Saturday, November 24, 2012


image by Erin Langley

This morning, I woke up inside a dream, looked around, and decided the most brilliant thing I could do was shout to the quiet residential neighborhood around me, "WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS DREAM?" 

That is like going out into my own neighborhood while I'm awake and shouting, "WHAT IS THE MEANING OF LIFE?" The question, and especially the shouting of it, evidences my own deafness. What kind of answer was I expecting? The answer--the meaning of the dream, the meaning of life--is self-evident. Nothing happened. I laughed.

Lucid dreaming is cool because we can have direct contact with pure, unmasked (pre?)consciousness more easily than we can while we're awake. The pristine quality of emptiness or form or whatever you want to call it can remind us that all the masks we choose to don again in the morning are just there for fun, for ornament. They offer decorative distinctions that can be useful to us.

If I have the insight next time, I will ask for contact with the dream before it assumes its own masks, or mine: a residential neighborhood, a forest, a lair of striking snakes, encounters with angels or demons. I will ask, "What is behind the dream?" or "What is the clear light?" or "What is our true nature?"

In an interview between lucid dreamers Rebecca Turner and Robert Waggoner, Robert explains:

"The Buddhist yogi, Naropa, considered dream yoga (a system of inquiry that relies on lucid dreaming) one of the six paths to enlightenment. In Lucid Dreaming: Gateway to the Inner Self, I tell how after 20 years I sought to go 'beyond' lucid dreaming - beyond expectation and belief, beyond feeling and memory, to the source of lucid dreaming and its information. Without realizing it, I began to have experiences that sound very similar to what dream yoga leads to (non-dual experiences of clear light).
I had no framework to place those non-dual experiences, until I heard a talk three years later on dream yoga (so it was not something that I expected to happen as I went 'beyond' lucid dreaming). I felt like I had bushwhacked my way into something that another tradition had already built a path to - I just did it my way. Whether we take an Eastern path or a Western path to conceptualizing reality, lucid dreaming offers insights either way."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Dream Diagnosis

As a student of Chinese medicine, I see dream imagery as diagnostic. East Asian medical traditions, which include dreaming as one of many tools for diagnosis, have a lot to say about how the condition of the body's organs gives rise to specific dreams. Two classical compendia, The Yellow Emperor's Classic "Spiritual Pivot" (Huangdi Neijing Lingshu) and "Simple Questions" (Huangdi Neijing Suwen), arranged around 2000 years ago, offer a clear compilation of these symbols that emerge while we're sleeping. 

First, I will provide a quick primer on the organs and corresponding elements, then I will organize excerpts from the ancient texts on dreaming, and finally, I will offer examples of how to modernize the use of these symbols in clinical practice, self care, and in lucid dreams themselves.

The Five Elements

The relationships between the organs and the five elements are associative, rather than literal, unless we foster a sympathetic link between them. A Yoruba folkway repositions a breech baby by slowly rotating a watermelon in front of the mother's belly. The watermelon is not literally the baby, yet, there is an intimate kinship between the two. The Liver can have a similar intimacy with Wood. 

The same is true of all other elemental organ associations, including the Earth element and the Spleen/Stomach. However, the Earth element signifies much more than brown dirt; it is "that which is above, below, and around everything[...] It is auspiciousness and abundance itself." [1] Earth includes everything we know.

Water - Kidney/Bladder
Wood - Liver/Gallbladder
Fire - Heart/Small Intestines
Earth - Spleen/Stomach
Metal - Lung/Large Intestines

Ancient Texts:

The Spiritual Pivot (Lingshu) states:
If the Kidney Qi is in excess, there will be dreams that low back and spine are separating and cannot be joined back together.
凡 此 十 二盛 者 , 至 而 瀉 之 , 立 已 。[2]

When [there is deficiency] in the Kidney,  there will be dreams of overlooking an abyss; drowning inside the water.
客 於膀胱,則夢遊行;
The Simple Questions (Suwen) states:
When the Kidneys are weak, one dreams of swimming after a shipwreck.
If the dream takes place in the Winter [the native season of the Kidney], one dreams of plunging in the water and being scared. [3]

When [there is deficiency] in the Bladder, there will be dreams of swimming around.
客 於胃,則夢飲食;



If the Liver Qi is in excess, one will dream of rage.
肺 氣 盛 , 則 夢 恐 懼 、哭 泣 、飛 揚;

When [there is deficiency] in the Liver,there will be dreams of mountain forests with established trees.
客 於 脾 ,則 夢 見 丘 陵 大 澤 , 壞 屋 風 雨;

When the Liver is in excess, one dreams of being angry. When the Liver is deficient, one dreams of very fragrant mushrooms; if the dream takes place in Spring [the native season of the Liver], one dreams of lying under a tree without being able to get up.


When [there is deficiency] in the Gall Bladder, then there will be dreams of fighting and arguing that wound the dreamer.
客 於陰器,則夢接內;

When the Gallbladder is deficient, one dreams of fights, trials, and suicide.



If the Heart Qi is in excess, one will have dreams of excessive laughter causing terror and dread.
脾 氣 盛 , 則 夢 歌、 身 體 重 不 舉;

When [there is deficiency] in the Heart, there will be dreams where one sees hills and mountains with smokey fire.
客 於 肺 , 則 夢 飛揚 , 見 金 鐵 之 奇 物;

When the Heart is weak, one dreams of fires; if the dream takes place in the Summertime [the native season of the Heart], one dreams of volcanic eruptions.

Small Intestine

When [there is deficiency] in the Small Intestine, then there will be dreams of crowded cities with busy streets.
客 於 膽 ,則 夢 鬥 訟 自 刳;


If the Spleen Qi is in excess, there will be dreams with songs, and the body feels so heavy it cannot rise.
腎 氣盛,則夢腰脊兩解不屬。

When [there is deficiency] in the Spleen, there will be dreams where one sees grave mounds covered with swamp as well as an earthen room (tomb) with wind and rain. 
客 於 腎 , 則 夢 臨 淵 , 沒 居水 中;

If the Spleen is deficient, one dreams of being hungry; if the dream takes place in late Summer [the native season of the Spleen], one dreams of building a house.


When [there is deficiency] in the Stomach, there will be dreams of eating and drinking.
客 於大 腸 , 則 夢 田 野 ;

When one has eaten to extreme repletion, then one dreams of giving. [4]



If the Lung Qi is in excess, one will have dreams of terror, weeping and ascending upward. 
心 氣盛,則夢善笑恐畏;

When [there is deficiency] in the Lung, there will be dreams of flying upward where one sees marvelous things made of gold and iron.
客 於肝,則夢山林樹木;

When the Lungs are in excess, one dreams of weeping. If the Lungs are deficient, one will dream of white objects or about bloody killings; if the dream takes place in the Autumn [the native season of the Lung], one will dream of battles and war.

Large Intestine

When [there is deficiency] in the Large Intestine, then there will be dreams of fields gone uncultivated.
客 於小腸,則夢聚邑沖衢;


How do we recontextualize classical Chinese dream diagnosis for modern people? It helps to understand that these passages are not theory; they are based on observation. So, we can start by observing our own dreams and the dreams of the people around us. 

I have found, for example, that helicopters can be a modern symbol for the Metal element and Lung organ. If the helicopter is on fire, this could signify Lung heat. If it is generating a lot of visceral wind within the dream, this can indicate an impending wind invasion (common cold). If we treat ourselves and others based on these diagnostic images, we are not treating pre-emptively--we are treating traditionally, with greater sensitivity and awareness. 

Here is an example of how we can apply the wisdom of Chinese classical dream literature in our dreams themselves. In a lucid dream:

I find myself moving quickly through a forest. As soon as I realize I'm dreaming, I look around to see the state of the trees. I notice that they are mostly green and healthy, with some dryness and brown foliage as well. "Good," I think, with my eye toward diagnosis. 

Up ahead, I see a tree that is bigger than the rest. It is brown and dying, with brown palmettos around its base. I wonder if all this is an expression of my Liver [The Lingshu states, "When [there is deficiency] in the Liver, there will be dreams of mountain forests with established trees".] I close my eyes, call upon my inner energy, and send a resounding pulse of health toward the tree. When I open my eyes, the tree is no longer there, and the palmettos are green.

This is an example of Wood's potential intimacy with the Liver. When we create a sympathetic link between them, we can expedite healing from our dreams. I love the reflective quality of our bodies and the Earth body--how even in waking life, by minding our relationship with trees, we can help the Earth's body and our own body at the same time. 

Of course, dream images need symptomatic corroboration. In other words, I wouldn't diagnose a person with Liver deficiency if she did not also experience some of its wake-world counterparts: blurry vision, floaters, dizziness, dry skin. It's just as important to let the diagnosis go as it is to correctly name and treat its temporary manifestation. Getting caught up with having a "deficient Liver" isn't helpful. Nothing is really deficient; everything is complete.

As we deepen our understanding of holistic medicine and physiology, so too will new revelations surface from the fluid symbology of diagnostic dreaming. We can continue to playfully explore the healing possibilities that arise within the landscapes of our dreams and our waking lives.

[1] Ming, Liu. The Butterfly Book: A Workbook for the Practice of Shamanic and Path Dreaming and the Dao of the Night. Da Yuan Circle, 2007.

[2] Many thanks to Becky Groebner of for permission to share her translation of the Hungdi Neijing Lingshu. All excerpts from this book (Unprincipled Xie Giving Rise to Dreams: Chapter 43) are hers. The brackets and use of the word "deficiency" are mine. I chose this word to simplify her translation, "Jue Qi" to make the text more readable.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all excerpts from the Suwen come from Joyce Marley's"What Do Dreams Mean According to Chinese Medicine?" 2010.

[4] Unschuld, Paul and Tessenow, Hermann. Huang Di neijing suwen: an Annotated Translation of Huang Di's Inner Classic -- Basic Questions. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA 2011.

Illustrations by Erin Langley

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Poll for Lucid Dreamers

When you find yourself in a lucid dream, do you remember where your sleeping body is?

image from

No matter how lucid and present I feel in a dream, I can rarely remember just where I left my meat-suit slumbering. Sometimes I don't even know which era I am living in, or whether I am "alive" or "dead." In last night's lucid dream, I tried again to assess the whereabouts of my bed, and quickly gave up in favor exploring my surroundings.

I enjoy the perspective this particular mystery brings. I am sure there is a "scientific" explanation for the areas of our brain that we are and are not able to access during the lucid dream state. But the way I think about it is: What better way to widen our sphere of self beyond a specific set of spacetime circumstances? Repeating this experiment never ceases to delight me.

In the words of William Blake, “If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro' narrow chinks of his cavern.” We dream even as we walk waking through the daylight. Lucid dreaming is sunlight ripping through the cavern. It alights a stable entrance in its illuminating way.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

On Dreaming, Healing, and Indigeny: Part Two

by Larry Chandler

A continuation of the interview between dream educator Ryan Hurd and host of Lucid Dreaming for the Earth, Erin Langley:

3b. You say the earth does not need saving so much as listening. can you explain what you mean and how lucidity is part of your view?

I recently had the honor of seeing an Ivory-billed woodpecker in my parents' backyard in Florida. This bird is thought by many to be extinct. Ivory-billeds share many physical characteristics with Pileated woodpeckers, but this was no Pileated. I happened to be with dear friend who knows birds very well, including an intimate familiarity with Pileated woodpeckers. At the time, I did not know what kind of bird I was seeing, but I have an excellent memory, and I know what I saw. Its large, white bill and distinct white-black-white underwing design stood out unmistakably. It flew right over our heads in a straight, narrow clearing and landed in a nearby yellow pine. 

I could barely sleep that night because I was trying to figure out how to document this beautiful, black-crested female. I brought my camera to the same place the next day, in case it came back. I talked with my friend about the importance this sighting could have for the ecology of Middleburg. In my early 20s, I left Middleburg because the deforestation and culture that lends itself to such practices broke my heart. I wanted to return when I could do something to help. Excitedly, I told my friend, "We've got to tell someone! We have to tell Cornell, we have to let birders know, we have to halt deforestation!" 

by Oleg Oprisco
Then it hit me that my emotional agenda was superseding a natural order. Yes, this was important, and yes, we would tell people. But, the best way I could "help out" in that moment was to slow down, take a deep breath, and appreciate the magic. I question whether anything truly needs helping in an I'm-your-savior kind of way. Actions inspired by deep presence ripple out and invoke the natural renewal of the world at large. (That is not to diminish the power or necessity of firm, unyielding actions to exact justice for land and people.)

The woodpecker arose in a confluence of wonder. We'd gone outside to be with the land because my friend and I were feeling the presence of the native Creek people so strongly. We did not go out there with our cameras to document an Ivory-billed woodpecker. We did not go out to save the world. If we'd done that, the bird wouldn't have come. The Ivory-billed woodpecker came because we were listening, and responding naturally. This is a good way to "save the world," and it requires lucidity. Maybe it also requires privilege, to live within circumstances open enough to enable the luxury of listening.

artist unknown

4. How do you honor your lucid dreaming in waking life? Do you have any practical advice or tips for others who want to open to the world of ancestral/world-honoring lucid dreaming?

The first, most practical way I honor my dreams of any kind is to write them down every morning (and often during the night). I actually just switched to recording them into my phone. Then, I type them up so I can search for themes by keyword more easily. Often, I dream of foods and herbs that are beneficial for me, so I make an effort to eat the foods that show up in a positive context. This reinforces a positive feedback loop. With a simple gesture to anchor the dream in the waking world, I am also letting my dreams recalibrate me toward health. (I can do this with anything that comes to me in a dream. If I want to acknowledge a Raven, for example, I can make it my desktop background.)

One easy way I honor my dreams is to simply say, "thank you for the dreams." I also consult a reference of dream symbols called the Butterfly Book, compiled by a trusted teacher, Liu Ming, for symbols that I want to learn more about. Then, at night before I go to bed, I recall my dreams from the previous night. All this may seem like a lot of work, but it gives me continuity between realms of consciousness. By spending time with my dreams, I can recognize when dream elements show up in waking life, which happens all the time for nearly everyone who pays attention.

by Iris Schwartz
To honor my lucid dreams, I keep a blog with entries that build upon each other to create a narrative of learning. Blogging is a simple way I share. I assume there are people out there who find (or will find) this stuff useful, because I sure would have. The elders I've worked with have taught me to trust my instinct regarding what to share and when to share it. Lastly, I honor my lucid dreams with sincerity. I just really enjoy learning from them, and I have great respect for the dream world, which is really no different from the waking world.

For people who want to open to the world of ancestral/world-honoring lucid dreaming, I would suggest embarking on the highly personal process of decolonization. A simple prayer to your ancestors, even if you are adopted, even if you don't know who they are, yields potent results. You can make an offering of fruit, spirits, honey, food, or herbs along with the prayer. (Yes, you can do this as a Christian, too. Simply state the prayer in the name of Jesus. Christianity is an integral part to many of our heritages in the Western world.) Then, be prepared to listen in dreams and in waking life. It does not matter if your heritage seems overwhelmingly diverse, as mine did to me. Our lineages will speak to us in a way that we can manage if we request this clearly. 

by leslie m k

Also, for those of European heritage, we can examine the notion of "whiteness" and remember that we descend from a myriad of diverse tribes and cultural lands. We can look for our traditions, and notice how they are already a part of us--surnames, linguistic remnants, taste in food or clothing, attraction to particular symbols, stories, or lands, etc. We can recognize and be proud of who we are. In this way, we also honor our ancestors and the world. Ancestral remembrance can cause big changes in our lives, including a lot of emotional and situational upheaval, so having a support system (a solid community or a counselor) is imperative. It is best to work in a circle of people with the same intention of remembrance. The circle holds, amplifies, and informs everyone's process.

Lastly, if lucidity isn't happening for us while we're asleep, then let's start doing it while we're awake. Letting things come in their own time still allows for limitless proactive creativity and volition. It's just that if we're relaxed and patient, everything will go more smoothly, and we won't be overextended. These behaviors, while rarely modeled in our society, hold enormous benefit for the world. They also happen to lay a foundation for lucid dreams to occur organically.

    Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

5. Can you share one of your lucid dreams that illustrates your process?

Yes, I have a lucid dream that combines many of the elements I've been talking about. In this particular dream, I did not attempt to modify the scene in any way. I simply engaged with the dream figure and circumstances presented to me as I would have in waking life:

I visit the home of a traditional doctor of Germanic descent. He welcomes me into his kitchen as he chops a variety of medicinal roots and herbs. The sights and scents enchant me. His kitchen contains the herbal wonders of his land. He tells me he'd been expecting me, and has me lie down on his table right away. I reveal my reluctance to take up his time, since I am not showing any signs of serious illness. He gives me a look as though I should know better.

His admonishing glance helps 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've always known this in theory, but his authority drives it home. This man is an artist at maintaining balance. I see that being a doctor means cultivating health continuously, not just restoring it. He diagnoses me by examining the skin of my abdomen, and looking for any protrusions, indentations, or temperature changes. I feel very happy to be in the curative presence of a doctor from an ancestral land, whose methodologies feel so folkishly familiar.

artist unknown

As a student of acupuncture and herbalism, I often look to dream imagery to help diagnose and treat physical illness. The old Daoist doctors used their patients' dream content as well as their own to inform diagnosis, as did the Greeks and Tibetans. I imagine that many people around the world used dreaming diagnostically, since this seems to be a technology that human beings share. In this dream, however, I did not need to interpret any diagnostic imagery. The doctor simply told me, "you're exhausted."

He also showed me how to have a healing presence by keeping a common-sense eye on balance. I felt better just by standing near him, and woke up wanting to emulate that. I honored the dream by heeding his advice ("rest"), sharing the dream, and integrating the lessons of the dream to become a more balanced practitioner and human being.

This dream also contains information about how my ancestors may have practiced medicine. So, it exemplifies how we can dream back our fokways. Information comes in bits and pieces. When a group of people shares dreams together over time, we gather a mosaic of traditional imagery that many people consider "lost." Dreaming on places of power is very important because the land can directly transmit our cultural memories back to us through our dreams. We can pair our dream data with existing historical evidence to help bring back our native traditions in a new way. 

vintage photograph

6. What’s next for you in regards to lucid dreaming as a way of knowing? Where’s your focus now?

In addition to my love of regenerating our bodies and the Earth body, I am also interested in exploring states of egolessness and fearlessness in lucid dreams. Recently I had a lucid dream in which I asked to meet a guide. What I found was that my sense of self expanded in an exhilarating sort of love. Maybe now I am starting to experience how we really do live in a non-dual world, where no illusion of "other" is required. I like to practice sitting (nonconceptual) meditation in lucid dreams, too. I would like to continue with that. 

Lately I have also been exploring how humor, innocence, and vulnerability see me through the unknown worlds of lucid dreaming (and waking, too). This can be challenging for me, as I never know what I'll encounter, and I can default to terror quite easily. The tendency to run away or change the scene can be strong, so I would like to continue working on observing and facing what is in front of me without a desire to run away or change it. In the longterm, my intention is to embody a stable understanding of reality in which I cultivate no preferences. Of course, that is the work of a very long (series of) lifetime(s). There is a natural confidence that arises from an undefended inclusion of all life, and I would like to put this to the test, for all of us. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On Dreaming, Healing, and Indigeny: Part One

The Four Colors Dreaming the Earth by Erin Langley

Lucid Dreaming for the Earth began as a project in which lucid dreamers collectively donate our lucid dreams for bioremediation. This can take many forms--healing the Earth body and healing our human bodies, which are reflections of each other. After much experimentation, I have come to broaden my perspective of what Lucid Dreaming for the Earth means.

I would like to offer a conversation between me and dream educator Ryan Hurd as a way to illustrate an evolving understanding of health, wholeness, and lucidity.

1. Erin, tell me about when you started lucid dreaming, and the first impact these dreams had on your life.

As a teenager, I had many experiences we can call "lucid" or "dreaming," including visions, out of body experiences, sleep paralysis, precognitive dreams, lucid dreams, and clairvoyance. When I was 19, these phenomena really escalated. They filled me with terror and wonder, and sent me searching for people who could understand and support my way of being in the world. Because I didn't have a cultural context for visionary experiences, I felt very confused. I had difficulty because my dream life and my waking life seemed like two distinct, irreconcilable worlds. Plus, it seemed that no one around me could relate to my experiences. All the confusion--the megalomania, the masochism--comes from believe I'm separate from everything else, which is just not how life works.

Over the years, I have been blessed to meet many people who are practiced at navigating the lesser-acknowledged facets of reality. Many are elders, medicine people, or those who simply live in their hearts. For lots of human beings walking the earth today, "mystical" experiences are a normal and integrated part of life. In the words of Credo Mutwa, "Nothing is supernatural. Everything is natural."

by Kimi Pryor

2. Your background in indigenous ways of knowing helped frame these experiences. Can you speak a little about the process you went through that led you to see dreams as a pathway to ancestral knowledge and as a glimpse of our interconnection to all sentient beings?

Under the tutelage of Frank/Oneida elder, Dr. Apela Colorado, I got to remember that I am descended from a long line of native European and native American ancestors (and beyond). Strong people, beautiful people, gifted people. I always think I come from stars and stones. I identify strongly with the pre-Celtic Neolithic peoples, the de Dannan and the inhabitants of the Boyne River Valley. But when I introduce myself, I say something like, "On my mother's side, I am Celt and Ashkenazi Jew. On my father's side, I am Anglo-Saxon, Ashkenaz, Frank, Gaelig, Germanic, and Cherokee.

Recovering an animistic worldview (i.e., a world in which everything is alive) is very natural for me, and it has required a lot of work. So far, my process of decolonization has included treating dreams and waking life with equal respect and attention, identifying with a land and clan rather than a politic or nation, remembering my cultural stories as a framework for the world (in conjunction with the current Western scientific mythology), delving into my family's genealogy, immersing myself in the observation of nature, respecting and listening to the voices of my ancestors, learning Irish music and dance, celebrating ancestral holidays, using divination, creating ritual with other deeply-rooted tribal peoples, honoring elders, treating everything as alive and endowed with spirit, visiting my ancestral homelands, and recovering my family's tartan and ceremonial attire, and taking up the Bronze Age ceremonial horn, which I am looking to do now.

me with a dord at the Munster Fleadh Cheoil (festival) in Killarney, Ireland in July, 2014

When [the late] Tlakaelel, Mexica-Toltec wisdomkeeper, elder, and sundance chief came to town, I told him that my people lost our ceremonies, and asked how to recover them. Emanating pure love, Tlakaelel took my hand and explained, "You must must do a lot of research, keep looking with your heart. If you still do not find any ceremony, then you must create it. You must create it from your heart, with respect to the elders." So, I have been following his advice, mostly by reading my ancestors' sagas, folktales, and historical documents, familiarizing myself with our old languages, staying connected to the modern caretakers of my ancestors' stone monuments, looking to my dreams, and living in my heart.

me and Tlakaelel

I am learning that while we can recover some indigenous ways of knowing, we are now a global tribe, indigenous to the planet Earth. It is a new time, with new circumstances. We get to create something new. It is good to have strong roots as we do this. When we try to define the word "indigenous," it eludes us. Tlakaelel explained how the Toltecs and the Lakota were the same tribe, before one group migrated South. Does that mean that the Toltec are not an indigenous people? We are all a flow of land and sky. It is fun to study the migration patterns, the oral tradition of human beings, land-given art, science, and customs that inform a culture for a time. Do Europeans originate from the Siberian steppe? All of these terms, while they have value, eventually become arbitrary distinctions. But I still like to know the story.

Dreams have also played a vital role in ancestral knowledge for me. Not only have recently-deceased ancestors given me information about my family in dreams, but my indigenous ancestors heavily emphasized dreaming as a way of knowing. By respecting my dreams, I respect my ancestors. I respect life. One of the greatest gifts I have given myself is the longterm discipline of tracking my dreams, which has taught me so much about the personalized language of my dreaming. After years of studying my dreams against the corresponding events of waking life, I have learned that bird-people bring good tidings, grocery stores symbolize abundance, and rollerskating means freedom. That said, symbols aren't static. They can evolve in meaning over time, and they have many layers. 

artist unknown

Often personal symbols can also be cross-cultural symbols. For example, I noticed that when I dreamed of foxes, difficulties could soon arise in life. I thought perhaps this was my own personal harbinger of complication, but I learned from two experienced teachers from Asian traditions (one Daoist/Chan and one Tibetan) that foxes usually carry a "negative portent" in their traditions as well. For me, this is a poignant illustration of our interconnectedness, that dream symbols can come to us, and that we can interpret them.

Accurately dreaming someone else's life circumstances also shows us our interconnectivity. We dream of someone, and the content of the dream turns out to be true, whether literally or symbolically. We don't have to "do" anything about this; we can just hold what we see with respect. If the dreams feel invasive, we can work on improving our boundaries or create a small ritual to protect ourselves from the intruding energy. Sometimes I will have a dream that describes a person's illness to me, or how to treat it. I can use this information if an appropriate context arises, i.e., the person comes to me for advice, or I run into them out of the blue, etc. 

Dreams also show us we're connected because we all dream. Humans and animals (and who-knows-what-else) share in dreaming. Even more fundamentally, dreams show us the transient nature of reality. Have you ever tried to examine something closely in a lucid dream? Elements shift and change, and I can never quite pin anything down. This exaggerates a truth of waking life: things seem distinct at first, but on closer inspection, we see that all life is really made up of an endless flow of relationships. 

Lucid dreaming shows us how our thoughts and feelings can affect our environment. There really is no separation between us and our surroundings. If I am fearful or angry, my dream will reflect and magnify my own feelings back to me. If I project love, the scene changes in kind. This holds true in waking life as well. I do not mean that joyful dreams are good and scary dreams are bad. Dreaming makes sure that we experience the host of human emotions, especially those that we prefer not to feel while we are awake. Our emotions connect us as human beings. We are all in the same boat, working with similar materials and limitations.

by Diane Sudyka

3. In your blog "Lucid Dreaming for the Earth," you have documented your process of engaging lucid dreaming as a way to dream for the earth. How has your view changed as you went deeper into this journey?

As I have gone deeper into the journey, I have learned that lucid dreaming is not necessarily a hallmark of spiritual evolution. Somtimes it can even indicate imbalance. Having a baby provided me with consistent access to lucid dreaming for about two years, simply because I was too exhausted to sleep deeply. Often, my body didn't have enough energy to fall asleep. And if I did happen to fall asleep, I was still awake, i.e., lucid. Since I was spending so much time lucid, I figured, why not experiment with ways of healing? I wanted to recall this sacred art of my ancestors, who exacted physical curing powers from the dream world. This well-documented "shamanic" phenomena happens all over the world.

I decided to start using my lucid dreams to restore the environment because I felt so sad seeing our disregard for the Earth. I wanted to make use of the tremendous power and flexibility we find in lucid dreaming to "heal" people and the world. I had fun experimenting with ways of doing this, and learned a lot in the process. While I see that we have great potential to heal within lucid dreams, now I also recognize that the impulse to fix things isn't always appropriate. Sometimes an over-eager desire to heal can undermine innate perfection or correct timing. Not only that, but when my enthusiasm is out of balance, I'm only dissipating my own reserves. Expending a lot of effort in the dreamworld isn't actually very helpful if I am exhausted in the waking world.

artist unknown

Something else I've learned along the way is the importance of continuity. I am learning that the ways I can help most are often unseen. Continuous presence is farther reaching than alternating bouts of output and recovery. Plus, stable presence encourages naturally-arising opportunities for healing, rather than contrived or forced ones. If I listen for how to create balance, then my responses to life will be helpful for all beings. In making decisions with all of us in mind, I might have to do something that is personally difficult, requires a lot of effort, or upsets an existing order. As long as I'm letting life cue and contextualize these movements, they'll be appropriate. Most of the time, my actions can be relaxed and invisible. Of course, I don't always succeed (far from it), and that has its place, too. I question "success" and "failure" in general.

Finally, I have learned to check my motives for what I share. If I am sharing something just so I can show off, it's not really serving the community. Right now, I am being more conservative and private with my dreams, which doesn't exactly help my blog thrive, but I'm willing to live with that.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

To Be a Bear, To Be a Woman

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Before an earthquake, bears get anxious and start acting strangely. People may point to the bear, and say, "There is something wrong with this bear," because they do not feel the earthquake coming. But maybe an old woman takes notice. She knows the bears, and the land, and she watches with understanding. Everything is in its place. She knows what it is like to be a bear; women, too, are built to receive.

My body portends thresholds, the future sending out shock waves, each with an undertow that carries me into an unknown ocean. I am enjoying the imminence, out past preferences. No stories are needed where the strong, subtle heart connection fastens me to my family. The blood in their veins magnetizes mine, as two rivers merge underground. The connection cannot be seen, but we are the same life-giving stream.

Every day, I examine the faces of those around me, studying how geography still shows itself in the shape of an eye, the curve of a jaw, an aquiline nose. When I look into my dad's face, I see myself. This means a lot to me, clannish as I am. 

Once when I was a kid, I made a sign for my dad to hang on his office door. It read, "Don't Mess with Mike," beneath a picture of a bear, mid-roar. My dad can be a bear--powerful, greatly respected, slightly unpredictable, very fond of fish, and king of the forest. His roar can incite terror in the bravest of creatures, but he is also gentle and known for hibernation.

In a lucid dream, I find myself walking down the path of an Eastern European forest. The deep roar of a large creature cuts through the fir-needled hush. I do not see the animal, but I know instinctively it's a brown bear. Even though I understand I'm dreaming, millennia of human experience supersedes cognition, and demands that I move away.

I travel to a nearby cottage, empty except for old family pictures hanging on the staircase wall. Even the eerie photographs frighten me.

At this point in the dream, I recall a question I answered recently, "Where is my focus in lucid dreaming now?" I remember my response: egolessness and fearlessness. So much for that, I think, laughing at my (non)self.

Funny that a "weakened" self should lead to frightened fatigue, rather than liberation from a false notion of who we are(n't). Our interrelatedness also seems to cyclically elicit a host of emotions, simply because we are sharing in the range of human experience through time. We do not need to take it personally. So, I am running from the bear, I am afraid of the creepy photographs, and it is okay.

I decide, with an awareness of irony, that since fearlessness is not happening, I'll shoot for egolessness. Still in the lucid dream, I find a place to assume a sitting posture and begin non-conceptual meditation. The forest and cottage have disappeared, and now I am in darkness. The dream remains stable until I am ready to return to my body.

Right now I feel like a bear before an earthquake. In waking life, I am as down and out as the dream reveals. I keep forgetting and then remembering and then forgetting to be a bear, to be a woman: present, open to receive, and ready to respond. I am scared of how I will find my dad when I visit him this month. I am scared to face the bear, and I am scared of "earthquakes."

But fear takes a lot of effort to maintain.

Post Script (9/18/12): My dad is cancer-free. Healthy, vibrant, full of life.