Since it's effective to do them often, you want to be able to do them quickly, wherever you are and without people thinking you're a weirdo. For this reason, I think the best reality checkers are portable and unobtrusive.
The "Am I Dreaming?" note in the wallet or purse is subtle and people probably aren't going to notice you trying to push your finger through your hand unless you persist for several minutes, in which case you're asking for it.
There's something about having a reality-checking object that is really great though. It could be said to be a lucid dream talisman. Check out this coin from Robert Waggoner, which you can rub your fingers over while its in a pocket and no-one knows you're reality-checking.
I used to use a compass. I'd test several times a day to see if North really was North. It was interesting to me at the time to know what direction I was going in, since I do have trouble finding my way around, and the theme of direction and navigation did start to pop up in my dreams, sometimes making me lucid.
I'm currently using an awesome reality-checking object that my wife bought for me for our steel anniversary. It's a spinning top like the one in the movie Inception. In the movie, a world in which the division between dreams and reality are increasingly blurred, Cobb spins the top routinely to check what state he is in.
Rebecca Turner, whose work has helped me with my lucid dreaming, suggested that spinning top might not make the best reality checker, however, because who wants to waste precious dream time waiting for a top to stop spinning? "Hey, this top just spun for six minutes straight and so I'm definitely dreaming, but now my alarm's going off ..."
In my experience, I don't think that spinning the top in a dream will be that predictable though. I don't think it will spin forever. I think my subconscious would have other plans for it and I'm looking forward to seeing what those are.
The connection between my new reality-checker and Inception is a powerful thing. Whatever I thought of the movie - I think I would have been very happy if Christopher Jordan had been able to make it a horror movie as he had wanted - a metal spinning top screams REALITY CHECK to me. I just have to look at it to feel my awareness shifting.
My wife bought me the steel top, which is a beautiful thing. Very heavy. It even arrived in a neat, little box, which I can't quite throw away (it's numbered), and a little cloth to polish the top with, or perhaps to dab my eyes.
It makes a whirring noise when you get a good spin on it and it's sort of all-absorbing. Again, a good meditation. So I spin this regularly and I feel cool - I've got it going for almost a minute now - and I think about whether or not I'm dreaming. I'll post results on the blog and Twitter [link].
If you're going to get one of these for reality-checking, I'd also recommend the lighter, mirrored one, which ForeverSpin [link] also sent us. Mirrors are good for reality checking, because what you think you're going to see is often not what you're going to get when dreaming. Dreams themselves are like mirrors. Dark, carnival mirrors. They reflect around corners. So the mirror surface spinning top can be full of significance for dreamers. Most of all, they look really trippy as they reflect lights and surfaces as they whir around the table.
They're small enough to go into a pocket and they're subtle enough ... unless you start spinning one in public. Everyone wants to have a go. And that's cool in its own way. Like I say, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when dream characters see me spinning a top.
Maybe I'll try to spin a top and I'll start spinning instead.
Dean's Dream Journal
As a dark fiction author, I like to take some inspiration from my dreams.
"How to Remember Your Dreams" will help you with:
Exchange your front row seat for a starring role.
Available on Amazon.