Leaning Into the Dream

In Buddhism, we are taught to view life as a kind of dream. The practice of dream yoga can help us do this through the process of lucidly recognizing dreams during sleep. We ‘wake up’ in the dream at night, and this translates into becoming more lucid in our non-sleeping hours. It is a challenging practice because our daytime life appears solid and substantial to our conditioned mind. We think everything is real.

To break the habit of seeing things as real, we must first see them as dreams. They are apparitions— ghostly cloaks of infinite possibilities. If we become lucid in our sleep time, we can change the dream into any one of those possibilities. But we still need to see the dream as a vaporous image of light. If we reify the dream in our mind, making it appear as though there something actually exists in dream form, we miss the point of the practice. Ultimately, we are to recognize the true luminous nature of the dreamer.

As one who enters dreams lucidly on a regular basis (and I do not think this is particularly special), I notice a tendency to regard activity inside the dream as actually occurring. Although I am able to change the form, it is still based on the premise something needs changing. There is an ‘I’ making choices. If we do not recognize the light from which the dream arises, we play with night dreams just like we play with daydreams.

To really see a dream as dreamlike, we need to reach out and touch it—to experience the ungraspable quality. So, I suggest leaning into a dream and see what happens. We may notice there is nothing to lean against and it liberates into a luminous display. In the daytime, we do the same thing by leaning into our perception of reality and notice it has no substance. We become flexible dreamers, dedicating every waking possibility to the benefit of all beings.

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