Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dream Doctoring and Lucid Dreaming as Imbalance

Lucid dreaming is not necessarily an exalted state to be coveted as a badge of spiritual evolution. Sometimes it can even be a pathology. For a period of about two years, I had consistent access to waking consciousness in the dream realm. However, this was partly due to a state of sheer exhaustion and inability to rest during the sleep state.

Since I was there, I did some experiments to help me remember how to use dreaming as a means of doctoring. By dream doctoring, I mean healing oneself or others from within the dream realm, as well as using information that dreams give us to help diagnose and treat imbalances. I have a lot of confidence in the process of remembering this innate human technology. I am also very grateful to my ancestors and teachers, who humbly and patiently offer their experiences as time savers for ensuing generations.

Next weekend, I am taking the opportunity to study with a Tibetan doctor who uses dreaming as an integral part of his practice. Dr. Nida Chenagtsang already knows the ropes of dream diagnosis and dreaming as a means of self-healing. I am really looking forward to his systematized approach. (The Tibetan people are so good at this; they look deeply into the nature of Reality, and they organize it for all of us!)

Lately I have come to realize that doctoring is a highly personal vocation. Of course, we draw upon our land and lineage strongly, by virtue of the gift of the human body that our ancestors have given us. But because my people's highly diverse, land-based systems of healing are considered "lost" to us in the waking world, my memory of them is transposed upon another culture's medicine. In my case, I owe a great debt to Chinese Medicine. It provides the infinite breadth and depth of any long-term, nature-based modality.

I do not mean to advocate cultural appropriation. On the contrary, my efforts seem to please my ancestors. They know that I am doing my best with the tools I have, and that there is a lot of freedom for personal and ancestral expression therein. It is as though I have a very strong memory of playing the lute, but only a sitar is available to me. By playing the sitar, I can go through similar motions to appease my muscle memory. I will still have some aptitude, and it will still sound beautiful, even though it is a different instrument.

This is what it is like to be a woman of indigenous European descent, living an ocean and an era away from my people's ancient stories and stones. But our tribal ways live on; we simply look for new avenues to satisfy the old ways. It is also important to bear in mind that our benevolent ancestors simply want our freedom. Remembering does not have to be a struggle. I do not feel "beholden" to my people. I'm on this path because it is fun and because it is my destiny.

We can also dream back our tribal ceremonies and healing traditions. Two days ago, I had a powerful dream of visiting a traditional doctor of Germanic descent. He welcomed me into his kitchen as he chopped a variety of medicinal roots and herbs. He told me he'd been expecting me, and had me lie down on his table. I told him I felt reluctant to take up his time, since I was not exhibiting any symptoms of serious illness. He gave me a look as though I should know better.

That helped me understand that being a doctor is not about merely treating illness once it has manifested in a way that can no longer be ignored. I'd always known this in theory, but his authority really drove it home. This man was an artist at maintaining balance. For me, this is what it means to be a doctor. He diagnosed me by examining the skin of my abdomen, and looking for any protrusions, indentations, or temperature changes. His insight and humor astonished me, and he offered his main prognosis through a very clever metaphor, which I am still pondering. I saw how his practice drew upon his culture and bioregion, and how his own highly-refined personal style made him so effective. Indeed, his presence alone was a curative.

Among his diagnoses were "exhaustion." Hearing this helped me understand how important it is to continue to rest, eat well, and slow down, despite the fact that very few people I know model this. (In my experience, people can perceive a natural pace as lazy or self-indulgent.) This everyday maintenance of good health has contributed to a welcomed decrease in lucid dreaming. Now when lucid dreams arise, I don't pay as much attention to them. It is a time of recuperation. And anyway, I won't be much use as a doctor unless I'm healthy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thank God Emptiness is Cool

image from

I want to share some of the stuff I've been learning as a human, being. First, a lucid dream:

I'm walking through a Tibetan Buddhist monastery full of robed monks and nuns. As I reach the innermost room, I remember that I'm dreaming. Without thinking, I ask to experience our true nature. The answer blooms through me as soon as the question arises. A calm, full warmth renders me boundless. When the surge of Reality gradually releases me back into the dream, I am thinking, ironically, "Thank God." Thank God emptiness is cool.

Fundamentally, nothing possesses an enduring identity, hence the Buddhist term "emptiness" [of phenomena]. But you don't have to be Buddhist to know this, and in fact, you can't even call yourself a Buddhist if you do know it, since Buddhism is a label, a stagnation, an irony. Emptiness, if you want to call it that, is what it is, and any being who looks at the nature of Reality finds it. A group of Hassids took me to their temple in a dream and showed me their highest teaching: "Prayer and crime are equal." Regular Joes are walking around all over the place who know this. They also happen to be Buddhas.

Take a piece of bread and put it on your kitchen counter. What is it? Is it something you bought at the store? Is it the ingredients? Is it the machines that ground the grain? The people who work at the factory? Is it the sunshine or the earth or the rain that helped the wheat to grow? Is it the Moon that keeps the Earth stable in its rotation and orbit? Now watch the bread. Where does it go? It becomes stale, then moldy, then eventually dust. Where did it come from? Where did it go? Try to pin down any old thing. Try to pin down your self.

In waking life, my ego (or whatever you want to call it) feels threatened by the notion of no abiding self and no creator. I am learning not to pay too much attention to the language that Buddhists chose to translate their experiences into when they brought their wisdom to the West. Its cold edge throws me off: "emptiness", "impermanence", "transience", "suffering."

General Systems Theory (as a means to understand that nothing discrete exists) is baffling in a different way. It offers "fliessgleichgewicht" (LOL), "feedback loops" and "holonarchies." Any term that tries to touch on the implications of interdependence is bound to distance us from the dynamic warmth it describes. (The French have nihilism, but it is dissipative rather than warming.)

The bottom line is that words don't cut it. Cognition has its treasured place, but the groundlessness of Reality is not cognitive. If our poor brains try to go there, they find themselves at the edge of a sheer cliff, and then they find themselves falling off of it for all eternity.

The arts and meditation can go there, though. Sustained dynamic curiosity--and dare I say the discipline to meditate--creates an open space for Reality to present itself to us in a felt way. This stabilizes an awareness of what life is, and helps us keep a less-preferential perspective when we bumble into bliss or trod into a shitstorm. In short, it keeps us laid back no matter our conditions.

The world is continually illuminating our tired crap as well as our Buddha nature with abject equanimity. Sometimes in one fell swoop. And I have to say, I am pretty grateful for the contrast between the ego and the actual. Awareness of our Buddha nature arises with a glow. It simply does. I guess that's why he's always smiling. (But just a little.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

No Dream

I just returned from a lucid dream in which a bunch of very large snakes are striking all around me. I note the situation and decide to switch locale by walking through a wall. Then a man, who is also a bear, says, "This is not just for you. We are all connected." I smile, remember, and say, "Thank you."

I return to the room of snakes, and sit down for some non-conceptual meditation. Why not here? As soon as I begin the practice, I enter a state of no-dream, both conscious and unconscious. The scene dissolves, and I am simply sleeping.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I See Dead People

image by David Haworth

I just returned from hanging out with a bunch of "dead people." Lots of folks, all of similar age (around 30), mingle in a cafe. I ask around to determine the state of the spirits around me, and there's a general consensus that everybody's dead.

I see one girl, to whom I feel an immediate connection, and ask her, "Does this mean I'm dead, too?" The question is more out of curiosity than concern. She says, "Either that, or I'm in the dream world." We smile at this realization, and conclude that this is probably the case.

The people gather together to see off a friend, who is about to be born on Earth again. We gather and look into the dark forest, where there is an orange sun-like object, concealed by the trees. I ask what it is, and someone replies, "I think it is our ancestors here to bless us."

My new friend and I are standing together in the center of the room now. I wish her the best possible circumstances for her next birth. The statement moves us both. She hugs me, and tells me her name. I tell her mine, and we both continue on our respective journeys. (I wake up.)

I'm learning more and more than any sincere, natural act of kindness is lucid dreaming for the Earth. Whether or not we're dreaming makes no difference.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lucid Dreaming for All Sentient Beings

John Lund/Bend images

While visiting family in Florida for Christmas, I had lucid dreams almost every morning of my ten-day stay. They happened with the sunrise; I felt the clear yang rise with my consciousness as I dreamed.

I had some very mystical experiences in lucid dreaming and in waking on my trip to my childhood home. It's easy to become enchanted or distracted by such experiences. I understand them as naturally arising magic, both normal and miraculous in the way that everything is.

In these lucid dreams, I got to the very heart of the matter. I became a prayer for the healing of all sentient beings. As the words arose from my heart, I became them.

In one potent dream, I was pure energy, shot out from a large, government satellite dish. As I traveled over the Earth, praying for suffering to be lifted from all sentient beings, light came from my hands and body, and covered the parts of the Earth as I passed over them.

I learned two very cool things from this dream. First, I saw that unseen beings make use of all physical objects constructed on Earth. Of course spirits use the feng shui of everything from satellites to drain pipes. But, I'd never had such an imminent experience of this.

Secondly, I learned that praying for the healing of all sentient beings pretty much covers it. I'm covered, you're covered, the natural world is covered, everybody's covered. Each time I've made the prayer, I have become its grace. It's so beautifully simple, and we can do it any time.