Foundations Practice -Life is a Dream (Part II)

The preparation stage for dream yoga is to experience consensus reality as a dream.  This seems counter to our Western instincts to “call a spade a spade.”  We “know” that waking reality is not a dream, so why call it one?

Yet, do we really know?  The famous statement by Descartes, “Cogito Ergo Sum” has lasting power because of its truth.  This was the penultimate realization he had after many thought-experiments about what one can truly know for certain.  For example, he realized there is no way to know whether or not one’s brain is  contained in a large jar (the brain in the vat argument) being controlled by an evil being.   The Matrix movie is a popular expression of this timeless debate.  How do we really know what we are experiencing is real?  Answer – we don’t.  We know we exist because we have consciousness.  Beyond that, everything else is calculated guesswork.

Ready to try an experiment this week?   Join me in thinking of life this week as a dream, both when you are awake and asleep.  Here are some practical ways to reinforce the “life is a dream” concept.

1) Notice when you want something badly.  “I really need a coffee,” or “I’ve got to have that dress.”  This is an example of the mind grasping for something external.  Though it is common knowledge that happiness is not found externally, we all still chase after the myriad distractions of life.   When you notice intense desire, tell yourself, “This desire for coffee is a dream” or “This desire is no more real than when I want a coffee in my dream.”

2) Affirm your desire to recognize you are dreaming before sleep.  Think back on the days events and imagine it was all just a dream.  Try to feel the same way about the day as you do about your dreams.

3) Don’t move when you first wake.  When you rouse from sleep, don’t even open your eyes.  Instead ask yourself, “what was I just dreaming?”  Go through the details several times before writing it down.  If you weren’t successful in becoming lucid in the dream, don’t worry.  You have a whole new day to experience as a dream.

These techniques are not the common techniques you will find for lucid dreaming on the internet today.  However, they are the foundation for practicing continual awareness.   While Tibetan yogis have been practicing lucid dreaming for 100s of years, today’s WSJ article shows that it is only now moving from the fringes to mainstream.


Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep: Part I

I’ve recently discovered the wisdom of Tibetan writings on lucid dreaming.  For those interested in a new paradigm for lucid dreaming, come back often as I start a new blog series focused on mining the teachings of these seasoned oneironauts.

Continual practice of mindfulness.  The main draw for lucid dreaming from the Tibetan perspective is the uninterrupted practice of mindfulness.  I have been exploring mindfulness for the past year at my company.  If I am honest, I have experienced more benefits in 10 months of mindfulness practice than I have in 20+ years of lucid dreaming.  Yet, I believe this is about to change.

Lucid dreaming has always be fun for me.  Yet, something has always eluded me.  The “Why.”  I get asked this question a lot.  And it annoys me.  I think, “How can you ask the why question when I just told you it is a virtual reality in your head where the laws of physics don’t apply and there are no social consequences to your actions?!”  Yet, this question annoys me because I’ve never had a good answer to it myself.

The answer is dawning on me as I read why the yogis have practiced Dream Yoga for centuries.  It relates back to mindfulness or “pure awareness” as they refer to it.  In “Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep” the author, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, writes (paraphrasing) that not many of us in the West have a couple years to spend in a meditation retreat.  Yet in the next 10 years, each of us will spend 3 years asleep.  Through lucid dreaming, one can continue the practice of awareness throughout the night.  This is exactly what the yogis do when they sleep.  Why?  Because the benefits of mindfulness are enormous – more compassion, reduction of karmic reactions (reacting to situations instinctively, without ability to control one’s emotions or actions), increased clarity & focus….the benefits of mindfulness are spreading everywhere in today’s business world.

What they are not talking about in mindfulness articles is that you can continue your practice, and even elevate it, by practicing when you sleep.  You can develop the flexibility of mind by staying present in the dream world.  There are many practices that develop this mindset for dreaming as well as activities to do in the dream itself that increase the mind’s ability to more skillfully respond to difficult situations.  Check back frequently or subscribe for updates as I chronicle my journey through this new paradigm of lucid dreaming.