Let us delve into the world of dreams this week before we go back to speaking about the chakras.
Dreams have a significant place in the life of an aspirant. It takes years of dedicated and intense practice in our waking lives to gain the ability to work with our dreams.
As we struggle to become attentive and inch towards consciousness in our so-called waking state, the question naturally arises whether we can be attentive and preserve consciousness in our dream state. Can the thinking mechanism that operates while we are awake be carried forward in our dreams?
Dreams have a language of their own. They are symbolic and are not to be taken literally. For example, if we see the color white in a dream, it is about the future. The color black symbolizes the past. A dream about excretion is about eliminating negativity. When there is a death in a dream, it means something from the past is coming to an end.
There is a distinct technique involved in the observation of dreams. When we try very hard to observe our thoughts, the thoughts themselves change as if they’re hiding from us. Similarly, if we are too conscious in the dream, the dream changes.
Therefore, initially, we do not want to be fully conscious in the dream. The best approach is to work towards a half-dream state. Begin by trying to hold the half-dream state while waking up in the morning for as long as you can. You could also wake up early in the morning, do your exercises and go back to sleep after an hour or so. Use 3 Step Rhythmic Breathing (3SRB) to easily float back into the half-dream state. The attempt here is to consciously extend the half-dream state, a transition that is normally very short and indiscernible to most people.
Unlike in the morning, night sleep is preceded by imagery or hallucinations. We can learn to work with these hallucinations or this state of hypnagogic imagery. These hallucinations are the building blocks of dreams.
Begin by trying to bring awareness at the moment of falling asleep at night. Become aware of your thoughts as they rise and fade away, the images and the sensations — it would be beneficial to relax the muscles prior to attempting to induce this state.
Until now, we may never have paid attention to this state but if we become attentive from the moment, we start feeling sleepy in bed, we will immediately recognize it. It is a state of heightened sensory experience.
In this subtle sensory state that precedes sleep, we can shape visions and hold images i.e. we hold a definite image or thought that we can carry forward into the dream state and induce a subtle awareness in the dream.
The visions usually begin with luminescent dots that glimmer before our closed eyes. These dots begin evolving into interesting geometric figures, and then into faces and landscapes. If we can go deeper, we will even start hallucinating voices, music and even mantra. We are now aware in the dream state.
A helpful practice to aid us in this process is palming. Anytime during the day, rub your palms together and cover your eyes. Focus on the middle of the inky darkness. Over time, you will start to see these static geometric patterns and as you feed them with attention, they will intensify.
Another technique is what is called the Wake Induced Lucid Dream (WILD), in which we practice slipping back into sleep paralysis immediately after waking up. This state may be easier to induce for those who have experienced sleep paralysis naturally several times in their lives, especially during childhood.
Keeping a dream journal is another way of communicating with the dreaming mind. Immediately after waking up, make notes of what you remember of your dreams and hold those images or thoughts while falling asleep to attempt to slip back into the same dream.
The entire objective of bringing awareness in the dream is to experience the dream body. It is lighter, faster than our waking body and tends to float. Becoming familiar with our dream body can make all our ailments vanish.
The lucid dream body - created with conscious effort - is highly suggestible. It is, in a way, hypnotizable. It can be easily programmed to comply with one's commands. It can be taught yoga, music, meditation, qi gong (an ancient Asian practice of coordinated body posture, movement, breathing and meditation).
At a much more advanced level, the lucid dream body can be used to undo mistakes at certain turning points of an aspirant’s spiritual journey, wiping out years or perhaps lifetimes of accumulated karma. The one who knows how can also train the lucid dream body to influence where he will take birth in his next life.
Dreams in the early part of the night come from the instinct moving center and are reactions to the day. They have no meaning or importance.
Then there are deeper dreams which are not normally recognized in modern psychology. These are dreams which come from higher planes, influences that descend with the intention of wanting to cure us, give us new understanding, throw light on our inner situations and what we are.
Through dreams we may be able to communicate with a greater mind than our own.
Such higher dreams are typically dramatic and well-formulated. They usually have nothing to do with ordinary life. It may even prompt you to ask, “What did that dream have to do with me?”.
Yet, higher dreams are always about oneself. For very advanced practitioners, the dream body reflects the observer i.e. the one who stands apart, observing the dream body. The final purpose of working with our dreams is to wake up from the highest dream - the dream of day-to-day life, what we call reality. We will take this up some other time.
Higher influences are always trying to reach out to help us on our path of inner development. But we have not developed the ability to listen to them. And as long as we are stuck in the lower planes of life, in reactions, we cannot hear or understand them.
By working hard to rise higher in our waking state and creating a resolve to work in our dreams through the practices given here, we can gradually develop the ability to communicate directly with these higher forces.