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SAND18 US — Exploring Consciousness: Dreaming And Awakening

By Stephen LaBerge

Our dream experiences seem so real to our sleeping minds that it is usually only after we awaken that we recognize our dreams as the mental experiences they are. Happily, there is an important exception: sometimes while dreaming, we become conscious that we are dreaming. This remarkable state of consciousness is referred to as “lucid dreaming” and is learnable and rewarding. Scientific research has proven the objective reality of lucid dreams, and has led to the development of new methods of inducing them. I will provide a brief overview of lucid dreaming, touching on techniques and technology for achieving lucid dreaming; a model of dreaming and waking consciousness; scientific research on mind-body relationships during REM sleep; and several applications of lucid dreaming — exploring consciousness, enhancing creativity, personal development and self-integration, dream yoga, and transcendent experience. Of the many applications and implications of lucid dreaming, the one of greatest, deepest relevance to SAND-folk is its potential to stimulate spiritual awakening. Implicit in lucid dreaming is the knowledge that one is dreaming, which is to say, that one is not awake. Yet this is the paradox: as the beginning of wisdom is “to know that one knows nothing,” so too, the beginning of awakening is to know that one is not awake. If we suppose we already are awake, as we do in both the dreams we call “false awakenings” and also those we do not call dreams at all, but presumptively term “waking life,” how can we even frame the possibility of waking up? We already (believe) we are. Yet as both ancient Eastern spiritual teachings and recent Western psychological science agree, much of ordinary life is lived in such an automatic unconscious manner, that to say that most of us somnambulate through life seems little exaggeration. In the words of Bahauddin Naqshband (d. 1388) “Here we are all of us in a dream caravan. A caravan, but a dream. A dream, but a caravan. And we know which are the dreams. Therein lies the hope.”

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