Dream Yoga and Lucid Dreaming
Explored in depth for centuries, lucid dreams, a kind of dream yoga, are a metaphysical phenomenon in which there is a present state awareness of dreaming. Not surprisingly, mindfulness practitioners experience more lucidity in sleep than non-practitioners; as they become more consciously attuned to their bodies state in their waking life, they cultivate the capacity of this same awareness in dream and sleep states.
Within the lucid state, the mind fully governs reality— this can be exhilarating or disturbing. Taking this state deeper, Dream Yoga uses sleep time to “wake up” from the sleep walk we call real life, so that reality becomes independent, lasting, self-focussed and solid. With Dream Yoga, the practitioner can turn at least one-third of sleeping life into an enlightening night-time meditation, allowing the benefits of the practice to extend into their waking reality.
Developed by the Tibetan Buddhists centuries ago, the Dream Yoga state trains the mind to continue where lucidity ceases. By utilising insights of the night, the potential to wake up in everyday life is opened. The Tibetans see Dream Yoga as a pathway towards apprehending dreams and dissolving the dreamstate. It is seen as one of the most effective ways to get a strong foothold on meditative life; as a pathway to a non-duality of consciousness which will open greater awakening and ultimately cultivate freedom from suffering.
Without knowing it, our subconscious minds have a vast influence over our conscious minds. Dream Yoga can aid us in letting go of entrapment and begin rapid transformation in one’s journey towards enlightenment by awakening us to the notion of impermanence. Dream Yoga opens avenues to cultivating adventure, bravery, creativity, problem solving, and healing. With suppleness of mind, there is the potential to transform our past and liberate our absent courage.
There is currently a lot of research that surrounds the notion of fears, anxiety, and trauma stored within the body, and so this is where we see tradition and science come together to allow healing. What we see in Dream Yoga is that, with the knowledge that we are safe and nothing is solid or lasting, we can effectively (in our dreams) confront our deepest fears. Moreover, in the case of trauma, we re-establish sensory equilibrium in order to allow trapped memories and emotions to merge in acceptance. Miraculously, we can awake feeling calm and in equilibrium.
Tenzin Wangyal, a monk who has attained Geshe status through long term, academic study and author of Wonders of the Natural Mind: The Tibetan Yoga of Dream and Sleep recognises the healing magic of Dream Yoga, “Just as dream objects can be transformed in dreams, so emotional states and conceptual limitations can be transformed in waking life. With experience of the dreamy and malleable nature of experience, we can transform depression into happiness, fear into courage, anger into love, hopelessness into faith, and distraction into presence…to challenge the boundaries that constrict you.”
How to practice
Initially, we want to remain somewhat aware in sleep. When we are attuned with our dreaming mind, we remember our dreams and we try and wake up within them. As with any skill, Dream Yoga can be cultivated through setting a clear intention as well as through repeated actions that become habitual, then characteristic. Stephen Laberge is an American psychologist who specialises in the scientific study of lucid dreaming. His studied techniques for nurturing lucidity in dreams include intention setting, dream recall, reality testing, as well as sleep interruption.
The essential aspect of lucid dreaming is setting your intention. Have a strong motivation to awaken: provocation of lucidity creates a karma that carries into the dream world. Before sleep, affirm aloud: “I want to remember and awaken within my dreams”.
To become adept in dream recall always keep a dream journal beside your bed. Upon waking nonjudgmentally acknowledge, without analysis, any thoughts, emotions, or images that come to mind – then write them down. Also document dream signs – repeated emotions, thoughts, images, or people within the dreams.
There are many ways to test whether you are awake or dreaming. One effective technique Stephen LaBerge recommends is checking something text based in waking life against your dream life. For example, check your clock at specific repeated locations during the day. i.e. when you arrive at the office or when you are in line at the coffee shop. You must check, look away, and then check again. In the dream state when you re-check your clock, the text will change 95% of the time. If the character’s change or do not make sense, then you are most probably dreaming.
Primetime for lucidity has been proven to begin two hours before waking, as has day napping. As a great asset to meditative life, try purposefully waking yourself in the early hours and returning to sleep with intention. Even without sleep interruption, be aware of the dream to wake state, and as you drift in and out of sleep be intent on vivid dream memory.
Dream Yoga will take time to cultivate. Be patient; try these techniques over a month at least. Over time this quiescent practice will give you deep insights – taken from the night and transposed into the day.
Once the above skills have been mastered, the opportunity comes to further expand your mind and learn how to stay awake in dreamless sleep. This then propels your journey closer toward enlightenment. Finding a teacher or guide to journey with in this process will significantly help.
With the choice to make time and space to practice meditative, mindful living and dream journaling, you can transform your life and wake up to the phenomenon of the really real: a holistic life of spiritual wakefulness.
Extend your knowledge by enjoying Dream yoga by Andrew Holecek and Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge PhD.
About the author
Celia Roberts is a Senior Yoga and Meditation Teacher, and an Ayurvedic practitioner with a Biomedical degree. Celia founded the Brookfield Retreat and offers continuous training of Yoga Teachers through YIMI – the Yoga and Integrative Medicine Institute. www.yimi.com.au