Thursday, November 4, 2010

Is Your Life A Dream?

I promised I would share my spiritual thrashings with you and here's a bit. I am reading "The Tibetan Yogas of Dream And Sleep" by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. Dreams have always intrigued me and I have a dream that has followed me in different variations throughout my life. I am always driving in this dream and of course there's lots of variation, mostly troubling like the brakes don't work, or I'm driving from the backseat. Various people accompany me on these crazy drives. Most recently I was surprised and confused to find myself driving a right hand drive car.

But I digress gigantically. The main focus of "The Tibetan Yogas of Dream And Sleep" revolves around developing lucid dreaming capabilities. Rinpoche says: "If we cannot carry our practice into sleep, if we lose ourselves every night, what chance do we have to be aware when death comes. Look to your experience in dreams to know how you will fare in death. Look to your experience of sleep to discover whether or not you are truly awake." Sheesh, I am barely aware when I'm awake was my first thought! But there is something that strikes me as a practice worthy of exploration.

One of the concrete practices Tenzin Wangyal suggests is this: "Throughout the day practice the recognition of the dream-like nature of life... Upon waking in the morning, think to yourself, "I am awake in a dream. When you enter the kitchen, recognize it as a dream kitchen. Pour dream milk into your dream coffee. It's all a dream, you think to yourself, this is a dream. Remind yourself of this constantly throughout the day.... Keep reminding yourself that you are dreaming up your experiences, the anger you feel, the happiness, the anxiety, -- it's all part of the dream... In this way a new tendency is created in the mind, that of looking at experience as insubstantial, transient and intimately related to the minds projections. As phenomena are seen to be fleeting and essenceless, grasping decreases... Doing this practice, like all practice changes the way one engages the world... When we think of an experience as "only a dream" it is less "real" to us. It loses its power over us -- power that it only had because we gave it power, and can no longer disturb us and drive us into negative emotional states. Instead we begin to encounter all experience with greater calm and increased clarity, and even with greater appreciation."

While this practice is aimed at eventually helping us be aware while dreaming, I like the immediate payoff of reminding us that things and circumstances are ever changing and can't be held on to. As I tried this last night (and he recommends making it a deeper experience than just a thought) I noticed that I was okay with regarding the things I find difficult or unpleasant as a dream but wanted the things I loved to be solid and real. In an instant it was apparent where attachment rested it's hook and claw. I also found there was something slightly disorienting in regarding my life as a dream. I could feel the shaky groundlessness of it all.

So I think I might teeter off and have a piece of dream chocolate with a dream cup of tea. Where will your dreams lead you?


  1. Interesting explorations! A couple of years ago I started looking into Nidra Yoga, which is a form of "yogic sleep" as a means of being awake *as* your true nature. It says that even in sleep your true nature - Awareness - is what is always awake. And through the practice one becomes aware of this Awareness that is always awake - even in the dream. It sounds very similar to what you are exploring here.

    I found your statement about the emotions being seen as mind projections very helpful at this time. And when I look at them this way - from this space of always awake Awareness - they unwind, or dissolve and all that's left is this open space of awake Awareness again. Fascinating isn't it...:)

  2. ha! well obviously i'm reading a dream blog and typing dream words in right now. : ) next i think i'll go check my dream e-mails then onto that dream painting i'm in the middle of.

    love this, carole... thank you! must check out this book.


  3. hmm - this reminds me of a zen teacher who happens to be coming to my sangha this weekend. he once told a student he was now working on being "awake" in his dreams. it seems very true that this type of practice benefits both in the "sleeping" life and "waking" life.

  4. MeANderi - it is so true when we look at these emotions as "not us" they are easier to usher out of the landscape.

    lynne - yes I could see this dream life appealing to you and your little paint people and creatures would feel so at home.

    Nathan - does sound like this view is present in other practices. it makes sense. look at how many hours a day we sleep, it makes sense to have practice enter it in some way.

  5. Interesting take on reality vs illusion. I have been consumed with this for the past few weeks. My studies are not Yoga, but I'm sure there is a connection to ACIM since I believe everything is.