Dream Time Rewind

"Dreams are real while they last. Can we say more of life?"
Havelock Ellis

The realm of our dreams is for many of us undiscovered country. We go there nightly, but we are passive recipients of the experience not using our life skills to make dreaming more rewarding. It is as if every night we get on a tour bus and we have no idea where we are going, and we have no say in the matter. On waking, we might have had a lovely tour of paradise or we might have taken a ride through hell. Then we may forget about it and go on with our day.

In some cultures and some spiritual traditions dreaming is used more actively to deepen understanding and to enrich waking life. In Tibetan Buddhism, for instance, dream yoga is used to gain perspective on the illusory nature of the normal waking state. The analogy is given that the dreaming state is to our normal consciousness as normal consciousness is to the truly awakened state of enlightenment. We wake up from dreams and realize their illusory quality. From the Buddhist perspective, we need to wake up from our deluded usual state of consciousness and realize its illusory quality as well.

One way we can work more skillfully with our dreams is to enter into them with lucidity. In a lucid dream, we realize we are dreaming and we have some ability to guide the events in the dream and interact volitionally with the dream landscape and characters. Many techniques are used to foster lucid dreaming. For the beginner, here is a place to start.

In the morning, when you first awaken, notice that you have been dreaming, and without becoming too alert, remember the dream and create the intention of going back into it. Without being completely alert, but not entirely asleep, you can maintain a level of awareness as you drift back into the dream. As the dream replays or takes a new direction, seek to maintain your awareness of yourself in the dream. In such a state, you can exert your will in the dream world and change the course of events.

This practice can be particularly useful after a nightmare. When we try to push a nightmare out of consciousness, we are likely inviting it back for another night, because the unconscious mind is trying to get some message to us about our fears, and it will keep trying until we get the message. Instead, we can, in this state between sleep and awakening, go back into the nightmare and change the plot. Instead of running from the demon we can turn and face it, twist it’s nose and laugh in its face knowing that it is just an image projected by our mind. We know it is not real, so we don’t need to fear it.

For more on dream yoga and lucid dreaming, visit Tibetan Dream Yoga at Plotinus.com

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© 2004 Tom Barrett