The Potential for Spiritual Growth in the Dream State
“It is easier to develop your practices in a dream than in the daytime. In the daytime we are limited by our material body, but in a dream our function of mind and our consciousness of the senses are unhindered. We can have more clarity. Thus there are more possibilities. If a person applies a practice within a dream, the practice is nine times more effective than when it is applied during the waking hours.” - Namkai Norbu Rinpoche
Lucid Dreaming as Preparation for Death
Lucid dreaming can be used as a preparation for death. In the last year of her life, one woman reported having 160 lucid dreams, and said “These dreams teach me to die.”
In Tibetan Buddhism, dream yoga, which builds on lucid dreaming, came about as a way to prepare for death. When you realize there’s a disembodied dimension of reality, the dream state, that can be as real or even more real than our physical waking state, it shows us that experience can continue without having a physical body.
With lucid dreaming you can learn to dis-identify, let go of, or “die to” your physical body, and come to identify with a more subtle body that many spiritual traditions assert can transcend bodily death.
Karma and Lucid Dreaming
For those who relate to this sort of thing, you can also purify karma in a lucid dream, and prevent negative karma from coming to fruition in the waking state. Karma is just another word for habit. You can clean up bad habits in your dreams.
In the Buddhist view of mind, karma often starts to ripen in the subtle dream state before it manifests in the gross waking state. A sensitive relationship to your dreams can literally save your life, because you’re working with the blueprints of your experience before they become fully constructed in manifest reality.
Dreams and Premonitions
There are countless stories of people having dreams of premonition, where the dreams did indeed come true. My own experience supports this traditional claim. The basic principles of lucid dreaming can help you become more aware of these types of dreams, and use them to guide your life, or even save it.
Incubate Dreams for Yourself and Others
You can incubate lucid dreams to receive guidance. Dream incubation goes back thousands of years, to the ancient Egyptians and the Greeks. The literature is full of stories about people receiving messages and teachings in their dreams. This sort of thing is common in extended retreat, when the mind really opens up.
You can also incubate dreams for others, and become a “surrogate dreamer,” receiving advice for other people. This is a common practice in shamanic traditions, and is frequently employed in Tibetan Buddhism.
The spiritual benefits of lucid dreaming increase when it evolves into dream yoga. This involves engaging in a series of progressive meditations while you dream, each one more subtle and refined. Part of dream yoga involves transforming the contents of your dreams, which is really about working to transform your mind at deep levels.
Dream Yoga Practices
These and many other spiritual applications of lucid dreaming are explored within the context of dream yoga and sleep yoga, which we’ll explore in later courses.
The Difference Between Lucid Dreaming and Dream Yoga
In the audio clip below, which is from one of Andrew's weekend workshops on lucid dreaming, he shares a comment on the difference between lucid dreaming and dream yoga.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock Paul Fleet