Lucid dreaming is the technique of becoming conscious that you are dreaming while in the dream state and then being able to walk about the environment, change things, change yourself, read 25,000 words a minute, and do pretty much anything you’d want to do. (Scarlett Johansson, watch out!)
I’ve only had this happen to me about twice in my dreaming life, but apparently you can train yourself with all sorts of methods.
Here is a FAQ about lucid dreaming, if you’re interested.
Brion Gysin, friend of William S. Burroughs, was interested in inducing the dreamstate without going to sleep. So he build a “dream machine” along with scientist Ian Sommerville. The device produces a stroboscopic flicker that corresponds to the brain’s alpha waves.
A dreamachine is “viewed” with the eyes closed: the pulsating light stimulates the optical nerve and alters the brain’s electrical oscillations. The “viewer” experiences increasingly bright, complex patterns of color behind their closed eyelids. The patterns become shapes and symbols, swirling around, until the “viewer” feels surrounded by colors. It is claimed that viewing a dreamachine allows one to enter a hypnagogic state.This experience may sometimes be quite intense, but to escape from it, one needs only to open one’s eyes.