Here is the introduction to my second book (in a series of four) on the nocturnal practices, which is now in the hands of my publisher. It is tentatively titled “Dreams of Light” The Profound Daytime Practice of Lucid Dreaming” This book is a deep dive into the daily practice of Illusory Form, which supports lucid dreaming and dream yoga. It explores the central teaching of emptiness, the most misunderstand topic in Buddhism, which in many ways is the core teaching of dream yoga. The first part of the book deals with Buddhist approaches to the illusory or dreamlike nature of reality, and the second part explores the science that supports such a view. Let me know what you think!
Neo: “I thought it wasn’t real.”
Morpheus: “Your mind makes it real.”
– The Matrix
This book is written as an independent text, but it can also act as the companion volume to my earlier book, Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life Through Lucid Dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep. This first book was written to introduce the nighttime practices. It describes the progression of the nocturnal meditations–lucid dreaming, dream yoga, sleep yoga, and bardo yoga–and explores how each succeeding practice transcends but includes its predecessor. Dream yoga includes lucid dreaming, but goes deeper; sleep yoga includes dream yoga, but goes further; bardo yoga includes sleep yoga, but is more expansive.
The book you’re holding continues this theme of “transcend but include.” It’s a deeper look at these practices, now held within the larger context of the practice of illusory form. As we will see, The Seduction of Beingis uniquely structured in that it acts as both sequel and also prequel to Dream Yoga. The diurnal or daytime practice of illusory form frames the nocturnal practices as both a pre and a post phenomenon. Illusory form is both the beginning and the end of our path, the preliminary practice for the nocturnal yogas and also their fruition, transforming a linear journey into a circle.
The practice of illusory form (described in Chapter One) is a spiritual path that deposits us squarely back into the material, the world of form, but now with an entirely new and liberating perspective. It’s the same old place, the world of form, that we left behind when we began the spiritual path, but now it’s seen in a penetrating and illuminating light.
This means that the world of form, what many spiritual seekers long to escape, is not the problem. The world that you’re living in right now is not an issue. The practice of illusory form allows you to discover that the heaven you seek is right here on earth. The spiritual is not separate from the material. Indeed, at the end of the path, the material is discovered to be spiritual. Making that discovery is our journey in this book.
In my morning meditation I recite a liturgy that includes this supplication: “Grant your blessings so that I realize the inseparability of samsara and nirvana.” Samsara is the Sanskrit word for the realm of suffering, a dimension we usually associate with the world of form. Nirvana refers to the end of suffering, which people often associate with a transcendence of form. To realize the inseparability of samsara and nirvana, the world of form and the transcendence of form, is what it means to wake up.
The Role of the Nocturnal Meditations–a Review
The nocturnal practices begin with lucid dreaming, which is when you wake up to the fact that you’re dreaming but still remain in the dream. Lucid dreaming is the platform for all the other nighttime meditations and can be used in a variety of ways, from mere entertainment to psychological development, all of which can be generalized under the rubric of self-fulfillment.
As marvelous as lucid dreaming is, it has limitations. Waking up in a dream does not necessarily lead to “waking up” in daily life. So for those who wish to go further, lucid dreaming evolves into dream yoga. This is when dreams are engaged as a meditation that leads to total awakening, or spiritual enlightenment. Dream yoga is therefore more concerned with self-transcendence.
With some stability in dream yoga, you can progress even further into sleep yoga, or luminosity yoga. This is when you sustain awareness in deep dreamless sleep. It’s a more advanced meditation that leads to more advanced realization. Sleep yoga introduces you to the deepest aspects of your being, a level of formless awareness that is unborn and undying. It shows you the part of you that is immortal, a dimension of being that is not subject to the ravages of space and time, nor the ailments of old age, sickness, and death. Dionysius the Areopagite called it “the unapproachable light in which God dwells.”
In the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, sleep yoga is considered full lucidity, while dream yoga is deemed partial lucidity. In other words, you’re only halfway there if you’re just lucid to your dreams. In the still larger context of the practice of illusory form, if you’re lucid to sleep and dream but still not lucid to your daily life, you’re only two-thirds of the way. Full lucidity means taking the final step and becoming lucid during the day, which is precisely our charter in this book.
To complete our nocturnal survey, the formless nature of sleep yoga can evolve into the final stage of the nighttime meditations, which is bardo yoga. Bardo is a Tibetan word that means “gap, in between, or transitional process,” and in this instance refers to the gap between lives. If you believe in life after death and in rebirth, bardo yoga is the consummate practice to prepare for these events. In the Tibetan Buddhist view, dream yoga and sleep yoga arose largely as ways to prepare for death. The Buddha discovered that reality is essentially a shared dream. In this tradition, the after-death experience is called “the dream at the end of time.” When we die, we don’t go to another place. We go into another dream.
The nocturnal meditations explore the inner space of the mind much the same way astronomers explore the outer space of the universe. Here’s one analog. In an effort to determine the number of stars in the universe, scientists pointed the Hubble space telescope at an empty point in space the size of a drinking straw. To the naked, untrained, and impatient eye, this space is just a dark point of nothing. But the Hubble kept its focus on this tiny dot for ten days, and with each passing day more and more points of light appeared out of the dark. They had always been there but were never seen before. Each one of these dots unfolded into an entire galaxy, and in those ten days some ten thousand galaxies gradually came into view. Each galaxy was estimated to contain 100 billion stars, so in this seemingly dark empty nothing were actually 1,000,000,000,000,000 stars!
In the same way, when you first point the “innerscope” of the mind’s eye towards the deep inner space of your nighttime mind, nothing is seen. But keep that eye open, remain focused, be patient, and you will eventually see things you’ve never seen before. At first some “dots” of light will appear, and you will start remembering more dreams. Then the “dots” will grow brighter, and you will start having lucid dreams. Then the points of light will get bigger, and you’ll start experiencing lucid dreamless sleep. Eventually entire inner “galaxies” will unfold from within, worlds that have always been there, but you’ve never had the instruments to see. The nocturnal meditations provide those instruments, a Hubble all your own.
Finally, each one of these nocturnal meditations has diurnal correlates. These nightly yogas have daily practices that are designed to match the subtlety of the mind as it’s revealed in the dark. They dilate our meditative eyes during the day. Without the daily meditations, it’s difficult to recognize dreaming and sleeping consciousness. It’s hard to meet and then recognize in the dark something you haven’t met in the light of the day. You’ll walk right past these states. But if you spend time getting familiar with these subtle states now (the very definition of meditation in Tibetan is gom – “to become familiar with”), you will start to recognize them in the dark. What the poet Kabir said of death also applies to sleep and dream: “What is found now is found then.” Conversely, for the untrained mind, what is not found now is not found then.
Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life Through Lucid Dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep, deals mostly with lucid dreaming and dream yoga. The Seduction of Being explores the more subtle philosophical aspects of these practices, as well as facets of sleep yoga and bardo yoga, and explains how these practices circumscribe the main practice of illusory form. You will see how the practices work together and support each other, weaving a common thread with illusory form. These five practices (illusory form, lucid dreaming, dream yoga, sleep yoga, and bardo yoga) are designed to transform your mind and your life across the entire spectrum of consciousness.
The point of the nocturnal meditations is to take the insights gleaned during the night and transpose them into the day. They are designed to bring awareness into your waking reality. What doesn’t improve with more awareness? Increased awareness puts you in contact with deeper aspects of your being. Awareness makes you more sensitive to others. Awareness is the essence of wisdom and its expression as compassion. Awareness is the elixir that benefits anything, and “Waking up” really means becoming more aware.
The Role of Illusory Form–a Preview
Lucid dreaming and dream yoga are marvelous practices for psychological and spiritual growth. When fully developed they are a revolution in higher education, a unique night school, and could suggest the pedagogy of the future. Instead of wasting a third of your life lost in the darkness of non-lucid sleep, you can turn on the internal nightlight and discover an entire world inside. The possibilities for rapid transformation and boundless learning are breathtaking.
Lucid dreaming as a transformative medium is radical, but like any advanced education it’s not always easy. I’ve traveled the world teaching these nocturnal practices for many years, and people get enthusiastic about the opportunities that await them every night. But without proper preparation, excitement is replaced with discouragement. So much is promised, so little delivered. Some people wrestle with attaining lucidity and then sustaining it. Others might have unreasonable expectations, or struggle with impatience. Others grapple with fear or anxiety about what they might find lurking in the dark. You’re dealing with subtle states of consciousness in the dark, and the power of habit is never more forcefully unleashed than during sleep and dream. In order to enter this internal institute of higher learning, and not drop out, some encouragement and remedial work is needed.
Mixing metaphors: to deliver the nighttime goods you need a sturdy daytime vehicle, an ATV of sorts. You need an all-terrain vehicle (yana in Sanskrit), or in our context an “all-states of consciousness” practice. Something that can transport you lucidly from waking consciousness deep into the dark, then deliver you back into the waking state loaded with the insights you’ve gathered from your trip. This is the role of the daytime practice of illusory form. It’s the ideal ATV, a practice applicable to all these states of consciousness.
As suggested above, the relationship of illusory form practice to dream yoga is unique. On the one hand, illusory form is the best preparation for dream yoga and the principal remedy for many of the hurdles that accompany it. On the other hand, seeing everything as illusory is the fruition of dream yoga. So illusory form practice frames dream yoga. It’s simultaneously the ideal preparatory practice for dream yoga and also its final performance. It’s the perfect “fake it till you make it” practice.
We’ll start our journey in Chapter One with the deliberate practice of impure illusory form, which is about training ourselves to see this world as illusory, which we obviously fake. We just don’t see the world as dreamlike. But if all goes well, by the end of our journey we’ll have made it to our final destination, and truly see this world as illusory, which is the spontaneous performance of perfectly pure illusory form.
The fact that illusory form sandwiches dream yoga as both the alpha and the omega, rehearsal and final performance, suggests that it’s the irreducible practice. This is supported by the way some classic texts categorize these meditations. They place dream yoga (as well as bardo yoga) as a subset of illusory form. Illusory form is the main practice, and dream yoga is designed to support it.
This is great news for those who grapple with the subtleties of dream yoga. It means that you can accomplish the essence of dream yoga through the practice of illusory form. It’s great news because anybody can practice illusory form. It’s easy. So if you’re fascinated by lucid dreaming and dream yoga but struggle with it, illusory form is for you. If you engage fully in this diurnal practice, you will come to the same conclusions delivered by its nocturnal correlates. And once again, by gaining proficiency in the practice of illusory form, you may well find yourself having lucid dreams.
Discovering the illusory and dreamlike nature of reality is the ultimate point, and that summit can be reached by either the daytime or nighttime paths. For the past forty years I’ve walked both paths, but enjoy the one less traveled – the dark road to enlightenment.
Illusory form and dream yoga, the diurnal and nocturnal, support each other, so working with both practices creates a kind of staircase between two states of consciousness that eventually lifts you into their fundamental unity. Imagine a staircase in the shape of triangle, wide at the bottom and converging at the top. Waking and dreaming are as far apart as black and white, night and day when we start to climb this staircase, but the higher we climb the closer they get. So this staircase is also a bridge. At the summit, illusory form and dream yoga unite, or yoke. Waking and dreaming fuse into a nondual point, and you wake up in the spiritual sense. [insert possible illustration] You no longer see any difference between waking and dreaming consciousness, and experience an equanimity of awareness, which Buddhism refers to as “one taste,” that is central to enlightenment.
It may seem like a lofty state, but uniting waking and dreaming consciousness is one definition of both lucid dreaming and illusory form. In other words, bringing waking consciousness into the dream state defines a lucid dream; bringing lucid dream consciousness into the waking state (and therefore seeing daily appearances as dreamlike) defines the practice of illusory form. The fruition of both practices is to wake up to the non-solidity, the dreamlike quality, the empty nature of both states. So realizing emptiness, which is the core doctrine in Buddhism, is the central point, and our topic in Chapters XXX and XXX. Everything in this book, in the nocturnal meditations, and in Buddhism altogether, circumambulates the topic of emptiness. In so many ways everything is centered around nothing.
Illusory form practice and dream yoga open a bustling two-way street with insights flowing in both directions. They are reciprocating practices. What you practice and learn during the day with illusory form will enhance what you practice and learn during the night with dream yoga; what you practice and learn from dream yoga will enhance your practice of illusory form. This is another reason why their relationship is unique, for not only does illusory form prepare you for dream yoga, but dream yoga then feeds back to support illusory form. They create a wonderful “virtuous circle,” or positive feedback loop.
This bi-directional process enriches and informs both worlds, until both states of consciousness, waking and dreaming, merge into a fluid and transparent nonduality. With these practices the boundaries between day and night, the conscious and the unconscious, become increasingly porous and gradually dissolve until you can see into, and eventually through, the forms of both states of consciousness. Your awareness, or lucidity in its broadest sense, develops until you penetrate the mysteries of the night. You develop new night vision, like wearing infrared goggles, that allows you to sustain awareness as you fall asleep, and to be lucid throughout the night. You can now see in the “dark,” and into previously unconscious aspects of your mind. For those who are fully awake in the spiritual sense, every aspect of the unconscious mind becomes conscious. This is one facet of the fruition of dream and sleep yoga.
But the benefits of this new sight don’t stop here. In the spirit of bi-directionality, this exquisite insight of the night is then extended to “outsight” as you come to see daily appearances (forms) in a new light. You develop a new daily vision, like wearing X-ray goggles, that allows you to sustain heightened awareness as you wake up in the morning, and to see more accurately during the day. These X-ray eyes, or spiritual vision, see through the façade of the appearances that arise during the day. This is the fruition of illusory form.
It’s easy to understand how what we do during the day effects what we experience at night. If we have nightmarish experiences in the day, for example, it’s likely we’ll have nightmares when we sleep. It’s harder to understand how what we do at night can effect what we experience during the day. We know this to some extent when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and a bad night casts its shadow over the day. Or when we just don’t get enough sleep. But the nocturnal practices take this lesser known track of bi-directionality, the night-to-day direction, to a whole new level. They show us how to wake up on the right side of the bed everyday and how a good night of lucid dreaming or sleeping can cast its light upon the day.
With the practice of illusory form we’re installing a host of pop-ups during the day that will ping into our unconscious mind at night, waking us up to the fact that we’re dreaming, which is essentially alerting us to the illusory nature of nighttime experience. Nighttime lucidity is discovering the dream to be a dream. We’re hacking into previously unconscious and highly classified domains, exposing their true nature: that dreams are not as solid and real as we think (the very characteristics of non-lucidity). That insight is what transforms a non-lucid dream into a lucid one.
With the practice of dream yoga (and sleep yoga), we’re similarly installing a host of pop-ups during the night that will ping into our awareness during the day, alerting us to the fact that we’re still dreaming, and wake us up to the illusory nature of daytime reality. Daytime lucidity is discovering that waking experienceis also a type of dream, that thingsare not as solid and real as we think. We’re hacking into what we thought was a fully conscious experience, exposing what we thought was real (that we’re really awake, and that the forms we experience in the waking state truly exist) to be an illusion. That insight is what transforms a non-lucid life into a lucid one, a shocking exposé that awaits us in the steamy pages ahead.
These domains of consciousness that we’re hacking into are highly classified and secretive because ego doesn’t want you to know the truth, what’s really going on behind the scenes, or below mere appearance. Ego, as the archetype of ignorance, wants to keep you in the dark, and therefore soundly asleep in the world of form. In this book we’re going to expose and declassify its secrets as we strive to open up, release, and “declassify” form. We’re going to transition from a world of reified form into a realm of illusory (dereified) form and show you why that transition is so important.
So with these diurnal and nocturnal practices you will come to see, and eventually see through, what has kept you in the dark, and therefore spiritually asleep, day or night. At this enlightened point, equipped with infrared goggles and cutting spiritual vision (x-ray eyes), you will see through everything, including the border between day and night, the conscious and the unconscious, even life and death. For the awakened ones who have developed this penetrating insight and constant lucidity, there is no essential difference between waking, sleeping, dreaming, and even dying. As the great Tibetan poet and sage Milarepa sang, “Not seeing dreams and day as differing / This is as meditation as it can be / Not seeing the here and hereafter as differing / This is their nature as mastered as it can be.” Or as Trungpa Rinpoche put it, “Life and death are the same grin.” When His Holiness the 16th Karmapa was on the verge of death, he said of his impending transition, “Nothing happens.”
You also discover that dream yoga and illusory form, the bi-directional practices that developed this piercing vision, are essentially identical. At their fruition, they are the same practice applied to two (initially) different states of consciousness, eventually revealing their (final) essential unity. Taylor writes,
When the sun goes down, it is time for another natural thing to happen, as the slower, quieter, and more tactile rhythms of nighttime open doors that remain shut during the day. No doubt there are frightening things behind some of those doors, but there are also stunning things. Eventually, with some practice, one learns that all these doors open on the same room. . . darkness is not dark to God, the night is as bright as the day.
Buddhism stresses the importance of “right view,” the first factor of the eightfold noble path, which itself comprises the essence of the fourth Noble Truth, the truth of the cessation of suffering. The fact that it’s the first of the eight factors suggests its importance. Without a proper view, it’s hard to know where you’re going, let alone how to get there. Right view in its traditional context refers to philosophy, outlook, or school of thought, as when we ask, “What’s your view on things?” But right view also has a more immediate meaning, which is more literal (phenomenological rather than analogical). Here it refers to actually changing the way you see things. In our journey we’ll be engaging both kinds of view, initially creating a philosophical outlook (the view of emptiness) that will eventually alter the way we see.
By doing spiritual practices like dream yoga and illusory form, one figuratively and literally comes to see the world in a new way. That’s lucidity in its truest sense. As we will see, forms still appear for one who has accomplished these visionary practices, but they are now seen in the light of lucidity. How this might actually be perceived — how an awakened one sees things — is a topic we’ll return to throughout this book, especially in Chapter XXX.
A common myth about genius is that it’s someone who “knows-it-all,” a person with vast stores of knowledge. While there are certainly geniuses who have that capacity, a real genius is more of a “see-it-all.” Someone who could look at the same thing everybody else is looking at but see it in a unique way. Picasso and Einstein were surely of this ilk. Spiritual geniuses, which is what we aspire to be, are those who see it all. But in a sense they don’t actually see more than meets the eye. They see less. They see that things are less solid, lessmaterial, less real. They see that things are indeed illusory.
Is there anything more transformative than changing the way you see things? Even at an everyday level, when we ingest mind-altering substances, are we not doing so to alter the way we see, mentally or physically? On a more elevated level, “liberation” in the spiritual sense means being liberated from things, from the world of form. But this doesn’t mean getting rid of form and fleeing to some disembodied formless heaven. It means being liberated from our current relationship to form, a release from the way we currently see.
When you “wake up” in the spiritual sense, thoughts and things, subtle and gross forms, still arise. But you no longer buy into those thoughts and things. You see right through them. Let’s see how it is done.
The material that follows may be hazardous to your egoic health. It is not for the faint of heart or the squeamish. The teachings on emptiness, illusory form, and the sciences that support them pack a punch. Absorbing that punch is best accomplished in stages. To understand, and then experience, emptiness and illusory form, it is traditional to progress slowly. If you try to absorb these teachings too quickly it can be jarring.
Waking up, even in the everyday sense, is not always pleasant. Buddhism advocates “the gradual approach to sudden enlightenment.” It’s more polite to rouse ourselves (and others) leisurely. We’ve all had the experience of being jolted awake from the dead of sleep — dazed, confused, and often irritated. To avoid that rude awakening on the spiritual path, take your time. Otherwise it’s like a bucket of ice-cold water splashed on you in the middle of the night.
My recommendation is to read one chapter at a time, or even one section. Contemplate it, digest it, and gradually incorporate the material by meditating upon it. Let the teachings work on you. If you speed through it, you may not get it. I have studied and practiced these teachings for decades and I found that as I was writing this book I too had to back away. In my own reading of it — and this will be different for each of you — the material in Part II was a stretch. To fully comprehend the mind-bending implications of the information I was gathering from the sciences, I had to move slowly. If I rushed it, I found myself wanting to dismiss it. When I took my time, the material was by turns intellectually stimulating, emotionally challenging, and spiritually shattering.
 There is an old prayer that says: “Look down, O Lord, from your heavenly throne, and illumine this night with your celestial brightness; that by night as by day your people may glorify your holy Name.” (The book of Common Prayer, Church Hymnal Corporation, New York, NY., 1986, p. 31.
 Doing the math, scientists estimate there are 20,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars in the known universe (which scientists estimate is a mere fraction of the actual universe). This means that there are more stars than there are grains of sand in every desert and on every beach on this planet.
 In the esoteric practice of thögal (“crossing over into spontaneous presence”), which is part of dark retreat, practitioners go through four stages: 1) manifest intrinsic reality (dharmata); 2) increasing of experience; 3) awareness reaching full measure; 4) exhaustion of phenomena, beyond the mind. From the blackness of the mind (highlighted by the pitch blackness of the room) emerge tiny points and flashes of light, which eventually grow into spheres of light, which eventually develop into entire mandalas of light – analogous to this astronomical process. (The profound relationship of inner and outer space is explored in the Kalachakra Tantra, often considered the King of Tantras. See endnote xxx .) From the Bön tradition, see Wonders of the Natural Mind, by Tenzin Wangyal, and Heart Drops of Dharmakaya, by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen. From the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, see The Practice of Dzogchen, by Longchen Rabjam, andNaked Seeing, by Christopher Hatchell.
 Translated by Jim Scott.
 Learning to Walk in the Dark, by Barbara Brown Taylor, Canterbury Press, Norwich, Norfolk, 2015, p. 54-55, 16.
 The Four Noble Truths are the first teaching of the Buddha and summarize the entire path to awakening. They are the truths of suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path leading to the cessation of suffering. The Eightfold Noble Path are the practices of right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.
 The theme of right view is common in Buddhism, with its frequent reference to “insight,” “direct perception,” “the path of seeing,” “illumination,” “divine eyes,” “higher seeing,” “pure perception,” and the like. Conversely, there are many references to “wrong views,” “impure perception,” “blindness,” “darkness,” “impaired vision” etc. In the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra in 25,000 Lines, five sets of eyes are described that suggest the scope of right view, and the eyes that deliver it: (1) “Fleshy eyes” refers to super-vision, a purified physical eye that can see great distances. (2) “Divine eyes” let you see the effects of karma. (3) “Eyes of insight” are the bodhisattva’s insight into emptiness. (4) “Dharma eyes” are connected to compassionate action, they allow the bodhisattva to see how to best help others. (5) “Buddha eyes” are a buddha’s ultimate realization.