Deep Study of Sleep and Dreams and Eventually to Buddhism

I returned to Michigan and resumed my job as a surgical orderly. But something had changed. The hangovers from my drinking binges couldn’t completely erase the hangover of my otherworldly experiences. Within a few months I felt stable enough to begin venturing back into what I had experienced. I knew that something profound, and profoundly disturbing, had happened. Even though I had successfully forced myself back to reality, I had glimpsed a new world and dreams were a big part of it. So began my exploration into the world of sleep and dream.

I started reading everything I could about dreams. I read Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and countless books from psychologists, scientists, mystics, and quacks.[1] They were helpful but also incomplete. I still couldn’t understand what happened. One day I started reading about Buddhism and was immediately struck that “buddha” literally means “the awakened one.” What does that mean? Awake as opposed to what? What did the Buddha awaken from, and what did he awaken to?

The more I studied Buddhism the more I understood what had happened to me. These teachings were the only thing I encountered that could explain my outrageous two-week ride. Inspired by the story of the Buddha, and the resonance of his teachings with my experience, I became committed to “waking up,” which makes me a Buddhist in the purest sense. For the past thirty years I have continued my study and practice of this gentle tradition. When I finally came upon the Buddhist teachings on dream yoga, which is when you strive to have lucid dreams with the goal of doing specific practices within them, I knew I had come home.

Deep Immersion During Three Year Retreat

My deepest immersion was during an intensive three-year meditation retreat, a classical training in Tibetan Buddhism. I had the tremendous opportunity to spend months solely focused on dream yoga and its daily counterpart, the practice of illusory form.

This is what gave me the confidence to start teaching this material. Spending so much time practicing dream yoga allowed me to have countless lucid dreams, and began to reveal the extraordinary potential of these nocturnal meditations.

Blending of East and West

While I still engage in the classical Tibetan induction methods, I have found the modern Western techniques to more useful for Western students. But I’ll use whatever works — East or West, ancient or modern, scientific or spiritual — to attain lucidity.

Even though I consider myself a Buddhist, I’m primarily interested in the pursuit of the truth, and discovering the nature of reality. This truth may include or transcend traditional or even New Age religion, as well as science and philosophy. I’m interested in personal evolution, and I don’t care what does it.

So while much of what I teach is based on the wisdom of the Buddhist tradition—and in particular, Tibetan Buddhism—they also come from psychology, science, and my own experience. No one has a patent on truth. Just as my experience joined day and night, I join the wisdom of the East with the knowledge of the West in an attempt to bring this wondrous world of the night into the crisp light of the day.

I draw on all these traditions and disciplines to offer you the best that is out there. I also continue to study and practice these nocturnal meditations, deepening my understanding and experience of these unique practices.

Suffice it to say that many of the most powerful experiences of my life continue to occur in my dreams. These dreams are often more vibrant than anything in waking reality, and they have frequently changed my life. I believe in the night.

[1] While Freud and Jung spent a great deal of time with dreams, they spent very little with lucid dreaming. The first edition of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams (1899) has no overt reference to lucid dreaming, but the second edition does. Jung had little interest in the topic, as least as we are defining it. However, Jung did work with dreams in very creative ways. Jung said that he did not dream, but was dreamed. See Mary Ziemer, “Lucid Surrender and Jung’s Alchemical Coniunctio,”in Lucid Dreaming: New Perspectives on Consciousness in Sleep, vol. 1, edited by Ryan Hurd and Kelly Bulkeley (Santa Barbara, Calif.: Praeger, 2014), for a good summary of Jung’s relationship to lucidity in dreams.