Message Boards Message Boards

Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Falling into The Dark Night in a Lucid Dream?

Toggle
I hope everyone is well,
   I suppose this is a bit of a report with the hope that someone may relate or be able to point me in the right direction; any feedback at all would be genuinely appreciated. I want to describe a specific, particularly unpleasant experience I had during a lucid dream but first some background might be helpful. I have been lucid dreaming regularly since childhood and while I can recall one dream that carried with it a mind-shattering bliss (in retrospect this could have been A&P material) that has been recreated in practice but never to the same degree, most of the time they were quite unpleasant. Often I would become lucid and then feel as though I was violently yanked from the dream sometimes into a vortex from above that would suck me up and the further I made it the more violent my experience of being torn apart by it would become. I could usually leave this vortex voluntarily and would challenge myself to see how long I could stay in it before the terror of dying, or of never coming back would force me to abandon ship and would often result in a duration of sleep paralysis that would match the amount of time I stayed in the vortex. The dreams that didn't break up into formlessness were, and continue to have a creepy kind of mood to them. While being able to fly and control things can be fun for a while, what always fascinates me is when I meet someone in my dream and ask them how it is they are in my dream and yet I have no idea what they are going to say next. I've been taught a few bizarre lessons in these kinds of situations.  As a kid it wasn't long before these types of experiences led me to question the nature of my waking reality especially as the dreams became more and more realistic. At about 11 years old I really started questioning my own sanity with this stuff, which led to a lot of fear around falling asleep and a desire to have everything just be normal again. 
   I've now had a steady practice for years, but it is only in the last few months that I've considered lucid dreaming as an opportunity for practice, which no doubt is a result of an unexamined aversion which I think in many ways actually led me to the path in the first place. I'm fortunate to have a wonderful teacher that I work with once a week who encouraged me to talk to a few people about my experience and have read some material on dream yoga, but I have yet to find anything that touches on what I found to be a truly horrific side effect of going lucid. I became lucid one night and once again the vortex opened and I decided to stick it out and just note all of the sensations, which were bright lights and 10-on-the -richter- scale vibrations. I don't recall exactly how this happened but I left the vortex and was in complete darkness and while I knew I was a being I didn't know I was this being. All of the particulars of my selfhood had been stripped away to just bare awareness of being, but of being utterly alone and cut off but from what I didn't know. There were sensations of indescribably hellish terror and sadness and above all a kind of bone chilling separation. From what I can recall of this experience I don't think any technique could have been applied as there was no one there to really note the experience; there was really just the knowledge and terror of separation without-and I acknowledge this could just be a lack of skill and clarity on my part-an experiencer of them.
    A few nights after that I caught myself going lucid and had the memory of this experience on deck so I immediately snapped into action to try and prevent it from going off the rails. A lot of my training is in the Shinzen Young style of noting so I located the sensations of terror (a fascinating thing to do when there is no sense of having a body) applied some background equanimity and soon had the situation under control. Before I knew it these ribbons of color started falling from above and as I floated towards them they enveloped me and I got a taste of that mind-shattering bliss again though with a much calmer and- dare I say -saner quality to them. This was definitely one of the most powerful experiences I've had as a meditater and the after glow lasted through most of the rest of the day. 
  Now I'm kind of oscillating between a less intense version of these two extremes of the bone chilling separation of the first dream, and the cooler, calmer equanimity of the second. I know Daniel Ingram describes crossing the A&P in a dream (if I remember right it was a witch) and I'm just wondering if anyone out there could shed some light on this darker experience. If not at least if someone else out there has experienced it you know you're not alone! 
                            With Metta!
                                  -Ralph
  
   
     

RE: Falling into The Dark Night in a Lucid Dream?
Answer
4/21/18 9:33 AM as a reply to Ralph Andradez.
Dear Ralph,

Thanks for your reports.

As you say, I crossed the A&P in a dream in which a bold of white light shot by a witch riding a black horse made my body explode all over my bedroom, and I came back buzzing, and shortly thereafter had my first full-on out of body experience (OBE).

A&P events, while often blissful, are not always, and some can be darn scarry and disconcerting, as you describe well.

Since then, I have noticed what I call my standard dream pattern, a pattern I have seen hundreds if not thousands of times, and it reflects the cycles of insight.

The pattern is basically this: start flying or able to jump or sort of slide along the air over long distances, things are really cool, might be some sexual stuff around that phase as well as other really cool effects, like composing amazing music, seeing amazing performances.

Then things turn dark, ugly, scary in some way, might be trapped in a small box, fight with monsters, have people out to get me, be chased and now can't fly as high and they can grab my feet, might fall down long distances, fall into the earth, be strapped down and subjected to torture, might be injured or even torn apart but still be alive, might have my feet rotting off or all my teeth falling out, might have a standard college fear dream in which I am naked and forgot my pencil and there is an exam I never studied for, might have dreams of the emergency department and the bad sorts of things we see there, have my body be torn by harsh vibrations, etc. This is a very summary, incomplete list of the potentially disconcerting things that could happen in this phase.

However, if the dream goes on long enough and I don't wake up, I get to the amazing phase. In the amazing phase, remarkable things happen. I come to peace with the monsters and we make friends and some to some mutual, respectful understanding, or my body becomes streams of pure light streaking out through white clouds, or I am floating in a beautiful valley with waterfalls and golden magickal symbols hanging in the air of great profundity and import, or I interact with some benevolent goddess, or I teach people how to fly or cast spells and they get it and we are all happy, or I heal people, or I break out into some beautiful gathering of happy people in some paradise-like garden, or I am teaching meditation as a monk and resting in Dharmakaya awareness, etc. This again is a very incomplete list. This I think of as corresponding to the low end of Equanimity, ñ11.j2 as I might label it.

If the dream goes on, I might get to things even more profound but neutral, fluxing suchness, that sort of thing, that I correspond with very high Equanimity.

If you are looking for information on dream yoga, I must say that, while I am quite the active dreamer, I haven't done many of those practices. However, the work that has resonated most with me that I hope to have more time for shortly are Tenzin Wangyal's The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep. I also highly recommend Alan Guiden's Traveling: An Accidental Expert's How to Leave Your Body Handbook, which, in full disclosure, just happens to be publised by Aeon, who also publish my book, but I found it on the web long before they printed it.

I think that the dream experiences I have had have made me a better practitioner, as I think that the lessons we learn about things being torn apart and getting bad in dreams translate to our ability to handle deeper vipassana when awake, so I would count your experiences as more of a blessing than a curse.

Thanks for sharing and best wishes,

Daniel

RE: Falling into The Dark Night in a Lucid Dream?
Answer
4/21/18 8:18 PM as a reply to Ralph Andradez.
Hi Ralph,

If you naturally have a talent for lucid dreaming, as Daniel suggested, I would recommend checking out the Tibetan practice of dream yoga. I took an online course with Andrew Holecek (Andrew's website is here, he also has few books) sponsored by Tricycle about a year ago. It was really great, but I do not have a natural talent for dream yoga. I always end up either waking up as soon as I get lucid or drifting back into the dream beause I want to see how the story will come out. Andrew went through a variety of topics about dream yoga, including the "Practice of the Illusory Form" which is to cultivate an attitude during the day that all form is empty and an illusion. I actually found this easier to do than lucid dreaming, though it had little effect on my ability to lucid dream.

I should add that dream yoga is one of the Six Yogas of Naropa, which are core teachings in the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Andrew is a Kagyu teacher, studied for many years with Khempo Geltsan Rimpoche.

Good luck!

RE: Falling into The Dark Night in a Lucid Dream?
Answer
4/24/18 4:58 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
    I very much enjoyed and appreciate your replies. I hadn't thought of framing dreams in the context of the cycles of insight; in fact I feel like a door for investigation has opened on a whole rich landscape of sensations that I have been compartmentalizing for decades. The manner in which I was introduced to OBEs intitially left me feeling a bit skeptical, but from a practical insight perspective-no matter how they are interpreted-on a sensory level many of my experiences are identical to what people describe while being out of body so I think this will be a really fruitful avenue to explore and I look forward especially to checking out Alan Guiden's book. While the first experience was quite terrifying I do feel that it not only sensitized my antennae to pick up on sublter sensations, but also increased their durability to weather some of the gnarlier vibrations. After some practice it indeed felt to be more of a blessing than a curse as Daniel encouraged.
  I love the idea of taking a course on this stuff and will definitely check out Andrew Holecek's site. Waking up as I became lucid started becoming a problem for me as soon as I began trying to practice during dreams. I found that strong concentration practice-for me kasina practice in particular-helped quite a bit in keeping that jolt to my nervous system that would occur when I got excited about lucid practice from snapping me out of it. Svmonk, I imagine if you took a course on dream yoga this may have been covered, but if you're still interested Alan Wallace has some cool tricks to help encourage lucid dreaming that might be worth checking out.The insights I've gleaned from lucid dreaming practice so far sound pretty close to the Practice of Illusory Form that you mentioned.  
  I'm very excited to start exploring and will be sure to report anything I come across that seems of benefit. Also, Daniel if you ever stumble upon a conduit between dream music and waking life please let me know. In my experience the work I compose in dreamland has yet to be replicated by the ham fisted human that is Ralph emoticon
  This was very helpful. Thank you!