequate size foam cutouts keep the mask from actually touching your eyes. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that a computer strapped to my head was not uncomfortable. The actual electronic mechanism is about the size of a thin deck of cards, and easily slips into a pocket on the top of the mask. It is powered by one AAA battery.

Easy-to-follow instructions teach you how to select (or custom configure) any number of a variety of flashes and/or beeps to cue you when the mask's internal sensors detect that you have entered REM sleep and are dreaming. Amazingly (to me), the mask does actually and accurately do this. You can set a delay (in ten minute increments) before the mask will begin its job of looking for your jittery eyelids. This will enable you to get to sleep without triggering false alarms and gives you control over the time of night you might choose to target for your cues. You simply need to push a hidden button on the front of the mask - let's say 9 times - and the NovaDreamer will wait 90 minutes before scanning your eyelids. The mask flashes once and lightly chirps each time you push the button, thus providing some sensory feedback as you set it.

The NovaDreamer also counts the number of times it has cued you during sleep. The flashing is so obvious through your closed eyelids that it is a bit of a shock when you discover that you have been cued many times during sleep that you have no recollection of having noticed. In most cases, your dreaming mind somehow incorporates the flashing cues plausibly into your dream environment. In other words, it is possible - even likely - that your flashing cues may appear visually in your dream as lightning (for one rather obvious example) and consequently go unnoticed as the cues they are intended to be. Lucid dreamers who employ the mask are thus wisely taught to become much more aware of lights when awake - particularly bright, flashing, or unusual ones. Thus lights become a nurtured Dreamsign, which of course increases the likelihood that you will recognize the "cues" for what they really are - even though your dream attempts to disguise them. Even when I miss the cues, I am often impressed by the incredible ingenuity of the Dreaming Self to incorporate external stimuli into the internal dreaming experience. Here is one of my own examples: one night, a procession of Roman Catholic Cardinals in their scarlet robes suddenly appeared and marched by me in my dream. I awakened just enough in this particular instance to notice my mask was flashing. The lights in the mask are red. In some instances, though, the NovaDreamer's flashing red cues do not appear red in the dream and, as in this example, do not necessarily flash - a phenomenon I find both noteworthy and curious.

Once the NovaDreamer's sensors detect REM, it waits three additional minutes before cuing you - I assume to allow you additional time to get more securely into your dream.

Now, does the NovaDreamer truly assist lucid dreaming and is it worth the price? I answer with an enthusiastic "YES!," but with a few necessary disclaimers. First of all, I had lucid dreams prior to using the device. Consequently, I can't say that it initiated the ability or guarantee it will trigger even one lucid dream. With a price tag of $250, having some preliminary experience with lucidity is probably a good idea. In my own case, lucid dreaming was only an unfamiliar concept and not worth a dime - until I suddenly found myself active and conscious in a magickal world of my mind's own making. After that, $250 seemed the bargain of the aeon. A vista of possibilities for experimentation beyond the physical and social limitations of our wakeworld opened before me. And one point not to be overlooked is that this state is available to every orientation, belief, sexual preference, discipline or art. The NovaDreamer serves the same purpose as any thoughtfully designed tool in the hands of a skilled craftsman.

I use the device occasionally rather than frequently because I was relatively successful at having dramatic lucid dreams without it, and I don't want to risk losing the natural ability which perhaps could be suppressed by relying too heavily on external vs. internal cues. There is also the factor of novelty that I think plays a part. Flashing lights in your eyes during every dream every night is likely to become so common as to be unnoticed or ignored. But whereas my preference would be to have lucid dreams without employing the device, it has turned out to have some unexpected benefits. For one thing, it has taught me more about the nature of both sleep and dreams. I consider myself somewhat of an insomniac but, thanks to the NovaDreamer, I have learned that I actually sleep much more than I thought. I may believe that I have been awake most of the night - only for my NovaDreamer to indicate that it has cued me many more times than I can remember. Also, as mentioned earlier, I marvel at how our dreams are so incredibly inventive in incorporating external stimuli into any ongoing dream story.

The NovaDreamer is an ingenious tool for "reality testing" and "false awakenings" - two concepts thoroughly covered in Stephen LaBerge's books which quickly become an important part of a lucid dreamer's vocabulary. These subjects seemed rather simplistic and too obvious to me when I first read about them, but as you become familiar with the dream state and the games it so adeptly plays to keep you from recognizing that you are dreaming, then these very basic techniques quickly prove their worth. The NovaDreamer aids in curious and "unadvertised" ways to your better understanding of your sleeping mind and its master tendency to deceive you.

Now and then someone expresses reluctance to try lucid dreaming based on the assumption that they will sacrifice a peaceful slumber after a hard day for a busy night of bliss. This should not be a concern since dreams occupy only a small portion of your sleep and any periods of successful lucidity even much less. My own experience, and that of other "oneironauts" indicates that it requires at least some motivation to experience lucidity occasionally and considerable passion to experience with any frequency. Admittedly, the NovaDreamer's cues do have the potential to fully awaken you, so if you are prone to having trouble getting back to sleep, this should be taken into consideration. I simply don't use my NovaDreamer at times when I am exhausted and recognize that my need for sufficient sleep supersedes my love for lucidity.

Of course the bottom line for this review is whether or not the NovaDreamer will indeed initiate lucid dreams, especially your first. It has for me in fact been responsible for several lucidities. In one case, it kept flashing periodically throughout a lucid dream, in essence frequently "reminding" me that I was dreaming and preventing me from slipping back into "unconscious" dreaming. This particular dream lasted several hours and was one of my most intense and memorable. The NovaDreamer helped me maintain an important mental balance for a very long time. One of the most effective settings on my mask (for me) are flashes that are the longest possible and the brightest possible. I almost always notice these since they literally "blind me" in my dream. At first my dreams found explanations for the temporary blindness, but now being "blinded by the brightness" is an easily recognized dreamsign that very frequently makes me lucid. Whether or not the NovaDreamer can or will produce a lucid dream for you, no one of course can guarantee. I can say with assurance that, at the very least, its dedicated use will teach you many things you didn't know about your sleep. And, to end on the positive note that this small technological wonder deserves, its potential to trigger lucidity is unquestionably there. If you are serious about being a Victor over your own consciousness, this weapon should be in your arsenal.

Fly Free!