Dreaming Yourself Awake by B. Alan Wallace

Dreaming Yourself Awake

Introductory chapter:
“Full enlightenment… is wedded to an all-embracing compassion, a profound love for all beings.”

Page 17: “The technique for increasing vividness is to focus your attention on a subtler object.”

Page18: “I even had a student who, while doing shamatha meditation, had visions of receiving emails from certain people. Soon afterward, when she checked her email, her prescience was confirmed.”

“Because according to the Buddhist viewpoint, the world of experience is the gateway to knowledge,”

Dream Yoga is found in Six Yogas of Naropa, and also the Six Bardos within the Nyingma lineage

“Dream Yoga is an advanced technique appropriate for students who already possess relatively stable minds, and is usually taught only to those who have accomplished a certain level of other yogic training.”


“The sleeper usually awakens briefly fifteen times or more during the night, though these awakenings are rarely noticed”

“Dreaming can be viewed as the special case of perception without the constraints of external sensory input. Conversely, perception can be viewed as the special case of dreaming constrained by external sensory input.” – Stephen LaBarge

Page 24: the qualities of objects we perceive are “out there” -> that being an indicator we are still dreaming.
“The sun in itself is not bright. Nor is it hot. It emits photons and thermal radiation that we perceive as bright and hot.”

“So the qualities of the objects we perceive arise in dependence upon our minds and bodies in interaction with the environment.”
“Humans dream in human realities but dogs may dream in scents, whales of underwater songs”

“Dream consciousness is not as rigidly conditioned as waking consciousness.”

Dullness and amnesia are the major obstacles to lucidity when we sleep.

Apprentice dream yogis are encouraged to prep themselves with statements like, “Tonight I will recognise the dream state!” said out loud.

MILD – Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams. By discovering dream signs through recalling and journaling your dreams, you use these dream signs in conjunction with prospective memory to trigger lucidity.

You can do state checks 10-15 times per day at random intervals. Or do them specifically after a repeated event – eg every time you walk through doorways or if a bizarre event happens.

Using WILD (Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming) you can follow the hypnagogic imagery that appears as one falls asleep. If you can maintain gentle attention on them once you see them, you can fall asleep lucidly.

Page 32: “One can also train physical skills in lucid dreams.”

“In many contemplative religious traditions, going beyond the dualism of “self” and “other” is the major aim.”

Page 34: Recap of Lucid Dreaming Techniques

50-70 million Americans have chronic sleep and wakefulness disorders.
29 million report sleeping less than 7 hours per night.

If we live till 90, we will have spent 30 years sleeping. For most people that is 30 years in an unconscious or at best semi-conscious state. What if we could use all that time for meaningful and fulfilling activities, without depriving oneself of the sleep we need?

“Tonight, then, as you are falling asleep, develop the strong resolve to take interest in your dreams. Be very gung ho about it: “Tonight I am going to pay attention to my dreams!”

“By the time you have gotten really good at this [dream recall/journalling], perhaps within a month or two, you can stop writing.”

Page 41: Dream sign categories

Get descriptions of at least 20 dreams. That is sufficient material to begin reviewing your dreams and looking for dream signs. Note that dream signs change over time.

Look for oddities regarding identity.
Or odd activities.
Odd and repeating environments.
People and objects.

Daytime Practices: State Checks, Page 45

With WILD, you don’t have to do these day time practices. What you do is set an alarm for 90min intervals. So say first alarm after three sleep cycles, which is 270mins. Then when you wake, set an alarm for 90 mins later and go back to sleep with a strong resolve to become lucid.

Alarms: if you go to bed at 9pm, alarm at 1:30am, 3am, 4:30am, 6am and 7:30am.

Prime time for dreaming is in the later sleep cycles.

Another WILD technique: set an alarm for middle of night. Wake up and stay very clear headed for 30-45mins. Perhaps reading a book on lucid dreaming. Then go back to bed.

The last WILD technique is one used in dream yoga – focusing on hypnagogic images and falling asleep lucidly – going lucid right into NREM2 dreamless sleep.

Settling the mind in its natural state closely parallels the act of lucid dreaming.

Page 51: StM Instructions. Says when distracted, do relax release return – to the space of the mind.

Three Keys to Lucid Dreaming:

  1. Adequate motivation
  2. Correct practice of techniques
  3. Excellent dream recall

Many students of lucid dreaming can not only extend their practice to half an hour or more, but pretty much have them at will.

It is important to maintain the critical reflective attitude. You are going against one of the strongest habits of human life – snug, comfy, “sleepy time”.

The Universe of Dream Yoga

From the Buddhist point of view, out of waking, sleeping and dreaming, the coarsest level of consciousness, and therefore the least potential for spiritual development, is actually the waking consciousness.

“Until we attain the full awakening of Buddhahood, we are asleep.”

Page 69:
“Just as the wise accept gold after testing it by heating, cutting and rubbing it, so are my words to be accepted after examining them, but not out of respect for me.”

The alayavijjana is not the subconscious. It is more primal than that – it encompasses the subconscious, so it could be called the sub subconscious.

Emptiness: the lack of inherent existence and the lack of an intrinsic subject-object duality.

“Objects are no more than labels, their validity deriving from general consensus within a given community.”

The experience of existence phenomena is dependent upon the sensory organs that detect them and the mind that perceives them… all phenomena are co-emergent with the modes of awareness that apprehend them.”

To the mind of a bird, “mosquito” is food. To humans, mosquito is a wonder, a parasite, a nuisance… to mosquitos, we humans are a source of food. So what is the absolute meaning of “mosquito”? The mosquito is empty of any absolute or inherent meaning. Emptiness is nothing more than the lack of inherent existence that becomes apparent when phenomena are placed under careful analysis.

By believing in inherent existence, we in a sense, take things far too seriously.


Ten Nonvirtues:

  1. killing
  2. stealing
  3. sexual misconduct (three of the body)
  4. lying
  5. harsh speech
  6. slander
  7. idle chatter (four of the speech)
  8. wishing harm
  9. coveting
  10. wrong views (three of the mind)

Sexual misconduct being sexual actions that would cause suffering to others.
Wrong views being views not in harmony with reality.
(> this possibly then might be vegetarianism).

Eight Verses of Thought Transformation:
“When in the company of others I shall always consider myself the lowest of all and from the depths of my heart hold others dear and supreme.”

this is not about practicing self-denial or self denigration – but rather to free oneself from the burdens of self-centeredness, which is the cause of much suffering.

If one has thorough understanding of the dream state and can control one’s dreams – this can be done in the bardo as well after death.

“It is like this: all phenomena are nonexistent, but they appear to exist and are established as various things.”

Page 86:
“If you are reifying, you are dreaming.”

“In Tibetan Buddhism, conceptual understanding is likened to a patch on clothing that sooner or later falls away.”

“All dream yoga is based on the one-pointedness one can maintain on the illusoriness of experience by day.”
Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche

Page 90: passing through solid rock and showing miracles in public to inspire faith and understanding.

“But to make our conceptual understanding of nonexistent phenomena a reality in our lives, we must do what these extraordinary beings have done: practice.”

Daytime Practice Instructions

“At this time powerfully imagine that your environment, city, house, companions, conversations and all activity are a dream, and even say out loud, ‘This is a dream’. Continually imagine that this is just a dream.”

Establish single pointed meditative equipoise in the awareness that “I have fallen asleep. This appearance is a dream. It is an illusion.”

Place your awareness in a non conceptual field, without focusing it anywhere. Then direct your mind to all appearances of yourself and others, and think, ‘All these are just appearances. They are not real.’ By continually practicing in that way, during and after formal meditation, appearances will always seem devoid of true existence and of fear.”

Page 92, good to re-read. This is using the power of imagination.

We are seeking to see reality as it is! Reality is a dream! From the perspective of a Buddha.

This waking reality is being dreamed by primordial consciousness. That is why in vajrayana it is said that all appearances are the body of the deity, all sounds are the speech of the deity and all thoughts are the mind of the deity.

Although the sun is always shining, adventitious clouds hide it from our view.

With the power of your intuition and imagination keep on dropping back into the perspective from which it is true to say, “This is a dream.” Sustain that. That will gradually break down the barriers between your normal dualistic mind and pristine awareness.

Nighttime Practice

Page 100
Normally when we fall asleep we just allow the mind to dither all over the place for a while and then fall asleep in a state of semiconscious inner chitchat. So we must train ourselves to calm that obsessive compulsive blathering mind and get some quiet so we can hold this resolve, hold the prospective memory, and then fall asleep.

The importance of shamatha is the vividness, stability and relaxation. Not the sense implosion. These three could also be extended to the five dhyana factors. It is those factors that are what makes shamatha indispensable.

If you encounter certain emanations and transformations that are difficult or resistant to your will to change. You must exert yourself because there is still something you are reifying in the dream.

Nyam probably won’t last more than a few hours or a couple of days.

People who attain the one pointedness of samadhi start having lucid dreams even with no training in it at all.

Chapter 8: Putting Your Dreams to Work

The sheer excitement and and enthusiasm of attaining such an ability can be likened to an artist once he or she has reached the professional level.

The final stage of dream yoga – facing fears and letting frightening scenes play out – can be tremendously healing.

In dreams, “allow the worst to happen” rather than fleeing. Exactly like in Settling the Mind it seems.

In Jung’s View dream entities such as monsters and demons indicate that the ego is somehow incomplete. And the process of healing these would be to integrate them into the ego.

“So he decided to face this fearful image. As he faced this terrifying monster he looked it in the eyes and had a true encounter with someone who was looking back. He saw a sentient being that had joys and sorrows, hopes and fears like himself. He realised, “Here’s a being like myself.” And he suddenly felt a felt of loving-kindness, compassion, and empathy, rather than terror, for this creature that was appearing. Then this being suddenly dissolved into Stephen and it never reappeared.

One could use lucid dreams to deal
With “unfinished business” – people you’ve had arguments. Or people who have died etc.

“If we heal the dream body, to what extent do we heal the physical body?” – a question posed by LaBerge to investigate.

for me I could use lucid dreams to improve my eyesight. I could use lucid dreams to work with anger. I could use lucid dreams to work with sexual performance anxiety.

It’s important to have balance in spiritual practice. Shamatha is good for centering. Hatha yoga could be used with Mindfulness of Breathing. Insight practices. Then Heart practices. Then something for the body.
Is your spiritual practice helping you grow in the qualities you most wish to see in yourself? If they are not, then assess and modify accordingly.

A lot of people meditate because of the high. Especially those who have taken LSD etc. Sometimes they take those drugs and then meditate. They over emphasise the vividness aspect. The word Psychedelics comes from vividness. So then they leave out relaxation and stability. Then when they go out into the world, their practice crumbles and collapses. And they feel overly sensitive and are overwhelmed by worldly responsibilities and chores.


Not all dreams are the result of karma. Karmic imprints can lay dormant for many years and even lifetimes.

Vajrasattva practice is meant to catalyse karma, deliberately, as an act of purification. Then instead of the karma ripening in waking reality, it ripens in your dream reality.

Ideal session format:
Two back to back sittings.
First one in supine, Mindfulness of Breathing
Second one sitting up, Awareness of Awareness

Ethics in a Dream: even though there is no one there from their own side, your attitude and motivation can still have karmic imprints. So overall better to remain ethical in a dream! It will probably flow over into waking reality.

Chapter 10

“If something exists, it must be knowable by someone.”

Page 138
Dzogchen view of the beginning of samsara:
First there is unawareness of the dharmadhatu and jnana.

This state corresponds to the substrate – alaya. Then karmic energies begin to move and crystallise, which then arises the substrate consciousness in dependence upon those movements.

Everything that appears consists of the luminosity of the substrate consciousness. And while SC can give rise to all kinds of appearances, it does not enter into any object.

Then from SC arises the klistamanas – afflictive mentation, that congealed the sense of I am over here, in opposition to the space of the substrate over there.

Page 142-143: Good summary of quantum physics.

Page 144 bottom:
The three possibilities of neural correlates with thoughts given by William James. Does not necessarily mean brain produces thoughts. There are two other very fitting explanations.

Some Buddhists, after practicing for decades and still not able to be free of mental afflictions, re-interpret the teachings to water it down and dismiss the possibility of genuine freedom. Rather than re-assessing their own practice and where they might have been able to improve.

Page 150:

There are certain truths that require faith in order to be able to see that they are true.

Is it possible to awaken from the dream of samsara by experientially knowing the nature of consciousness and it’s role in the universe?

Only if we take it as working hypothesis, and work wholeheartedly, in as rigorous a manner as possible.

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