By David Jones
I wrote a piece a while back about the benefits of dreams, especially the lessons and teachings they hold.
I dream most every night as far as I know, and I’d hate to lose that. Of course in the modern West, talking about dream meanings sometimes triggers that side-eye, that look you aim at anything you distrust or dislike. “Thinking your dreams have meaning is ridiculous. It’s the same bunk as astrology, magic, and anything to do with extended warranties.”
As a lucid dreamer, I find that it allows me to be in the present moment with my dreams. I’m present, attentive, watchful, aware. Yeah, I can control my dreams, but I’m also able to choose acceptance and abiding instead of control – something equally true in the waking world. If I strive to be present and teachable when I’m awake, why on earth would I think it’s suddenly unimportant when I’m asleep?
So it was with great relief that I read The Tibetan Yogas of Dream & Sleep, because it proved I wasn’t so alone in thinking this way.
The book was written by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche—with a wonderful forward by His Holiness the Dalai Lama—as an introduction to the Bön Tradition (an indigenous spiritual practice in Tibet not well known in the West) as well as instructions on how to engage and benefit from the practices of Dream Yoga and Sleep Yoga.
I’m excited by everything in this book, particularly the insights on dreaming.
The material is warm and clear, as human and accessible as any great teacher would provide. The words and thoughts flow like a friendly conversation. For readers not familiar with terms such as karma, chakra, Dzogchen, dakini, or bardo, a glossary in the back helps the reader understand them in relation to this book.
There are six parts:
The Nature of Dream not only looks at how our minds assemble our reality through experiences, but also considers such things as karmic traces, the Six Realms of Cyclic Existence, and how one’s energy can be channeled.
Kinds and Uses of Dreams gives a nice overview of the kinds of dreams we have and how we can use them. That might sound a bit daunting but Tenzin Wangyal makes the material real and inviting, and he wants it to be accessible: for example, chapter 7 describes the uses of dreams and takes only eight pages to do it.
This book is an awesome example on writing succinct yet tasty instruction.
The Practice of Dream Yoga is packed with practical wisdom, not only things to know but also things to do. Topics covered here are foundational to much Buddhist instruction and practice, such as overcoming grasping and aversion, identifying obstacles to the practice, and the steps involved in the practice itself. He gives advice on preparing for your night, as well as how to grow your practice over time. There’s even guidance on simple practice for folks who might not want to stress themselves out about it each night. Brilliant stuff!
Sleep is a brief overview of sleep as considered in the book, and in case that sounds daunting I’d like to point out the three chapters together take only six pages.
The Practice of Sleep Yoga takes us beyond dreaming and considers the Yogic practice of the sleep act itself. This author is a master teacher on these subjects, and he not only lays out the steps involved but also encourages growth in the practice while offering guidance on obstacles such as frequently waking up through the night.
The final section, Elaborations, rounds out the book with some deeper (but never too deep) considerations of related matters. The additional commentary is like the extra scenes after a movie’s credits have rolled, and are well worth staying around for.
This book is a tantalizing look at a “new” facet of our practice.
And beyond that, I think it could help folks who struggle with falling asleep or whose nighttime never seems to result in rest. Preparing for sleep as a practice might be the sort of discipline that could change our relationship with sleep and how we approach it.
The author writes, “The greatest value of dreams is in the context of the spiritual journey.” I couldn’t agree more. Every moment we’re alive is full of opportunity for spiritual growth, even while we’re snoring the gutters off our house.
I encourage anyone to get this book if they’re even curious about the benefits of dreaming, finding a new way to approach sleep, or embarking on a new form of practice beyond sitting. In fact, I’d love to see folks who are wary of lucid dreaming give this book a try. Even if you don’t agree with what this master is saying,
I’ll bet there’s plenty here you’ll benefit from.
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Photo: Shambhala Publications
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