Dreams have always fascinated me. I’m sure they fascinate most people to some degree, but I’m always surprised by how most people (myself included sometimes) manage to brush them off so easily.
Vague explanations like “it’s all in your head” or “it’s just the brain sorting out the events of the day” have never really convinced me. After all, a rock is “merely” a collection of atoms and a star is “simply” a giant nuclear reactor. Does that in any way reduce their significance? I don’t think so. At least I don’t any more.
Dream or reality
Last week I finished reading a book on the Tibetan yogas of dream and sleep, and though many of the concepts didn’t really resonate with me, one idea in particular slapped me in the face: the idea that dream and waking “reality” may not be so different after all.
In fact that idea seems to me to be the very basis of dream yoga, or lucid dreaming.
In the dreamscape, things are fundamentally unstable. Everything changes constantly. Impermanence is the only rule in dreams. The state that we normally identify as “real” is fundamentally stable (relatively), and seems to have a ton of rules by which the objects within it abide, but in the end the only certainty is that everything changes.
The desk I’m sitting at right now may seem stable to me now, but it’s easy to imagine what it will look like in 10 years, 100 years. In 10,000 years, nothing will remain. That’s why I said that waking reality is relatively stable, because what’s stable to me is not stable in a mountain’s perspective. A mountain is not stable to a star. A house fly is fleeting to us, living only a couple of days, but from the point of view of a molecule of plutonium, two days is eternity.
The reality check
One of the main practices outlined in the various guides to lucid dreaming is the so-called reality check, which means exactly what it sounds like. For example, my go-to reality check is to close my nostrils with my thumb and index finger and try to breathe through it. If I can’t breathe, I’m most likely still awake. If I can breathe, I’m almost certainly dreaming.
This has worked countless times for me in dreams in the last few years, but I’ve had limited success in actually doing anything within the dream after the fact.
The trick to making this happen is to make reality checks a habit in waking life. The theory goes that once the habit of questioning reality becomes ingrained enough, we start doing it automatically in dreams. I haven’t been consistently working with dreams since I discovered lucid dreaming, but in the last few months I’ve found a renewed interest in them. After all, the possibilities for growth and learning is practically limitless within the dream world.
The missing ingredient
However, I’ve found that simply making reality checks an automatic habit is missing a crucial ingredient: awareness. When I finally did start doing an automatic reality check in dreams, I would realize that I was in a dream but still somehow not fully understand what that implies. It’s weird, really. I would think “hey, I’m in a dream!” but then just keep reacting to it as if I didn’t know.
After I started to do reality checks habitually with full awareness, things started to change. I’ve only become lucid in dreams a few times after I started to do this, but there is a definite difference in clarity and understanding, though to my infinite consternation my dreams keep falling apart after about 10 seconds of lucidity and I end up waking up.
What do I want?
Still, I see every moment of lucidity in the dreamscape as a step forward, and I try my best to view it in a positive light, as in “yes, 10 seconds of lucidity” instead of “dammit, only 10 seconds of lucidity”. Which brings me to my last point in this rather all-over-the-place article on lucid dreaming: intent.
I’m sorry to say that I’ve been very lazy with implenting this particular key practice in dream work, but the times that I do, the results have spoken for themselves.
What I mean by intent is simply this: going to sleep with the actual intention of becoming lucid in dreams. It seems so obvious but to me and many others, it’s very elusive. I’ve been working on a nighttime ritual to remedy this, linking it to my meditation habit.
After meditating, I’ll sit quietly for another 10 minutes and reflect on the day that’s coming to an end, focusing on the more dreamlike qualities I’ve experienced, like strange encounters and weird coincidences. Then I’ll reflect on the endless possibilities for the conscious dreamer: flight, exploration, understanding, *cough* SEX *cough* and so on. I try to foster the feeling of excitement and anticipation for developing awareness within the dream and learning to control it.
For some reason I’ve been experiencing loads of resistance to this simple formula, but persistence is key. I won’t give up.
I’m gonna wrap this up now, but you can expect way more content on dream awareness in the near future.
Until then, much love and pleasant dreams.