I frequently refer to meditation as a “super technique” for lucid dreaming and dream yoga. Many studies have shown that meditators have more lucid dreams, and for a meditation master, all their dreams are lucid. Informal polls during my seminars support these formal studies. When I ask who in the audience meditates, and then ask who have had a lucid dream, it’s usually the same hands that go up.
How Daily Meditation Facilitates Nighttime Lucidity
Meditation Cultivates Awareness
One of the biggest reasons we’re non-lucid to our dreams at night is because we’re non-lucid to the contents of our mind during the day. Just look at your mind. If you’re honest with yourself, there’s a constant stream of thought pouring through your mind, and below that, like a CNN crawler, are layers upon layers of subconscious thought. The vast majority of this mental content flows through your mind without your awareness, or lucidity.
Meditation works with this basic idea: thoughts are to waking consciousness as dreams are to dreaming consciousness. So in exactly the same way, the vast majority of what flows through your dreaming mind does so without your awareness, or lucidity.
Meditation is unique when it comes to lucid dreaming because it is simultaneously diagnostic and prescriptive. It’s a “two-fer.” You’re getting two gifts for the price of one. It shows you why you have so many non-lucid dreams, and what you need to do to start having lucid dreams. The importance of this statement cannot be overstated: we’re non-lucid to our dreams at night because we’re non-lucid to our thoughts during the day.
I have seen the truth of this teaching unfold in every meditation retreat I do, as well as over the course of over forty years of daily practice. The more I meditate, the more I have lucid dreams. There’s no magic here, it’s pure mechanics.
Meditation Introduces You to the Subtlety of Lucidity
Meditation introduces you to, and allows you to become increasingly familiar with, subtle states of mind (one reason the nocturnal meditations are difficult is because they are so subtle). How can you expect to recognize something in the darkness of the night that you haven’t met in the full light of the day? Meditation introduces you to these subtle states so that you can start to recognize them when they naturally unfold in sleep and dream.
Waking consciousness is “loud,” dreaming consciousness is a “whisper,” and sleeping consciousness abides in total silence. The loud and gross mind just can’t hear these quiet and subtle states. But the quiet mind can. The Sanskrit word for meditation is “shamatha,” which is often translated as “quiescence.” So quiet the mind during the day and you will start to hear these silent states as you sleep and dream.
The daily meditation practices we’ll explore in our Club are specifically designed to help you tune into these subtle states.Some of the topics that we will explore include: mindfulness meditations (like referential shamatha); other practices that work with subtle forms (like sound and light – the generation/visualization stage meditations) that introduce you to daily states of mind that prepare you for lucid dreaming and dream yoga; formless meditations (like non-referential shamatha, Mahamudra and Dzogchen) that introduce you to super subtle states of mind that prepare you for sleep yoga and bardo yoga.
The Tibetan word for “meditation” is gom, which means “to become familiar with.” Meditation allows you to become familiar with your mind at all levels, from gross (waking) to subtle (dreaming) to super subtle (sleeping). But the word also suggests something revelatory: whether we know it or not, we are always meditating. We are always becoming increasingly familiar with whatever state of consciousness we spend the most time with.
For us, that’s obviously the gross waking state. We’re very familiar with that most superficial aspect of our being, because we practice it all the time. But most non-meditators are not very familiar with the whispering or silent mind, simply because they haven’t spend enough time with these subtle and silent states. And so we miss them as they naturally unfold every night. As Kabir could have said: “What is not found now is not found then.”
This also shows us why we’re so proficient at non-lucidity, because whether we know it or not, whenever we just go along with the flow of our mind, we’re practicing non-lucidity. It’s no wonder we have so many non-lucid dreams! This is another point that cannot be overstated: we’re meditating on non-lucidity all the time.
Non-lucidity is related to what scientists call our default mode network. Non-lucidity is what the untrained mind naturally defaults into, where we “naturally” go, simply because we’ve gone there millions and millions of times before. It’s a fault that we fall into because it’s the Grand Canyon of our mental experience, a fault (in both senses – as in “chasm” and as in “mistake”) that we continue to cut every time we drift away in discursive thought or fantasy — every time we go non-lucid to the contents of our mind.
Patience Is Key
So we need to cut ourselves some slack, give ourselves a break, and be patient as we begin the journey into lucidity. When we start the diurnal and nocturnal meditations and see all this mental content taking place without our awareness, we’re simply bearing witness to the virtuosity of all our non-lucid practice.
Discouragement is one of the biggest challenges in the nocturnal meditations, so by understanding the “forces of the dark side,” which in this case is the power of our default mode network, we can understand what we need to do to bring things into the light of lucidity. Patience, humor, and determination are the keys to success in our Night School, and they are cultivated with this kind of understanding.