A Practical Guide To Lucid Dreaming and Dream Yoga
Dreaming isn’t just about falling asleep and letting nature take its course. At least, it doesn’t have to be. To some, dreaming comes easily. To others, it’s a phenomenon that they recall happening only once every blue moon. For the remaining few, it is just another aspect of self, and for those who know how to take advantage of it, the possibilities offered can be endless.
Take dream yoga for instance. Dreaming is only accomplished after certain conditions are met. Just falling asleep isn’t enough because you have to reach a certain stage of sleep. Just as yoga is meant to promote inner peace and physical control, dream yoga is one way to exercise control over your dream state.
There are various forms of yoga exercises that were specifically designed to strengthen a person’s control over their dreams. The three types of dream yoga are lucid dreaming, Tibetan dream yoga, and integral deep listening. The most popular is Tibetan dream yoga with lucid dreaming running a close second. Tibetan dream yoga deals with religion and a form of enlightenment that anyone can reach with the proper training, and lucid dreaming is possible for anyone with enough willpower and patience to get the process down.
Integral Deep Listening
There is a form of dream yoga that teaches that the waking world is just another type of dream: one that can be influenced and understood in the same way as the inner workings of our sleep dreams.
Integral deep listening is a more complicated process because it involves being able to ‘awaken’ no matter whether you happen to be awake or asleep at the time. The idea is to attain a level of enlightenment in your life no matter your state of consciousness, and this concept is what makes integral deep listening both easier and harder for most people, since they need to be willing to believe in the idea before they can put it into play.
A better way to understand it is this: everything that we experience is thanks to both our brains and nervous systems. If we’re awake or if we’re dreaming, our experiences are directly influenced by how our brain and nervous system receive certain stimuli before they reveal the gathered information to us.
Because neither dreams, nor the thoughts and events happening while awake would be possible without this perception, the waking world is, therefore, very similar to that of dreams and can be affected much the same way. Once someone has this conclusion in mind, dream yoga can take on an entirely new aspect.
The first type of dream yoga that we’re going to go into detail about is lucid dreaming. This is because lucid dreaming is an important aspect, not only in its own right, but also in the case of Tibetan dream yoga.
The first step to awakening your own ability to experience lucid dreams is to gain a certain level of acceptance and expectation. Be aware that just because you decide to have a lucid dream one night, that doesn’t automatically mean that you will.
Some people don’t see results for their efforts even after a week or more, while others see changes and improvements in their control over their dreams almost immediately. Accepting that your result time may vary from other people is the most important step, while expecting that you will experience a lucid dream is the second most important.
Lucid dreaming isn’t usually this intense. “Inception” (2010).
Not expecting to have a lucid dream is the same as believing that you won’t, and that blocks your ability to achieve this form of dream yoga right from the start. If you have doubts about being able to have a lucid dream then your best bet is to work through them as quickly and as calmly as possible before you try and start your exercises again.
There are many methods used to induce lucid dreaming and all of them are derived from different experts in the field.
Carlos Casteneda, for instance, has a proposed an exercise that is like many others at its heart:
- Sit somewhere comfortable and allow any worry and stress you may be feeling to wash away. Many people have ways to do this, but for most, the preferred method includes some form of meditation. That means deep, even breathing and a calm, quiet, outer atmosphere.
- Focus on some aspect of your body: your hands, your hair, your voice, etc. Once you’re focusing on that part, tell yourself over and over again that once you’re asleep and you notice your hand/voice/hair again, you’ll understand that you’re dreaming. This is a form of self-hypnosis, so when you tell yourself this, be sure to make an effort to retain the knowledge. Your perception of yourself in dreams is the most automatic and natural, so using your own body as a focus is a good start (as opposed to a word, a sight, an idea, etc.). Don’t force this part of the exercise. Let it come as naturally and as smoothly as possible.
- If you start to become tired or distracted, that’s fine. Keep up the mantra and let your body relax. Remember that for this type of yoga, you’ll need to be asleep, so forcing yourself to pay attention or to remain alert will only negate the process. Keep repeating the lines that are meant to help remind you what to look out for to let yourself know you’re awake. Feel free to stop when you’re too tired or unfocused to think straight.
- After you wake up, remember what you told yourself while you were falling asleep. Did you dream, and if so, did you notice your hand/voice/hair while in the dream? If so, try to remember as much of the dream as possible.
- Eventually, by repeating the exercise, when you notice your hand/voice/hair while dreaming, you’ll make the connection that what you’re experiencing is a dream. When that happens, it’s important to stay calm and note as much about the dream as you can. You can then move on to exploration, and from there, manipulation of your dreams. Be sure to keep records of your dreams and your experiences in them so that you can track your progress and make changes in your exercises when necessary.
As you can probably imagine, lucid dreaming relies heavily on belief and confidence. The same can be said for each type of dream yoga, but with lucid dreaming preparing you for the basics, the other forms should come easier.
Tibetan Dream Yoga
Tibetan dream yoga holds to the idea that the true nature of a person, place, or thing can be understood through dreams. Tibetan monks strongly believe that a person or object’s true nature is just a dream away, and to reach that understanding brings you that much closer to a more encompassing enlightenment.
There are certain forms of Tibetan dream yoga that require natural light, fasting, prayers, or the knowledge of Tibetan symbols or phrases. Since the goal for most is to achieve a better inner understanding rather than to become a monk in their own right, many of these steps can be replaced by simpler ones.
The Tibetan Dream Yoga Lucid Dream Excercise:
- Once you’ve fallen asleep and have begun dreaming, become lucid (which is a lot easier to do now that you know how).
- Notice the things about the dream that are able to cause hesitation. If there’s a fire, put it out with your hands, and if you’re under water take a deep breath. The point is to understand that nothing in the dream can hurt you and you have control over what happens, why it happens, and when it happens.
- The Buddhists refer to this next step as looking at the dream as Maya. If you look back, you’ll see that there was mention about the belief that reality and dreams are similar in their basic natures because each changes and each change is affected by our minds (brains) and nervous systems. This means that life is a type of illusion, very much like a dream, and that any object found in either state of consciousness is, therefore, insubstantial and without a significant nature.
- You can experiment in the dream by exerting control over the objects around you. Change the size, shape, nature, amount, etc., of different things to prove to yourself that not only can you control yourself and your reactions in the dream, but you can also control everything else. Convert fire into water, water into wine, big into small, and many into few, and increase your efforts each time you attempt this type of exercise.
- Once you understand that the dream objects are insubstantial and subject to change, the next step is to realize that your dream body, the form you take while in the dream, is just another object. Which means that you have as much control over it as you do everything else. Soon you’ll be able to ditch the body all together and simply become a free range thought.
- When you’re able to go that far, your final step will be to visualize deities. Imagine Buddha, or a host of other Tibetan deities, not because of who they are, but because of what they represent. In many cases, people may envision a white light, a doorway, a void, etc. All you need is something symbolic to drive your focus towards. Something that represents the type of enlightenment and understanding that you hope to obtain once you’re able to reach these symbols.
For instance, in a dream, would you care whether or not the Mona Lisa burned? No, because in the dream, the painting is nothing more than an object meant to take up visual space. It has no importance or meaning, so its loss is minimal. Any influence that it had was given to it by our own thoughts, observations, and feelings.
Tibetan dream yoga is supposed to be a practice that allows dreamers to induce a mystical state upon themselves by visualizing sacred images (up to and including the deities themselves, holy artifacts, religious words and connotations, and so on).
Other forms of Tibetan dream yoga include picturing certain Tibetan religious symbols (words) and focusing on the sound that the symbol makes. By visualizing the sacred symbol and speaking the word, they are able to put themselves in an immediate trancelike state. They are then able to go about the rest of the steps. This form of Tibetan dream yoga is where the idea of humming while sitting in the lotus position with hands raised and eyes closed originated.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to spend 7 years in Tibet or do drugs for lucid dreaming.
Yoga is an exercise that has many different levels, and it allows for many different avenues of understanding. Many take yoga as nothing more than a soothing, yet interesting, exercise, while others use it as a way to reach a higher level of self.
The purpose of yoga relies solely on the individual practicing it. With dream yoga, the rules remain the same. Because we are dealing with dreams, dream yoga requires a deeper level of commitment and understanding. Not just to see results, but also to really grasp what it is you’re doing.
Our dreams are an integral part of who we are and by delving into dreams, their meanings, and the thoughts/emotions/memories that create them, we can come to reach a certain type of enlightenment. That enlightenment doesn’t have to be spiritual or religious. With the control that can be obtained by using different forms of dream yoga, a person can come to better understand who they are and therefore reach an enlightenment of self. This is a process that can save many people a lot of grief, confusion, and psychiatric fees.
If those aren’t enough reasons to, at least, start on the first steps of lucid dreaming, then I don’t know what is. Just trying the exercise should be interesting, and if nothing comes out of it but a good night’s sleep, then there’s no real harm done.
- Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self (ISBN 9781930491144): Robert Waggoner
- Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming (ISBN 9780345374103): Stephen Laberge PHD
- Lucid Dreaming (ISBN 9781591796756): Stephen LaBerge
- Lucid Dreams in 30 Days, Second Edition: The Creative Sleep Program (ISBN 9780312199883): Keith Harary Ph.D., Pamela Weintraub
- Lucid Dreaming for Beginners: Simple Techniques for Creating Interactive Dreams (For Beginners (Llewellyn’s)) (ISBN 9780738708874): Mark McElroy
- The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep (ISBN 9781559391016): Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, Mark Dahlby
- Dreaming While Awake: Techniques for 24-Hour Lucid Dreaming (ISBN 9781571743596): Arnold Mindell
- Conscious Dreaming: A Spiritual Path for Everyday Life (ISBN 9780517887103): Robert Moss
- Advanced Lucid Dreaming: The Power of Supplements (ISBN 9781430305422): Thomas Yuschak
- Between the Gates: Lucid Dreaming, Astral Projection, and the Body of Light in Western Esotericism (ISBN 9781578633968): Mark Stavish, John Michael Greer
- Lucid Dreaming: The Paradox of Consciousness During Sleep (ISBN 9780415112390): Celia Green, Charles McCreery
- What is Lucid Dreaming?