with Dr. Michael Katz
Editor of "Dream Yoga" and author "The
MK: What I want to do tonight, and then for the next few days and
as long as I'm here, is to try to assist you all in developing your own
dream practice, and what that means for each of you might be quite
different. So this is a little bit of a, a kind of a training
that I'll be trying to do to give some practical suggestions for
working with your dreams, and hopefully it will be something valuable
for you all. So the perspective that I'm going to take is largely from
the Tibetan Buddhist system of working with dreams. And also because I
am a psychologist and I've studied dreams from a Western perspective,
then I hope that having that
background will assist you in understanding the Tibetan Buddhist system
from more of a Western point of view.
So to start
with, is that there are many types of dreams, and then also
all of us have different capacities for working with our dreams.
So when I say, oh, you know, I'd like to be of assistance in helping
you to work with your dreams, it may mean for some of you that that
will be towards being able to remember your dreams. And then for
some others of you who remember their dreams regularly, then it might
be for being able to have the experience of lucidity in your dream.
those of you who don't know what the experience of lucidity in
a dream is, what I mean is that you would be able to have a dream and
understand and know that you're dreaming at the same time, so there's
an awareness, a consciousness that you are dreaming. That's what
we refer to as lucidity.
And then if you have the capacity for being lucid in your dreams
occasionally, as many of us have had a lucid dream at some point in our
life, then perhaps maybe I can assist you in helping to prolong the
experience of lucidity.
Also from the Tibetan Buddhist perspective, dream work perspective,
there are ways of transforming dreams and working with dreams once you
are lucid, and at that point we're talking about extraordinary
potential. So I have had a little experience with these
extraordinary types of dream work potentials, and my teacher, Namkhai
Norbu, is one of the foremost masters of dream work and having
experiences within a dream.
So what I want to do is give you an understanding of
between dream yoga and the practice of natural light, and also, as I
said, give you some practical suggestions for
developing your own dream
practices. So first of all, I'd like to know a little bit about you,
many of you are people who have already had experiences with
lucidity in your dreams. Okay. And how many of you are
also people who are involved in meditation and
Buddhism? So a lot of you are. So we have a pretty - that's
okay, don't feel left out.
Well, the Buddha, he likened our phenomenal
means what we see before us, all that we experience,
he likened it to a dream, or
an illusion. And then he gave a variety of
metaphors, that life was like lightning, or
the reflection of
the moon in water, or an echo in a city. He tried to,
through these metaphors, he tried to convey
what the actual,
what actually reality is, and what he was saying is that this all
is an illusion, that somehow what we see before us is not
real in some way.
So whether or not you believe that or whether you feel that this is
real versus an illusion, for the purposes of developing our
dream work practice, we will take the perspective that
this is all a dream. And that's because when we go to
sleep at night and we have dreams, and then we wake up the next
day, there's a very big difference between the state that
we're in when we're sleeping and dreaming and the state that
we're in when we awaken.
So oftentimes we wake up, and for a few moments we may remember our
dream, and then we're deluged with our daily routines, and we
jump out of bed, we're getting ready
for work, we turn
on the radio, or the news, or something like that. And
then the dream, it disappears, or recedes into the background,
and we don't do much with it, and then we're in our
day. We're in our waking state, so it's now something
But if we look at everything as a dream, then there's permeability
that occurs, and so instead of there being
a big difference
between the waking time and the dream and sleep time,
there's this interactiveness, or permeability.
So what we do
when we're training for doing dream work is to see things as a
dream. And then philosophically, the question arises, Is that possibly
true? Is this potentially, really just a dream or an illusion?
So when we want to do a little retreat or workshop and focus on dreams,
then we're going to very specifically attempt to see
everything as a dream. And so I invite you to be in a dream
here with me and to look at things in a little different
For example, you might look around the room and you might say that,
well, here is somebody who is part of your dream, talking
about dreaming and lucid dreaming. And in fact, that from
the perspective of being in your dream, that you manifested
or created me, that I'm a part of your dream.
And it was your
interest in dreaming, this strong interest that you have in
dreaming, and particularly lucidity in your dreams, that
caused you to manifest me and all the other
people here in
So perhaps we have a connection, a strong connection
with the other
people here in the room, and that connection over time would
become evident, some sort of karmic
something that the Tibetan Buddhists might call
(phonetic), or a connection that we have.
So I'm a part of your dream, and you manifested me out of
emptiness. And here in the room you can see that I'm
is the dream I'm dreaming. You're dreaming that I'm
drinking water. Your pen and your notebook are dream objects,
and all of the characters are part of the dream.
In fact, you might ask yourself, Is this a dream? And that would
very useful if you did, to ask yourself, is this a
dream. Because when we ask ourselves if this is a dream, it
creates a habit, and that habit can follow us into the dream state.
So what I'm suggesting to you is, so far, that you see everything as a
dream, at least for this evening, and if you're joining
me at the workshop, then we will continue to have that
awareness that everything is a dream. And we're doing that not
from the philosophical point of view, which may or may not
be true, but we're doing that from the point of view of a
practical way of developing your dream practice.
If you do that, if you see that this is a dream, if you see
everything as a dream, then you're more likely to progress in this
There are a variety of ways that we can enhance these good habits so
as to progress in dream work. Another way of doing that is to
look around and to notice whether there is something that
could be a tip or a cue that we are dreaming.
So in addition
to saying to ourselves, is this a dream, which I'm
suggesting to you you might do about maybe ten times between
now and when you go to sleep tonight. Ask yourself, is
this a dream, in addition to carrying the awareness that
this is a dream.
The next thing to do is to look around and to see if there's
something that you might notice in this dream that could cue you
that you're having a dream. If you did find something that
was incongruous about what you see here, then that can be the
impetus for becoming lucid in your dream.
Let me give you an example. I had a dream that a dog was on a
trying to jump from one house to another house. As
I watched the dog jump, it missed, and instead of falling to the
ground, it began to float, something like an astronaut might
do in one of these capsules in a non gravity situation.
And when I saw the dog doing this kind of non gravity
thing, then I knew that it was a dream, and I said to myself,
this is a dream, and at that moment I became lucid. So
that was a cue that this was not reality, and it was actually a
Now, if you look around this room here, it's possible that some of the
features of the room might be incongruous. For example, you
might notice that the fire extinguisher is here on this
podium, or you might notice that the apple is sitting there,
and a few other things like that.
Now, once you've noticed that something is incongruous, then with
intention, with a strong intention, it will be useful for
you to say, when I have that dream tonight, when I dream of
a fire extinguisher tonight, then I will become
lucid. So you're creating a habit of, A, of examining
whether or not you're in a dream. You're going to do that a
of times over the next few hours, let's say, before you
go to sleep.
Then you're going to examine different environments that you're in,
this one here, and see if there's something that's
incongruous, such as a fire extinguisher, or some guy talking about
lucid dreams and knocking over the bell. If you have that
kind of a dream tonight, then make the strong wish or
intention that you become lucid because of that incongruity,
that you'll know that this is a dream.
So we have a few hours now before we go to sleep, and you're going to
carry this awareness and do these simple exercises.
A lot of it, of developing lucidity in your dreams or even
remembering more dreams or understanding dreams, a lot of
it is going to depend on your strong intention to
want to do so.
In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this strong intention, this
intentionality is often described as making prayers, that we
want to pray that we have these experiences. For example, you
might want to pray that you experience many
dreams. If you're not one to pray, then you might just
auto suggest, from a Western point of view, that you have many
dreams. Say to yourself, Tonight I'm going to have and
remember many dreams, and then from either the autosuggestion
perspective or from the prayer perspective, that you might
either pray or auto suggest that your dreams might be clear
and auspicious, and furthermore, that
you might have
lucidity in your dreams.
So you might make this strong wish that tonight I'm going to have
lucid dreams. And then furthermore, if you take this
intention a little further, that you could wish or pray to be able
to transform your dreams, or to engage in the special
applications of dreams.
From the Western psychological point of view, we're talking about
autosuggestion or simply strong intention of mind, and from
the Tibetan Buddhist point of view, we're talking about
prayer to our teacher or to the enlightened beings, that
they assist us in developing this capacity for dream work.
Now, most of us most of the time have dreams which are the product of
our anxieties and preoccupations, and in general, are not
a very important class of dreams. From the Tibetan Buddhist
perspective, we call them samsaric dreams.
From the Western
perspective, we would say that these are relative dreams,
or relatively unimportant dreams. But there's a whole
other class of dreams that, from the Tibetan Buddhist point
of view, we refer to as dreams of clarity, clarity dreams.
Before the lecture, one of you asked me about the Western dream
work system, such as the Freudian dream work system and the
Jungian dream work system, and so on. Most of these
analytical types of dream systems are referring to relative dreams,
and we analyze these dreams, and they have meaning, and
pertain to our anxieties and our preoccupations and all
that. But what we're going to focus on more over the next few
days is the other type of dream, which is
the dream of
Now, the dream of clarity oftentimes does include the lucid type of a
dream, but the lucid type of a dream is not the only type of
clarity dream. And also there are many different levels
of lucid dreams. For example, other examples of
clarity types of dreams may be dreams which are precognitive or
predict the future, or have some communication
with other types of beings, including animals or other beings,
other dimensions, those kinds of things.
Last month I was with my teacher, Norbu, but people were talking about
some of their dreams. Somebody came up to me and they said,
Oh, I had a dream that my mother died last night. And
she was quite upset, and she felt that perhaps she was having a
precognitive dream, a dream of clarity.
Then she called
home to check, and her mother was alive, and her mother said,
Well, if you're so concerned about me, why don't you come
So that's an example of a relative dream, out of our anxieties, and
so on. But on the other tack is that another woman at this
particular retreat had a dream where her boyfriend was in
trouble, and then she called home. In fact, the
boyfriend was in trouble, and the circumstances of the trouble that
he was having were very similar to the dream that she
Another example, I was just reading a novel that's become
popular. Maybe it's popular here in Australia, I'm not
It's called Skeletons of the Sahara, and it's about an actual
shipwreck that occurred in the early 1800s.
aground off the coast of Africa, and the sailors were
enslaved for a period of time. The captain of the ship had a
dream early on in this period of captivity, and his dream
was that there was a particular man who would help them to
So the book is about the period of time, some months, maybe even some
years between when they ran aground and then they ultimately,
some of them, were freed. And it was a very, very
difficult period, you can imagine. The captain of the ship
weighed like 230 pounds when he started out. He weighed like 90
pounds when he finished. But at the end of the book, when
he is freed, he meets the person who he had dreamed about
very shortly after he had been shipwrecked.
So this is an example of a dream of clarity, which we all can have
that experience, but of course if we are actively engaged
in dream work of this kind of system, then we can have more
experiences of that.
So in this particular Tibetan Buddhist system, and in the book, the
Dream Yoga book, which some of you may already be familiar
with; it's called Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural
Light. Actually, these are two different perspectives on
working with your dreams.
Dream yoga is what we're going to be focusing on over the next few
days, and what we've already begun to focus on by actively
engaging in attempting to become lucid in our dreams.
The other part of the title of the book, And The Practice of
Natural Light, refers to the practice of Dzogchen in the
Tibetan Buddhist system. And for
those of you who are not
aware of what Dzogchen is, it's the Great Perfection
practice of Tibetan Buddhism, and refers to having a certain
kind of awareness and presence at all times.
So we're not really focused on doing the practice of natural light
over the next few days, because it necessitates a
transmission from a great lama, such as Namkhai
Norbu. But I just mention it because if you have that opportunity
at some point, it would be a wonderful thing to take
this transmission and to begin to work with that instant
presence, and so on.
The difference between dream yoga and the practice of natural light,
in a nutshell, is that in the dream yoga practice we
engage in attempting to become lucid in our dreams, whereas
in the practice of natural light, through our presence and
awareness, this special awareness and presence, that
lucidity occurs naturally out of that presence and
awareness, and it's not something that we have to attempt to
create or to work towards, through some sort of effort.
It's an effortless system of meditation.
But we're not all capable of that. I'm not capable of that, in
instances. So it's very valuable to develop these capacities
to work with our sleep and dreams, and we spend so much
time every day in sleep and dreams, a third of our life, that
it's useful to make some sort of -- to do something with
So over the next few days, what I'd like to focus on is developing
experiences of lucidity, and if some of us have these
experiences of lucidity on a regular basis, then also to prolong
the experience of lucidity, and then to be able to do some
sort of transformation or something along those lines
within the dream state.
Now, I know that a lot of you already have some experience with
meditation, but what I want to do now is to introduce a
meditation. Perhaps many of you are aware of it already. A
practice of shi ne, or a practice of shi ne or concentration
type of -- calm abiding is how it's described.
And the reason
is that even if you have some experience doing shi ne
meditation, is that we need shi ne meditation, that power of
concentration, in order to maintain lucidity in our
dream. So if we have that capacity, then we will be able to
maintain the experience of lucidity in our dream.
Some people might refer to shi ne meditation as a foundational, or
beginner's meditation, but in fact the importance of
shi ne meditation extends from the
beginning of the path to
the end of the path. At some point in your dream, it might
be useful to attempt to do a type of meditation such
as shi ne within your dream, and to then examine what
happens within the dream when you do that.
suggesting to you is that if you have the capacity to become lucid
in your dream, to then engage in a practice such as shi ne
meditation. So what we're going to do is a short period of meditation
together, and if you have not done shi ne meditation
before this, then this is something that you can continue to
practice. And if you have practiced shi ne meditation, it's
always valuable to do.
What I'm going to do is suggest that we sit together, and we're going
to find an object that we're going to focus on quite close
to where we're sitting. Then we're going to gaze in a one
pointed way at that object, and then when we notice that our
mind is wandering a little bit, we bring it back to the
object, and then again we bring it back to the object.
Try to sit pretty much without moving, and find an object to focus
on. This is called shi ne with an object, for obvious
It helps to sit straight backed, sit straight up in your chair.
There's a whole system of Tibetan yoga, which is the inner channels
and the winds that are inside the channels. And when the
channels are crooked, then the winds don't go in the proper
way, and consequently we want to be sure to sit straight
All right, so we're going to do this meditation for just a short period
of time. (Bell)
So you might notice that when you attempt to focus on the object that
the mind, which is often likened to a wild, crazy monkey,
jumps around, and then you come back. In fact, the dreams
are not very different. You know, it's
our mind which is
going this way and that way in the dreams, and we identify with
our dreams and we don't recognize that they are an illusion.
So because I am talking a lot about sleeping and dreaming and so
on, it's possible that you all could become sleepy and fall
asleep on me. What I'm going to do is, we're going to
take a little break, but not a break from the actual system
here. We're just going to take a break from sitting around
in the seats. And the break will be that we will just walk
around here or in the hallway for the next ten minutes, and
just be in a dream, so everything that we see and hear is
part of our dream. Just be silent while you do that, go
around and so on.
One time I was giving a lecture pretty recently, and in fact I noticed
somebody nodding off in the room. And I was thinking, Oh,
well I'm putting him to sleep, I'm talking about dreams and
sleep and all. Then afterwards he came up to me and he
said to me, Oh, well, I fell asleep, but I was having a lucid
dream. It was kind of a left-handed compliment that
he gave me.
It's now ten of twelve, ten of one, and we'll come back together at one
o'clock. So for the next ten minutes, just be in your
dream, but be quiet.
It sometimes enhances the experience of being in a dream to wear
sunglasses, so if you want to wear sunglasses. (Bell)
Let's ask ourselves, Is this a dream? You know, there are many
possibilities within the realm of lucidity, and I once was trying
to come up with ideas as to why one would want to be
lucid, like a list of things, you know. In the States we have
these popular nighttime talk shows where you make lists, the
tenth most important reason, the ninth most important
reason, the eighth most important reason, et cetera, like
I thought, well, one important reason is that if you want to be able
to multi-task. You are city people, so you should know
about multi-tasking. In New York we do three things at
once. If we go to the bathroom, we bring the telephone in
there and a book as well, and maybe we do like a meditation if
we're spiritually oriented or something.
But that would
be like one reason for being lucid. Then another reason for being lucid
might be that you can cut down on
your travel bills. If you develop
your lucidity, you
can travel to exotic places and not have to worry about
paying for the plane ticket.
Then another reason for being lucid would be for possibly spicing
up your sex life. I'll tell you a couple stories about
that. This one student of mine in one
of my workshops, he
attended the workshop with his girlfriend, and they were very
lovey dovey. He decided that he was going to find her in his
dream that night, and so he was strongly focused on
finding his girlfriend in the dream.
And sure enough, the next day he came back and he said, "I found her,"
and then he had some sort of experience, sensation
experience in his dream. He was quite pleased.
Of course, if he
had put that intention into being lucid, then he probably
would have had that experience. When we have our mind
focused on something, we can often create that.
In fact, you know, there are possibilities in the realm of
sensation. Another possible reason for being lucid is to know
movie, The Matrix, is about. Right?
These are all relative reasons for being lucid. All of these are
unimportant reasons for being lucid, in fact. A lama that I
knew, he once likened all those kinds of applications of
lucidity or those kind of dream experiences as being fun and
But why we would really want to be lucid, is that the capacity for
lucidity is the gateway towards self-liberation. Let me explain a
little bit about what that means and
why the practice of lucidity and developing lucidity is so
That is, that at some point we're all going to die, and from the
Buddhist perspective, we will be ultimately reborn in some
way. From the Buddhist perspective, there's an opportunity at
the time of death for either improving our future rebirth,
or even exiting the wheel of samsara, of samsaric life
after life after life.
So why would I bring that up here in the middle of a talk about lucid
dreaming? When we go to sleep, very shortly after we
fall asleep there's a period where we enter a deep
unconsciousness, or a kind of a faint or a swoon, where we're
deeply unconscious. Then after we emerge from this period of
deep unconsciousness, the mind engages again, and that's the
period when we begin to dream. The mind is engaging in our
dreams. It's the reengagement of the
At the time of our death there's a similar process that occurs, and
is that initially there's a period of a deep
unconsciousness, or a swoon. From the Tibetan Buddhist
mind reengages, the mental body is reengaged, and
we go through a progression of what we call the bardos or
transition states, from the point of being alive to the
point of future rebirth.
So the deep unconscious state that initially we experience is
also a time when we might have a special experience of
the clear light, which is correspondent
to the Dzogchen system
that I mentioned earlier. If we have this capacity for
instant presence and awareness, then we might also recognize
our intrinsic reality through clear light.
In the Buddhist
system that's called the meeting of the mother and the
son, mother being the intrinsic clear light and the son
being our instant presence, our capacity for recognizing this
So that's one opportunity for some sort of special liberation or
elevating our future rebirth, and that is correspondent to
the Dzogchen system. But it's very difficult for
most of us to recognize this clear light, this light of
intrinsic reality. What happens is that after that period of time when
there's this unconsciousness, then the mental body reengages, and
we have the unfolding of a series of hallucinations,
which are the sidpai bardo. Depending on our karma and
the kind of life we've led, that kind of thing, these
hallucinations may be one, these may be certain kind of objects,
and some of these hallucinations may be very
frightening, some of them may be very seductive. If at that time we can
recognize that these are merely projections of
our own mind and not real, then we have
opportunity. But if we don't have any experience in recognizing
these hallucinations are unreal, then we are identified
with them and we react, we're reactive to them.
For example, when you watch a movie in a movie theater, if it's a scary
movie, you still know that Godzilla is not going to jump
out of the screen and grab you, or Freddy is not going to
slash you, or something like that. You know that. But
in your dream, typically, if there's a frightening,
nightmarish type of a character in your dream, then you and I
normally will react, and we'll run. We'll do something to get
away, or possibly we might, you know, try to fight, or something like
that. But in any case, we are completely
identified with the dream. We have no recognition that
this dream is our projection.
So when you talk about the dream state or the mental body state, when
we react, our reactivity is extreme. If in the mental body
we are frightened, then you can imagine that we're just blown
by that fear. So at the time of death that fear more or
less blows us right into another rebirth that's predominated by
our karmic fear, and so on.
On the other hand, if we've developed some experience with recognizing
that our dreams are in fact illusion and that we can be
lucid, we have a totally different experience. We are not
particularly frightened by scary types of dreams,
and we're not necessarily seduced by seductive
dreams, unless we want to be, let's say, and we have some
experience with recognizing that these things are illusion.
Now, it may not be sufficient to simply recognize that dreams are
illusion, and then to expect that when we die that we're going
to then be able to self-liberate. But if we have an
experience with lucidity and also we have some sort of
meditation practice that we can apply at that time, then I think
that there's a much greater likelihood that we actually can
elevate our future rebirth, or possibly have some sort of a
So this is really the only reason for developing lucidity.
I mean, the other reasons are relatively important, but
not absolutely important. And yet even saying that, I
know that the few, or the experiences of lucidity that
I've had, the meditative experiences within lucidity that
I've had, these are epiphanies, each one of them, that has
changed my life immensely. When I talk with other people who
have had these experiences, they also say the same
thing. An experience of lucidity, a meditative experience
within a dream, it's a potentially life changing experience.
But even so, that's not the primary reason for practicing, so
we have to recognize what the overriding purpose and
reason for doing these kinds of practices is.
So just to review a little bit, we are going to, for the next few
until we go to sleep, we're going to continue to
recognize that we're in a dream, and we're going to have the
intention that we're going to remember our dreams tonight,
that we're going to have the experience of lucidity within
our dreams. We're going to look around a number of times
over the next few hours to determine whether or not we're in
a dream and whether there's something that's an incongruity,
and we're going to make the strong intention to, once we have
that particular dream again, to become lucid. Now, there are many
different ways of enhancing the possibility of
becoming lucid, or even just to have more dreams and to
recognize them, to remember them. For example, you
might want to take a book such as the
Dream Yoga book, or
another book of dreams, put it under your pillow.
It's not like once you sleep on a book like that, it's going to
suddenly infuse into your mind. On the other hand, because
we've kind of created this sort of seed of suggestion that
we might have a lucid dream, and we put that under there, it
In Tibetan Buddhism they take this kusha grass in an empowerment.
If you have an empowerment, they give you kusha grass, and
they tell you to put one stick, the long stick and a
short stick of kusha grass under your pillow, and then
remember what your dreams are. I personally doubt that the kusha
grass actually has the property of developing dreams, or some
sort of special dreams, but it's the autosuggestion
that is the reason.
So if you want to take a book, put it under your pillow.
take a little night light and they leave it on in their
room, or they might use a candle. Of course, if you use a
candle, you should be careful to use a candle that's in a cup
or something like that. But to leave a little light on
in the room, because it's something different.
Of course, if you spent your whole life sleeping with a candle in
your room, it's unlikely that you would have any
difference in your dream experience, but it would be nice to
change your routine a little bit so as to enhance the possibility.
The other thing is that the most important dreams typically occur
towards the end of the night, in the early morning, such as
maybe the time from like four to six in the morning, or four
to seven, or something like that. Perhaps, if you don't
mind losing a little sleep, you might set your alarm or
otherwise suggest to yourself that you're going to wake up a few
times. Then when you wake up, then try to remember the
dream that you were just having, assuming you did just have a
Once you recognize that dream, whatever it is, let's say it's the man
the cream woolen jumper, whatever, and you're dreaming
about this man, and then you're going to say to yourself at
that moment, When I dream of him again, I'm going to become
lucid. Then what you're going to do is attempt to go
back and enter, reenter the dream and allow the dream to
continue on. So you've awoken, and then you make the
suggestion that if this dream continues, I continue to dream of this
particular character, that I will become lucid, and then
you go back to sleep. And then you do that a few times, if
you wake up a few times.
Now, in the Dream Yoga book you may notice that there are many, many
different techniques, and so we may discuss some of them,
but also this is for you to experiment with and then to work
with. Are there any questions?
Question: Can you explain about the use of the white light and
the letter of A, and what connection that has with the
practice of natural light?
MK: Jacques, right? Jacques is referring to some of the
from the book Dream Yoga. In fact, those practices, you
know, are primarily associated with the practice of
natural light, which I mentioned is the Dzogchen system.
He's referring to a practice that is written, which is a chain of
white A's that is visualized, and to go up the central channel,
which is something that exists in Tibetan Buddhist yoga
practices. This is to engage the central channel into
your dream work practices, and it's a very important part
of the practice of natural light.
The same goes for visualizing the white A in either your heart, or
visualizing it in your throat, or in one of the other
chakras. But the thing is, unless you have the capacity to have
this instant presence, then it's unlikely that you will be
able to carry this presence of the white A throughout the
night, which is what the instructions are.
Because it's not
merely a visualization of a particular syllable, it's
actually having the experience of extraordinary
presence and awareness, and also having
this visualization of
the white A.
In most cases, when people attempt to apply a practice like Jacques has
mentioned, what happens is that from the point of falling
asleep to the point where the unconsciousness
ends and the mental body reengages, which is when we have
dreams, it's very unlikely that we will be able to carry that
particular presence uninterrupted. What normally happens
is that we have a short period of a visualization of
something, like the white A or something, and then we
become unconscious. Then we lose that thread of presence and
awareness, and then we go into the dream state and we are again
in the same situation, as if we didn't try to visualize
this white A.
If we have the capacity to maintain pure presence and awareness, then
we can have what is called the experience of the wheel of
night and day, or the continual presence and awareness
throughout all periods of the day and night of presence and
awareness, and then every moment is another moment of
practicing awareness. At that time, we might have lucid dreams
many other types of meditative experiences and clarity
experiences simply as a byproduct of our extraordinary
presence and awareness.
There's a process where sometimes we fall asleep and there's this
period where we might have these sights and sounds and types
of experiences which we call hypnogogic, and it's really
also just phenomena of our mind. You know, our mind is
somewhat engaged, the dreams are not fully formed.
But really these particular experiences, hypnogogic experiences,
it's just a matter of whether or not we can recognize
somehow that we're having this experience and become lucid.
I do this guided nap as part of my workshop, where we all have the
opportunity to regress to nursery school and lie down
together and take a nap, and also suggest that we develop
lucidity. Many times the experiences people have out of this
guided nap are hypnogogic types of experiences.
But I don't view
them as so important, except when they lead to an experience
of lucidity, and there are all different degrees of
One time someone reported that there was a mutual attraction
between himself and another person, and then in his dream he had
the experience where he met her. When he met her, he kind
of fondled her a little bit, and then she was quite, a
little bit surprised by that, and not totally pleased, because
it's kind of like a little bit of a date rape situation,
you know, but it was a dream rape situation.
It wasn't fully
a rape situation.
But anyway, that was a degree of lucidity. It wasn't fully
lucid. He didn't have the intention to do that. He was just
Question: I've had experiences where I'm sleeping, and then I'm
and it's like I can see, like I can see the room and I can
hear people downstairs. I sort of checked IT out and, yeah, I
was doing that. And it might be slightly skewed, what was
actually going on, but when I remember it, it's pretty
But then I have this anxiety, and it's trying to -- I get this quick
reaction to wake up, but I can't move. It's like my body is
down on the ground, like this pressure sort of all over
me. At times I've gone into quite a panic, and it's like, "Help
me." I used to have it a lot when I was in meditation
retreats, at a certain time when I was in more of a deeper level,
and then I would go relax, relax. Sometimes I would try very
hard to wake up, and I would be very willful, and
then I would relax, and it was like going through a
channel and coming down and waking up. It's quite fearful at
MK: Well, what happens is when we fall asleep, we have a natural
inhibition, our muscles can inhibit. Otherwise, you can imagine
that from our perspective of the evolution of the species,
that if we weren't inhibited and we had these dreams
where we were being frightened or something like that, we
would all run up and in our dream do something crazy.
Sometimes we do that anyway, because if we have a very strong, you
know, impression, something very strong, it really overrides
that inhibition of the muscles, then we might sleep walk
or sleep talk or do something.
Occasionally, I've been known to kick or do something in the middle of
dream, you know, thinking that I'm in the middle of a
dream. And fortunately, my wife wasn't too close to me at
But anyway, the thing is that, as you mentioned, that we are inhibited
and paralyzed when we're in the dream state. Now, if there's
a certain degree, but not full lucidity, then it's
possible for us to think that we're awake, and consequently try
to move, but we're still in this semi-lucid,
still dreaming state.
Question: I know I'm dreaming, and I want to wake up.
MK: Well, I think that once you become more familiar with being
lucid, that if you wanted to wake up, you could. But it is true
that once you are in a lucid dream that you also can hear
and experience what's going on around you, so in one corner of
your consciousness you might be listening to what's going
on in the room, and then also in another corner you're
watching this dream progress. The thing about maintaining this
lucidity, or becoming fully lucid,
that's why I introduced that shi ne meditation.
Question: Just relax with that.
MK: Right, and also to have that kind of capacity for
and focus and so on, it will be very useful.
Question: So then you choose like an object in your dream to
on, or could it be a sensation?
MK: It could be either, that's right. I think it's easier
to try to
choose an object initially, but then, yes, absolutely, you
could use a sensation.
Question: Do you mean that you choose an object that you
bring into a
dream, or an object that (inaudible).
MK: An object that appears in your dream. If you become
advanced, you could also bring an object into your dream, and
then focus on that. There's really no limit,
Question: Do any of these practices in particular, or I imagine
all of them do, make you have more relaxed sleep as well in
terms of -- you know, does it not work if you're lucid,
you don't have a deep sleep, or if you're having a deep
sleep, you might still dream and you might not remember
them? You know, in terms of me waking up in the morning and
feeling as revived as possible.
Question: It all sounds -- yeah, I'm just a little bit confused.
MK: I think that if you become very advanced with lucidity
practice and the practice of natural light, then there will be no
issue about being revitalized and relaxed. But as we are
beginning to develop this practice, it may be that you're
going to be sleeping lighter, especially if you decide you're
going to wake up at various times in the night and apply these
kinds of things. It's a certain prioritization. You know, if you
have the time, if you
want to prioritize this particular practice as something you
want to do, then you prioritize that, and you accept that
maybe you're going to take a nap at some point during the
day, something like that.
Question: Even when I've sort of had really late nights and I
I've got to get up in the morning, I might only have three
hours of sleep or something like that, I've actually made
the choice to remain lucid and found that it's easier to get up
the next day, and I'm a little more revived and mentally
A lot of people have trouble sort of, when they have a deep sleep,
getting up and getting going again in the morning, but
I've actually made that choice, when I know I've only had
three hours, and stayed lucid, and it's sort of helped me get
going the next day. I might be twice as tired the next
MK: Do you have any experience with Dzogchen?
Question: I'm not sure what that is.
MK: You might want to explore that, because it sounds like maybe
have a connection with that type of system.
Question: I just have a question. I've thought often when
dreaming, I quite often have the ability to realize that it's a
dream and wake up, and also as well to decide to go back into
that dream and continue it. I was just wondering, is there any way to
-- I mean, I don't always do
that, but I often do that. I'm
wondering, is there a way
to sleep through that? I don't know if I'm making myself
clear, but I often do it, and sometimes it's not by choice.
MK: Yeah. What we just have been discussing is a way to
do that, to imagine that you're in a dream.
Question: By bringing objects in, that sort of thing?
MK: Yeah, but also just to be in a dream during the day, to
to be lucid, to look for incongruities, to remind yourself
that when you see something that's incongruous,
you'll become lucid in your dream. These are ways to actually
become lucid. In the middle of the night when you
continue your dream, if you have that capacity to say.
Question: I know that it's real.
MK: But this is the way to.
Question: I can say that's the dream, I don't want to continue
I can wake up. Or I can say I like this dream, I know
it's a dream, but I'll continue it. Or, you know, wake up,
make the decision, go back into it all or not, as the case
may be. I just don't have full control over it.
MK: Right. Well, if you pick up the Dream Yoga book,
there's a whole
chapter or two on working with transforming your
dreams. There's exercises to do. Some of them, for example,
making what is large small, what's small large. Taking what is
in the north and putting it in the south.
Question: Yeah, I do that.
MK: There's other exercises, multiplying the different objects in
Question: It's taking control of it, you can kind of change it.
MK: Exactly, but don't forget what I said earlier, that these are
fun and games, and it's very nice, you know, to do these fun
and games. But really what we want to do is to be able to do
some sort of important spiritual practice in our dream. If we do a
moment or two of spiritual practice in a dream, it's like
the equivalent of doing a week or two weeks of spiritual
practice in a retreat situation. You really can have a
tremendous insight in a moment in a dream.
Question: I'm really not spiritual, though. I don't know
how to go
MK: Maybe what I'm calling spiritual is consistent with what
calling not spiritual.
Question: Yeah, might be.
MK: All right.
Question: I've become better at relaxing, and I get into a very
state of relaxation when I'm trying to go to sleep, but I
have this problem of wanting to consciously make the leap
into unconsciousness. I was just wondering if there's any way
of, any map for navigating from being relaxed, but not
asleep, into being asleep.
MK: You want to know how to remain relaxed, but not become
unconscious? Is that what you're asking?
Question: Just the opposite, actually. I was wondering if
way of kind of tricking my mind into going from being very
relaxed, but conscious, to being asleep, but still awake, to
put it another way.
MK: The two systems we've talked about tonight, dream yoga and
practice of natural light. The practice of natural light is
a system for maintaining presence and awareness
throughout, continuously, through all the different stages
of sleep and dreams. The dream yoga is more focused on
developing a state of lucidity out of the dream state.
So if you're talking about being relaxed, and then from that place of
relaxation, maintaining some sort of awareness and presence,
what you would like to do is to take transmission in
the Dzogchen system and then to become familiar with
that system, and then to develop that pure presence and
All right, one more question, and we'll call it a wrap, if there is one
more question. Yes?
Question: Sometimes I seem to wake up in the morning, and before
waking up, I feel like I'm dreaming and I'm still awake or I'm
asleep. I feel like I stay awake for hours, and I know I've
actually gone back to sleep, but I've dream that I've still
been awake. Is that lucidity?
MK: Yes, it's a degree of lucidity, but not full lucidity.
Don't forget, you are asleep, but your mind is active in that
particular time. You know what I said to this other gentleman, and that
when you're working with developing lucidity, it may feel like
you're sleeping more lightly, but in the long term, if
you were to develop this in a really powerful way, then being
revitalized or refreshed is not an issue.
Question: If you maintain that during the day, then you're
going to be falling asleep a lot easier at night anyway,
because you're making that transition a lot easier? Is
that the idea as well, if you sort of hold onto it during the
day, when you reach that point at night when you want to sort
of fall into unconsciousness and then get sort of reborn
into the rest of it, does it make that transition
MK: If you're a very advanced practitioner, very advanced
practitioner, then you really don't need much sleep at all, and your
dreams are really very minimal as well, perhaps.
That's what Norbu says anyway. I don't really have that
experience myself very often, but it's quite possible that
you can just rest in a state of meditative awareness and
All right, one more, and that's it.
Question: Do you find that becoming more lucid in your dreams
more lucid in the daytime? I think it would be very
MK: Right, of course.
Question: To know this is a dream.
MK: Yes, and you can imagine that if we know that something is a
dream, we're less attached. If we know it's illusion, then
we know it's, you know, it's not worth being so attached and
wrapped up with. So if you are Buddhists or students of Buddhism, you
know that the
Buddha talked about nonattachment as
being the path. And
so if we carry the realization that all phenomena are illusory and
dreams are illusion, then of course we have greater
nonattachment. Then our lives are smoother, because a lot of our
suffering comes from attachment.
All right. Well, it's been a pleasure to join you in your dream
tonight, and I wish you all good luck in having good dreams
tonight, and becoming lucid, and I look forward to hearing about
some of your experience in our workshop, or if you're able
to join me in one of the other lectures.
Hot Line: (212) 564-1024