Breathing practices

Dream Yoga work

I've recently been integrating into my dream work, dream yoga techniques from Tibetan Buddhism. What I've mainly done for the moment is breathing techniques that you do right before you go to sleep. I like to integrate steps of a new practice gradually. Kat's also doing this practice. Even though we've just started with this first step, we've already noticed that we've been sleeping a lot deeper and that the sleep is more restful.I've also noticed better dream recall and more awareness of the dream. I'll post further reports as I continue to integrate more steps in, but it always fascinates me to see how even doing one step of a process can produce changes, provided you're consistent about doing it. I think that consistency is what makes anything you do effective. You can be a really powerful magician, but if you don't exercise the magical muscle, it won't mean as much as the person who diligently practices and follows through.

Book Review: The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

This book provides what I would consider to be the best practices of lucid dreaming and dream practice. The author doesn't focus on the psychology of dreams, though he does provide some insights on what dreams can reveal about issues you're working on. Instead the focus of this book is on how the techniques can be used to help you release attachment to those issues and achieve a state of connection with the universe, without being drawn back to samsaric existence. It's a very good book to read, but an even better one to do the practices. I've started doing them and already noticed some positive results. I'd recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about Dzogchen and for anyone who wants to use dream yoga for spiritual and physical well being. You can purchase it at Amazon (Affiliate link) or Powells (Affiliate link)

Working with the monkey mind

One the issues that comes up in mediation is what Buddhists call Monkey Mind. It's that troublesome voice that starts saying random messages to you and distracts you from meditating. For people who are trying to achieve a state of no mind, the monkey mind is particularly troublesome because its a reminder that your mind isn't in a place of no-mind. What sometimes occur is that people will attempt to repress the monkey mind, but this usually makes it come back swinging. There's a reason for that: It's trying to tell you something. Instead of repressing the monkey mind, which is ultimately a futile effort, it's better to work with it. And by that I mean it's better to start a dialogue with it. When it brings up a random issue, ask it why it brought up and start exploring it mentally. You'll usually find that it leads you to a source of stress and concern in your life. So you can continue to try and ignore that source of stress or you can work with the monkey mind to resolve the source of stress. Mind you, the monkey mind will raise lots of questions and concerns, but that's why it's there. It's a filter, an agitator, and it won't go away until you've addressed its concerns.

When I work with my monkey mind, I use it as a detector of issues that are bothering me. Sometimes its helped me discover some really deep issues, such as my fear of emptiness and most recently a tendency to fantasize in order to fulfill intimacy needs. And that's what makes the monkey mind so useful. It challenges me to be aware of my issues instead of trying to ignore them.  I like that because then I can proactively work on those issues via meditation instead of letting them build up and be acted out in my life. So the monkey mind is actually your friend, not your enemy. Make friends with it and find out what it can teach you.

On the Art Of Return

The last three years have been quite busy for me, and there's aspects of my meditative practice that I minimized or ignored (at times while starting other practices), so I've engaged in a comprehensive effort to return to them. A lot of my work involved abdominal breathing and energy work, which required gradual build-up in order to realize (with deep abdominal breathing your entire breathing changes).  So my first goal was to merely repeat my previous works and build back up the way I had before.

And after a few months, my breathing work wasn't going so well -  I stalled out and didn't make any progress.

This was frustrating and curious to me at the same time.  I'd done this before, but suddenly I had no progress despite having done some deep breathwork for years.  How could I now be stumped?

After a lot of analysis, work, and quite a few other methods, I came to the rather simple conclusion that it wasn't working because, having achieved some deeper states of breathing, my attempts to repeat it didn't work because I was in a different state of mind.

  • I'd had experiences from my past breath work that set different expectations - expectations I didn't have the last time.
  • Some of the exercises i was using were frankly unnecessary - I was restraining myself from deeper practice by deliberately forcing shallower practices that I could frankly leapfrog.

In short, I was a different person, with different experiences and a different state of mind.  The proper "prescription" was not repeating my past work, but finding how to approach it in a way that worked for who I'd become.  I knew how to ride the bike, so training wheels were just a distraction.

Despite our hope for regular practice, our meditative and magical practices are interrupted at points.  However as we leap back to them, we have to keep in mind that once we achieve certain skills and have certain experiences, the paths that led us there may not be entirely the ones we have to take again.