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For Healing and Health, Dream On

In Your Dreams

Tibetan Dream Yoga continued...

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."

Lucid Dreaming

Today many Westerners are exploring similar mental territory through the practice of "lucid dreaming." The term was first coined in 1913 by a Dutch physician who spontaneously experienced alert dreams.

In a lucid dream your ordinary sense of self wakes up inside the dream, explains Steve Whiteman, DCH. One way to train for lucid dreaming is to look at something light, like a paper clip, and ask whether it's floating.

"Do this many times a day; make a habit of it. Sometime during the night the paper clip really will float, and you'll recognize you are now in a dream."

When people first experience a lucid dream they may experience a powerful energy and sense of freedom, Whiteman says. "Lucid dreams are more fluid. You have a nightmare, you may see a monster or a bear. When you realize you're awake inside the dream, you can ask that bear, Why are you here? The response will always be relevant. The bear may say, 'I've been trying to get your attention for years.'" Whiteman is a hypnotherapist in private practice in Atlanta and Clarksville, Ga., and teaches a class in lucid dreaming.

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