For those of you residing in the SF Bay Area, please join us April 17th at the Ravens Wing in Oakland: Come explore visitation dreams with us! Tomorrow night (Wednesday April 17) we are back at it: https://www.theravenswingmagicalco.com/events-oakland/2019/4/17/dream-salon-with-kimberly-mascaro
A recent series of events, including dreams of colleages, friends, as well as dreams of my own, inspired the writing of this article (after interviewing Dr. Burk) at this particular time. My hope is that we continue to trust our fullest human potentials, including how dreams can help us see diseases developing, heal them, and even better, warn us to change course prior to an illness developing!
It was spring 2018 when I was introduced to Kathleen O’Keefe-Kanavos (dream teacher and three-time breast cancer survivor). Our introduction was online, as I was invited to be a guest on her webTV program (see kathleenokeefekanavos.com) featuring upcoming conference presenters of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD). Just a couple of months later, I met Larry Burk, MD, CEHP, a holistic radiologist, at the IASD conference (asdreams.com), which took place in Arizona. Both were in attendance and promoting their recently published book Dreams That Can Save Your Life: Early Warning Signs of Cancer and Other Diseases. It was hot-off-the-press and I knew I just had to read it. Needless to say, I read the book and must tell you that I hadn’t read anything quite like it. This book is filled with startling true stories of men and women whose dreams predicted disease and, for some, even guided them through the healing process. The authors want to bring dreaming back into Western medicine, giving dreams the attention they deserve. I wanted to learn more about the studies currently taking place, so I interviewed Dr. Burk in April 2019. Here is what he shared with me.
Early on, Dr. Burk had a few close friends who had dreams warning them of breast cancer – I’m thinking, this research is personal. Furthermore, Burk himself is a dreamer and has a strong relationship with his dream-life, using them for guidance. He has been tracking his dreams for over 30 years. Knowing that dreams have guided Burk through his life, I asked him about his decision to leave his education direction position at Duke in 2004 only to return to Duke in 2015. His decision to leave Duke (Integrative Medicine Center) was propelled by a series of synchronicities, while his decision to return to Duke (University Medical Center) was supported by a dream. When unsure whether to return and accept the offer to return to Duke, he decided to use a dream incubation technique – writing a question in his dream journal regarding the decision needed to be made. You can read Burk’s entire dream in Dreams That Can Save Your Life. We discuss our trust in dream incubation as well as synchronicity. At that point, I share with him ways I use the Tarot to guide me and to help me understand my dreams at a deeper level. Burk and I have both attended, and very much appreciated, the Tarot and Dreams workshops at IASD conferences. We also both own a copy of Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss. Our appreciation for dream journaling, synchronicity, art, and Tarot, bring our discussion to life. We acknowledge that there are so many ways to work with dreams!
Like my own journey, Burk has trusted dreams to guide in career decisions. In addition, Burk was guided by dreams during the editing process of his first book, Let Magic Happen: Adventures in Healing with a Holistic Radiologist (2012). He recalls a series of initially puzzling dreams that led him to make particular wise decisions.
I wondered if he has lost colleague-friends over his deep interest and belief in predictive dreams. In 1987, when his interest in alternative ways started to develop things were alright. Burk believed he was protected from harsh feedback during those years. No serious push-back came up until 1996, when his work in mind-body medicine peaked. In 1999, however, some wanted him fired! These days, Western medicine has not progressed much with regard to dreams and health.
We both highly recommend keeping a dream diary, and sharing warning dreams with others, especially your medical doctor. Overall, Western medicine is not very friendly towards the use of dreams as diagnostic tools, yet the countless reports of how they have saved lives warrants taking a more open-minded approach. Case in point, Burk’s TEDx talk in Raleigh, NC (2016), was eventually censored/banned, claiming that it was unscientific. His TEDx coaches encouraged him to be very conservative and to approach everyone in the audience as a skeptic. They encouraged him to wear a suit even, instead of the informal shirt he had chosen. Burk shares with me how he complied with the demands, and believes he approached his presentation conservatively. You can find his TedX talk on YouTube today. I hope you watch it and see for yourself. We both watched Dr. Christopher Kerr’s Tedx talk (Buffalo), I See Dead People. This talk focused on dreams of the dying in palliative care. So some areas of medicine are more open-minded.
In 2012, Burk’s interest in this area developed. With a few stories in hand, he began research on dreams and medical implications in 2013, which was published two years later. Burk credits Bob Van de Castle and Stanley Krippner as initial inspirations and cheerleaders of his work! Van de Castle suggested he present his research at an IASD conference, yet had passed away before he was able to publish his paper. More recently, he conducted a three-month pilot study on dreams of women who are having breast biopsies. This was submitted to an academic journal awaiting decision. How many women are actually having dreams related to their breasts before biopsies? How many women are even writing them down, or keeping a dream journal? We know some women who are having warning dreams! But, without logging dreams how could anyone know?
In addition to research, Burk is also very passionate about doing his healing work with tapping (He has his version of EFT, called EDANVIR) and dreams. One of his early online clients was suffering greatly. She had recurring dreams of childhood trauma and abuse provoking deep feelings of anger, and lived with fears of not being able to make it on her own. Fear and anger were in the forefront. Burk taught her to tap on these emotions. Following the session, the client reported powerful healing dreams where she becomes rescuer with superpowers. Her harsh medical symptoms vanish and her lifestyle improves greatly. With this case, Burk said, the dreams tell you what to tap on, then later, tell you if the treatment is working. This is one of many examples of dreams coming in service as tools for diagnosis and recovery processes.
I hope the information and stories here have prompted you to begin or continue using a dream journal and to trust in your dreams. Dr. Burk can be contacted via his website: larryburk.com. Take a look – you are sure to be intrigued and educated within its pages.
May Your Dreams Be Your Medicine,
I’m really excited to be talking about dreams Monday night on the Women’s Show with Catherine at 8pm: https://www.kvmr.org/schedule/day/2019-04-08
💫And again Tuesday 9am with Robert Moss: http://www.healthylife.net/RadioShow/archiveWD.htm
Would love for you to listen in!
In February 2019, I was fortunate enough to have a lengthy discussion with Dr. Joseph Dillard on lucid dreaming, dream yoga, yoga nidra, and his approach called Integral Deep Listening (IDL). Here, for Conscious Chimera’s March 2019 article, I share with you the highlights. If you haven’t yet, please take a look at last month’s article, as February reflects part one of this two-part report. In addition, it might be helpful to take a look at Dillard’s work, particularly these two web pages:
Dillard believes dreaming to be “our most misunderstood and underutilized, innate capability.” He begins by summarizing some core points. In the Buddhist and Hindu traditions, life is seen as a dream. Yoga, as a psychospiritual discipline, can wake us up out of an existence of perpetual sleepwalking. The Buddhist and Hindu worldviews are derived from Shamanism, which assumes a fundamental cosmological dualism – that is, an underworld of demons and devils, and an overworld of angels and deities. Trance and dreaming allow shamans to access communication with these worlds. Shamanistic approaches to dream yoga are concrete and literal; what you experience in a dream is a reality in another dimension. Most traditional approaches, whether they are Amer-Indian shamanistic, Siberian or whether Hindu, Buddhist, or Tibetan Buddhist approaches, will focus on the objective concreteness of experiences and further divide dreaming into either spiritual or mundane categories. You’ll find that again and again wherever you look at them.
This traditional approach to dreamwork and dream yoga is in opposition to the Western psychological approach, which sees everything in a dream or interior, psychological experience, as a self-aspect, sub-personality, or “shadow.” Dillard adds that these two approaches generate a fundamental division in approaches to dreamwork, with the first tending to view dreams as either sacred, spiritual, and highly meaningful, or secular, profane, and meaningless, while the second emphasizing ownership and the self-created nature of experience in order to foster responsibility and personal empowerment.
According to Dillard, Tibetan Dream Yoga is divided into two different categories – one is the category associated the great Tibetan yogi Milarepa, which emphasizes gaining power to awaken out of samsara, or the clinging to the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, by waking up in your dreams. In this way, lucid dreaming becomes a tool for waking up. He states that, “The idea is to wake up in your waking life. You can rehearse this and learn how to do it by waking up in a dream, to realize that you are dreaming, and have various experiences which will teach you that you have control.” “Consequently, you’ll start to wake up in your waking life and to differentiate the dream-nature, the illusory-nature of waking life from dream life.” The “Milarepa” approach focuses on the steps or injunctions of the yoga of waking up while you are dreaming.
Now, Dillard gives attention to the second Tibetan dream yoga category known as Tibetan Deity Yoga. In short, with this approach one meditates on a bodhisattva or the Buddha, internalizes a mandala, in addition to many other details, recalling colors, shapes, figures, etc., in order to embody and become the deity. One tries to fuse with, or become the consciousness of the deity, Dillard explains. In Tibetan Deity Yoga this work uses sacred elements from within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The distinction between sacred and secular (whether in dream or waking or meditative states) is apparent, as it is in the shamanic traditions. (For a more in-depth discussion of these two types of Tibetan dream yoga, see http://www.integraldeeplistening.com/tibetan-dream-yoga/)
IDL does not make this distinction. Through the use of its interviewing protocols, we learn to listen to the perspective of an element first, before judging it to be sacred or not. Without deep listening, we may just be projecting our biases onto the element or experience. IDL is a nonjudgmental approach to dreamwork. It attempts to be objective by not assuming that dream elements are good or evil, or that they are aspects of ourselves.
Deep listening is a dream yoga that embodies or identifies with the perspective of the elements in a dream, or mystical or near-death experience (NDE), or even a waking life issue. We can interview these elements/perspectives in an integral, deep way. By “integral,” Dillard is referring to Ken Wilber’s work surrounding lines of development, stages of development, and the 4 quadrants (internal-collective, internal-individual, external-collective, external-individual).
IDL involves interviewing protocols for one or multiple dream or life issue elements. The first variety, single element interviewing, is derived from the second, multiple element interviewing, which is called “Dream Sociometry.” It was created in 1980 and is based on J.L. Moreno’s sociometric methodology. The relationships among dream elements or those constituting some personal or collective issue, such as 9/11, can be depicted in a diagram called a Dream Sociogram. For further details, see Dream Sociometry and Understanding the Dream Sociogram (Routledge, 2018), or visit Dillard’s website: www.integraldeeplistening.com for examples of both types of protocols as well as computer assisted formats for doing both sorts of interviews yourself.
Character interviewing can also be done while one is lucid in a dream. When lucid, we merge with the element so that we suspend our own perception of our experience and view it from the world view of other embedded, relevant perspectives. The results can be stunning. Lifelong nightmares can go away for good with just one interview. Agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and toxic life scripts can be reframed in ways that open up healing, balance, and transformation.
The two approaches of Tibetan Buddhism to dream yoga largely fall within the shamanic tradition that we are having illusory experiences regarding objectively real states. There really are gods and demons and they really do appear in our dreams. But these in turn are aspects of a cosmic dream of maya. The other broad approach to lucid dreaming and dream yoga in general is the Western psychological approach, which is the opposite, which says that you are dealing with self-aspects. Dillard’s approach, Integral Deep Listening (IDL), holds a third perspective and that is that what we experience in a dream is “ontologically indeterminate” – that is, “we can treat dream elements like self-aspects, yet to a certain extent they are, at the same time, more than self-aspects, in that the perspective, or world view, of different elements within the dream, disclosed when we become and interview them, includes our own perspective, but transcends it, in that every interviewed perspective adds its own world view to our own.” Simply put, we do not know the dream element’s nature of being. Is it “real” or a self creation, both, or neither? Therefore, to immediately reduce it to a self-aspect is reductionistic, while assuming that some dream about our deceased aunt Mildred, really was her communicating from the other side, is also reductionistic. Mildred could be real or a self-creation, both, or neither; we don’t know. However, if we become and interview aunt Mildred, we will at least have the benefit of a perspective more in a position to know than we are.
Dillard’s approach is phenomenalistic, meaning that we recognize and suspend our assumptions about why we dream and what a dream means. For instance, we do not begin by assuming dreams are symbolic or that aunt Mildred is a symbol. We attempt to withdraw our projections and get out of our own way so that we can practice listening to different dream, mystical, and waking perspectives in a way that is deep and integral. Such a phenomenological approach is based on respect, which is in turn based on the principle of reciprocity: treating others, including dream elements, with the same degree of respect that we would hope others would treat us.
Dillard believes that IDL has the potential to move us away from a psychologically geocentric perspective, or pre-Copernican worldview, toward a psychologically heliocentric, Copernican worldview (which is much less egocentric, but still Self-centered), and even beyond this toward a multi-perspectival, holonic, approach by which every point in the universe is the center of the universe. The purpose is to decentralize the self, expanding, freeing, and opening our worldview significantly. This is why IDL is multi-perspectival in its orientation, as well as phenomenological.
At this point, I inserted my thoughts about yoga nidra (sleep yoga) into the discussion. Yoga nidra allows one to experience a formless self (See the February article for a brief introduction to yoga nidra). While the value of what yoga nidra can teach us is apparent, Dillard does not believe that yoga nidra shifts worldviews in such drastic ways. He asks, “What’s the change agent?” Even when aware in deep sleep, a long-time yoga nidra practitioner still experiences the phenomenon out of his/her cultural and social framework and life assumptions. Dillard adds, “What do you do about the perceptual framework of the self you’re stuck in, regardless of your state of consciousness?” IDL supports the stepping out of the waking, acculturated self, so that we don’t act out of its interpretations of our experience. When we disidentify and suspend the assumptions of the culturally, socially scripted self, more creative options can come up in our choice frameworks. Dillard states, “It is as if our everyday mind moves into the clear and spontaneous space musicians and athletes experience when they are in a state of flow, or that nidra yoga cultivates as a formless ground of all possibilities. This is an extraordinarily fecund and creative space, in which we no longer block access to perspectives that are not stuck in ways that we are stuck.” Dillard designed IDL to support people in waking up in the here and now so we can become more fully alive. It’s all about “healing, balancing, and transformation,” highlights Dillard. He considers everything to be sacred, but not from a place of polarizing the spiritual from the profane. “Vomit and spit can be sacred, in that they can teach us something, if we get out of the way and listen.” “Everything we experience in any state can be approached as a vehicle to help us to wake us up.” Through IDL we use the self as a tool to thin the self by laying it aside and becoming, or identifying with, different perspectives, whether they arise from dream or waking experience, over and over again! This is the opposite of grasping or maintaining control. Because most of our childhood was about learning to be in control, and because society places high value on having control and fears states of loss of control, learning a practice that surrenders both the self and hands control to completely foreign perspectives can scare people away.
Near the end of our conversation, we touch on NDEs, mystical experiences, and OBEs, in addition to how IDL can help those with depression, or anxiety. No matter how we label an experience, why not view our body as a vehicle for growth? Dillard sums it up by claiming, “All experiences are emerging potentials. All are my teachers.”
I want to thank Dr. Joseph Dillard for his time and for such stimulating discussion. By Dillard sharing his extensive experience and through his lively input, Conscious Chimera’s 3rd anniversary article (especially part two) has turned out to be quite special and memorable.
Happy Valentine’s Day – I’m excited to share with you this two-part article celebrating the 3rd anniversary of Conscious Chimera! I’m marking the occasion by delivering an informational piece about practices that have been a part of my life and hold personal meaning for me. While the title of this article is somewhat of an oxymoron, by reading on you will come across several ideas about awakening through sleep. This February 2019 posting is part one. It draws on some of the writings, thoughts and contemplations of Kamini Desai, PhD, Andrew Holecek, PhD, Clare Johnson, PhD, Joseph Dillard, PhD, and myself. Here, in part one, I compare and contrast lucid dreaming, dream yoga, and sleep yoga (yoga nidra). Part two (available in March) will include an interview with Dr. Dillard focusing on Integral Deep Listening (IDL). Hot off the press – enjoy!
Lucid dreaming (dreaming while knowing you are dreaming) is often used for entertainment and pleasure. This learnable skill has become quite popular in the past several years. Many of those new to lucid dreaming are thrilled to learn that they can control their dreams and do what they most desire. Overindulgence in consuming sweets and fatty fast food, racing expensive cars, beating up enemies larger than oneself, having sex with supermodels (or becoming one), you name it, I’ve heard it all. Well, probably not, but those were the top responses I recall from my undergraduate students when teaching psychology courses for ASU. These lucid dream experiences made going to sleep exciting for them. To each semester’s half-dozen or so lucid dreamers, I would say, “Wow, that’s something.” It was something, as I didn’t expect to meet so many who attended to their dream lives. Then I would ask the experienced students about less materialistic matters: Had they ever talked to a deity or wise person, transported themselves to a sacred site, or even ask to be shown what death is like, or how to prepare for it? The responses were mostly blank stares, contorted faces, including a few scratching their heads as they muttered “nope.” I left it at that.
What one does in the dream state affects both body and brain. You can train your physical body by what you do in the dream state. We know this from countless scientific studies. Training in singing, art, athletics, and solving mathematical puzzles are some examples of purposeful, induced lucid dream activities practiced in order to improve waking life experience or events. I’m sure it’s clear that the experience of dreaming lucidly can lead to self-satisfaction and self-fulfillment (remember my students?). In addition, trauma survivors and military veterans have been taught to lucid dream for therapeutic purposes, as a way to alleviate PTSD symptoms. What a powerful modality to support healing! The wonders of lucid dreaming have impact and purpose, sometimes lasting a lifetime, yet remains relatively secular and focused on the self among contemporary Westerners.
In her 2017 book, Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming: A Comprehensive Guide to Promote Creativity, Overcome Sleep Disturbances and Enhance Health and Wellness, Johnson writes, “Lucid dreaming does not always involve deliberate dream control.” Nor must it involve manipulation. We can remain open when lucid, and go with the flow. Holecek (2016), in his book, Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life Through Lucid Dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep, describes ‘witnessing’ dreams as a “type of lucid dream where you prefer not to engage in the dream. You’re lucid, but you prefer to just watch what unfolds without changing anything.”
“Dream yoga picks up where lucid dreaming leaves off,” says Holecek (2016). Self-transcendence is what dream yoga is all about. It is a spiritual practice, essentially. In Buddhist and Hindu worldviews there is the concept of life as maya, a dream, viewing life as illusory. Maya is Sanskrit for illusion. Dream yoga’s purpose is to wake us up out of the dream/illusion. As one’s practice grows and develops, worldly things may start to lose their power, and waking and dream worlds come to be viewed as equally real or unreal.
For the practice of dream yoga, we use our body as a tool, or vehicle, for growth. Consistency in practice matters, which is the case for any discipline. Holecek’s (2016) book offers chapters on both Western and Eastern lucid dream induction techniques, thus reminding us that we can become our own instructor, teaching ourselves how to do this stuff! My teachers taught a combination of both Western and Eastern induction techniques for the purpose of conscious dreaming, which I began practicing regularly. As a deeply curious student, I wanted to engage with my dreaming world in new ways. After a few months of dedication to the set of daily exercises, I met my initial goal. Over-zealous, I added more techniques to my daily routine and set new goals. On one hand, I began gaining increasing levels of competence. On the other hand, like other spiritual or health-based practices in my life, I became inconsistent and side tracked. Later, realizing that I had lost time, I set lofty goals, which led to feeling frustrated and pressured. Disillusioned, I gave up for a time. This happens to some of us – it can be considered normal human activity. The moral of the story is to monitor the ego, and to be gentle and kind to oneself while making daily commitments, and not set deadlines or huge goals that are in opposition to a preferred long-range lifestyle choice.
As we develop along our psychospiritual path, we may want to bring a waking life practice into the dream state. When dreaming lucidly, try engaging in a form of meditation. What happens? Holecek (2016) claims that “the meditation you accomplish in the dream state is up to 9 times more effective and more transformative than what you do in the waking state.” So, why not? Even in fully lucid dream states, where we have control and clear decision-making capacity (such as the decision to meditate), we may come into contact with the unexpected. For example, in most dreams (even lucid ones) people often run away from their disowned aspects – think powerful, hideous monsters. “Dreams are truth-tellers,” writes Holecek, in his article The Art of Lucid Dreaming published in Conscious Lifestyle Magazine. He adds, “Dream yoga will show you a great deal about who you are, and where you stand…” In dream yoga, integration of our unwanted, split-off parts is one way to go. In this example, we turn toward (a monster, in this case), instead of away. At the very least, we do not resist. By doing so we can gain awareness, illumination and transformation through acceptance. Some dreamers turn toward the scary creature and ask a question. “What do you represent?” or “What do you need?” are examples. Others simply remain with the experience. By clearing out the cobwebs, or moving deeper into the monster’s lair, we have an opportunity to tap into a deeper core, a greater awareness.
Due to the conscious awareness in this dream state, which becomes more common with practice, we can do much more, such as fly, manipulate the body, transform into an animal, converse with a deity, pass through seemingly solid objects, practice tai chi or qi gong, meditate, and more. As one moves along the dream yoga path, exercising greater levels of spiritual discipline is evermore encouraged, and this is where deeper meditation practices come into the picture. This is another area where I struggle and stir. Once the fun has been had, the simple curiosities expunged, and the egoic explorations complete, the mind is often pulled toward more of the same. This pattern is a way for me to see my own inner distractions, as well as face the part of me that fears thinning the self, not wanting to wake up from the perpetual dream called life (a serious question!). With further growth, trust, gentle practice and dedication, plus a little patience, this too shall pass.
Nidra means sleep in Sanskrit. Johnson (2017), who teaches yoga nidra, explains that “the experienced yoga nidra practitioner can carry this conscious awareness right through the sleep cycle and effectively stay lucid all night long while the body sleeps.” This is true even during the deepest state of sleep. What is so unique is that yoga nidra (aka sleep yoga) is associated with delta brainwaves similar to states of coma or under anesthesia. Such states are restorative and healing for the physical body. When in this deep meditative space, one disidentifies – there is no separate “I” in that all personal identification diminishes. This is a reason that this practice is considered a “yoga” – a psychospiritual discipline of awakening – as it takes the practitioner to places typically only experienced by advanced meditators. In addition to his many books, Dillard produces two highly informative websites on the topics discussed in this article: dreamyoga.com and integraldeeplistening.com. On lucid deep sleep, Dillard writes, “All of us think that we are awake, but few of us are. Those who are most likely to be most awake, and therefore have the most credibility regarding how to wake up out of our self-created life dream, are those who can stay awake while in the deep sleep state. Can you?”
In her 2017 book, Yoga Nidra: The Art of Transformational Sleep, Desai points to the research demonstrating the increased delta activity, which is “associated with empathy, compassion, intuition and spirituality,” among experienced meditators and even monks. The point of sleep yoga is to train oneself to access such states consciously so as to bring them back to waking consciousness! Now one may experience states of ‘higher consciousness’ during lucid dreaming – this is often reported. However, the yoga nidra practitioner’s focus is of cultivation and deliverance of what I understand to be transpersonal growth, and virtue in my opinion. The mission is to train the consciousness to be awake 24/7. This is no easy task – few have achieved such mastery and enlightenment.
There are a million and one ways to lose concentration and focus. After all, the mind likes to wander and stay busy. This is referred to as monkey mind in Buddhism. With consistent practice though, there is improvement – the monkey can be tamed! We have a lifetime (and possibly many more) to continue working at it. Those with dedication to such practices can, and do, advance along the path with steady pacing and persistence, all the while gaining increased clarity, intuition, empathy, compassion, self-decentralization, and more. Those that have mastered the yogas of dream and sleep are considered some of the enlightened beings that have walked this earth throughout history.
Since I began on, for me, the seemingly interwoven path of meditation, conscious dreamwork, and yoga over a decade-and-a-half ago learning the lessons has not been perfect, nor linear, yet it has been necessary to pick myself up and return to the practices time and time again when motivation declines and distractions arise. I have found reward, not only in the benefits mentioned earlier, but also by enhanced creativity, patience, humor and hope. And during these times, we know how we can all use more of that!
Please click FOLLOW so that you will be alerted when Conscious Chimera releases part two of this report. No matter where you are on this path, I say to you “All the strength”…and “Namaste.”
Happy new year! May 2019 bring you and yours much peace, good health, personal fulfillment, and joy. I’ve been working on this article for a couple months uncertain whether a more inspiring topic would come to me and take the place of this one. Then, like anyone with a burning new year’s resolution, I committed to action. For me, I (once again) joined a yoga center and embarked on a journey. After today’s class, I feel certain that this is the right topic to share with you at the beginning of another year, as January is for many people, a time of renewed commitment, planning, and setting the course for the new year ahead. Below, you’ll notice that I have some things to say about mindfulness – a practice I have been faithful to and in awe of, in both waking and sleep states, for the past 15+ years.
Take a seat for a moment…and just breath. As you softly gaze downward, do nothing else, except breath. Pay attention to the temperature of the air moving into the nostrils at each inhale. Notice the subtle movement of the belly as the lungs fill. Pause. Any sensations present at the moment just before exhalation? Exhale deelply, fully. Repeat, and repeat again as you move throughout the day.
Mindfulness is state – an active state of being with conscious observation. The instructions above are an example of just one way to begin. It can be considered a type of meditation, rooted in Eastern philosophy. It is not easy, yet remarkably simple. In mindfulness we bring our attention to present moment awareness, observing one thing or experience at a time –whether a thought, a feeling, a sensation- without interpretation, identification or judgment. We simply experience what is. Through this level of nonjudgmental observation without attachment to any of it, we can learn a great deal about the nature of being and the nature of mind. It may quickly become apparent that we typically follow our stream of thoughts, which are often out-of-control, and more often than not, in the fantasies of past or future. We are minimally aware of what’s living in the present moment, minimally aware of our own breath.
Through consistent mindfulness practice we awaken to our current experience, instead of looking into the past or toward the future. Busy city lifestyles don’t allow the room for such stillness, which is why I teach and practice this with almost every client I see. When we are determined to make room for mindful awareness, we reap the many benefits as noted in countless scientific publications.
Those that practice mindfulness meditation exercises often do so for the many known health benefits as evidenced by clinical trials. These include reductions in stress, anxiety, pain, depression, insomnia and high blood pressure (hypertension). With continued practice, sleep and attention also improve, and this is where consistent mindfulness practice can support conscious, or lucid, dreaming.
Now how about mindfulness in the sleep state, during the time when the body slumbers? To dream mindfully, with conscious awareness, one must first be able to have basic dream recall, and, of course, be able to sustain awareness in the moment. Daytime mindfulness practice has supported my extraordinary dream experiences for years, so I am faithful to it. One must also be able to bring the body into a relaxed state so as to bring about sleep. The combination of relaxation and focused attention (at the same time) does wonders for conscious dream support. When the body can relax and fall asleep while simultaneously maintaining focus, a new world opens up to us. Here, for this January article, I’ll focus on just one way of going about this.
World-renowned dream researcher, Stephen LaBerge coined the term W.I.L.D., which stands for Wake-initiated Lucid Dream. LaBerge’s WILD technique can be practiced in order to do just that – enter a lucid dream (knowing we are dreaming while dreaming) straight from the waking state. This way, there is no loss of consciousness, so some very unique and unexpected sensations will be noticed. This is just one “style” of lucid dreaming, considered by some to be an advanced technique. Some would refer to this experience as an OBE, while others, a form of lucid dreaming. And for others, there would be no distinction made at all, as the experiences of consciousness are just that, resting along a continuum of soul existence.
For a WILD to occur, one maintains “continuous reflective consciousness while falling asleep,” notes LaBerge and DeGracia (2000). This is a rare event, when compared to becoming lucid from a non-lucid dream state (over 80% of lucid dreams occur this way). In addition, WILDs occur more often during afternoon naps and in the early morning hours. I believe that this is due to the body having already had some rest. Don’t let any of this discourage you. With practice a W.I.L.D. can take place – I have had many WILDs myself, the majority of which have taken place shortly after sunrise. That’s because I have set that time aside and know that I have had enough rest that I can maintain focus, without slipping into sleep as quickly as I do at night after a long day. While I have scheduled time for this activity, it’s worth knowing that others have reported experiencing a spontaneous WILD, just for the record.
When we dream like this, consciously, it is very possible to recall details of our daily lives. We can make a plan of action before sleep, then act on those plans when recalled in the conscious dream state. Imagine the many stimulating and profound experiences waiting for us in a lucid dream!
For the sequence of steps and detailed instruction, either go to LaBerge’s website: lucidity.com, pick up one of his books, or listen to him talk about the technique in a youtube.com video.
Remember, not only can mindfulness be practiced in the waking state, but it can also be practiced in the dream state. A plan of action could be that once we become aware of being conscious/lucid in the dream state, we sit and begin meditating, toning, or praying. I have found that the more mindful I become in one state, the more mindful I am in the other state (waking or sleeping). So, making an attempt to practice mindfulness 24 hours a day is possible.
Mindfulness exercises vary from highly structured to loosely structured – both offer the highlighted health benefits listed above. I recommend daily practice for several months while also keeping a journal to record reflections and anything newly discovered.
All the best on your 2019 journey!
~For more on mindfulness, refer to Joseph Goldstein, and Jack Kornfield, PhD and take a look at these resources:
~For more on lucid dreaming, check out the following:
~You may enjoy reading the many books of Clare Johnson, PhD, Robert Moss, Robert Waggoner, and Stephen LaBerge, PhD.