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TOPIC: Lucid Dreaming

Lucid Dreaming 02 Mar 2019 14:59 #110680

Not sure if this is the right forum, but I figured lucid dreaming is probably of interest to everyone. I have been thinking about this lately and trying to better understand the experience. I don't seem to get control of dreams, but instead occasionally get lucidity in two different ways. One is that I am primarily asleep, but some part of me is awake and mindfully observing something else (usually the body), the other is that I am primarily awake, but some part of me is observing a fully developed dream vision taking place somewhere else in the brain. This morning, for example, I was mostly awake but simultaneously fully aware of a beautiful dream of riverstones in water - I couldn't influence it, but it was a fully rounded and complete and had a narrative or time component - so it went on for a bit. I'm starting to see these experiences as consciousness doing different things at once, or one part of consciousness observing another part of consciousness.

Anyone care to share their own experiences? Or discuss how different traditions have different takes on lucid dreaming?
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Lucid Dreaming 02 Mar 2019 15:47 #110682

I took a lucid dreaming workshop once, but had low motivation to practice and never noticed any results. I did later notice what you describe, which is various levels of consciousness during sleep/dreaming. That is, the lines blur quite a bit, especially during light sleep, so one might lay 'awake' thinking about something and suddenly be startled to hear a snore; or one may wake up from deep sleep and have the dream state continue for a few moments, etc. I suspect just the focused attention of meditation training opens up a wider range of states of consciousness that would have been ignored in earlier years of ones life (sort of like a toddler walking clumsily, versus an older child having a much great range of motion and muscular control).

The only change in dreaming I considered significant was when I began to uphold my spiritual practices in the dream state - instead of the dream state being 'anything goes' I could see that my practice had 'sunk into my bones' more deeply, and I would respond to scenarios with the Christian virtue, prayer, morality, etc. that I worked to practice during waking states. This wasn't planned, it just happened. I was grateful for that.
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Lucid Dreaming 02 Mar 2019 20:28 #110685

In Tibetan Buddhist practice, there are two types of sleep lucidity practices: those targeting lucidity in dream sleep & those targeting lucidity in dreamless (deep) sleep. The sleep practices will be inserted towards the middle or end of the map of training, depending on the tradition. Some texts describe cultivating lucidity in dreamless sleep first, then in dream sleep, or visa versa. To my mind, it makes much more sense to cultivate lucidity in dream sleep first. There are several overall goals associated with these practices. One is to stop allowing the defilements to express in dream sleep. Another is to recognize the so-called "mind of clear light" in deep sleep. A third would be to break down the barriers propped up by the mind between various phases of consciousness, so that they all occur within one much larger 'container.' A fourth would be to cultivate certain supernormal powers in lucid dreams first & then begin to actually cultivate them in waking life.
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Lucid Dreaming 02 Mar 2019 21:31 #110689

Very interesting Noah. Do Tibetans define lucidity in these cases as conscious awareness, or conscious control (i.e. able to direct action within a dream). From what you wrote about lucidity in dreamless sleep, I'm guessing it is conscious awareness?
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Lucid Dreaming 03 Mar 2019 04:32 #110692

Interesting that one purpose is to 'stop allowing the defilements to express in dream sleep' - which sounds like more or less what happened in my dreams. I often suspect that many practices are attempts to do by effort things that eventually may happen spontaneously, or a way of pointing to things that may eventually happen spontaneously. Which isn't a bad thing. Just less 'cause and effect' than we tend to think.
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Lucid Dreaming 03 Mar 2019 13:43 #110703

Ona Kiser wrote:
Interesting that one purpose is to 'stop allowing the defilements to express in dream sleep' - which sounds like more or less what happened in my dreams. I often suspect that many practices are attempts to do by effort things that eventually may happen spontaneously, or a way of pointing to things that may eventually happen spontaneously. Which isn't a bad thing. Just less 'cause and effect' than we tend to think.

Yes I've thought about that too. So many of those effortful things seem to happen easily later on, and it makes you wonder whether it was worth so much effort in the first place! It's probably like the old saw about advertising - that half of advertising is wasted, but the trick is knowing which half. So half of the effort is wasted, but ....

I also suspect that some of these things, like the conscious dream states, actually happen naturally. But we suppress or recoil from them, and that it is only when we have made progress that we can allow them to unfold properly.
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Lucid Dreaming 03 Mar 2019 15:57 #110704

About a year ago, I tried and to some extent succeeded in learning some lucid dreaming techniques. A book called "Dreams of Awakening" by Charlie Morley was my main source of various techniques etc. I recommend it, it's very easy to read and even kind of funny plus it includes some fantastic dream journal entries by the author, who is also a Tibetan buddhist practitioner. I'm very convinced of the potential that lucid dreaming has. My first lucid dream was luckily a long one, so I had the time to learn to fly in the dream. It was surprisingly difficult. Because a have a slight fear of heights, the first time I took off I had this terrible feeling in my whole being, exactly like feeling the fear while awake, except boosted by the clarity of the lucid dream. What's remarkable is that my fear of heights was significantly diminished by that one dream. Another weird thing was to learn that I could only influence my actions but all the other stuff was still forming out of my unconscious mind (for example I was flying in a weird, dark city filled with deep-blue buildings, but I could fly through them).

Since I quit my dream journal (which was kind of difficult to do first thing in the morning with a year-old child) I've still had lucid dreams randomly. Usually pretty short, like the last one when I was underwater and became lucid when I realized I could breath in the water. After a few strokes I forgot about it. :)

A funny thing has happened in dreams though. Even though I'm not lucid in the sense that I would start to control what I'm doing, there's a sense that I'm not really buying into the dream 100%. It's a bit like watching a movie and there's usually some kind of amused but kind attitude present. Even if something bad happens, it doesn't really unnerve me. Maybe it's because on some level I know this isn't absolutely real. This is similar to what's happening in the waking reality as well. Less fear/reactivity and more openness/vastness of being. I think this might be similar to what Ona was describing, the practice seeps into to dreams inevitably.

From what I've read about Tibetan dream practices, the reason why holding the view during deep, dreamless sleep is so important in the Tibetan tradition, is because that's the state that is most like the after-death state. So it's basically training to recognize the presence of primordial awareness at the time of death, when all the content of mind has ceased.

I'm still very interested in dream practice, but at the moment from the perspective of bringing wakeful awareness to every moment of being awake and sleeping. From what I've read and heard, lucid dreams start to manifest spontaneously when awareness in general gets clearer. But then again, maybe some day I'll start journaling again. It was very fruitful in many ways and felt very integrating.
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Lucid Dreaming 03 Mar 2019 17:09 #110705

One interesting thing, I think, is this: the goal of having lucid dreams so that you can "control what happens" seems to have a different motivation than the goal of having lucid dreams so you can practice maintaining equanimity in preparation for death, which would not be about controlling the scenario of the dream so much as training your own reactivity.

That is, the point is (usually? as far as I am aware) to recognize the not-self qualities of reality no matter what state of consciousness you are in, to recognize humility, to maintain equanimity in the face of turbulence, to be with things as they are, and so on.

In Christian terms it would be maintaining recollection or maintaining a state of prayer, which traditional Christian practices practice just during normal daily activities, which provide plenty of turbulence and challenge. I've never heard of deliberate dream practices, though I've seen commentaries on the lives of saints where it is noted that their prayer became so deep that even in sleep they maintained recollection or continued their intimacy with God or similar descriptions, or that they rarely slept anymore. I remember someone telling me that the Carthusians divide the day into three or four hour periods of work, rest and prayer, deliberately so, so that one maintains a more consistent state of mind around the clock.
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