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For Healing and Health, Dream On

In Your Dreams
By
WebMD Feature

June 25, 2001 -- We've all experienced dreams, the gateway into a chaotic territory of joy and embarrassment, exhilaration and fear. For centuries, Tibetan doctors have used dreams for diagnosis and healing. Tibetan dream yoga is said to be a preparation for death and a pathway to enlightenment. Today, Western psychologists and mental explorers are developing new ways to use dreams to unleash the creativity of the human mind.

Tibetan doctors ask patients about their dreams because it helps them understand the person's physical problems, says Nida Chenagtsang, a doctor of Tibetan medicine. Dreams must be combined with other diagnostic signs, but they offer valuable clues.

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"For example, when a patient dreams of dirty water, this could be connected with kidney problems and the urinary system," Nida says. "The dream may signal problems on a energetic level, before those problems manifest on the physical level." Nida is co-director of the medical department of Shang Shung Institute in Tuscany, Italy, and teaches a course on dreams in Tibetan medicine.

Tibetan Dream Yoga

Many of us look at dreams for signals about what's going on in our lives, says Lama Tsering Everest. "However, Tibetan dream yoga isn't about the content of our dreams. In fact, dream yoga is really about our waking life. The Buddha said life is like a dream. Everything that appears so solid to us is really insubstantial, like the reflection of the moon on water. Rather than trying to manipulate the circumstances of our lives to produce happiness, we can find true fulfillment by working for the welfare of others." Everest, a westerner, has been recognized as a lama in the Nyingma Buddhist tradition, and is the head of Odsal Ling Meditation Center in São Paulo, Brazil.

While Tibetan Buddhism does include many specific methods of dream yoga, traditionally the details aren't discussed publicly, Everest says. "These advanced teachings are available only within a personal relationship with an authentic teacher of the tradition. In dream yoga, we use our dreams to understand the nature of reality. The first step toward using the methods of dream yoga is developing a sincere wish to help others."

Namkhai Norbu, in his book Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light, does reveal methods used in one dream yoga tradition. He advises people to fall asleep while visualizing a white Tibetan syllable (or English letter) representing the sound "ah." Men should lie on their right side, women on their left side.

"Awareness within the dream state becomes a way to develop oneself and to break one's heavy conditioning," he writes. However, Norbu too says that a personal relationship with a teacher is essential for a full understanding of the practice.

"When you read a book you can understand all concepts in an intellectual way," he writes. "If you receive a transmission from a teacher, you can have a different taste." Norbu is a retired professor of Tibetan language and literature at the Oriental Institute of the University of Naples, Italy.

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