dream work

Cutting across the artificial divide of cultures

Culture I've been reading a book on Tibetan dream yoga and another one on quabalistic practices. What fascinates me the most is that both books discuss dreams and how to work with them in a similar fashion, despite the fact that both authors are from different cultures. As far as I can tell neither author has cited the other and neither seems to be culturally appropriating material from the other. They just seem to be discussing dreams and how to work with dreams in remarkably similar ways. And as I read both books and do the practices in both, I find that I'm getting similar results. So it makes me think, in this case, that the cultural trappings are less important, because the foundational techniques seem to be the same, or at least have enough similarity outside of cultural contexts.

I respect cultural contexts, but I do think that its also possible to encounter techniques that come from multiple cultures and yet have enough similarity that the technique can be understood without the cultural context. In other words, I sometimes think there is an artificial divide created within the context of culture that may bar people from recognizing that a technique can occur in multiple cultures and have similar steps.

With that said, I want to make it clear that I'm not dismissing the concerns about cultural appropriation. These are valid concerns, and when a person learns a technique s/he should be mindful of the culture where it comes from. The cultural context does have some impact on the technique, and your experience of it. For example, while I can understand certain aspects of the Tibetan Yogas of Dream and sleep there are other aspects, cultural ones, I don't get, which does effect how I work with the technique. If I were to learn from a lama directly it might be different, but I suspect even then I'd still only have a partial understanding when it comes to the cultural aspects, because I'm not from that culture.

Is there really an artificial divide? Only in the sense that if you can find a technique that is similar across cultures, then perhaps what you are really dealing with is the technique in and of itself, as opposed to the cultural perspective. Recognizing that can be helpful in learning the technique and also understanding that nothing is so original that it can't be found elsewhere.

Zhine and Dream Work

zhineI've been having a lot of vivid dreams lately, which have been helpful for doing some internal work, specifically in relationship to some deeper issues of conflict I've been feeling out within myself. Part of what I've been doing during the day to prepare for the dream work is a form of Tibetan meditation called Zhine. Zhine involves maintaining awareness of something around you, without thinking about it, studying it, or anything else. You are simply aware of it.

I have found this to be a challenging exercise because simply being aware of something without thinking about it can be hard. It's a good discipline exercise that challenges you to continually focus on just being aware of the object. Every time you think about it, which includes looking at distinct features or thinking about the color, you have shifted away from awareness and gotten caught up in the reality of what you are aware of. The point is to be simply aware, noticing it, but not thinking about it.

One variation of this exercise that I tried recently involved being aware of a fork that a person was using to eat. I was always aware of where the fork was, but I focused only on the fork as opposed to the person or how the fork was being used.

If you do this long enough and consistently enough, something very interesting happens. Your experience of reality changes subtly. What you are aware of seems less real, more of an image than actual reality. It's there, and yet what is there isn't real. There is a vividness in this experience which lends itself to dream work and makes your dreams more lucid and you more capable of remembering them. This has proven helpful in doing the dream work I've been involved with of late. You can learn more about Zhine by reading about Tibetan Dream work. I recommend the Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep.

Dream work update

I've been continuing to do the Dream Yoga work each night. Consistently my dreams have focused on issues that I'm currently working on via other forms of internal work. I've lately been focusing on the positions that you need to enter into when you got sleep, and when you wake up at different times of time, in order to facilitate more lucid states of mind while dreaming. Combined with the breathing technique I found its easier to remember the dreams after I've woken, as well as be consciously aware I'm dreaming while in the dreams. The dream work is proving using for the internal work that I'm continuing to do. One possible avenue that I'm goign to explore is purposely planting a suggestion or focus for the dream, that wouldn't focus just on internal issues, but could even be used as a way to connect with the consciousness of the body. I'll keep people updated with what I find.

Dream Technique part 2

I'd mentioned a little while back that I'd begun experimenting with using physical sensations as a means to create a dream reality where I could do internal work. I've found since that original post that what seems to work best for me, if I want to do a night of internal work is a kinisthetic sensation. I've tried visualization, but visualization seems to work better as a secondary sensory tool used to create an environment around the kinisthetic sensation. I'm not sure that this "rule" would apply to everyone. It may only apply to me because I'm a kinisthetic learner first, and a visual learner second, and an audio learner last. For a visual learner, using some kind of visual stimuli may work better for creating an initial dream environment in which the internal work will be done. Likewise an audio learner may find that an audio signal is best.

I've found that using kinisthetic sensations has helped me create dream environments I can work with so that I'm doing some form of internal work while sleeping. It seems to be most helpful if I use a sensation I felt during the day before I do the dream work. Trying to draw on older memories of sensations is less helpful, especially as those memories get replaced by newer experiences. It does help if the sensation is unusual. I've found that focusing on sensations that my feet feel is particularly useful, partially because of how sensitive feet are and partially because I don't normally go out of my way to pay attention to what my feet feel. I now have that incentive, in order to create a dream environment I can work in, but it can also work with any other sensitive area of your body.