Month: June 2015

Preview Andrew Holecek’s Forthcoming Dream Yoga Book

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An article “adapted from” Andrew’s forthcoming book, Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life Through Lucid Dreaming is up on Lion’s Roar.

95% of it actually seems like it’s taken straight from Andrew’s Dream Yoga audio program. Which is fine. That was a great program. Between this article and the interview Andrew did with Jay on the Lucid Dreaming Podcast, you can get a sense of whether or not the Buddhist approach to lucid dreaming appeals to you without having to purchase anything. If it does, you should definitely acquire the audio program.

I noticed the article lists Andrew’s new book as coming out in 2016. That’s a bit of a shame. When I spoke to him at a book signing last October, Andrew anticipated a summer 2015 release. Ah well, one of the points of the spiritual path is to let go of material attachments right?

In the meantime, I’m on chapter 3 of my re-read of Ryan Hurd’s Big Dreams, taking as many notes as I can in order to write a far more in-depth review. It’s still fantastic, definitely worth reading.

New Lucid Dreaming Resources Page

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I’ve added a new Lucid Dreaming Resources page that lists what I think are the books, audio programs, and websites that will help you the most with your lucid dreaming practice.

The formatting is a still a little lumpy, and there are more items I need to add, but I wanted to get some information out there as soon as possible. I’m not shy about voicing my complaints with some of the titles, but if it’s up there, I do think it’s worth reading or hearing.

Racking my brain, bookshelf, and Kindle reader to remind myself of all the lucid dreaming material I’ve ingested over the last year and a half also made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve read a lot of these titles. So, starting from the top with Big Dreams, I will be re-reading or re-listening to all the listed material in alphabetical order in order to write more comprehensive reviews.

Tired in a Lucid Dream? It Happens.

It’s happened to me twice now. I know I’m dreaming and I go about my lucid dream business when a wave of lethargy hits. A few mornings ago I had just finished jumping, flying, and appreciating the feel of dream wood grain, when I encountered one of those tiny ramps that let you run up walls in Super Mario World. I wanted to use it, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t even manage to try. In fact, I felt like I needed to sit down and take it easy for a minute.

Wall run--article_image

On a physical level, this makes no sense. I was fast asleep and I knew I was fast asleep. If my physical body was taking it any easier, I’d be dead. Yet, a quick informal survey of my fellow lucid dreamers suggests tiredness in a lucid dream happens from time to time. In most cases, it’s not that hard to deal with. Wil suggests shouting “Clarity now!”, shaking, jumping in place, or even singing to get ourselves back on track. In my case, I recognized the absurdity of being tired while asleep immediately and felt fine after a few moments, though I lost lucidity shortly after and continued to dream unaware of the fact that I was still dreaming.

It’s All In My Head 

If your primary concern is controlling your dreams, or if you have a very specific goal you are trying to accomplish in your lucid dream, then getting tired in the dream state is an irritation and an obstacle to be overcome. It’s good to have techniques in mind to overcome it quickly when there is something pressing you would like to attend to while you are in a lucid dream.

In my case the other morning, I had already done what I wanted to do earlier in the dream and found the experience of tiredness fascinating. To feel lethargic in the mental realm of the lucid dream while the body is resting and recharging made rethink the experience of feeling tired in general. It reminds me a bit of our relationship to food: sometimes we crave food because our body needs the nutrients, while the craving just as often comes from habit, boredom, or an emotional drive.

Some advanced meditators believe that fatigue often has its causes in the mind, and have specific advice for dealing with drowsiness on the meditation cushion. The Venerable Bhante Henepola Gunaratana suggests the following in Mindfulness in Plain English:

When you find [yourself becoming drowsy], apply your mindfulness to the state of drowsiness itself. Drowsiness has certain definite characteristics. It does certain things to your thought process. Find out what. It has certain bodily feelings associated with it. Locate those.

This inquisitive awareness is the direct opposite of drowsiness , and will evaporate it. If it does not, then you should suspect a physical cause of your sleepiness.

While “a physical cause of your sleepiness” needs to be considered during meditation, I think it’s fair to rule out physical causes in a lucid dream.

So What? Who Cares? 

The idea of tiredness as a mental phenomenon is really nothing new or revolutionary. A friend at work pointed out that most of us have experienced slogging through a Friday in the office feeling half dead before driving home full of energy because of our exciting plans for that evening. The change that leads to re-energization in this example is one of mindset and expectation.

It’s not hard to grasp this concept intellectually, but experiencing it in a lucid dream with a bit of awareness is something else entirely. With no experience of my physical body in the lucid dream, I could be positive that the tiredness I was experiencing was a mental phenomenon and, perhaps more importantly, I knew it was no big deal. Having had that experience, I suspect I’ll never experience lethargy in the waking state in quite the same way as before. My hope is having seen through tiredness at it’s most illusory in the dream state, I will be better equipped in my waking life to judge when I am physically tired and legitimately need rest, versus when I am laying prone on the couch because I don’t want to do the dishes.

Bhante Gunaratana

Venerable Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Your Thoughts

I’d appreciate hearing from you in the comments if you’ve had any experiences of fatigue or lethargy in a lucid dream. Did it totally derail your dream goals or were you able to overcome it? Are there specific techniques you find particularly effective for working through it?

I’d especially love to hear from anyone who noticed differences in their waking life they feel comfortable attributing working through tiredness in a lucid dream.

True Dreaming

This post was written by Wil B, a good friend and a prolific lucid dreamer:

Last night I had a dream:

I am in the middle of the desert, sitting on a rock, pulling down on a cable.  It is a surreal variation of the lat pulldown exercise machine, except that it is connected to the sky.  In the middle of a pull, lucidity surfaces.  In a flash, I am totally free.  Instead of moving on, I continue to exercise, wondering.  “Will this have any effect on my physical body?  Am I building subtle muscle in my dream body?”  Still, the urge to fly appears.  I take off into the sky, flying over an empty desert.  Then, I land softly and begin to walk alone, pondering, like a pilgrim in a barren landscape.  “What am I meant to do with this state?  What is True Dreaming?” It isn’t the first time I ask these questions, but it is the first time I take them into the dream.

Your life is going along pretty well.  Or maybe it’s in shambles.  Perhaps it’s somewhere in between.  Still, the urge for something more is there.  You can’t seem to get to that place through the usual avenues.  You begin to explore pathways to alter your consciousness:  alcohol, drugs, sex, music, dance, extreme sports, etc.  Then you discover “lucid dreaming.”  The promise is enticing.  You read about it, attend lectures, and begin to practice in earnest. You learn about reality checks, dream signs, inductions, and technology.  Then, one day, it all pays off.  You’re in a dream, and, in a flash of recognition, everything opens up.  A surge of energy moves through your being.  The colors and textures come alive. A joy and ecstasy you’ve never known is suddenly and powerfully real.  The adventure has begun.  Over time, you get better at it.  You fly, meet the dead, make love, and even visit the moon.  You form friendships and defeat enemies.  There are no limits.  And then, one day, in waking life, a new path of inquiry opens:  “Maybe lucid dreaming is not an end in itself but a technique to get somewhere further.  Maybe lucid dreaming is a road to something even greater.  If this other aim were called “True Dreaming,” then what would it be?”

The lucid dream state is one of the highest levels of consciousness that the human being is capable of. Human history has been significantly shaped by the insights gained from people who have reached it either by accident or design.  Their accounts, and the stories and advice they brought back, have altered religion, art, and science.  Interpretations of what is actually happening, and where “there” is, have varied; but, for the most part, they have hovered around supernatural explanations.  Visions, visits to other worlds, nonhuman guidance — these are only some of the ways people have expounded on the mysteries they witnessed.  Now, through the work of amazing, modern-day explorers, we have all been granted the possibility of a precise and powerful methodology to get us to the same place.  We have a solid bridge to the other side.

It is said that states of meditative absorption, bliss states in which one’s consciousness is fully realized, represent an intensification of energy and then a stilling of that energy.  In our ordinary life, most of us are uncomfortable with the sensation of expanded energy in our bodyminds.  We immediately want to repress it or expend it.  We want to throw a blanket over it or burn it off.  The myriad of distractions available to us offer a variety of channels to dissipate it.  Spiritual practitioners, on the other hand, work to build and intensify that energy and then circulate it tighter and tighter until it is still and humming.  Everything is moving and still at the same time.  This kind of active containment is the key to higher states.

What is the first thing you notice when you become lucid? Do you feel like you’re plugged into a cosmic battery of immense capacity?

Is your bliss a product of the waves of energy that are suddenly streaming through you?  Most of the time, the first impulse is to start moving within the dream state.  You’ve got to expend that energy.  The same things that motivate you in life quickly take over in the dream:  the relentless search for pleasure and power.  Immediately, you’re off and running.  Stop.  Consider for a moment.  What if all that activity is really just a way to dissipate a level of energy with which you’re not yet comfortable?  What would happen if you played with holding and grounding that vitality? What if you focused on the idea of directly stabilizing your mind instead of the dream imagery?

Once upon a time “to meditate” did not mean to sit in silence and clear the mind.  It meant to think deeply and carefully about an idea.  What if, after the flying is over, you wander the luminous dreamscapes of those inner worlds, and, with the prodigious understanding of your innermost self fully engaged, you begin to meditate on the idea: “What is the true purpose of the lucid dream state?”  There’s an auspicious door that promises to open when we learn to contain the energy of the dream instead of reflexively discharging it.  “What is True Dreaming?” We’ll find out when we learn to apply focus and clarity to carry that question over and over into the depths of the dream.

Wil B has been lucid dreaming since 1988. He’s flown, met the dead, made love, and even visited the moon. If you have a question or comment for him, I can pass it along.  

Dreams: God’s Forgotten Language

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I’m going to spoil part of the last chapter of Robert Waggoner’s Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self. In February 2006, needing a topic for an upcoming issue of his magazine, Robert has a lucid dream in which a dream figure draws attention to the book he’s holding, John A. Sanford’s Dreams: God’s Forgetten Language. In his waking life, Robert owned the book, but hadn’t read it yet. This dream was his impetus to finally sit down and read it.

I came across a copy of the book at the beginning of May 2015, in a used book store in tiny Pahoa, Hawaii. Remembering Robert’s anecdote, I quickly snapped it up, but was less than impressed when I started perusing the table of contents and reading the introduction. John A. Sanford was an Episcopal priest and Jungian analyst, and I got nervous that the “God” he was referring to was the bearded, wrathful sky-father I left behind before I got to high school.

I read the first chapter on a whim last night and I’m pleased to report that, 27 pages in, it’s actually shaping up to be one of the most nuanced and useful treatments of dream interpretation I’ve come across. Even when Sanford incorporates quotes and stories from the Bible into this chapter, he is able to stress their richness as psychological metaphors. He comes right out and says:

Now it doesn’t matter at this point whether the reader believes in the Bible as historical fact or not. As far as our present purposes are concerned, the only important thing is that this biblical story is rich with psychological meaning. Whether it actually happened that way, or is only an oral tradition, it nevertheless expresses a psychological truth as true today as in Jacob’s day: that God assails us in life as our shadow, seeming to be an adversary, but desiring our fundamental change.

But wait… do we have to accept that the shadow figures in our dreams are God working undercover for our benefit? Isn’t that just the same sky-father in a series of masks? Yes and no. Sanford’s understanding of God is a bit more nuanced. As he recounts the trajectory of a man with nightmares he counseled in his role as a priest, Sanford asserts:

We may therefore assume an intelligence within his psyche that was responsible for these meaningful dreams. For reasons that will appear more clearly as we go on, I do not hesitate to call this intelligence “God.” God is the name we give to the purposeful, numinous power that crosses our lives; our dreams are one of the manifestations of this power.

Now, I’m not quite convinced of the existence an independent, unconscious intelligence driven towards self-coherence within my own psyche, let alone the idea that this independent intelligence is God. I am, however, curious about the “reasons that will appear more clearly” for referring to this postulated internal force as God.

The Book’s Impact on My Dreams So Far

I read the first chapter in bed, right before nodding off for the night, and it seems to have expressed itself through the dreams I had. Much of the chapter is about the importance of balance and unity between the different parts of the self. Examples of given of a sick man who dreams of his violent shadow side, a proud woman who dreams of her humble shadow side, and an earnest priest who dreams of his laid-back beatnik shadow-side. In Jungian analysis and the alchemical symbology that Jung drew upon, the archetype of the hermaphrodite often represents “the union of opposites”. I recall thinking about this as I read the chapter, and it made an appearance in my dreams.

Last night I dreamt I was back in Hawaii renting out a DVD player, some movies, and a dark dorm to watch them in from a person in the early stages of transitioning from male to female. I had a hard time recording my name in the book as required. I was able to watch the first batch of movies with no issues, but when I wanted to watch The Godfather, the person told me that the dorms I used before were occupied. I chose to take the equipment back to my dorm and watch it there.  

My intention before falling asleep was to get lucid in my dreams and ask the dream to show me something important for me to see. Lucidity wasn’t in the cards last night, but it strikes me as significant that a kindly person with both male and female features was my guide for seeing the things I wanted to see in my dream. I’m also still working through the idea that The Godfather (or God, the Father) is something that needs to be experienced at home.

Any further explorations into the recesses of my own unconscious mind are probably going to be of limited interest to anyone else. Dream interpretation is sometimes downplayed among lucid dreaming and dream yoga enthusiasts, but I do hope that this quick little interpretation exercise demonstrates a possible application of the ideas in Sanford’s book. I look forward to reading the rest of it and I’ll be sure to let you know if anything else cool comes of it.