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Tibetan Dream Yoga continued...

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.

Since 1992, Gabriel Rocco has been studying dream yoga and other Buddhist practices with Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, author of The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep. Throughout the day he reminds himself that waking life is like a dream. Before sleeping, he reinforces his desire to be fully aware during his nighttime dreams and remember them when he wakes.

"This practice is tremendously helpful in coping with everyday life," he says. "We talk to ourselves all the time, creating emotional dramas. Dream yoga helps you cut through that and come back to the present movement. You may be upset because of a scratch on your car, or you may have an argument. Dream yoga helps you cut loose."

Tibetans believe dreams can be a useful way to prepare for death, since the after-death state resembles the dream state.

"Bardo is a Tibetan word that simply means a transition or gap. ... Of course, the bardos of death are much deeper states of consciousness than the sleep and dream states, and far more powerful moments, but their relative levels of subtlety correspond and show the kind of links and parallels that exist between all the different levels of consciousness," writes Sogyal Rinpoche in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. "For example, the way in which you react to dreams, nightmares, and difficulties now shows how you might react after you die."

Rocco hopes to use his dreaming experiences as a way to prepare for death.

"The first time I realized I was awake in the dream, I was so excited I immediately woke up. You have to get past that, to become relaxed, aware, alert, within the dream. The point of this practice is to become more familiar with the capacity of your own mind to create and alter your experience."

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