[Short Story] The Real World: Universe Edition


[Short Story] The Real World: Universe Edition


Entrepreneur/salesman Steve the soul created the universe. And he wanted it to be utilized. Specifically, Steve wanted some of The Omnipotence to materialize itself and to test out his latest and most original creation (the universe) by assuming form and time to live in it.

Steve put together a pitch to this end, framing his offer as THE solution to the most considerable pain point of The Omnipotence: lack of experience. You see, The Omnipotence simply WAS. It didn’t DO and it didn’t FEEL. What it knew, it never learned. The Omnipotence had zero experience. And, quite frankly, The Omnipotence was a little bummed about this fact. Steve, as part of The Omnipotence, could easily empathize with the situation -- the Omnipotence Condition -- and, in turn, exploit it.

***Click post title to read more!***


From You, To You


From You, To You

Have you ever been slapped silly by spontaneous insight from within? Hit upside the head by an unmistakeable message? Just in time for New Year’s resolutions, I was, via dream. And I’m still reeling from it.

It’s said that traveling increases one’s chance of lucid dreaming thanks to the influx of unfamiliar stimuli during the waking state. I was in Florida for the holidays this year and, sure enough, one night in Miami I became lucid.

Flying is the first thing many people do when they become lucid. I actually became lucid because I was flying. “Wait, I can’t fly,” I realized mid-flight. “This has got to be a dream!” I remembered my intention to summon my "spirit guide," something that has been on my lucid dream bucket list for a while. I shouted “I want to meet my spirit guide!” up at the sky and soon I found myself face to face with a man (to my slight dismay - I was hoping for a goddess) who looked strikingly like Michael Caine.

I can’t remember all the details of the dream. (I let it go on for too long before waking myself up and I’d had one too many key lime pie martinis the night before to make myself write it down in the morning.) But I do remember one part distinctly.

“Do you have any messages for me?” I asked my Michael-Caine-looking guide. “Oh, we’re sending you messages all the time,” he replied, “in your dreams but also while you’re awake.” He motioned towards a towering contraption which seemed to include a satellite dish. “But you won’t receive them unless you’re tuned into a high enough vibrational frequency. Luckily that’s something you can work on.”

Needless to say, I woke up with my mind blown. The message could not have been more clear. Now, provided the contents of our dreams come solely from our own conscious, subconscious and unconscious minds, my spiritual “guide” and the other guides he referenced are probably just me. In dreams, and in life at large, we're conditioned to perceive everything in terms of "I" versus Other, instead of recognizing the ultimate truth: that there is no Other. So even though I was able to receive it visually and through a conversation (thanks to creative power of dreams) I believe what I experienced was my Self metaphorically messaging my ego self, “Yo dawg. U gotta be prepared 2 hear me. I’m the real U.”

I received the message like a slap in the face, so I kept it simply this year with only one New Year's resolution: In 2016 resolve to stay tuned into the highest vibrational frequency I can, where I can communicate with my true nature, just like my "spirit guide" said I should.

With my recently cemented intention of tuning in and remaining tuned in, attempts at contact by my Self to myself are becoming more recognizable to me, if only after the fact. For example, just in the week since returning from Miami I’ve had several conversation about dreams within my dreams, as if my mind were guiding me, even coaxing me to become lucid. In fact, last night I had not one but two dreams in which the topic of not just dreaming but lucid dreaming came up. In one dream a personified teddy bear was reading a manuscript I had written and asked me if I was on drugs when I wrote it. My reply? “No, it’s wild because it’s inspired by my lucid dreams.”

Other oneironauts might smile in recognition. The talking stuffed animal did not make me question my surrounding reality, but could there really be a more obvious prompt than the words “lucid dreaming”?  This kind of signal from the layers of consciousness should be unmistakeable, and, since it’s become frequent for me, starting today I will do my best to perform a reality check each time I read/see/hear/say anything about the topic of lucid dreaming or dreaming in general. (The idea is that I’ll make this enough of a habit that I’ll remember to do it in my dreams as well and will come to realize I’m dreaming -- when, after hearing a dream character say “dream,” for example, I look at my palm as a reality check and see the lines on it swimming around, instead of remaining static.)

The more often I have lucid dreams, the more often I can “talk” to my subconscious, unconscious and higher Self so directly. But, like Batman’s butler told me, dreams aren’t the only vehicle for insight. We’ve got 24 hours to be tuned in each day. Our “guide” is always there. Within. Tryna text us. So turn on your notifications this year, please!


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[Lucid dream] Dinosaurs and delusions

I woke up at 5am this morning, wrapped myself up in a sweatshirt, sweatpants, a fleece coat and a fleece blanket, meditated in the dark for 23 minutes and then went right back to bed. This midnight meditation was planned. It's a two-for. I was practicing the WBTB (wake back to bed) lucid dream induction technique, which requires the practitioner to wake up towards the last part of her/his sleep cycle and do something active (reading or writing, for example) for half an hour to an hourish before going back to sleep. The idea is to sharpen awareness right before entering the REM-rich end of the sleep cycle. (Because there's nothing to distract me so early in the morning, I figured why not knock a sitting session out during the awake time. If you read my last post, you know I'm on a meditation crack-down. And it doesn't hurt that meditation has been reporting to enhance lucidity in dreams.)

Last night marked around the 20th time I've tried the WBTB technique, and probably the fifth time or so that it has resulted in a lucid dream for me. These are not bad odds for a lucid dream technique, but the price is sleep. I lay awake for what felt like around an hour after getting back in bed, wondering if I'd fall back asleep at all before my 8am alarm. But suddenly I found myself in sleep paralysis (the state in which the body is asleep but the mind's still awake.) Sleep paralysis can be terrifying -- ask anyone who has experienced it. I've hallucinated a crazed old banshee sitting on my chest and choking me during sleep paralysis before. Let's just say I can go without a replay of that. But now I know sleep paralysis is a natural part of WILD (wake-induced lucid dreams), so I welcomed the sensation of my body becoming dead weight and the vibrating around my ears. "I'm about to go lucid," I told myself to stay calm.

After about a minute or so I decided it was safe to do a reality check. I brought my right hand to my nose and plugged up my nostrils. "If I can still breathe," I thought, "Then I'll know I'm dreaming." And in fact I could still breathe despite a closed off mouth and nose. But I still couldn't believe I was dreaming, because my room looked no different than it had when I woke up to meditate at 5am. The moonlight was realistic. The furniture was an exact replica of the real thing. I woke my boyfriend up and he tried to convince me that I was not actually dreaming. But the freckles on his face keep me suspicious...I couldn't remember him having freckles in "real life."

So I brought him into the hall and decided to prove to him that we were in a dream. Already I'd made a mistake at this point in the dream. I mistook my mind's projection of a person as the real person somehow transported to my dream, or perhaps also dreaming the same dream -- a rookie mistake. But I couldn't help it. He seemed so genuine and I was excited to have a buddy for my lucid adventure. In the hall I tried to fly with little success -- I expected not to be able to fly through the ceiling and so I wasn't able to: the expectation effect. "Let's go outside, " I suggested, where I knew I'd be able to fly.

Out on the grass (where it was already light out), I easily flew up towards the clouds and, now finally convinced it was in fact a dream we were in, my dream character boyfriend flew up to join. "To outer space!" I yelled into the sky and we flew higher and higher. But I could tell we weren't going fast enough to make it to the depths of space, assuming our dream movement was following the rules of physics. "Faster!" I exclaimed. "To outer space!"

We approached a deep blue up above. I thought we'd burst through it into deep space, but instead we splashed up over a beautiful, prehistoric ocean next to a luscious island with a mountain in the center. "Welcome to Jurassic Park," I heard or read or felt. "Let's go see the dinosaurs," I said to my projection of a boyfriend (whose independent existence I was still sure of at the time) and we approached the mountain.

It was like a Disney ride, rushing water curving down around the mountain in a ribbon. First there were only dogs splashing in the water but soon I felt the presence of something much larger and, right on point, a gargantuan triceratops appeared, snapping at me on the side of the mountain, spinning me into a panic. "Let's get out of here!" I yelled, just as my boyfriend turned into a fish and fell into the river, mere feet away from the dinosaur.

I debated for a moment. Should I leave him? He wasn't my living, breathing boyfriend, after all. But...what if he actually was, somehow? Was it worth the risk? Of course I must save him, I decided, so I flew right up to the triceratops and scooped up my little fish of a boyfriend out of the water and into my hand, shooting up through the sky with him, safe and free.

At this point I remembered my intention to ride on a train in a lucid dream so I tried to do the spinning technique to spin up my desired new dream scene. However, I couldn't get it to work without something solid under my feet. Instead I had a false awakening, during which I wrote down my dream before I woke up for real, right before my 8am alarm.

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A cold cushion, still.


A cold cushion, still.

One of my teachers is currently writing a book about yoga philosophy. I was chatting with him about the book's content earlier this week and he said there's a memoir element to it that he's trying to approach carefully. He explained that yoga teachers tend to publicly share only experiences in which they learned, overcame and grew -- in other words, experiences in which they came out on top. Because nobody relates to perpetual triumph, my teacher said he is consciously striving to include stories of failure as well as stories of success in the personal parts of his book. 

That makes sense. Enlightenment isn't an effortless pursuit, after all, so why do we yoga teachers keep acting like it is? So let me tell you about something I'm struggling with, for once, versus something I've achieved. Wouldn't that be a nice break from all the self-congratulations that flood your social media feeds each day? Wouldn't a splash of vulnerability be refreshing?

Now this is far from the biggest struggle of my life, but it's one I'm dealing with right now and it directly affects my yoga teaching: I teach mindfulness but I'm not always mindful. I should, but I don't meditate regularly.

Why not? Well, one, it's freezing in the mornings -- the only time I ever really successfully meditate -- and, two, I don't want to give up any sleep: those are my two pathetic excuses. Seems like they'd be easier to overcome, right? Especially when you compare the list of Pros to the Cons. 

What are the Pros, you ask? Why do I want to cultivate a daily meditation practice, anyway? To become more mindful, certainly. But also to no longer ever feel like I need a drink or a vacation or any kind of bigger retreat from what is. How crazy would that be? To have every day truly count, and not just the weekend days or those days spent "away from it all." And, of course, to more deeply embody what I already preach: presence. Yoga asana alone isn't enough to grant any of these benefits fully.

So here I am, still working towards warming up my sitting cushion, one day at a time. All it takes is a choice and I've been working on making the cold and sleepy choice for a while, with several previous blog posts about my intention to cultivate a meditation practice as proof. There are many weeks my butt never touches the cushion once. I'm not perfect yo. But I always set it out for myself with plans to return. 

Much like the practice of meditation itself, it's about recommitting over and over again. Recommitting to the cushion each time I observe my focus has strayed, my mindfulness has slipped -- perhaps when I catch myself checking out of conversations or reacting quickly and angrily at work or on public transportation -- just as while meditating we recommit to concentrating on the breath each time we observe the mind wandering somewhere else. 

So at least I'm being mindful about the need to be mindful. (See how I snuck that pat-on-the-back in there? After all, yoga teachers have egos too, if you haven't noticed yet.) But intention, sankalpa, isn't enough here. I know this. My work when it comes to meditation practice continues to be discipline. It's time for tapas, and I'm not talking small plates of delicious food. I'm talking sitting still and breathing and being bored and dealing with whatever shit comes up that I've been avoiding facing. That's my work right now. What's yours?


[Lucid dream] New book inspiration + my upcoming workshop: Dream Yoga and Lucid Dreaming 101


[Lucid dream] New book inspiration + my upcoming workshop: Dream Yoga and Lucid Dreaming 101

Have you ever wondered about the power and meaning of dreams? Have you ever realized in a dream that you were dreaming? Have you ever been able to "control" your dream? Have you ever wanted to?

If so and if you're in the Bay Area, join me Saturday, December 5th on a journey to understand yourself better and grow through the practice of dream yoga and lucid dreaming (based on Tibetan dream yoga as well the works of Westerners Stephen LaBerge and Robert Waggoner.)


  • What: Dream Yoga and Lucid Dreaming 101 workshop
  • When: Saturday, December 5th (1:00 - 3:30pm)
  • Where: Yoga Mayu Noe Valley
  • ost: $40



  • Theories of how and why we dream
  • The history of lucid dreaming and Tibetan dream yoga
  • The philosophy of lucid dreaming and Tibetan dream yoga
  • Practical "how to" methods for inducing lucid dreaming
  • Practical "how to" methods for play and personal growth through your dreams

As a bonus, learn about yoga sequencing to prepare yourself for a better night's sleep.


Please record all your dreams (as soon as you wake up each morning) for at least two weeks preceding the workshop in a notebook and bring this notebook to the workshop. The longer and more diligently you work on your dream recall ability the more prepared you will be for the practice of lucid dreaming.

Sign up now to save your spot for this workshop via the Yoga Mayu website!

Now, as I alluded to in my previous post, I had a legendary lucid dream this weekend while away on retreat on a farm in the Sonoma Mountains. It was so powerful that I'm planning to write a novel based on the world I visited and what I experienced there. You'll have to wait for the book to find out what happens (and it could be a while), but here's a teaser:

My boyfriend and I were flying through the sky. I realized I was dreaming and announced this to him. He was controlling how fast we were going (which made me believe I was actually in HIS dream) & he kept making us go faster & faster. I had never flown as fast as we were flying before, and I had the uneasy feeling we were being watched. "I think this is dangerous," I said. "Let's slow down."

e complied and we began descending back to the ground, finally arriving before some kind of government building emblazoned with a bold, hollow triangle, yellow with black stripes. We went it.

It was warm inside, with soft light, maroon walls and the ambiance of a busy, high-end restaurant at dinner, but full of bright young people in futuristic garb. It felt a bit like a non-magic Hogwarts, but corporate. Institutional, maybe scientific. It was a grand building, perhaps a world of its own.

But before I could take full stock of where we were and what was taking place around us, two seemingly executive characters in lab coats approached. I was quickly separated from my boyfriend and ushered by these characters into a small interrogation-like room.

They closed the door and smiled at me. "We know what you're doing," they said. "And we don't like it."

Stay tuned for more. If I'm lucky my dreams will continue to bring me inspiration and plot ideas for the book. But if not, I'll have to let my imagination run wild. Either way, it's the same source right? Or is it...?


Sonoma mountains farm retreat pics and musings


Sonoma mountains farm retreat pics and musings

This past weekend was one for the books. I revisited Taylor Maid Farms, this time for Jonathan's second retreat of the year (Shasta was the first). The yoga was strong, the stars were bright and the magic was palpable. I have returned to The Real World (which is not a separate world) with a renewed sense of the present moment's potential. And let me tell you: I've got plans, baby. Big plans.

Retreat highlights:

  • The enchanted land we were on, a hilly expanse of mossy forrest and curvy vineyards
  • The farm-fresh food, especially the woodfire-baked pizzas!!!
  • Reading and writing in the outdoor hanging bed
  • Exploring the neighboring woods and farms
  • Hearing and smelling the rain in the dark early morning from my yurt
  • Trying "bulletproof" heavy-smooth supercoffee. We used salted butter instead of unsalted so it was a bit like drinking buttered toast but not terrible. I felt pretty invincible for a few hours after drinking it. Coffee machine and MCT oil already ordered upon my return.
  • The outdoor shower (and the giant slug I met in it)
  • The bonfire jam sessions
  • Pranayama in the shivery mornings
  • Realizing my own physical power. One of the reasons I love yoga asana is that it makes me feel strong, but not all teachers emphasize strength much and none have helped me find my strength like Jonathan has!
  • Last but not least - an epic lucid dream (in tradition with last year's). More to come on this.

I'll never forget this weekend.



Soak up the sun


Soak up the sun

I'm gonna soak up the sun
While it's still free
I'm gonna soak up the sun
Before it goes out on me 
Sheryl Crow


The sun's still shining, but the end is near. Every third day or so the wind stirs along the streets of the Mission and I wish I had a scarf wrapped up to my nose. At night my wet hair chills next to the window I should have closed. For a few weeks already, the flower stand along my morning commute has been selling pumpkins instead of roses. Any day now, it seems, the cold will renounce for good our lingering honeymoon with summer and the sun will take back its generosity. So I'm savoring summery ales, sweaty Sunday strolls and the freckles on my face while I can. While they're still in season, thanks to San Francisco stretching this one.

It's so easy to miss something when it's gone, but it takes a greater awareness to appreciate relationships and experiences in the moment. 
I recently read an inspiring article in Mantra Magazine about living fervently. In essence, the takeaway was that if you're going to say "yes" to something, you better make it a "Hell yes!" This idea, the idea that when we choose to do something why not choose to do it with our full soul, really resonated with me. How often do you RSVP to a social event, for example, only to spend most of your time on your phone or wishing you were somewhere else? What if instead you really committed to being where you were at all times, dialing in rather than checking out? What would that be like?

Back in my Idaho days, I competed with students from other schools in Idaho and its surrounding states in both speech and debate. The realm of speech comprised many categories, including humor and improv. My favorite category though, the category I competed in, was Original Oratory. In "OO," as we called it, the topic was up to the participant who was also responsible for composing, memorizing and performing a ten-minute speech on said topic. My 15 minutes of speech fame came in the ten minutes I performed "Live It Up," a motivational speech inspired by the wild adventures of my best friend Lacey and myself. In this oration I encouraged dancing with abandon, embarking on spontaneous road trips and playing elaborate pranks on teachers. These were examples of how one might live life more fully, I explained.

Now, despite what one might guess upon seeing the hairdo in my current corporate headshot, I'm still a young person. But even a decade ago I was already contemplating the fleeting nature of our days in this life (or at least this lifetime). The difference is now I understand "living it up" doesn't mean doing anything drastic or even doing anything at all. It's both easier and more difficult than that. To live fully is to live presently. To savor what's there when it's there.

Meditation is helping me do this more consistently. I used to be THE poster child for FOMO but, thanks to the work I've been putting into strengthening my presence muscle, I'm getting better at following Sheryl Crow's advice and "wanting what I've got." (And I'm much happier for it.) 

And on the mat I've been trying something simple that has made a significant impact in terms of enabling me to stay present. I've keep closing my eyes as I flow. I'll open them through jumps back to chaturanga and during balancing poses, but I try to keep them closed (or almost closed) more often than not. As a result, I feel like I'm savoring the breath and the movement and the sensations like I'd savor a rare cheese. It's blissful to practice this way and it's my version of saying "Hell yes!" to the practice. It lets me squeeze all the benefits out like I'm squeezing the remains of summer out of SF. 

Soon I'll be savoring fall. I bought a pair of cold weather boots this week. I'll start getting pumpkin ales when summer ales are off the shelf, and I'll enjoy them. But while I've got it, I'm, I'm guna soak up the sun (with my eyes closed). I've got my 45 so on I...can rock on!



[Lucid dream] Is there a stand-alone dream world out there?

Last night's lucid dream shook me hard. I remember few details, but I woke up this morning with the weighty realization that the grasp I thought I had on what dreams are is shaky at best. The work I still have ahead of me is staggering.

Throughout last night's dream I encountered not one, but many characters that seemed to be conscious, aware, independent beings like myself. I got the impression that we were all lucid dreaming together. The first character I encountered was a young red-headed girl stepping down from a bus. Recognizing something about her, I exclaimed, "You're here too!" and she gave me bright-eyed hug.

In fact, Only about 10% of the characters (people?) in my dream (our dream?) seemed to be aware. Those of us who were tried to keep it hidden from the rest of the characters, but we were all acutely excited about what appeared to be a mutual experience.

The dream was long, with three distinct parts, and that towards the end I examined my palms several times for stabilization and to prevent losing lucidity. But throughout the dream as I came across more and more familiar faces and knowing eyes, I was sure I was on to something. 

Then I remembered I could ask the Dreaming itself. "How can it be that so many people in my dream seem to also recognize they're dreaming too?" I yelled up at the ceiling. "What's going on?" The dream didn't answer. Instead, all the characters in my dream turned to look at me, which in turn made me self-conscious and paranoid. I could not understand what was going on. One dream character came over to me looking exasperated. I instantly felt she had some greater insight into what was happening. I could also tell I was in trouble.

"We should talk," I said to her. "But I have to go now or I'll forget all of this." At that point I looked down and noticed my feet were floating off the floor. "I'm going to fly and, by flying, wake myself up!" I announced.

I shot up and found myself waking up in bed. It was still dark out. I grabbed my computer and started writing down the dream. However, this was only a false awakening. By the time I woke up in real life, most of the dream details had slipped away from me.

Perhaps the events of last night's dream were a result of my internal paranoia about dream characters, but - I can't help but leave the possibility open - what if in fact I've uncovered something deeper about dreaming? If not, at least I've acquired some solid material for a sci-fi novel.



[Lucid dream] Experimenting with telepathy

Yesterday was one of my favorite days of summer so far. I started it off with Amanda Moran at Yoga Tree Hayes. The theme was sound and the flow was rhythmic. I got so in the zone of my practice that during savasana I began experiencing hypnogogic imagery and was moments away from falling into a very deep sleep. I stumbled into La Boulange in a daze afterwards for a mini prosciutto sandwich on olive bread with a side of fruit and a cup of coffee. In the corner of the cafe, I read the first few pages of "The Book of Strange New Things" over breakfast, and then I walked home in the warm August San Francisco sun.

The rest of the day was spent at Ocean Beach with my fellow lucid dreamer Nick and his friend Barbara. We enjoyed a picnic of Parisian baguettes and Big Sur jams and cheeses as we talked about lucid dreams. The more we discussed, the more excited we all got. 

We asked the big questions."What ARE dream characters?" "Is there really a cosmic consciousness and can we tap into it through lucid dreaming?" "Do you think we could visit each other's dreams?" As I looked from Nick to Barbara and back with the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and the airplanes skimming overhead, I knew I'd have a lucid dream last night. In fact, it felt like we were already there. We joked as we did a few reality checks together, but I don't think I would have been surprised to discover we were, actually, in a dream.

At the beach, Nick and I agreed to attempt dream telepathy last night. We each were to go home and draw an object for the other to find in a lucid dream. No hints. 

At the end of the night after hours spent on the beach I went home sunburnt and ready to dream. I drew my object for Nick (which I won't reveal until he has had a chance to go lucid and look for it), watched a few episodes of "Wet Hot American Summer" on Netflix and passed out. 

In the middle of the night I had a bizarre dream:

Some man (that I seemed to be working for) had killed a young girl. I discovered her on the bottom floor of a multi-storied building in a bathtub soaking in her own blood. I can't recall the details, but it soon became clear to me that there was a strong chance I'd be framed for her death. Since I had been the one to discover her there my fingerprints were everywhere and I was convinced my employer would blame me. 

Once I realized this, I determined to flee the building as quickly as possible. I was scaling the stairs up from one floor to another, attempting to reach the top of the building where I'd somehow escape. At the base of one of the stair sets, though, I noticed an unusually large gap between the floor and the first step. "This isn't right," I thought. "This has got to be a dream! Thank goodness! Now let's fly out of here."

I failed to fly through the ceiling - damn expectation effect - so I looked for a window instead. The window worked. I squeezed through then shot up and up through the atmosphere to finally find myself uncomfortably high above an industrial city. I felt like a god, floating so far above a dream world of miniature warehouses and bright-colored transport trucks. I looked at my hands to stabilize the dream and then, joyfully, I remembered my task. "Bring me to the dream symbol Nick drew for me!" I yelled.

I immediately found myself in the floor of an office that could have been an old public high school. I seemed to have been transported into one of the warehouses I had seen from above. Papers were stacked from floor to ceiling. "Where's Nick's stuff?" I asked the young dream characters that I assumed worked there. Someone walked me to a new room. 

The first thing I noticed upon walking in was a couple of basketballs next to each other on a shelf. "Basketball," I said to myself. "Nick's sign for me is a basketball!" There were other artifacts in the room - animal horns and wadded balls of paper - but nothing stood out to me like the basketballs did. Through experience, I've learned I tend to overestimate during lucid dreams how much I'll actually be able to remember upon waking so I continued repeating to myself throughout the rest of the dream: "It's a basketball."

The dream didn't last much longer, though. Before I could make my next lucid dream move, my boyfriend shifted next to me and I woke up.

Lucid dreaming is fascinating and imbued with potential. Through lucid dreaming, I believe we have the power to unlock immense creativity, resolve complex problems, and even perform self-healing. Telepathy, however, I'm not so sure about yet. But I can't and won't write it off. I'm still just setting out on my dream journey and I plan to continue this journey for the rest of my life. There is much left to try and much left to learn.

I texted Nick this morning to test my guess. "Close," he texted back. "Same shape and color." Coincidence? Maybe...but maybe not. I'm ready for another round of this game.



[Lucid dream] Potato starch and running

On Saturday I came hope after a friend's birthday BBQ a bit tipsy. I was reading the forums on the lucid dream site LD4all.com in bed and came across a post in which someone mentioned that eating potato starch has the effect of making one's dreams vivid and movie like. In my floaty head state, of course I immediately ordered some on Amazon.

Yesterday my potato starch arrived. I mixed some into my evening smoothie, and, lo and behold, last night I had a lucid dream:

I'm in a classroom, sitting at the front of the room in a shopping cart. Sandra Bullock is going to be lecturing in just a couple minutes but I really have to pee so I sneak out. It turns out we are actually in some kind of church and I have to navigate my way through people dressed up in elaborate ceremonial costumes in attempt to find a restroom. A girl in a headdress apparently knows me and yells that I have no business interrupting their proceedings and need to get the hell out. "You psycho!"  I yell. "I was just trying to get to the bathroom!"

I turn around and start running (in case she chases me) and it's at this point I become fully lucid. I've never run while lucid before (but it seems to be a great alternative to spinning in terms of getting to a new scene.) I feel like a cartoon character with machinelike arms and legs going round and round. The only limit to how fast I can go is my imagination.  

I end up somewhere dark, with tiny bubbles. As soon as I decide I must be underwater, fish big and small begin swimming around me. A great sharklike shadow skims below me and I think, "Alright - enough of this. Land now!" I'm immediately pulled up out of the water and plopped onto an island.

The island is the size of a restaurant and there's only one other person on it with me: a man on a cellphone. I can't recall now what he was talking about but, since he was occupied, I busied myself with concentrating on keeping my lucidity, recognizing that the dream had gotten pretty long at that point. 

I examine my hands and repeat, "Lucid, lucid, lucid" to myself. My hands look so realistic that I question if I'm really dreaming. Suddenly I see someone else on the island: the girl who had confronted me in the church. "Oh crap!" I think. "I gotta get outta here!" And just then, the alarm wakes me up.



[Lucid dream] Who's running the lab here?

Last night I went to bed tired as can be. It was one of those juicy falling asleep experiences where you feel your body becoming numb in stages as you merge with the bed. I slept for ten hours and had a long lucid dream around 7am followed by a false awakening. I've lost many details of the lucid dream in the hours since it took place, but what I remember I've recounted below.

I can't remember what incited my lucidity, but in my dream I became lucid standing in my bedroom. Once I realized I was dreaming I flew all around my room like a frog, but expectation constraints prevented me from traveling through my walls or ceiling. I wanted to be in a more interesting setting or at least have characters to interact with but I was struggling to break through psychological barriers.

It felt like I'd be stuck in my room forever. I wasn't making progress and I was scared of losing awareness and control. To prolong lucidity, I occasionally stabilized my consciousness by staring at the criss-crossing lines on my palms and performed reality checks by pulling my fingers (which tend to lengthen like taffy in dreams). 

Once when I pulled my finger, I saw open space behind a few yellow strings that I tried to travel "into." I had read about others traveling into parts of their bodies in lucid dreams and, curious about what I might find in there, decided to give it ago. I set the intention and concentrated on making it happen. No luck. (I must not have expected it to work so it didn't.) I needed a new plan for adventure. I was lucid - a rare and delicious occurrence for me - and going to take advantage of it, damnit! 

Finally, I remembered to call on LaBerge's classic trick of "spinning" to change my setting. I looked at my feet and shuffled them out and out, twirling on the carpet of my bedroom. I emerged in a minimalist futuristic street scene. Success!

Not sure what I saw or did in this new setting, but at one point in the dream I ran into my boyfriend. My boyfriend is an oneironaut like myself, so I decided to take the opportunity to try an experiment. Excitedly I approached him and said, "Hey, you're in my lucid dream! You might be dreaming too right now! Try to become lucid!" (This morning when I asked him, he said he dreamt we slept next to each other but he can't remember his other dreams. Mutual lucid dreaming experiment inconclusive.)

Towards the end of my lucid dream I remembered the intention I had recently set to ask the dream itself what I should do next within the dream. "Dream! What should I do next?" I yelled up at the sky. An animated portrait of a woman on the wall drew my attention. She started talking to me, telling me about something she wanted or needed, but I couldn't quite understand what she said so I ignored her. "You want a what?" I said. "A TV?" I saw her face break out into frustration but I didn't stay back to get her response.

I kept walking and decided to try again. "Dream! Tell me what I should do next." Immediately the sky overhead turned terrifying. Angry thunder exploded, cracks of lightening broke out, and the dream collapsed.

I "woke up" in a research lab, with a woman in a white lab coat telling me I had made a mistake. "We planted that girl in the portrait," she said. "You were supposed to listen to her."

Now that I'm awake I wish I had listened to the portrait. I doubt she was an independent agent of any kind "planted" by a dream researcher or anyone else, but she could have been a dream symbol or the voice of my unconscious itself. And what if she had something important to tell me or show me? 

I've experienced my mind as a lab before and I think the metaphor fits. But it's less clear to me now who the head of the lab really is. The more I meditate the more clearly I see that we are not our egos. Thankfully the ego and the mind are two different things. 

So what makes up or creates the sum of our conscious, subconscious and unconscious if not our egos? Is there an overseer at all - a head of the lab? I'm starting to think we don't run our own labs, but at least through lucid dreaming (and yoga and meditation and mindfulness and psychology) we can closely observe our labs and learn what there is to learn.

The more I dream the more I question. The more I question the more I dream!



Mount Shasta Part 2

Wispy clouds crown the blazing cap shading the collective eye of Lumaria. We drink huckleberry honeywine on the train tracks underneath the stars. Between handstands and backbends, we run barefoot through the dark corridors of the old, Western hotel to pee. The light is perfect for writing in the White Mountain Cafe, where Grease Lightning plays while a young teenage boy with slicked dark hair and pristine eyebrows stands behind the "U" of the counter eating a piece of toast with both hands. This is Mount Shasta, where two years ago I began my yoga journey with a simple intention in a ballroom. This weekend I went back for some more magic. 

Highlights include talking dreams with Nick, playing countless singing bowls at The Crystal Room, getting smoothies from Berryvale Groceries, hiking from Castle Lake up to Heart Lake, befriending a pilot and a Polish Buddhist, finding my serratus muscles like never before, and sleeping in a haunted room with doors that lead to nowhere and too many corners. Here are some of my favorite photos from the weekend:



[Lucid dream] transformation, music and dream talk

After a many month dry spell, I finally had another lucid dream last night. For some reason (okay, probably in large part because I haven't been incubating or waking naturally or, most importantly, writing down my dreams) my luck with lucidity had seemed to run out. I'd all but given up hope, and so have stopped practicing induction techniques except for the lazy trick of reciting "lucid, lucid, lucid" in my mind while peering at myself in the mirror during midnight restroom trips. Last night it worked. 

The night was hot and loud. Sirens sounded on the half hour it seemed. My sleep was light and restless. Towards the hours before sunrise, lucidity landed in my dream spontaneously.

I was walking the streets of an industrial town when it dawned on me. Once I realized I was dreaming, without any instigation from a dream sign, my first instinct, like that of so many lucid dreamers, was to take to the air, to levitate. I willed myself off the street and rose above the buildings, kicking my arms and legs like a frog to take myself higher and higher. I dove through alleys and bounced from roof to roof, noting how realistic the texture of the roofs felt.

With great joy I flew across blocks and blocks before it crossed my mind to try something else. Eventually I thought, "Hey, I should practice my transformation skills!" Because I have had little hope of becoming lucid after almost six months without any lucid dreams, I didn't exactly have list of planned options readily available. The first thing that popped into my head was "I could experience what it would be like to have my body turned inside out," but I quickly reneged. What a terrible idea! I frantically grasped for another to replace it. "I want to experience feeling what it's like to be Cinderella!" I blurted out. Don't ask my where this desire came from. This is why you prepare, people.

I quickly fell to the earth and, in a shabby dress, began picking tomatoes as I was yelled at by a large woman from the back porch of what was seemingly Cinderella's house. This experiment didn't last long. I decided to come back to my dream self and chose to next try changing the environment of the dream. Again, lack of recent preparation set me up for a random choice. "Birthday party!" I declared to the dreamscape. I pointed to the left. "Now!" I pointed to the right. "Now!" And before my eyes the scene changed - balloons and clowns in rainbow colors appeared and so did a few friends. Then one of my favorite lucid dream events happened: the people around me broke into coordinated song and dance. My mind presented a creative, entertaining musical for me. The topic was dreams, but unfortunately I cannot now recall the lyrics (though, at the time, I was somehow sure I would be able to).

At the conclusion of the performance, a conversation about dreams naturally arose. My friends agreed that we just might be in an independently-existing alternate reality. Someone, I cannot now recall his waking connection to me, said, "We should talk tomorrow. I believe we might be having the same dreams." Someone else said, "We shouldn't talk about this anymore. The dream characters won't like it." With that, we turned back to enjoying the sensory input of the dream.

I then ate a few pieces of candy and tried to find paper to jot down what happened in my dream so far. I seemed to believe I would be able to take the paper with me from my dream into my waking life. Alas, I couldn't find any paper. At this point, I think I also started losing lucidity because I didn't even consider attempting to conjure up some paper myself.

"What now?" I asked the group. "I guess I could practice healing. Does anyone have anything that hurts?" A girl I know from a singing group said her finger had been hurting. I pressed the tip of my pointer finger into the side of hers. I focused on transferring healing energy into her, closing my eyes to help with concentration. When I opened my eyes, I woke up in my bed. The dream was done, but my faith that more will come has been renewed.



Steadiness and Ease (a short story)

After The Incident going out to brunch proved too big an ordeal for Gita. The bottomless mimosas and chicken-stuffed waffles at Benny’s, our old Sunday “church” of choice, weren’t worth the accompanied stares. We couldn’t focus on gossip, especially Gita, with every pair of trendy eyeballs in the place shooting curious (and slightly repulsed) laser beams our way. So I came over to her house last Sunday morning and we cooked our own brunch. I cooked. Gita just laid there. (Obviously.) But in exchange for the blueberry French toast I whipped up for her, she finally revealed how it was that she had reached nirvana so early on in life. Ready to let her feel like a guru, I fed her while she talked.

Gita had been experimenting with yoga for about a year when it happened, she said. The teacher responsible for putting her into this state wasn’t a regular at Gita’s studio – he was only visiting to put on a workshop he called “The Bliss of Letting Go.” This teacher was world famous for transforming people from Type As to Type Bs within ninety minutes for only $35, and Gita wanted to see for herself what all the hype was about. The workshop was just around the corner from her house and all participants received a free T-Shirt that said “Let.” on the front and “Go.” on the back. Needless to say, she signed up.

The rest of her body soggy and immobile, Gita widened her eyes in the direction of her French Toast. So engrossed was I in the story that I hadn’t realized I had been neglecting my feeding duties. I wiped her drooping mouth of syrup and fed her another bite.

From the beginning of his class, Gita resumed, after a burp, she found that she was able to connect to her breath, to some deep and happy emptiness inside her Self, like she never had before. It was as if she was blossoming into her own aura for the first time. It was as if her job, her relationships, her accomplishments could all dissolve and she’d still be Gita.

There was just something about his voice as he guided her prana, she said, and every cue he used was right on point. His adjustments were heavenly too, and after the third round of Sun Salutations, Gita began to feel her body detaching from itself. As the physical sensations fell away, she said, her spirit soared. Pose after pose, vinyasa after vinyasa, something was unravelling within Gita. “It was as if I was finally ‘getting’ yoga, you know?” she said. I didn’t know, but I nodded. I was more into TRX-type workouts than stretching.

At this point in the story Gita paused to let me know the rollers were coming soon. She asked if I wanted to stay and watch them work for a while. I still had an hour before I was supposed to meet my brother in the park for some beers, so I said sure, why not. 

“But wait,” I said, eager to get back to the events in question. “It’s still unclear to me when you actually melted. Like at what specific point in the flow did it happen?”

Gita looked at me as if she could have judged me for the question but chose not to. 

It was during savasana, when the workshop participants were lying in pools of their own sweat, exhausted, that it happened. Gita’s body felt electric, she said, energy pulsing in her palms and at the soles of her feet. For a few minutes everything was quiet exceptfor the sound of breath. Then her teacher suggested, “Imagine your body is made of ice. A mass of ice the hardest that exists. Ice that’s been frozen over multiple times.” 

As her teacher spoke these words, Gita said she found her body quickly becoming a block of white ice. She found herself unable to move her neck or her fingers, or even her eyes. All she could do was shiver in the slab of her body and emit an icy steam from her still-smooth breath.

Rapt, and suddenly cold, without taking my eyes off Gita I picked up my mug and took a sip of my coffee. (It was lukewarm, but hazelnutty.) Gita’s tongue sloshed around in her mouth like a freshly caught fish. I tipped my mug to her mouth so she could try it too.

But just when Gita though she was about to shatter into infinite chunks of ice, she said, the teacher changed gears. “Now feel your body melting,” he said. “And with it, all the karmic ties you have to this world. Let yourself melt back into the earth from whence you came.” These words pushed Gita over the edge of solidity and Gita began to melt. She imagined herself melting in her mind and she melted in her skin, like candle wax. “This,” the workshop teacher said, just as the newly-creamy Gita merged with her mat, “is the bliss of letting go.”

Gita’s phone began to ring directly after this climax, and I answered it. “Hello?” I said. “It’s probably the rollers,” Gita said. It was. They said they were just outside. I opened the door to three long-haired white men in “Let” on the front “Go.” on the back T-Shirts. Their faces were gaunt but their eyes were bright and smiling. “We’re here to roll out!” one of them joked as he bowed to me, hands in prayer at his heart. I let them in.

In Gita’s sunny bedroom the three men - boys really - put their palms on Gita and worked them in gentle circular motions to mold her body back into human form, breasts and all. Gita explained that they came over and did this for her every day at the same time. It was part of their practice. They would work for ten minutes, break for two, work for ten more, break again. Each time they stopped rolling Gita, though, she would melt back into a blob. “You’re entitled to the labor, but not to the fruits of that labor,” one of them explained. The other two nodded. 

I watched for as long as I could before I had to go meet my brother. On my way out, after the five of us chanted “Om” together and embraced in a group hug, I discretely swept up a drop of Gita that had fallen onto the floor during rolling. Outside, I closed my eyes and licked my finger. It was sweet and salty, bold and subtle, smooth and sharp -- the perfect balance of sthira and sukha. And the perfect post-brunch dessert.



Dream yoga: rediscovering a dreamscape

Last night I finally had another lucid dream after three weeks of nightly dream incubation and daily reality checks. I can't say for certain why last night was successful, but it may be because I went to bed later than usual (I was up thinking about this blog) and so fell into a deeper sleep as a result. The period of lucidity itself was brief, but it was long enough for me to conduct an important check.

In my dream I found myself in a car with my family. We were driving around a beautiful island (that, in my dream, I believed was in Japan or perhaps the Philippines). My dad was at the wheel and began driving out of control on the wrong side of the road and up a bank. My nervousness quickly escalated to terror, which may have triggered my lucidity. "Hey, this is a dream!" I realized, and immediately decided to steady the course with my thoughts (which worked, even though another character was physically manipulating the vehicle).

Then deja vu came over me. I felt I may have been to this place before in another dream. I remembered I had spent my first visit, over a year ago, joyfully exploring one hidden section of the coast as if I were in a wonderland experiencing existence for the very first time. Every structure, every object I noticed there seemed like a surprise planted just for me to marvel at. Thus I was thrilled when it dawned on me I might be returning after so long.

My lucid self decided to verify, so I left the car and approached a corner around which I knew my magic dreamscape would be if I was indeed returning to the same place. Lo and behold, it was there, right where I left it (though this time inexplicably with the addition of a lion). I took my time walking down the street in a state of bliss, absorbing the wonders returning to me, then decided to wake myself up so I could remember what had just happened: the discovery of a personal universal truth.



Meaningful Sweat

Last week I tried something called SoulCycle. You may have heard of it. SoulCycle is the latest branded workout craze to take over the country, a la CrossFit a few years back. It's indoor cycling with a distinct flavor. Every 45-minute SoulCycle class takes place in a windowless room pitch black except for a few neon lights. The face wash and razors and smartwater water bottles are free. The electronic music is loud and fast, and the instructors are trained to motivate. If you weren't in your gym clothes, locked via shoe into a bike, you might believe you were in some kind of futuristic nightclub.

SoulCycle has never advertised. They've never had to. SoulCycle followers are devout and, after taking a class, I can understand why. It's "fun." The experience is a unique one. At only 45 minutes, it's efficient. And, of course, it's a great workout. You're guaranteed to leave soaked in sweat.

But I must say, I found it hard to find my soul in SoulCycle. 

It was loud and overwhelming, sure, but there were bigger issues. "Find your soul" is the SoulCycle motto, but at $25 to $70 a class, this "soul finding" is only accessible to a small subset of the population. At the studio I attended in Soma, each class costs $30. At one point our instructor proudly told us she had taken 500 classes when she decided to become an instructor. All I could think was, "Okay, so $15,000 later." Wow. I can understand the "upscale workout." There's a market for it. But why attempt to layer on a spiritual tone to something so exclusive? I was offput by the focus on "soul" in general. Throughout the class the instructor would throw out things like, "On this bike that goes nowhere, this is where you find yourself - your soul." Why in this class, on this $2,200 bike? It was hard to believe my soul could lie in a manufactured brand, in a $30 class so loud I couldn't hear my own thoughts.

I'll stop right there. My goal isn't to harp on SoulCycle - I completely understand the appeal. (Fun, fierce, efficient.) I'm not anti-cardio either, by any means. It's great for the heart and it complements a strength and flexibility practice. I really do love a good sweat as much as the next guy. My goal, rather, in bringing up my SoulCycle experience is to express how it made me renew my gratitude for yoga and all yoga stands for. 

I was originally introduced to yoga as a workout. I started with Bikram yoga, strict and sweaty. With years of dance behind me, I was pretty flexible and could go deeper into the poses than many of the people around me. This was food for my ego, so I kept coming back. But eventually I found myself returning for other reasons - more meaningful ones. Ones that dissolved my ego instead of feeding it. 

Over time, the steadfast focus on the breath throughout each pose had a profound effect on me and I observed my life starting to change outside of class. I felt freer. More present. I found myself becoming more open-minded the more I practiced. Less competitive. More optimistic. Happier. Slowly, too, I began to love my body just as it is. (This alone transformed my world. I could have used yoga in middle school!) The more I practiced, the more my capacity for love grew and my perception of separation faded. 

Today, ten years later, my yoga practice has become much more than a workout. Whether I'm in a class or alone in my room at home, yoga is my time to build compassion, to proffer gratitude, to pray for loved ones, to tune into who I really am, to find acceptance, to praise existence. The mental, energetic and spiritual benefits are surfacing with the physical. And I'm still just beginning to open my eyes to what else yoga can be. Yoga is a lifelong, flexible practice that meets you where you are now. Today. This moment. Yoga can be a physical workout, no doubt. But yoga is always a workout for the soul. And that's what makes my yoga sweat meaningful.

At the end of the day, the meaningfulness of the sweat that you sweat is endowed by you. If it makes you happy, it's meaningful. If it helps you shake off the stress acquired during the day, it's meaningful. But if it also helps you garner a greater awareness throughout your life and open up your chakras to enable a healthier flow of energy, maybe it's a little bit more meaningful. You don't need a brand of any kind to experience yoga. You don't even need a mat or a class. All you need is your own breath and a willingness to listen to what it tells you. 



Two weeks in Vietnam

Notes and highlights from my trip

I just returned from two weeks in Vietnam, where the soap smells like scented crayons and, even in cities teeming with motorbikes, the vibe is languid. (For every person laboring, there seemed to be another two watching. Even the incessant honking was done leisurely.) I explored the vibrant streets of Ho Chi Minh City, biked around quaint Hoi An (where Anthony Bourdain was planning to buy a house), and kayaked around the bays surrounding Cat Ba Island (near Hanoi). It was hands-down the best vacation I've ever had. The peaceful, happy people and the amazing food and the splendid sights played a role, no doubt, but more impactful, I think, was the spirit of spontaneity with which we approached each day.

Notes and photos below! For those of you planning a trip to Vietnam or contemplating planning one in the future, feel free to reach out with any specific questions.

Ho Chi Minh City
Lodging: Long Hostel

  • Barbecuing our own frog's legs and goat meat
  • Frolicking freely in the amazing HCMC zoo
  • Crawling through the Cu Chi tunnels and seeing all kinds of Princess-Bride-like booby traps
  • Drinking way too much Vietnamese coffee (concentrated drip coffee filtered one cup at a time, made creamy and toothsome with sweetened condensed milk)
  • Riding around on the back of a vespa through the bustling streets

Hoi An
Lodging: Hai Au Hotel

  • Getting an emerald green velvet blazer tailor-made in one day
  • Riding bikes to the sea, turning down unmarked dirt roads at random along the way
  • Getting a mud wrap followed by a facial and a massage for way too cheap

Ha Long Bay (Blue Swimmers EcoTour, which I highly recommend)
Lodging: Bungalow on private island first night, two-story junk bed (for 8) second night

  • Stargazing from our junk boat, out in the middle of nowhere
  • Kayaking through caves and coves
  • Hiking with puppies!



Manifest Destiny

Back in Florida, my dad belongs to a New Age circle that meets every other Sunday to discuss energy healing and metaphysics and paranormal phenomenon and other dimensional worlds and so forth. I once tagged along to a special event of theirs, at which a visiting medium channeled deceased friends and relatives of the audience members. Out of nowhere, as the event was wrapping up I was approached by a New Ager, a (presumably psychically-endowed) member of my father's circle. This man took my hands and bent his head low to look into my face. "Now you! You get what you want," he told me, with great sincerity. "Just remember: be careful what you want."

I carried those words with me for a long time after the encounter, cherishing them as personal prophesy. Now I realize my father's New Age buddy probably wasn't implying I'm unique when he told me I get what I want. We all get what we want in life, if we want it badly enough. It's the Law of Attraction. And it's very real. As the old king tells Santiago in The Alchemist, "When you really want something to happen, the whole universe conspires to make that wish come true." He was talking about dharma.

Living out of sync with our individual dharmas (with "dharma" defined here as "destiny") is no doubt largely at fault for the chronic anxiety that plagues much of our society today. As an obvious example, most of us choose to spend forty hours or more a week doing something that makes us completely miserable. We choose this misery out of ego and fear.

So how can you cut through ego to discover your dharma and find lasting happiness in your life's work? 

It's simple. Meditate. Meditation will (over time) attune your awareness to your own vibrations and to those of the Universe at large. Meditate to attune to small soul and to Big Soul. Then ask yourself two questions: "What would I choose to do with my time if I had to do it for free?" and "What would I do if nobody could know I was the one behind the work?" The answers should point you in the direction of your dharma.

I've been meditating more often these days and, through meditation, I've day-by-day, sit-by-sit come closer to what it is I want to Do with a capital "D." I've said it a few times, but now it is undeniably clear and I am no longer afraid of it. As proof, I'll state my manifestation here in plain words. Not because I need to make it public, but because I want to share the joy of choosing to follow my dream (even if only part time for now) and perhaps inspire you to choose to follow yours. 

First, I want to write. I've been an avid reader all my life. I love words and I love being surprised by a unique voice or unusual story. My room is a temple of fiction - my closet full of novels and my desk stacked with short story collections. But around my room you'll also find piles of writing reference books and writing memoirs (including Stephen King's and Natalie Goldberg's). Particularly over the past few years, as strongly as I've been drawn to read I have felt the pull to produce words of my own. Yet up until very recently I've largely suppressed this calling. No more.

My other dream is to teach yoga. I love working with people - something writing doesn't cater as well to - and I love the idea of helping others remember who it is they really are. Also, I love to think about energy, talk about energy and work with energy. With yoga, I can make that a career! A career that marries empowerment, spirituality and creativity - what else could my soul ask for?

So writing + teaching yoga: that's the two-pronged dream I'm officially manifesting for myself, starting with teaching yoga at work once a week and self-publishing a KidLit book with illustrations by my childhood friend. Soon will come the day that I'll have my own yoga studio and lead retreats several times a year, perhaps with a focus on dream yoga. And soon I'll be writing outside of this blog. Kids books, short stories, travel articles, maybe even a novel or two. It's happening. It's happening because we are pure energy and we get what we want. All we have to do is choose.



Trailer Dreams

It's Sunday. I'm lounging in a hammock on a farm in Sonoma County. I slept inside a cozy Airstream last night and woke up at the crack of dawn to meditate underneath a passionfruit vine and the California sky beyond it. Bees buzzed around the vine as cows om'ed with us from somewhere far off in the distance. Meditation was followed by an outdoor yoga class (focused on aura expansion) and then a "farm-to-table" brunch. I'm dangerously blissed out right now.

This space (the site of an old Indian burial ground) is enchanted. There are trees and hills in all directions with the ocean in sight beyond them to the west. We eat outside at a long wooden table that could comfortably seat eighty people. Strings of golden bulbs are draped on beams above. Our weekend homes, the accommodations in which we sleep, are each unique. In addition to the trailer, there are both round and cone-shaped tents. Some are equipped with their own bathrooms and claw-foot tubs. The shower is a communal, outdoor, spring water shower, built directly around a tree. And let me tell you - using it was a treat after sweating through two yoga classes and a day by the pond in 100 degree weather.

My only complaint about this retreat would be how hard it has been to sleep (what with the animals and sacred spirits floating about). The first night I lay awake for at least in the hour in the middle of the night convinced someone was outside the trailer contemplating coming in. (I later discovered it was probably a fox.) But I am thankful even for the erratic sleep this weekend, because it brought me a long and eventful lucid dream in which I succeeded with "asking the dream" for and receiving something unexpected...

Below is the dream as I recorded it on my phone when I woke up. I made only grammar edits and included takeaways at the end. Enjoy!


I'm walking down the street singing a classic rock song. I think "Hey - I didn't know I knew the words to this!" and realize I'm dreaming. My first instinct is to take flight and immediately I find myself flying over a gloomy ocean. It's suddenly very dark. I try shouting "Brighten up!" at the sky but this doesn't work so I accept the darkness and try to adjust to it. It's bright enough to see my hands, which is what really matters. As I fly, I look at my palms frequently to stabilize and prolong the dream. 

I recall my intention of meeting a personal guide and call out to the dream, "I want to see and talk to one of my spirit guides!" Nothing obvious happens, but I keep flying, searching the boats below for such a being. 

I stop to land on several boats. Unfortunately nobody I meet seems to fit the bill and when I ask directly ("Are you my spirit guide?"), everyone says, "No." (Daniel Radcliffe tries to seduce me in one of the boats. Why he popped up in my dream I have no idea but I find it rather amusing.)

"What do you represent?" I ask a handful of dream characters I encounter. A few say, "Nothing." One asks, "What do you mean?" which I don't bother answering. I think only one gives me an abstract concept. It comes from a punk rock office guy and though I don't remember what he said he represented, I'm pretty sure it was sarcastic in tone. (Dream characters aren't always the friendliest.)

After failing to meet my spirit guide, I experience a false awakening in the trailer at the farm. Alissa is in my bed with me. I find this strange and concentrate on falling asleep and going lucid again. Next thing I know I'm back in the dream world - lucid again, this time with Alissa at my side.

On flying skateboards we explore a funky, punky town chalk full of dream characters and 50s diners. I keep trying to shout up to the sky, "Show us something amazingly beautiful!" (another pre-intended experiment) but nothing happens. 
We fly into a window, into a room empty but for a tall mauve curtain. Despite having a bad feeling about the space I announce, "When we open this curtain we'll see something amazingly beautiful behind it." I tell Alissa (or whatever combination of people she has turned into by this point) to pull back the curtain. She rips it open to reveal a bed with a person lying under a sheet. We pull the sheet back and out crawls a bald demonic ghoul. As he starts to reach his bony hands out to us, spit flying from his foul toothless mouth, I tell Alissa instead of fighting him we should project love and kindness onto him. We do, but only halfheartedly. Our fear outweighs our love. We say, "We love you," but then we hurry back out the window and into the air, shouting, "Just kidding bitch!" (I regret this as I was probably talking to an aspect of my own self.)

Somehow we end up standing in a lake in a beautiful valley. Then the finale comes. Again, with conviction I yell up at the sky, "Show us something amazingly beautiful!" I keep chanting this, and as I do rainbows appear across the sky -upwards of ten of them. Every time I repeat the request, thunder cracks and then the sky scene becomes more clear. More rainbows emerge and move in full circles around the sky. I throw pieces of dried mango (a snack I enjoyed during the retreat) to everyone around us in celebration. ("The dream responded!") Then I take a quick sip of someone's iced coffee and wake myself up to end on a good note. The dream has already been going on for such a long time and I don't want to forget any of it.

Things that stood out to me about my experience:

  • My palms looked incredibly accurate in my dream - both engraved with hundreds of lines
  • Throughout everything that happened after Alissa joined me I was convinced that it was a second lucid dream. I didn't realize I had had a false awakening until I woke up.
  • I've never seen so many dream characters at once! An entire busy city of them! Could my mind really be so cluttered?

Things I'd have done differently if given another change:

  • I should have asked the dream characters what I should do next in the dream. 
  • I also should have been more discerning (based on appearance and demeanor) to decide which dream characters to talk to. (I think I wasted my time "talking to" a lot of thought forms.)
  • I should have also tried to find out where we were. (A specific part of my subconscious maybe?)
  • Finally, I should have been more persistent in projecting love onto the "scary" dream character, and I definitely shouldn't have tricked him!

But wow. After months of no lucidity, this was my longest lucid dream yet! Still, much more progress to be made. Time to sign up for a few more yoga retreats...



This now is it

No need to announce the future. 
This now is it. This. 
Your deepest need and desire is satisfied by the moment's energy here in your hand.

Throughout teacher training "live in the present," "there is only now," "just be" and other versions of the same rallying cry were fed to me without pause in my lectures, course books and daily yoga classes. And I joyfully aligned myself with the yogic concept that presence unlocks fulfillment.

Then I finish my 200 hours and revert immediately to my old ways, to "What's the plan? Where do I need to be that isn't here? How do I get to the next level?" mode. To updating my living list of what to ditch and what to acquire. To scheming up new ways of producing a more gratifying, more perfect life for myself. And that's okay. (Coming back to the real world was a bit of a shift, after all.) What isn't okay is how long I've let myself marinate in this "lacking" mindset before taking a step out of my ego to instead become the observer of my ego. (Months.) 

Why did it take so long? You see, at this this point I have to admit something. Though it was a foundational component of our program, along with all the assigned reading and asana practice hours, I did not do the required meditation work. I didn't put in my stillness time, didn't quite deliver in the sitting department. And, truth be told, I believe that is the main reason I still have so much work to do. 

I recently finished the best book on writing I've ever read, Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. In it, Goldberg claims her writing improved as a direct result of regularly sitting in stillness, focusing only on the breath and the present moment. As Allen Ginsberg once taught her, "When the mind is shapely, your writing will be shapely." At the time she wrote the book, Goldberg had over ten years of zen meditation under her belt. She used it to reveal her true self to herself by patiently cutting away all the jabberings of the ego. Meditation made her writing more raw and true, she said.  Reading her words gave me the motivation to get on my own ass and sit. I could use more rawness and truth in my writing!

It's also becoming clear to me that lucid dreaming - my other passion - can be improved through a regular meditation practice. I've been reading about lucid dreaming every night and every morning for the past month or so, and the more I read the more I realize I need to meditate if I want to thoroughly explore the subconscious and unconscious via lucid dreaming. After all, it's hard to remember within a dream that it's a dream and it's hard to maintain awareness once lucid. But awareness is a muscle that can be developed. The stronger the awareness muscle, the greater the capacity for profound lucid dreaming experiences. Meditation cultivates awareness like nothing else can. Thus I sit for dreamsake as well.

In a way, then, ironically it is my tendency towards aspiration that is making me get serious about meditation. I'm looking forward to applying its benefits to my writing and to my lucid dreaming practice. But on a deeper level, I'm  looking forward to the simple bliss of present living that meditation helps create. I know it's fruitless to spend time wallowing in the past or anticipating the future (trust me - I'd rather not anticipate the root canal I have to get tomorrow morning). But it's one thing to know this and quite another to live it. Meditation will make it easier to reside in the now. So I'm starting now (with 23 minutes a day).

Because this, now, is it.