One evening, a few years ago, some time in 2002, I went to sleep after an average Saturday of good movies, good food, and good company. The next morning I woke up crying profusely and clinging to my pillow for comfort. My pillow and bed sheet were sodden with tears, all the result of a powerful dream. On a separate occasion I woke up because I was punching my mattress much too hard to remain asleep any longer, while yet another night I woke up because I was laughing too hard to remain asleep. Each time I had no recollection of what I had been dreaming about.
I wondered if I could increase my capacity to recall dreams, and Geoff pointed me towards lucid dreaming. For some people every dream is lucid, meaning they exert some degree of control over the events and environment of their dreams. A few people I've spoken to maintain that they don't dream at all, although I think it's more probable that they just don't remember their dreams. I've had a reasonable number of lucid dreams, at least three or four that I can recall each year, but thats a far cry from how many I'd like to have.
There are a few techniques that can be applied to help induce lucid dreams. The one I chose to employ is called a "reality check": every few hours while you're awake, stop and examine your surroundings, and determine if you are awake or asleep. Make a conscious effort to focus on your current state. Speak out loud "I am awake, this is reality, not a dream." The goal is to make reality checks habitual, and thus become aware of your state of consciousness at all times. Eventually, when you are asleep you will perform a reality check and realize that you are dreaming, and you can begin to work on controlling your actions, similar to the way you control your actions while awake.
Performing reality checks helped me to reach a lucid dream state, but not quite in the way described above. Every hour while awake I would stop for 15 seconds to thoroughly examine my surroundings, and speak aloud "I am awake, this is reality, not a dream." After a week I started having lucid dreams, but not because I was performing reality checks in my dreams, rather my dreams were starting off lucid. With a little concentration in my dream I was able to control some elements. For the most part I spent time flying at high speeds around India. It was incredible. When I woke up it felt as though it had actually happened. Flying around the sky in India became a memory that was accessible to me in the same way as other waking experiences, such as taking the train to work yesterday morning, as opposed to a non-lucid dream, which I might remember the details of, but did not typically feel as though it had actually happened.
I'm still working on controlling my flight. On my last sojourn into the sky I thrust my arm forwards, expecting to fly in that direction, but I rocketed backwards. I found that I had more control over flight when I "just did it," as opposed to "trying to do it," much in the same way that Arthur Dent manages flight in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.