Tibetan Yoga of Dreams and Sleep

14 Feb

Notes from a workshop with Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

Allen Cohen wrote this post after attending the Saturday portion of a Saturday–Sunday workshop at Tibet House on January 29. Thanks, Allen!
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

The session began with a short meditation. The beginning of the workshop had to do with changing “karmic traces.” At any moment we are producing karma. Every experience is saved and has an effect on us in a certain way. WHAT happens is less important than HOW we respond and save an experience internally, and if we work on it afterward.

When we suffer, our greatest problem is identification with “our pain.” E.g., a child is misbehaving; the parent thinks “the child should behave” and judges the child for not behaving, loses peace of mind and openness, expresses anger at the child…goes a little crazy, says things he didn’t want to say, feels a sense of hurt, spreads a message of fear and pressure to the child, who feels negativity coming from the parent and also is not getting what he is missing—love or attention. The suggestion given by Rinpoche throughout the workshop was to stop and go to a place where you can experience stillness, silence, and spaciousness. “Rather than say to yourself, ‘This is a serious problem,’ say: ‘This is a dream.’” People tend to identify with what they are familiar with (connecting with pain), rather than choosing a path of greater openness because of fear of the unknown. In fact, the inner space of stillness, silence, and expansiveness is an active, creative part of us from which we are connected to our deepest intellect. From here, everything is processed differently. From this space a response can emerge that will serve both parent and child.

Every moment we have the choice of whether to be in this deep, internal space. No human intelligence can make it; it is untouchable, it can’t be destroyed. According to Rinpoche, individuals may vary greatly in their capacities, but “each person can make the best of what they have in that quiet space; you already have it—you just need to become aware of it.”

Rinpoche listened and responded to some participants’ dreams with advice that we could all apply to our own dreams. One woman related going somewhere with a group of people to work on a project, never knowing what it was. Rinpoche said that a dream like this spoke about being at a loss, and suggested that we examine the consequences of feeling somewhat lost, look at how that would affect us. Whether it be fear, sense of loss, or insecurity, the consequences are limitations to our potential, our work, our relationships. In the ordinary scheme of things, an event in which we let pain affect us will be “saved.” It may affect our sleep, our dreams, and how we feel when we wake up. A simple story was told of a man who sees a big dog on the street. His first reaction is to think, “It’s a big scary dog,” and to feel afraid. This may be preparing a person for a nighttime experience—the message of fear could produce a future undesirable event in a dream. However, if we open ourselves to understand the message the dream gives us, we have an opportunity to see what is impacting our waking life. Active meditation (a session of which was done in the workshop) leads to the transformation of pain and fear through acknowledging those feelings, HOSTING (caring for) them, connecting to them—not having the smart ego elaborate or deny them. Hosting doesn’t mean that you love pain, it means you allow it. The result is like sunshine shining on ice+ it melts, with subsequent positive effects on one’s waking life and dream life.

Rinpoche suggested a ritual for putting ourselves in the right place to deal with pain, fear, or lack of confidence, whether in reaction to something in the environment or in transforming a dream: take three imaginary “pills.” Each one is related to a different area: a white one for stillness of the body (located in the head); a red one for silence, from senseless speech, i.e., internal, complaining, negative speech (located in the throat); and a blue one representing pure mind and spaciousness (located in the heart). Rinpoche repeatedly encouraged participants to access these areas.

Rinpoche asked that we see everything as a possible dream image, “dream” meaning something not permanent, subject to change, capable of being responded to and processed in a number of different ways. This is one of the keys to becoming lucid in the dream world (aware that we’re dreaming): reminding ourselves to constantly question and evaluate images and actions that we observe without just accepting them for what they appear to be.

I found Tibet House to be a very positive environment and the workshop to be useful in the way Rinpoche connected the waking state with the dream state, the illustrative anecdotes he shared, and the reinforcement and encouragement he gave us to use, in our daily lives, the methods he discussed. I hope to attend the secondday part of the workshop if it is offered in the future.

Allen Cohen

Allen Cohen

Allen Cohen, M.A. Psychology, has taken dream psychology courses at the Jung Institute, the Open Center, NYU and New School University.  In addition, he has edited a dream newsletter and taught creative dreaming workshops in New York and Pennsylvania.

Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep- Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche at Tibet House, Saturday, January 29, 10am-5pm.(The workshop consisted of a Saturday and a Sunday session. These are excerpts from my notes of the Saturday session.) 

The session began with a short meditation. The beginning of the workshop had to do with changing “karmic traces.”. At any moment we are producing karma. Every experience is saved and has an effect on us in a certain way. WHAT happens is less important than HOW we respond and save an experience internally, and if we work on it afterward.

When we suffer, our greatest problem is identification with “our pain.”. E.g., aA child is misbehaving;, the parent thinks “the child should behave” and judges the child for not behaving, loses peace of mind and openness, expresses anger at the child….goes a little crazy, says things he didn’t want to say, feels a sense of hurt, spreads a message of fear and pressure to the child, who feels negativity coming from the parent and also is not getting what he is missing—, love or attention. The suggestion given by Rinpoche throughout the workshop was to stop and go to a place where you can experience stillness, silence, and spaciousness. “Rather than say to yourself, ‘This is a serious problem,’, say: ‘This is a dream.’”. People tend to identify with what they are familiar with (connecting with pain), rather than choosing a path of greater openness because of fear of the unknown. In fact, the inner space of stillness, silence, and expansiveness is an active, creative part of us from which we are connected to our deepest intellect. From here, everything is processed differently. From this space a response can emerge that will serve both parent and child.

Every moment we have the choice of whether to be in this deep, internal space. No human intelligence can make it;, it is untouchable, it can’t be destroyed. According to Rinpoche, individuals may vary greatly in their capacities, but “each person can make the best of what they have in that quiet space; you already have it– —you just need to become aware of it.”.

Rinpoche listened and responded to some participants’ dreams with advice that we could all apply to our own dreams. One woman related going somewhere with a group of people to work on a project, never knowing what it was. Rinpoche said that a dream like this spoke about being at a loss, and suggested that we examine the consequences are of feeling somewhat lost, look at how that would affect us. Whether it be fear, or sense of loss, or insecurity, the consequences are limitations to our potential, our work, our relationships. In the ordinary scheme of things, an event in which we let pain affect us will be “saved.”. It may affect our sleep, our dreams, and how we feel when we wake up. A simple story was told of a man who sees a big dog on the street. His first reaction is to think, “It’s a big scary dog,” and to feel afraid. This may be preparing a person for a nighttime experience—the message of fear could produce a future undesirable event in a dream. On the other handHowever, opening if we open ourselves to understand the message the dream gives us, provides we have an opportunity to see what is impacting our waking life. Active meditation (one a session of which was done in the workshop), leads to the transformation of pain and fear through acknowledging itthose feelings, HOSTING (caring) for) itthem, connecting to itthem– —not having the smart ego elaborate or deny itthem. Hosting doesn’t mean that you love pain, it means you allow it. The result is like sunshine shining on ice+, it melts, with subsequent positive effects on one’s waking life and dream life.

Rinpoche suggested a ritual for putting ourselves in the right place to deal with pain, fear, or lack of confidence, whether in reaction to something in the environment or in transforming a dream: take 3 three imaginary “pills.”. Each one is related to a different area: a white one for stillness of the body (located in the head);, a red one for silence, from senseless speech, i.e., internal, complaining, negative speech, (located in the throat); and a blue one representing pure mind & and spaciousness (located in the heart). Rinpoche repeatedly encouraged participants throughout the workshop to access these areas.

Rinpoche asked that we see everything as a possible dream image, “dream” meaning something not permanent, subject to change, capable of being responded to and processed in a number of different ways. This is one of the keys to becoming lucid in the dream world (aware that we’re dreaming): reminding ourselves to constantly question and evaluate images and actions that we observe without just accepting them for what they appear to be.

I found Tibet House to be a very positive environment and the workshop to be useful in the way Rinpoche connected the waking state with the dream state, the illustrative anecdotes he shared, and the reinforcement and encouragement he gave us to use, in our daily lives, the methods he discussed in our lives. I hope to attend the second day part of the workshop if it is offered in the future.

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2 Responses to “Tibetan Yoga of Dreams and Sleep”

  1. DTH-LTJK February 21, 2011 at 1:20 am #

    Hi, Allen,

    It’s exciting to see how much dream yoga is being presented in New York! For example, April 20 at Brainwave 2011, the Rubin Museum of Art’s month-long-plus series of dream-related events (http://www.rmanyc.org/pages/load/231month) will include an on-stage conversation between Lama Lhanang Rinpoche and Jayne Gackenbach. Gackenbach is a past president of the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD). (There’s also a Brainwave conversation on April 13 titled The Tibetan Dreamer.)

    On November 19, I went to the Friday night portion of a weekend workshop at the Dzogchen Community near Penn Station (I had other plans for Saturday). The community’s online calendar described the workshop like this:

    “Dream Yoga goes beyond the practices of lucid dreaming that have been popularized in the West, by presenting methods for guiding dream states that are part of a broader system for enhancing self-awareness called Dzogchen. In this tradition, the development of lucidity in the dream state is understood in the context of generating greater awareness for the ultimate purpose of attaining liberation. Registrants will need transmission or sincerely intend to receive transmission from Chögyal Namkhai Norbu as soon as possible.”

    I’ve had the occasional/rare lucid dream, but little desire to intentionally become lucid in my dreams (another research path to document! more record-keeping! aagh!…plus I’m skeptical about the benefits of lucidly controlling one’s dreams). Katz’s workshop provided the most compelling motivation I’ve heard yet for developing lucidity: a more peaceful, productive reincarnation to one’s next life.

    There’s a bio of Katz here:
    http://dreamtalk.hypermart.net/member/files/michael_katz.html

    At IASD’s 2008 annual conference, in Montreal, I enjoyed a two-hour workshop on yoga nidra given by Christine Swint. The description of that workshop says, in part, “The idea is for the body to sleep while the mind remains alert, traveling through the inner space of consciousness. At this point, hypnagogic visions and lucid dreams may occur.” http://asdreams.org/2008/abstracts/abstractsN-S.html

  2. tolstunka February 14, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

    “WHAT happens is less important than HOW we respond and save an experience internally, and if we work on it afterward.” So true. Thanks for the helpful post.

    External events are mere representations of our thoughts. How we respond internally will shape “future” external events (or rather, shifting our internal focus will manifest those latent possibilities instantly, as there is no time).

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