I have just spent two days with Michael Katz, teacher of buddhist mindfulness and dream practice, author of Dream Yoga the royal road of enlightenment also translator and editor of Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light by Chögyal Namkhai Norb
What a perfect timing to keep integrating more my stay in the Amazon and recently a few days in the Mexican jungle. Here are some of the things I have learned or refreshed in my memory.
We can all learn way faster through our dreams
I have personally experimented it many times as my mind was very quiet in the forest. I was dreaming I was learning a song and when I woke up I knew it, or I knew it much better than I did the day before. I had the same dreams playing guitar. These experiences were very rare though, this is why I am so interested in the topic. I want to learn more through my dreams.
Start with meditation: in order to dream well, your mind needs to be calm.
What you do during the day has the most influence on your dream. In other words, live a calm and peaceful life and you will have good dreams. Live in permanent stress and agitation and your dreams will be a mess. They are "junk" dreams, just here to help your brain deal with how you got upset earlier or a long frustration with something, say a relationship or a job. For this buddhist school these dreams have no value.
I learned or reviewed some very interesting meditation techniques, some based on focusing on transmitting light and then receiving some back from "light beings", meditating eyes open (which I found way harder) or walking meditation.
The way to “purify” junk dreams is to become conscious (lucid) that you are dreaming.
Get your mind used to verify if you are dreaming or not
There are many ways to check if you are dreaming or not, the most common one is to push the palm of your hand with the thumb of your other hand. If the thumb goes through your hand you are dreaming. Other tests are switching on and off lights (switches generally work randomly in dreams), trying to see your hands, trying to read a book or to look at the time (it will act very randomly too). Basically anything that involves your mind too much will not work correctly or not work at all.
The advice I have read before many times is to verify many times a day (I tried every 15 minutes today) that you are not dreaming by pushing your thumb in your hand. Then when you dream you will do the same and this will help you become lucid in the dream.
See anything happening to you as a dream while you are awake
This I find way more challenging. Look at your image in a mirror. If this you? No, it's a projection of you. You cannot really see yourself. This is like in a dream. You are not real. Tell yourself everything is a dream and verify it by just looking around and discovering weird things, a "congruity". Things are often weird in dreams but you find them "normal". So I am just getting myself used to notice anything "weird" I see in the world or in people, that makes me think it's a dream. Think about a kid that goes to Disney World for the first time and will take everything as real as a dream, without ever thinking that Mickey Mouse walking by could have an adult inside. How about if the entire time you are awake everything just could be a dream too? It makes me think of the movie "The Truman Show" where the actor is all his life trapped in a TV show without knowing it.
The goal is to start mixing awake and asleep and making it just the same consciousness. Michael Katz talks about the great buddhist masters being able to sleep eyes open and completely lucid while they sleep. There is no more difference between sleeping and being awake.
Great, but I am not a monk so what can I do?
Meditate before going to bed to calm the mind and have a strong intention to be lucid while you dream. Keep a notebook next to the bed and write down anything you remember from one or many dreams. One word is a start. I started trying this during the day too, keeping track of most important ideas coming in and out.
When water is ice, it is hard and doesn't move. When we are purely driven by our minds, it takes a lot of efforts to learn and change. It is difficult to "manifest" something new.
When water flows, it can move and change shape. It is the "path of no effort" we can adapt to whatever arises. We can be beyond the mind.
"Integrating with anything that arises is the pinnacle of buddhism"