Dr. Dillard’s IDL

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:

www.integraldeelplistening.com/dr-joseph-dillard and www.integraldeeplistening.com/three-transformative-world-views.

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.

 

In Gratitude,

Kim

do you have a lucid mindset?

More and more people are becoming familiar with the concept of lucid dreaming, or dreaming while knowing that you are dreaming. Would you like to learn how to experience this wonderfully amazing state? For starters, there are some basics to understand as you dive in. This month’s article will feature Dr. Clare Johnson’s “golden tools” for a lucid mindset, particularly, the first of her three golden tools: Intent.

Now before taking a good look at our intention for dreaming consciously, it is necessary to note the importance of using a dream journal. Logging dreams as a daily practice builds our relationship with them. By doing so, we are essentially telling ourselves how important our dreams are and that they are worthy of our attention and our time. Some people use a basic notepad, but I like to use journals that are special and more decorative or unique from the everyday notebooks that I use to jot down ideas or thoughts. This spring, I met Al Martínez of Da-Vínch Studios in Grass Valley, California. img_1823I was amazed by his craftsmanship, and the time he dedicated to making one-of-a-kind handmade books and journals. I thought, “Now this is a real dream journal – one to hold my most meaningful lucid dreams.” Here is Al in the construction process.

Once we are well on our way to recording our dreams, no matter how vague, short, or mundane, we can trust that more will come. Once we make this habitual, it’s a fine time to seriously consider our intention – Dr. Johnson’s first golden tool. She notes that setting a basic intention such as, “I want to have a lucid dream” is too broad, too empty. Instead, get specific and bring the intention alive by feeling excitement and liveliness for the journey you are embarking on. Furthermore, investigate the specific action you want to take in the lucid dream. Spend time thinking about this action as you go about your day. For example, I decided that I wanted to visit Egypt’s Giza Plateau the next time I became lucid in a dream. And how would I do this? By lucidly flying in my dream body, of course! During my waking hours, in preparation, I spent time looking at colorful photos of the pyramids and wondered what it would be like to fly across the country and the sea. Would I be able to control my speed? Would I be able to see the ground and sea below? (In one particularly memorable experience, I found that, yes, I was able to do these things in my lucid dream excursion to the Giza Plateau, and it was truly amazing).

Before going to sleep, lie quietly and imagine successfully experiencing your chosen action. This sets a strong intention, and the likelihood of recalling your plan in the dream state will be higher. Dr. Johnson reminds us that sometimes we prefer not to change the lucid dream, instead going along with whatever unfolds. If this is the case, as we lie down, we can imagine how awesome it would be to explore the lucid dream space, consciously taking in the details. Do not underestimate the practice of visualization. It really does support conscious dream experiences.

Another way of setting intent is to draw a picture or make a collage of your intended lucid dream action, according to Dr. Johnson. I have yet to do this, but plan to start adding this creative element to my repertoire, as it sounds powerfully effective. What a way to engage willpower, curiosity and enthusiasm!

Finally, we can elicit assistance from our dreaming mind. Offer gratitude for a fulfilling lucid dream, or “strike a deal,” as Dr. Johnson suggests. For example, ask your dreaming mind to help you become lucid in exchange for keeping a consistent dream journaling practice. You may begin noticing lucidity cues. Dr. Johnson began making mixed media collages to enhance her dream imagery, only later to notice that the collages began to turn up in her dreams as a cue to become lucid. She shares other striking examples, so, I suggest taking a look at her book to discover them.

I hope this has inspired you to set an intention for your dream life, as we may spend anywhere between 45-60 hours a week sleeping. Dreaming lucidly, consciously, can change not just the way we experience sleep, but the way we experience the waking state, our day-to day existence. Truly, it can change our lives.

Wishing you restful sleep and peaceful dreams,

Kim

*Find Dr. Clare Johnson’s second and third ‘golden tools for a lucid mindset’ in her book Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Lucid Dreaming: A Comprehensive Guide to Promote Creativity, Overcome Sleep Disturbances & Enhance Health and Wellness.

*To reach Al Martínez of Da-Vínch Studios directly (and see photos of his gorgeous hand-crafted journals), email him at davinchstudios@gmail.com

dream flying

When flying in a dream, we might move from one place to another very quickly. This is, of course, possible during a lucid dream, since the dreamer can speed up or slow down at will. In several dreams, I have decided to ‘fly’ to a particular place almost immediately after becoming lucid. Usually, the destination is quite far, so I fly across states or nations. During this type of flight, I can see the land or clouds below, even stars sometimes. Flying through space is an unforgettable experience.

img_2314Of course, we are not limited by this planet alone. We can fly into deep space or to other planets. Many years ago, a woman told me that she flew to the planet Venus in her lucid dream and was certain that some kind of life form existed there. I became quite curious, but to this day, I have never made it there.

We can even announce to the dream, “Take me where I need to be.” Then, we may be transported to another location to investigate or to learn something. There really is no limit. With such a question, posed to the dream itself, we might travel instantaneously and have little awareness of flying or any other form of transportation. You never know. What is certain, is that you are safe and free from any physical harm during such adventures.

For those new to lucid dream flying, I suggest testing this out in smaller ways – easy does it. For example, instead of flying to the moon, try flying to a rooftop near by and hover img_2405above it. Look around and see what you notice. If instead, you find yourself lucid in a more natural landscape, fly to the top of a tree or mountain. Notice what can be observed from this new vantage point. No matter what happens, you can wake up (returning to the physical waking state) simply by saying, “I want to wake up now.” That’s what I said during my first recognizable lucid dream and I immediately found my awareness there in my bed. My eyes opened and the episode was over.

Happy dreaming,

Kim

reflections on the out-of-body experience

Have you ever had a dream, and in that dream suddenly realized that you were dreaming? If so, maybe that simple realization alone woke you up. Or, maybe you realized that you could do anything you wanted because you were in a dream. Perhaps, you’ve experienced something a little different – that being, you maintained awareness while falling asleep and immediately found yourself in a dream-like state, one in which you could control in any way you like…one in which you could have a valuable question about life answered. Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you are not alone. In fact, you are just like thousands upon thousands of others. Such experiences have been reported for centuries all across the globe.

There is debate over whether lucid dreams (LD) and out-of-body experiences (OBEs), sometimes referred to as lucid projections and several other names, are essentially the same or similar. While much of the Western literature I’ve read makes a distinction IMG_2614between the two, and describes the features marking their differences, it’s easy to understand how some groups and societies do not separate these phenomena. Numerous anthropological reports from all over the world highlight the widely held belief that the psyche moves about, or travels, while the body sleeps. This takes place, they say, whether we remember it or not, and we may be partially, incompletely, or completely aware during the occurrence itself. This notion of one’s psyche leaving the physical body and moving about does not sit well for a lot of secular individuals, as it implies the existence of something spiritual. That very idea may be behind such proposed distinctions. No matter what we believe to be taking place, or where we find ourselves in this debate, people of all ages report unique experiences that scientists are attempting to explain.

Until 2005, I had few unprovoked or incubated anomalous nocturnal experiences. The occurrences I can recall were unwanted and occurred spontaneously during the night hours. In fact, for the first 30-something years of my life, I wasn’t sure what had happened. To this day, I specifically remember two somewhat frightening experiences that I now recognize to have likely been lucid projections or OBEs. Still, some would prefer to categorize them as lucid dreams, and that is just fine too. Both experiences took place at night while lying in unfamiliar beds. The first took place during a family vacation in Bishop, California when I was eight years old. The second anomalous experience I can still recall happened when I was about 20 years old while visiting someone in Bend, Oregon. Not only do children report such experiences, but adults have claimed that experiences like these took place while they were children or during adolescence. Like so many others, I had not had past discussions or debate with others who had these experiences, nor knowledge of scholarly books or articles – basically, I knew little, if anything, on the topic. During those times, I had no clue as to what might have had occurred. A lot has changed from then until now. In my early and mid 30s, after some practical skill development and training, however, I had several provoked/planned OBEs, LDs, and highly vivid dreams and tended to view them as the same phenomenon…like shades of grey.

More recently, with additional first-hand experiences, and increasing education on these topics, I’ve come to understand further the OBE and LD distinction. OBEs are called by various names depending on one’s orientation (soul flight, soul travel, lucid projections, unfolding, astral travel, astral projection, spirit-walking, or dream visions). OBEs, or lucid projections, have been reported to occur at least once in one’s lifetime for about 10%-20% of the population, but is rarely acknowledged or discussed in contemporary Western culture. Lucid dreaming may be the Western term that is more often used, as it seems more comfortable for that culture. OBEs/lucid projections can be spontaneous, forced, or provoked, and it is possible, although rare, that one has the experience while awake (a family member of mine told me about his experience that, to his surprise, spontaneously took place while he sat in his desk at school). Reports also coincide with near-death experiences. Understandably, such variations can be confusing. The two phenomena, the OBE and LD, share some features, but also have distinctions reported in the literature. Some would say, however, that the level of conscious awareness determines how the experience is labeled. For example, if one maintains an aware, alert mind while the body falls to sleep, they might label it as an OBE. But if one’s mind and body falls asleep, then during sleep, the dream state or R.E.M., they become aware, it would wind up being labeled as a LD, more often than not. Generally speaking, this is how we’ve compartmentalized such phenomena in Western culture. This compartmentalization doesn’t really happen in indigenous societies, as it seems unnecessary and irrelevant because after all, if the soul wanders during sleep, the person’s awareness of what’s taking place may be there from the very beginning or their awareness flows in and out during part of the sleep cycle.

In my early 30s, I worked very hard to provoke an OBE or lucid projection, as well as a LD. I practiced a variety of concentration-based meditations for months, usually dedicating over an hour a day to the practices. It paid off with time, effort and practice, and even trail and error. Having had no success at night, even after dozens of attempts, I decided to dedicate one sunny weekend morning to pursue an experience. That morning after waking up, I did a series of exercises in bed – concentration on the heart, vowel mantras, and visualization of a place – all taught to me, at that time, by experienced instructors of GnosticWeb (a group offering free courses on these topics). That morning included a few hours of unsuccessful attempts, probably because I really wasn’t sure what was about to take place and likely gave up too quickly. All of this occurred with some degree of frustration, before I actually succeeded. In fact, I recall telling myself, that I would try ‘one more time’ before ‘giving up’ for the day. So I pushed forward, lying in bed, trying to fall asleep while I kept my mind awake – quite the disciplined act. The initial experience of maintaining this level of awareness was extremely interesting to say the least, especially due to new and unfamiliar sensations. My heartbeat became more intense and this intensity was accompanied by a soft buzzing or vibrating sensation. These sensations seemed to gently propel me forward at one point in the experience. I don’t recall hearing any sounds or voices at that moment, which are, among other sensations, often reported by others, according to research done by the International Academy of Consciousness. Basically, I popped up and walked out of bed with the awareness that something was different. To confirm, I did a reality check (which was something I was taught to do and often done during the day) by pulling one of my fingers. I did this right there in my bedroom, as I was certain that something was quite different and suspected that I had projected. My finger stretched like firm putty and became long, then sprung back as I let it go. Well that confirmed it! Next, I walked out of my bedroom, and then realizing walking wasn’t necessary, I hovered about a foot above the floor, floating down the stairs with the awareness that I had accomplished what I set out to experience. I was really checking out the environment I found myself in. A lot looked the same, but laws of gravity obviously did not apply. What took place from there, I consider personal, and meant just for me, so I will keep the rest of the story to myself for now. Anyway, that is how it began for me.

I’m not sure how many minutes went by, but it felt like quite a while. The experience ended when I became uncertain and a little fearful of what I saw, and my vision turned somewhat cloudy (this might imply loss of awareness, according to the IAC, and there are tips on how to re-establish it). I found myself immediately back in my bed and opened my eyes, feeling awe-struck. I then recorded the experience in the dream journal kept by my bed. From that day forward, my world-view began to shift.

While slowly gaining more experience, including how to dream with greater levels of lucidity, I did not focus on differences between the two phenomena. LDs and lucid projections or OBEs seemed to have more in common thanIMG_2499 not, and I continue to believe they still do. In the end, it may all come down to varying levels of conscious awareness. Many indigenous cultures do not compartmentalize or make so many concrete categorizations with regard to these phenomena as we do in the West. Still, it helps to be aware of the particular features of these experiences and track them in a journal in order to learn from others, whether it’s shared experiences or research, as well as from ourselves and our own lived experience.

There are researchers in several nations that currently study these unique human experiences in sleep laboratories. For example, the International Academy of Consciousness (IAC) operates a large site in the Alentejo region of Portugal. I had the privilege of visiting the IAC Research Campus a few weeks ago (June 2016) and was given an extensive tour of the facilities, including their impressive laboratories. For more information about what this particular organization has to offer, explore their website at iacworld.org. These days, publications focusing on these extraordinary experiences are on the rise. A simple online search can point to numerous books, websites, and courses. For example, deepluciddreaming.com offers free access to a wonderful book titled Consciousness Beyond the Body, and so much more.

 

Happy soul-travels,

Kim
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a pathway to lucid dreaming

From an extraordinary dream to a hypnotic state, chimera made a meaningful presence in my life. Numerous others have seen significant images of people, animals, and more, in dreams, hypnosis, and other non-ordinary states of consciousness. Anyone can wait for a particular image to reappear, although at times, one is moved to act and discover more sooner than later. While there are a variety of techniques and practices that exist to propel such a journey, lucid dreaming is one such pathway to regain access.

In his preface to his first book, Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self, Robert Waggoner (2009) writes that lucid dreaming is “the ability to become consciously aware of dreaming while in the dream state.” Stephen LaBerge, has researched this phenomenon for decades. In one of his books, Lucid Dreaming: A Concise Guide to Awakening in Your Dreams and in Your Life, he states that “lucid dreamers can consciously influence the outcome of their dreams” (2004, p. 3).

These books, among several others, offer tips and techniques for lucid dreaming success. In my experience, a daily concentration meditation practice has been very helpful. Whether it is counting each breath, walking slowly and mindfully with intention, focusing on an object (candle flame, flower, glass of water), or vocalizing a mantra, the act of focused attention itself brings about benefits. In addition, attending to the present moment through intentional awareness, whether you are showering or doing the dishes, enhances faculties needed for awareness in the dream state.

If you are new to this, start small. Consistent shorter periods of time are better than skipping days or nothing at all, or inconsistently practicing for longer periods. Try for five minutes a day, then 10 the following week and so on. An hour a day is wonderful, and can be split into a morning and evening practice (30 minutes each). In addition to gaining enhanced experiences in dreamtime, your physiology will thank you too, as such practices are known to relieve stress and bring a sense of peace and calmness.

If you want to learn more about an image or experience you’ve had in an ordinary, typical dream state, dreaming with awareness, or lucidly, can allow for such conscious engagement. If you’ve had such an experience, and are moved to share it, I’d love to hear from you.

Happy dreaming,

Kim