"Dream practice is not just for personal growth or to generate interesting experiences.
It is part of the spiritual path
and its results should affect all aspects of life by changing the practitioner's identify
and the relationship between the practitioner and the world."
"Dreams are real while they last. Can we say more of life?"
Lucid dreaming is the peanut butter to the jelly that is my yoga practice. I've been a dedicated oneironaut for years, exploring consciousness during my REM cycles, sharing some of my most interesting experiences here. Check out my blog for a peak into my dreams. If you're new to lucid dreaming, read below for an overview first.
Have you ever realized, mid dream, that you were dreaming? If so, did you then attempt to control your dream in any way? A dream is considered a “lucid” one so long as the dreamer is aware, while still in the dream, that they are dreaming. The Tibetan people have been practicing lucid dreaming (or “dream yoga”) for thousands of years. Today there’s an active Western lucid dreamer community, made of people passionate about exploring the dreamscape - and I’m one of them! I study and practice lucid dreaming to try to answer questions like the following:
We dream because we’re in samsaric existence, characterized by ignorance, driven by karma, living under the illusion that each one of us is a single, separate being.
When we sleep, our karmic prana remains active and moves through our bodies to the various chakras. Our karmic prama provides the energy behind dreams and the mind uses the light, emotions and energy that correspond with our specific karmic traces to make meaning from the energy, resulting in an experienced story, colored by our learned desires and aversions.
As long as we remain unenlightened, we will dream. But enlightenment brings an end to karma and thus to the stories we tell ourselves. Instead, with enlightenment comes awareness that is so strong and clear that it lasts even as we sleep, manifesting in the REM sleep as “clear light” dreams.
“May I have a clear dream. May I have a lucid dream. May I understand myself through dream.” Both Western and Eastern approaches to lucid dreaming recommend setting intentions such as this one. But Tibetan methods focus on spiritual and energy work, beyond this, instead of psychological work.
Guru yoga and alternate nostril breathing are two practices that can help with lucid dream induction.
Wake up four times, every two hours, during the night. Different breathing techniques and things to imagine with each awakening. Different kinds of dreams correspond to each stage of sleep.
Lucid dreaming can help us break through the limitation of ego which comes from the illusion that each of us is a separate being. The Mother Tantra lists 11 categories of experience in which the mind is usually bound by appearances. Lucid dreaming can be used to challenge and transform these categories to help free ourselves of appearances and thus the ego that is born of them.
The categories are:
The principle of developing flexibility is more important than the particulars of the dream.
Western dream scientists and psychologists: To explore the conscious, subconscious and potentially even unconscious and then to perhaps improve our lives through interacting with these in the dreamscape.
Tibetan: Even broader. The ultimate goal of lucid dream practice is liberation from our cyclic existence. The dreaming state is similar to the bardo. How can we expect to be aware through bardo, the state between lives, if we cannot hold awareness in dreams? We cannot liberate ourselves from a cyclic existence if we’re not aware, if we aren’t conscious, in the bardo.
But before enlightenment: “First we develop lucidity and flexibility. And then we apply this flexibility of mind to all of our life. Then we are less inhibited by our habitual identities when we have the experience of transforming them and letting them go. We are less inhibited by our habitual perceptions when we have experience of their relativity and malleability."
In other words, before we’re free of the samsaric cycle, we can be free from the tendencies that cause us suffering day to day.
Keep a dream journal. Step One to be able to have lucid dreams is to be strengthen general dream recall.
Adventure, play, meditate, explore consciousness, explore the subconscious, explore the dreamscape, problem solve, invent, practice self healing, seek out the Divine...anything you can imagine!
“In dreams Cinderella can be with her prince and prisonerss can conjure sweet freedom;
the crippled can walk and the aged can be as young as they like --
everyone can feel fulfilled, no matter how impossible their wishes may seem in waking life.”
Through lucid dreams we can experience the fulfillment of our greatest desires. But on a more practical level, lucid dreaming can also be useful for overcoming nightmares, healing traumas, resolving psychological conflicts, solving complex problems, and more. Your goals, your dreams.