Sometime on Saturday morning I had my first lucid dream. I'd read about these things, but never experienced one. However, my reading probably came in handy, because it allowed me to recognize that I was in a dream state.
In the dream, I was expecting the mailman to deliver a package to me. (In reality, I was expecting a package to arrive on Saturday, so this thought was obviously on my mind.) As I went through my home toward the door, I suddenly realized that the foyer was completely different from anything in my actual residence. At this point, realization struck, and I said to myself, This isn't real. It's a dream. I'm having a lucid dream!
As I said, reading about lucid dreams probably played a key role in my ability to become self-aware at this moment. One of the points made in lucid-dream literature is that you should be on the lookout for things that don't match up with reality. If you suddenly notice that there's something wrong with your environment, something that doesn't match your knowledge and recollection of the physical world, then you should say, Maybe this is a dream. And as you can see, that's exactly what happened here.
I was pretty excited to be having a lucid dream, and immediately I started to worry that I would lose it somehow -- that my concentration would fail and I would slip out of the lucid state. I remember touching the wall of the foyer and feeling its solidity and texture while watching my hand against the wall. All of this was intended, of course, to keep me "in the moment" as long as possible.
Now self-aware, I went to the door and opened it. What I found outside was not my actual street, but a breathtakingly beautiful view of a wide expanse of blue water -- possibly the ocean or a vast lake or bay. The weather was bright and clear, and the color of the water was almost painfully lovely.
Excited, I set about exploring the rest of my house. Although the details have faded somewhat, I recall walking through a series of spacious and beautifully appointed rooms, much larger and nicer than my actual home. I think I passed a very large flatscreen TV mounted on a wall (I don't actually own one of these), so evidently there is television in dreamland!
Since I was self-aware, I knew I was seeing an idealized dream-picture of a place to live, and that mundane reality couldn't equal it. While I don't remember climbing any stairs, apparently there was a second floor, because I remember looking out through a rear window and seeing the ocean or lake (dotted with white sails) in one direction, a large sparkling community swimming pool in another direction, and directly across from me, a meticulously tended greensward dividing the rear of my home from a row of tree-shaded townhouses. I believe there were some (unidentifiable) people on some of the decks and patios.I had the impression that this neighborhood was ideally situated between the beach and a forest.
Incidentally, I felt pretty sure that my home was also a townhouse, not a detached structure. It might seem odd that I would picture a condo as opposed to a single-family home, or see a community swimming pool instead of my own private pool. But I've lived my whole adult life in apartments and condos, so I guess this is what feels most natural to me.
During my inspection of my fancy new digs, I occasionally reached out to touch a wall (one of them had very nice wood paneling) and thereby ground myself in the environment. There was no sense of being disembodied, but the only part of my body that I clearly visualized was my right hand as it touched the walls. I did pay particular attention to my hand, because the lucid-dream literature had advised me to do this in order to maintain focus. As you can see, I was thinking pretty logically, reviewing what I knew about lucid dreams and taking the recommended steps.
The whole experience was highly enjoyable, and I did my best to prolong the event -- but eventually my thoughts started to wonder, and to my regret I found I was slipping out of the lucid state. I don't remember anything afterward, though presumably I continued to dream in the normal way.
When I awoke, I recalled the dream in a fair amount of detail, which is unusual for me; normally I remember only disconnected fragments of dreams. But at no time, either during the dream or when thinking about it afterward, did I ever imagine that it was a "real" experience. I knew it was a dream while I was experiencing it, and I knew it was a dream when I recalled it upon waking. In this respect, at least, the experience was different from many reported near-death experiences and out-of-body experiences, which very often are described as being not dreamlike at all, but rather being real -- in fact, "realer than real."
Maybe some lucid dreams have this "realer than real" quality, but mine did not. I would not describe the experience as being real, although it did stir some strong emotions -- mainly of aesthetic appreciation for the décor of my home and the natural beauty surrounding it. Even while I was engaged in the exploration of my dream home, I was quite aware that I was dreaming and that the perfection of my accommodations was wishful thinking on my part. As far as I know, virtually no NDErs feel this way about their experiences, and a great many OBErs also draw a sharp distinction between their out-of-body excursions and even the most vivid dreams. (The closest thing I've had to an OBE was a strangely intense dreamlike experience that I described in an earlier post. I don't know if this was a legitimate OBE or not.)
It would seem to me, then, at least based on this one experience, that there is a qualitative difference between a typical NDE and a lucid dream. That doesn't mean an NDE couldn't be some other kind of hallucination, but whatever it is, I doubt it is of the lucid-dream variety.