How Far Are You Willing to Go to Wake Up?
In an interview with Lauren Krause of Trike Daily, Andrew explains how tapping into our lucid dreams can help us better understand—and even enhance—our waking life.
Some nights, after we close our eyes, we soar over vast, moonlit deserts or tiptoe through strange city streets slickened with ice. Other evenings, we find ourselves sitting on a creaky dock, bare feet suspended over a murky pond, chatting with former lovers, childhood friends, or deceased grandparents. Just before dawn, we may open our eyes and recall only mere fragments of our dreams: the wallpapered waiting room, the lone whistle of a tea kettle, the sensation of feeling lost, hurried, or alone.
“When you’re working with your dreams, you’re really working with your mind,” says Andrew Holecek, a spiritual teacher, author of the book Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life Through Lucid Dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep, and leader of Tricycle’s Dream Yoga online course.
Lucid dreaming is the phenomenon that happens when you realize that you’re dreaming as it’s happening; dream yoga occurs when you use this lucidity for your own practice. Dream Yoga, rooted in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, allows us to “hack into the previously unconscious” and use our dreams to transform our waking lives.
In a recent conversation, Holecek explained the nature of dreams and nightmares and how we can extend our meditation practice into our sleeping hours.
You’ve said that dream yoga goes to the heart of Buddhism. What do you mean by that?
At the heart of the Buddhist tradition are the teachings on emptiness. More practically, the core teaching of Buddhism is the alleviation of suffering. We suffer because we take things to be real, and we suffer in direct proportion to how solid we make the contents of our mind. The teachings on dream yoga and illusory form go to the heart of the matter, because they show us how we create our own suffering by making things so real—so solid and heavy. The removal of suffering is a direct effect of seeing the world as dreamlike. We use our study of nighttime dreams to understand the mechanics of our suffering and happiness in the so-called daytime dream.
How can the practices of lucid dreaming or dream yoga help us manage nightmares?
If we’re freaking out in the middle of a nightmare and we can wake up to the fact that we’re dreaming, then we can relieve some suffering. We realize that it isn’t real. That’s what lucidity means—waking up to just that. If we wake up to the fact that the contents of our mind are not as solid as we make them to be, then we see them as illusory or dreamlike.
One primary way to understand nightmares is that they represent fragmented or disowned aspects of ourselves. We’ve thrown part of ourselves away; we’ve refused part of our experience. During a nightmare, these refused aspects of our being are calling back out for reintegration. That’s why they’re chasing us. When we run away from them, we continue to keep them alive. That’s why people have recurring nightmares. The nightmare arises, and instead of relating to it properly, we run from it.
Instead of running, we can stop, turn around, and look directly at the monster. When we do this, several things can happen. The monster will just disappear, or it will stop and dissolve into us. By facing the monster, or by facing our demons, we can reintegrate these fragmented aspects of ourselves and get rid of the nightmare.
Are there any truths to dreams and nightmares?
There are relative truths to many of our dreams. Freud once said “an uninterpreted dream is like an unopened letter.” The unconscious mind is frequently sending us teachings and messages in dreams and nightmares.
Here’s the link to Andrew’s Tricycle Dream Yoga course, with a free extensive preview. Save $25 with coupon code: AH17