Over the span of almost four decades of night-time and nap-time enthralling, droll, mysterious, confusing or scary dream adventures, my dreams loosely fall into the following categories:
dreams reflecting daily concerns of personality and relationships;
adventure dreams - often with a sci-fi bent;
nightmares - prevalent in teenage years, but uncommon in the last two decades, including four instances of Kanashibari;
psyche and shadow - processing deeper material;
transpersonal and Soul/Self - leaving an indelible mark of joy, infused love, deep meaning, and is known as a 'teaching';
precognitive - rare, clear, and in-person experience of event to come.
Lucidity can occur throughout all these categories of dreams.
From my 30s a theme about losing my identity or having my identity stolen began to emerge. Now, in my 40s, this has developed into scenarios of dying in all sorts of ways, but usually crashing (accidents) or being crushed by a natural force (large wave, hurricane). With each dream I know I will die and I surrender to the inevitable death (of the dream body). Though it may sound horrifying, these dreams are not! As I explain below, there has been a profound pay-off to these dying dreams. In fact, it intuitively came to me that some deeper part of me was practising dying! And the after-death experience that comes is the WHY...!
This is how it progressed for me:
First, I had dreams about losing my identity cards, or those cards being stolen - driver's license and credit card. I would realise these cards were missing and fret because I needed them in the world. These dreams relate to changes in categories 1 and 4.
Next, I had dreams of losing my identity cards in fires or explosions. They were destroyed and so couldn't be retrieved. I was not worried, but rather nonchalant … 'oh, everything will be fine' attitude; I can get by in the world.
Recently, I have dreams of being caught in a situation where I (the dream body that the 'I' totally identifies with) am about to die. On the verge of death, I become lucid; that is, 'I' no longer identify with the dream body. The death occurs; in an instant the dream environment collapses and LUCID awareness is left. But it has a particular flavour to it.
This is/ I AM CLEAN, CLEAR, SILENT, STILL, PEACE.
This is/ I AM UTTER Beauty and Contentment.
No wish to leave arises, but this clarity dissolves and dream or sleep returns.
Here is a recent example: I am driving a fast car along a motorway and enjoying it. The motorway starts to crack and break and my car is catapulted into the air. I leave my car and start flying. The scenery changes to trees. I am flying over trees. I am coming in for a crash landing. I become lucid and say, "nothing can hurt me". I crash and during the crash a transition takes place - the dream world completely disappears. There is only CLEAN and CLEAR, utterly tender tranquil awareness.
There is no sense of being a smaller part of a larger whole. This is ALL there is. Just completely CLEAN awareness. That's the best way I can describe it. It is a beautiful state and I can understand why this deeper part of me wants to become it. So, if psyche/Soul has to kill-off a fictitious dream body in a fictitious scenario, then YES, PLEASE ... DO IT!!
I wondered if this was part of a Tibetan Buddhist tradition and looked into the two books on my shelf about Dream Yoga. Here are two quotes:
"We've seen how the relative unconscious mind exerts a massive influence on our lives. What about the absolute unconscious mind? Sogyal Rinpoche writes: 'Our buddha nature [clear-light mind] has an active aspect, which is our 'inner teacher'. From the very moment we became obscured, this inner teacher has worked tirelessly ...trying to bring us back to the radiance and spaciousness of our true being ... ceaselessly working for our evolution - using all kinds of skillful means and all types of situations to teach and awaken us and to guide us back to the truth'." (Holecek, p.125)
"Rest in clear-light mind. The last stage of dream yoga is to drop below the psyche (which means any level of dream), and then below the substrate (the relative source of the dream), to finally rest in the pristine awareness of the clear-light mind. You let go of all dream images and rest in the awareness of awareness. Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche says that the apex of dream yoga is to dissolve all dream appearances and rest in the nature of mind. ... It also teaches into bardo yoga, where this dissolution of all form into formlessness (formless awareness) occurs spontaneously when we die ..." (Holecek, p.201)
Holecek calls it "the sumptuous bed of the clear-light mind". Yes, it is sumptuous.
So, it appears that these developments in my dream-life have taken place without formal and direct intention. However, having always been fascinated with dream-life it's probably a natural development. We really do have an ever-guiding inner-teacher. Dreams, to me, feel like a short cut not only to our buddha-nature, but also Supra-personal states of exultation, love and joy. Please also see my posts: Chiron's apprentice and My adoring companion.
May we treasure our nightly gift of exploration!
"Death is a friend of the mystic. In our prayers and our practice we aspire to 'die before we die', to leave behind our physical, emotional, and mental bodies, and directly experience, if only for a moment, the clear light of our divine self, the bliss, the peace, or endless love of our true nature. Most people only experience their divine self after they physically die. This is the light at the end of the tunnel in near-death experience, our soul waiting for us to pass over. But the mystic longs to have this experience while still present in this world" (Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, The Ancient Path of the Mystic, June 2019).
Andrew Holecek (2016), Dream Yoga: illuminating your life through lucid dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep, Sounds True: CO, USA.