In traditional cultures throughout the world, dreams were given great importance. People were given guidance in their dreams from dimensions of themselves normally inaccessible in the waking state. They were able to use their dreams to heal themselves and the community or access wisdom to guide their lives in the best direction.
In some cultures, the dream world was considered to be the "real" world, and the waking state was more like a dream.
In the Tibetan yoga tradition which I have been studying, teaching, and practising for many years, there is a practice called dream yoga. There are many forms of this dream yoga practice from different traditions, but they all have the same purpose in mind; to open us to the deeper aspects of our mind, to receive guidance, and to awaken to the dreamlike nature of reality. Traditionally these practices were not given to the general public but were given to yogis as part of the culmination of years of foundational spiritual practices usually done in solitary retreat. But now we are in a different time, and some great masters have been generous enough to share the dream yoga practice with us so that everyone can practice and receive its benefits.
Lately, there has been much interest in what is called lucid dreaming. This is a term referring to being aware that you are dreaming while you are dreaming. Maybe some of you have had this experience; it is amazing and profound. This is also the effect the dream yoga practice has, which can be cultivated like a skill.
I would like to share with you a simplified version of the dream yoga practice so that you can get started on this incredible journey.
This practice has two aspects: the first is the practice of the day, and the second is the practice of the night. If you do it with dedication it will work to open the world of your dreams and open your mind to the dreamlike nature of reality.
The practice of the day:
Throughout the day, whenever you remember, stop and ask yourself, "am I dreaming or am I awake?"
Then look around you and really check if this is a dream, remind yourself often throughout the day.
One night you will ask yourself this question in a dream and you will realize you are dreaming! Then you are in a "Lucid dream", where you are aware you are dreaming but are awake within the dream - from here the possibilities are endless. You can fly, visit people who have died, or travel to distant land and dimensions.
The purpose of this, according to Tibetan dream yoga, is that you can see that we create our reality with our mind, and we can also change our habitual patterns of the mind into something more positive and beneficial. Also by asking this question you are able to not get so hooked by painful situations, because you see they are not so solid and are like a dream.
The practice of the night:
Before going to sleep, lie down on the bed on your right side and visualize a beautiful soft red/pink lotus flower in the centre of your throat. In the centre of the lotus is a soft flame like a candle flame without any wind moving the flame. Softly keep this visualization as you repeat the following affirmation:
"I will remember my dreams and I will be aware that I am dreaming"
Repeat this affirmation a few times, and then let yourself fall asleep with the gentle lotus visualization. Don't concentrate too hard on the lotus, just let it be there softly. When you wake up in the night repeat the above visualization and affirmation. In the morning write down your dreams.
If you really want to progress, you need to get a dream journal and start writing down your dreams, this will increase your lucidity and start giving you a tangible way to work with the dreams. You might be surprised at your dream life and you definitely will have a lucid dream at some point if you keep up the practice.