Just like with all the other nocturnal meditations, there are things to do during the day to prepare for sleep yoga and things you can do at night. Using the tenet that lucid dreaming is partial lucidity while lucid sleep is full lucidity, you can use the lucid dreaming state as a halfway house to lucid sleep. While the meditation texts describe techniques for going from the waking state into the dreamless sleep with full lucidity, I’ve never been able to do that. My “dimmer” doesn’t work that well at these most subtle levels, and I just black out. But I don’t feel bad about it, because as the Dalai Lama says, “The ability to maintain lucidity in this way is considered one of the highest accomplishments of a yogi.”

Close your dream eyes

There are several ways to work with lucid dreaming as a platform into lucid sleep. First, set a strong intention before falling asleep that you really want to experience lucid sleep, then do the following very simple technique. When you find yourself lucid in the dream, simply close your dream eyes. One of three things will happen. First, you’ll wake yourself up. Dreams are usually correlated with REM (most, but not all, dreams occur in the REM state), or rapid eye movement. When your dream eyes get still, your physical eyes tend to get still, and that cessation of eye movement usually ends the dream. This is one way to end a lucid dream, the other way being keeping your open dream eyes still (which is one reason sitting still and meditating is difficult in a lucid dream).

The second thing that can happen is things just go dark in your lucid dream. You close your lucid dream eyes and everything goes black. The way you can tell that this is not lucid sleep is that there’s still a sense of duality. There’s still a feeling of, “I (subject) am experiencing darkness (object).” While this is an interesting experience, it’s just a dark lucid dream. Real lucid sleep is non-dualistic, with absolutely no sense of self or other.

The third thing that can happen is that you dissolve into an ineffable pool of black light, or peaceful white light (Shambhala Buddhists know how to decode this latter term). The superficial “you” goes unconscious (sem blacks out), but the real “you” goes super-conscious (or lights up into rigpa). Consciousness transforms into formless awareness. You can’t even say it’s an experience, because by definition experience is always dualistic. You might retrofit the term “experience” when you come out of this state, but while you’re in it it’s technically a non-dual “realization.”

My secret technique

Through trail-and-error I have found the following extra steps to be helpful. In addition to closing your dream eyes, hold your dream breath and plunge below the floor or ground of whatever dreamscape you happen to be in when you become lucid. This is where your facility with the second stage of dream yoga comes in, which is when you practice walking through walls, or dropping through the earth. It’s akin to the feeling of dropping off of a diving board feet first, and holding your breath as you plunge below the surface of the water.

Why do you want to do this? Because according to the inner yogas, when you’re dreaming your consciousness (or bindus) are gathered in the throat center, or chakra. When you’re sleeping your consciousness gathers in the heart center. By the way, when you’re awake, consciousness is gathered in the head center and drops through the central channel into the throat and heart as you drop into sleep and dream. This is why you often have a sense of falling asleep, or dropping off. From an inner yoga point of view this is exactly what is happening.

I’ve found it very interesting to drop lucidly through the ground or floor of my dreams in this way, always with the intent that I want to reach the heart chakra, or the deep dreamless state, with full awareness. Because this is more advanced, I usually do this when my lucidity in a dream is quite strong. I’ll wake up in a dream, realize that tonight my lucidity is sharp, then go for the “deep dive.” Try it and let me know how it works for you. You might find your own way to the center of yourself, and come back to share it with the rest of us!

In the next post I’ll describe some of the main daily practices that help prepare for lucid sleep.