In order to remember bits and pieces of dreams during my waking life, I used to keep a pencil on the nightstand next to my bed so that I could grab it in the dark and scrawl some key words summarizing my dreams on the wall before I succumbed again to sleep. Then it evolved to keeping a pencil and a pad of Post-Its on my nightstand, after I had re-painted the bedroom wall over with a fresh coat of paint.
It's an act of discipline to jot down these notes right upon waking (similar to the discipline required for keeping up with semi-daily drawing exercises), and I haven't really been keeping up with dream note-taking at all for about a year now. I do still quite frequently wake up and just lie in bed for a few minutes, recalling the previous nights' dreams, finding interest in the weird imagery and scenarios.
A few days ago, I had a dream where I managed to achieve awareness that I was in a dream, at a level I've never experienced before.
Some strange things happened in the dream, involving me yelling at some elderly women because they were scamming strangers-- something I'd never do in real life, because though scamming people is "wrong," it's not necessarily a white-and-black moral issue. Example: if these women were homeless and/or in dire financial straits, it's not necessarily ethically unacceptable to scam people in order to survive. Hell, I'd probably throw some money their way anyway, knowing that I'm being scammed, if I knew that the women need the money more than I do.
In any case, after yelling at these women, I climbed into the backseat of a car, and we started driving-- I was embarrassed that I had made a scene. Once I was in the car, driving for a little bit, I realized that I was in a dream. I even did a full checklist-- I'm in a car with who-knows-who, and I had just yelled at some elderly women. I don't know where in the world we're driving off to. Totally a dream. 100% a dream.
I was completely and utterly aware at the time that I was dreaming. And, it seemed that the moment I realized this fact, things stopped... happening. Like, as if my subconscious couldn't go on continuing creating the story, because my consciousness was butting in (though I was dead asleep). I immediately panicked at the thought of being trapped in a dream. I tried to calm my anxieties, thinking, "Hey, I'm lucid dreaming-- I can try to do something REALLY AWESOMELY cool now and totally take advantage of the situation."
But no dice, my panic was too great. I just kept thinking-- "I'm trapped awake in a dream! How in the world am I going to wake up and get out? What if I CAN'T ever wake up and get out? What if my consciousness is stuck in this dream forever?"
And then I was trying to block my consciousness of lucid dreaming something disturbing and creepy, rather than something cool (of course, consciously thinking "don't think of anything disturbing and creepy! Don't think of anything disturbing and creepy!" always results in oneself thinking of something disturbing and creepy). I was afraid of my dream conjuring up something unsettling quickly (like a strange, deformed figure dragging itself out into the road in front of the car), and that fueled the anxiety even more, to the point where I just kept willing myself to WAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUPWAKEUP!
Finally, I woke up in a complete state of panic, heart pounding HARD. I remembered everything clearly, and couldn't believe that I managed to pull myself out of a dream/sleep. It was a scary event, but do I realize that in my panic, I kind of wasted what could have been a potentially interesting lucid dreaming experience. Maybe next time.
I had fallen back asleep that night and got close to lucid dreaming again (I was driving around and saw some blue, Dr. Seuss-esque looking/fake-stuffed-animal looking birds and KNEW that something wasn't right). I haven't been actively trying to lucid dream or anything like that, so I can only imagine what could happened if I put in the effort to achieve this.
The drawing below is also inspired from a dream I recently had.