Geo Bell 12/11/2015
Lucid Dreaming in Tibetan Buddhism
For over 1000 years, conscious dreaming has been practised in the context of Dream Yoga by Tibetan Buddhists. The ultimate aim of Dream Yoga is to dissolve the illusory nature of both the dream state and waking life. Tibetan Buddhism teaches that, by gaining consciousness within dreams one may become aware of the 'true nature of reality'. With this realisation comes the ability to free ourselves from the shackles of attachments, emotions and the ego. Tibetan Buddhists believe that only with this realisation can one obtain enlightenment.
Traditionally, Dream Yoga enlists a number of meditation practices for both waking life and during dreams. Dream Yoga is a prime example of how there is much more to the phenomena of lucid dreaming than simply controlling ones dreams.
Meditation in Western Societies
As modern lucid dreaming methodology, driven by scientific and psychological research have largely displaced spiritual and metaphysical approaches to the phenomena; lucid dreaming has slowly gained the recognition and interest it deserves in both the realm of science, and from the general public.
However, the practices of mindfulness and meditation have been adopted and modernised to bring their benefits to Western society. Indeed, over the years, lucid dreaming experts and researchers have paid tribute to the insights and lessons learned from Tibetan Buddhists.
Mindfulness and meditation are both valuable tools for oneironauts. Those seeking to enjoy frequent lucid dreams can benefit greatly from incorporating a little meditation practice into their daily routines.
Meditation compliments modern lucid dreaming practices in a number of ways
Meditation increases awareness.
Increased awareness in waking life translates to increased awareness in dreams. The awareness that one is dreaming marks the definition of lucid dreaming itself. Any effort to increase general levels of awareness can only positively affect the ability to become lucid. Unsurprisingly, lucid dreamers who practice meditation enjoy an increased frequency of lucid dreams.
The ability to maintain awareness allows the dreamer to stay lucid whilst engaging with the dream, instead of slipping back into a non-lucid dream. Dream control is also positively affected, as an unquestionable understanding the nature of the dream state grants the dreamer total control over its elements – something which is noted in the teachings of Dream Yoga.
In addition to boosting awareness, meditation also increases your dream recall. A number of scientific studies demonstrate that meditation has positive effects on memory and cognition. It is reasonable to assume that the impact on memory can aid in remembering dreams.
The benefits of meditating
There are a host of other scientifically validated benefits which come with daily meditation:
How to meditate
Neither meditation or mindfulness require the practitioner to subscribe to a certain belief or spirituality. Both can be practised by anybody.
Contrary to popular belief, meditation does not mean sitting cross-legged and thinking-yourself-into-a-trance. Rather, meditation is about focusing on the present moment and allowing the mind to settle.
Many different meditation practices exist, each with different methods and exercises. To get started with meditation, check out one of the recommended resources below:
1. Chen, K. W., Berger, C. C., Manheimer, E., Forde, D., Magidson, J., Dachman, L. and Lejuez, C. W. (2012), MEDITATIVE THERAPIES FOR REDUCING ANXIETY: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW AND META-ANALYSIS OF RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIALS. Depress. Anxiety, 29: 545–562. doi: 10.1002/da.21964
2. Arias, A., Steinberg, K., Banga, A., and Trestman, R. (2016), The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 12(8) pp. 817-832
3. Zeidan, F., Martucci, K. T., Kraft, R. A., Gordon, N. S., McHaffie, J. G., & Coghill, R. C. (2011). Brain Mechanisms Supporting Modulation of Pain by Mindfulness Meditation. The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 31(14) pp. 5540–5548
4. Weare, K. (2013) "Developing mindfulness with children and young people: a review of the evidence and policy context", Journal of Children's Services, 8(2) pp. 141 - 153
5. Davidson, R. J., and Lutz, A. (2008). Buddha’s Brain: Neuroplasticity and Meditation. IEEE Signal Processing Magazine, 25(1) pp. 176–174.
6. Zeidan, F. et al. (2010) Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training, Consciousness and Cognition, 19(2) pp. 597-605
7. Colzato Lorenza, S., Szapora, A., Hommel, B., (2012) MEDITATE TO CREATE: THE IMPACT OF FOCUSSED-ATTENTION AND OPEN-MONITORING TRAINING ON CONVERGENT AND DIVERGENT THINKING, Frontiers in Psychology
8. Hasenkamp, W., Barsalou Lawrence, W. (2012) Effects of meditation experience on functional connectivity of distributed brain networks, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience
9. Bhasin MK, E. (2016). Relaxation response induces temporal transcriptome changes in energy metabolism, insulin secretion and inflammatory pathways. - PubMed - NCBI
10. Pace, T. et al. (2009) Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress, Psychoneuroendocrinology
11. Schneider, R., Grim, C., Rainforth, M., Kotchen, T., Nidich, S., Gaylord-King, C., Salerno, J., Kotchen, J. and Alexander, C. (2012). Stress Reduction in the Secondary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: Randomized, Controlled Trial of Transcendental Meditation and Health Education in Blacks. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, 5(6) pp. 750-758.