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.