What Are Nocturnal Meditations?

April 2, 2019

Many people know about meditating during the day, but few are aware of the “nocturnal meditations.” They’ve been around for thousands of years, tucked away under the blanket of darkness. Until recently, the nocturnal practices have been secret, deemed too subtle for the West. But with the mindfulness revolution in full swing and meditation now in the public domain, these “dark” practices are finally coming to light in the modern world. What surprises most people is how deep and vast these nocturnal meditations are—and how applicable to daily life.

The practices start with lucid dreaming, which is when you wake up to the fact that you’re dreaming while still remaining in the dream. Once it was scientifically proven in 1975, lucid dreaming has gained traction in the West. Initially, lucid dreaming isn’t much of a meditation. Most people use it to indulge their fantasies—to fulfill their wildest dreams in the privacy of their own mind. At this entry level, lucid dreaming is the ultimate in home entertainment, where you become the writer, producer, director, and main actor in an Academy Award-winning production of your own mind.

But the higher levels of lucid dreaming have extraordinary psychological and even physical benefits. You can transform nightmares, rehearse things, resolve interpersonal issues, even improve athletic performance. Neuroscience has shown that you can use your mind to change your brain (neuroplasticity), and modern dream research continues to show that you can use your dreaming mind to enhance a host of daily psychological and physical activities. Lucid dreaming at this higher level is like going to night school.

With some proficiency in lucid dreaming you can progress into dream yoga, which is when dreams are used for spiritual transformation. While lucid dreaming is largely about self-fulfillment, dream yoga is all about self-transcendence. It’s been around for thousands of years, and the Buddha (the “awakened one”) was really the ultimate lucid dreamer.

Dream yoga, like lucid dreaming, progresses from beginning to advanced stages. A beginning yogi starts by addressing the question, “What are dreams made of?” They’re made of your mind. So, by working with your dreams at this refined level, you’re working to transform your mind. One early stage of dream yoga involves transforming the objects in your dreams, like changing a dream flower to a dream chair. In so doing, one discovers the malleable nature of mind and the truth of the saying, “Blessed are the flexible, for they are never bent out of shape.” This is the “yoga” or “stretching” part of dream yoga, which develops increased pliability of mind.

One amazing quality of both lucid dreaming and dream yoga is that the benefits of what you do in your dreams don’t stay tucked into the nighttime mind. By changing a flower into a chair in your dreams (not as easy as it sounds!), you realize you can change anger into compassion in your life. In other words, your emotional states are not as solid as you think. They’re essentially as solid as a dream, and therefore as workable.

At higher levels of dream yoga, you use the “example dream” or “double delusion” of the nighttime dream to wake you up from the “real dream” or “primary delusion” of daily life—which is precisely what the Buddha did. You eventually come to the shattering conclusion that this is a dream. When seen properly—when you’re lucid to it—your waking reality is no more concrete than a dream. So a dream yogi lives by the maxim, “This is a dream; I am free; I can change.” It’s a liberating wake-up call, with profound implications for all of life.

For most people, lucid dreaming and dream yoga are enough. But for those wanting to go to “graduate school,” one can advance into sleep yoga (related to yoga nidra in Hinduism). As incredible as it may sound, this is when you learn how to become lucid in deep, dreamless sleep. In Buddhism this is called “luminosity yoga” and adheres to the teaching that fundamentally there is no darkness within—only light unseen. Sleep yoga turns on this nightlight, a luminosity so radiant that it eventually illuminates even the day. Scientists are currently trying to prove this outrageous claim with advanced meditators and dream yogis.

“Lucidity” is a code word for awareness. So, by working with any of these three practices, you’re working to cultivate greater awareness. And what doesn’t benefit with more awareness? All three of these practices engage the principle of bi-directionality, which is all about opening a two-way street between the daytime and nighttime mind. What we do during the day affects how we sleep and dream; and what we do when we sleep and dream affects how we live during the day. By becoming lucid to our dreams and to dreamless sleep, we’re secretly becoming more lucid or aware of our daily lives. So lucid dreaming leads to lucid living.

As fruitful as these three practices are, there is one final step for those wanting to take the deepest dive. With some proficiency in sleep yoga, one can advance into bardo yoga (“gap” yoga), which is when the darkness of sleep is used to prepare for the darkness of death. In Greek mythology, Thanatos (the god of death) and Hypnos (the god of sleep) aren’t just brothers—they’re twins. Death and sleep are intimately related. In Buddhism, death is referred to as “the dream at the end of time.” So bardo yoga, which is a Tibetan contribution, engages the tenet that dreamless means formless, and formless means deathless. Bardo yoga therefore introduces you to your formless/deathless nature—to who you really are. It points out the deepest part of you that doesn’t get old, sick, or die. Bardo yoga is a “dead end” practice that points out eternal life.

We spend a third of our lives in sleep. If you live to be 90, you’ve slept for 30 years. Imagine what you could do if you had even a fraction of that time. We spend 25% of our sleep time in dreams, which adds up to about a month a year. Think of what you could do if you added a month to each year! That’s real “overtime.”

The nocturnal meditations are cutting-edge practices. Neuroscientist Matthew Walker writes, “It is possible that lucid dreamers represent the next iteration in Homo sapiens’ evolution.” How evolutionary does that make lucid sleepers, let alone lucid “die-ers”? Do you want to be the first one on your block to take the lead in evolution? Then open your eyes to the dark, engage the nocturnal meditations, and discover the leading light within.

Andrew Holecek, What are Nocturnal Meditations
Andrew Holecek

Andrew Holecek is the author of Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life Through Lucid Dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep. He is also the founder of Night Club, an online platform that explores the nocturnal meditations and the science that supports them. Learn more about Night Club!

Andrew Holecek

Photo of ()\

Andrew Holecek teaches seminars on spirituality, meditation, and dream yoga. He is the author of The Power and the Pain: Transforming Spiritual Hardship into Joy and Preparing to Die: Practical Advice and Spiritual Wisdom from the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition. For more information, visit andrewholecek.com.

Author photo © Cindy Wilson 2013

Listen to Tami Simon's interview with Andrew Holecek: Dream Yoga, Part 1 »

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Andrew Holecek is an author and spiritual teacher whose longtime study of Buddhism blends ancient wisdom with contemporary knowledge and insights. He is renowned for his expertise in lucid dreaming and the Tibetan yogas of sleep and dream. With Sounds True, he has published the books Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life Through Lucid Dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep and Dreams of Light: The Profound Daytime Practice of Lucid Dreaming. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Andrew and Tami Simon discuss his latest book, including: the traditional three-step approach to the practice of illusory form, seeing the world in a more authentic way and connecting to what’s real, uncovering the roots of human suffering, the intersection of neuroscience and the world’s wisdom traditions, and much more.

What Are Nocturnal Meditations?

Many people know about meditating during the day, but few are aware of the “nocturnal meditations.” They’ve been around for thousands of years, tucked away under the blanket of darkness. Until recently, the nocturnal practices have been secret, deemed too subtle for the West. But with the mindfulness revolution in full swing and meditation now in the public domain, these “dark” practices are finally coming to light in the modern world. What surprises most people is how deep and vast these nocturnal meditations are—and how applicable to daily life.

The practices start with lucid dreaming, which is when you wake up to the fact that you’re dreaming while still remaining in the dream. Once it was scientifically proven in 1975, lucid dreaming has gained traction in the West. Initially, lucid dreaming isn’t much of a meditation. Most people use it to indulge their fantasies—to fulfill their wildest dreams in the privacy of their own mind. At this entry level, lucid dreaming is the ultimate in home entertainment, where you become the writer, producer, director, and main actor in an Academy Award-winning production of your own mind.

But the higher levels of lucid dreaming have extraordinary psychological and even physical benefits. You can transform nightmares, rehearse things, resolve interpersonal issues, even improve athletic performance. Neuroscience has shown that you can use your mind to change your brain (neuroplasticity), and modern dream research continues to show that you can use your dreaming mind to enhance a host of daily psychological and physical activities. Lucid dreaming at this higher level is like going to night school.

With some proficiency in lucid dreaming you can progress into dream yoga, which is when dreams are used for spiritual transformation. While lucid dreaming is largely about self-fulfillment, dream yoga is all about self-transcendence. It’s been around for thousands of years, and the Buddha (the “awakened one”) was really the ultimate lucid dreamer.

Dream yoga, like lucid dreaming, progresses from beginning to advanced stages. A beginning yogi starts by addressing the question, “What are dreams made of?” They’re made of your mind. So, by working with your dreams at this refined level, you’re working to transform your mind. One early stage of dream yoga involves transforming the objects in your dreams, like changing a dream flower to a dream chair. In so doing, one discovers the malleable nature of mind and the truth of the saying, “Blessed are the flexible, for they are never bent out of shape.” This is the “yoga” or “stretching” part of dream yoga, which develops increased pliability of mind.

One amazing quality of both lucid dreaming and dream yoga is that the benefits of what you do in your dreams don’t stay tucked into the nighttime mind. By changing a flower into a chair in your dreams (not as easy as it sounds!), you realize you can change anger into compassion in your life. In other words, your emotional states are not as solid as you think. They’re essentially as solid as a dream, and therefore as workable.

At higher levels of dream yoga, you use the “example dream” or “double delusion” of the nighttime dream to wake you up from the “real dream” or “primary delusion” of daily life—which is precisely what the Buddha did. You eventually come to the shattering conclusion that this is a dream. When seen properly—when you’re lucid to it—your waking reality is no more concrete than a dream. So a dream yogi lives by the maxim, “This is a dream; I am free; I can change.” It’s a liberating wake-up call, with profound implications for all of life.

For most people, lucid dreaming and dream yoga are enough. But for those wanting to go to “graduate school,” one can advance into sleep yoga (related to yoga nidra in Hinduism). As incredible as it may sound, this is when you learn how to become lucid in deep, dreamless sleep. In Buddhism this is called “luminosity yoga” and adheres to the teaching that fundamentally there is no darkness within—only light unseen. Sleep yoga turns on this nightlight, a luminosity so radiant that it eventually illuminates even the day. Scientists are currently trying to prove this outrageous claim with advanced meditators and dream yogis.

“Lucidity” is a code word for awareness. So, by working with any of these three practices, you’re working to cultivate greater awareness. And what doesn’t benefit with more awareness? All three of these practices engage the principle of bi-directionality, which is all about opening a two-way street between the daytime and nighttime mind. What we do during the day affects how we sleep and dream; and what we do when we sleep and dream affects how we live during the day. By becoming lucid to our dreams and to dreamless sleep, we’re secretly becoming more lucid or aware of our daily lives. So lucid dreaming leads to lucid living.

As fruitful as these three practices are, there is one final step for those wanting to take the deepest dive. With some proficiency in sleep yoga, one can advance into bardo yoga (“gap” yoga), which is when the darkness of sleep is used to prepare for the darkness of death. In Greek mythology, Thanatos (the god of death) and Hypnos (the god of sleep) aren’t just brothers—they’re twins. Death and sleep are intimately related. In Buddhism, death is referred to as “the dream at the end of time.” So bardo yoga, which is a Tibetan contribution, engages the tenet that dreamless means formless, and formless means deathless. Bardo yoga therefore introduces you to your formless/deathless nature—to who you really are. It points out the deepest part of you that doesn’t get old, sick, or die. Bardo yoga is a “dead end” practice that points out eternal life.

We spend a third of our lives in sleep. If you live to be 90, you’ve slept for 30 years. Imagine what you could do if you had even a fraction of that time. We spend 25% of our sleep time in dreams, which adds up to about a month a year. Think of what you could do if you added a month to each year! That’s real “overtime.”

The nocturnal meditations are cutting-edge practices. Neuroscientist Matthew Walker writes, “It is possible that lucid dreamers represent the next iteration in Homo sapiens’ evolution.” How evolutionary does that make lucid sleepers, let alone lucid “die-ers”? Do you want to be the first one on your block to take the lead in evolution? Then open your eyes to the dark, engage the nocturnal meditations, and discover the leading light within.

Andrew Holecek, What are Nocturnal Meditations
Andrew Holecek

Andrew Holecek is the author of Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life Through Lucid Dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep. He is also the founder of Night Club, an online platform that explores the nocturnal meditations and the science that supports them. Learn more about Night Club!

Andrew Holecek: Dream Yoga, Part 2

Andrew Holecek is an author and spiritual teacher whose work blends a background in ancient Tibetan Buddhism with the leading edge of contemporary Western thought. With Sounds True, he has released the book Dream Yoga: Illuminating Your Life Through Lucid Dreaming and the Tibetan Yogas of Sleep. In the fascinating second part of his interview on Insights at the Edge, Andrew speaks with Tami Simon about pressing beyond lucid dreaming and into the actual nighttime practice of dream yoga. They talk about illusory form yoga and invoking specific imagery within dreams to cultivate positive qualities. Finally, Andrew describes the ability to actually meditate within dreams—as well as the doorways to personal inquiry this practice can unlock. (78 minutes)

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Mindful Movement: Walking Meditation 101

The Here and Now

What if you could change your life by doing one thing for just ten seconds each day? What if this thing would make you more contented, more grounded, and less stressed?

Welcome to mindfulness.

We spend almost all of our time worrying about two things: what has already happened (the past) and what hasn’t happened yet (the future). This only makes us miserable. The past is over, so there’s nothing we can do about it. And the future isn’t something we should be thinking about right now—unless we’re taking concrete action toward a goal.

Mindfulness breaks us out of this pattern by turning our awareness to the simple moments of life as they happen. We laser in on our senses as we’re experiencing them, and we feel them deeply.

So, the way to “be deep” is to focus on what’s going on right now.

I have two favorite ways to zap into the present moment.

The first way is to briefly tune in to my breath a few times a day. Set an alarm on your watch or phone to go off at three set times during the day. When it goes off, close your eyes and take three deep breaths. Notice how the breath feels as it flows in and out. Let go of whatever else is going on in your mind. Then open your eyes and go back to your day.

The second way is to tune in to the little details of the day. Say you’re picking up a water bottle. Consider this: How does the bottle feel in your hand? Is it heavy or light? When you take a sip of the water, how does it feel on your tongue? Is it cool or warm? What does it taste like? Try this exercise with one small act each day.

deepMINDFUL MOVEMENT: Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is a great way to de-stress and get centered while moving your body and getting some fresh air. It takes only a few minutes, so you can do it almost anywhere.

  1. The next time you’re walking down the street, start by getting your senses alert. Tune in to the pace of your steps and fall into the rhythm of the steps. What do they sound like?
  2. Turn your attention to an object you see as you’re walking. It might be a sign, a tree, or a building. Look intently at that object and observe it without labeling it. Just notice it.
  3. Now turn your attention to the noises that surround you. Don’t label them. Just listen.
  4. Finally, turn your attention to your breathing. Is it fast and shallow or slow and deep? Take a few deep breaths and continue with your steady pace.
  5. When you finish your walking meditation, take a minute and pause before reentering your day. Notice the way your body and mind feel. Carry that alertness and presence with you into the rest of your day

walking meditation

This is an excerpt from the chapter “Be Deep” from Whole Girl: Live Vibrantly, Love Your Entire Self, and Make Friends with Food by Sadie Radinsky.

 

sadie radinskySadie Radinsky is a 19-year-old blogger and recipe creator. For over six years, she has touched the lives of girls and women worldwide with her award-winning website, wholegirl.com, where she shares paleo treat recipes and advice for living an empowered life. She has published articles and recipes in national magazines and other platforms, including Paleo, Shape, Justine, mindbodygreen, and The Primal Kitchen Cookbook. She lives in the mountains of Los Angeles. For more, visit wholegirl.com.

 

 

 

 

whole girl bookSounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop | Indiebound

Golden Tara to Who Helps Manifest and Fulfill Purpose

Meditating on Golden Tara shifts your sense of identity away from the smaller self that experiences itself as a separate being. When you identify with Tara in meditation and throughout the day, you realize that you are always in relationship with a fantastic, complex universe. Your energy increases because you no longer feel alone. You have Tara’s help, the help of friends, and countless other beings as well.

On the one hand, you are an infinitesimally tiny part of the grand whole. On the other hand, you have a role to play in the continuing creation of this complex universe. As you deepen and stabilize your inner Tara consciousness, your actions are imbued with love and compassion, arising from your understanding that you are an integral part of whatever you seek to change.

Remembering Tara also helps preserve your energies when you encounter unexpected obstacles; her golden light reveals the treasures hidden in the unwelcome stumbling blocks of life. Difficult challenges hold keys to awakening. Tara helps you approach problems as an inherent part of the journey, supporting you as you move toward them to uncover wisdom they might offer. They often provide a wake-up call to send you in a new direction, offering greater clarity about your life purpose.

This inclusive attitude creates more health in your personal ecosystem as well as the universal ecosystem. Ask Golden Tara to transform your challenging emotions into love and to increase your energy for discovering meaning and purpose in your life.

Tara’s Appearance

Golden Tara appears as the life-giving female buddha in a body of radiant golden light. She embodies the light of life itself. The vase in Golden Tara’s hand contains the power to increase our life energy, power, and material and spiritual resources. These resources support us in times of ease and times of difficulty, enabling us to discover and fulfill the purposes of our life on a moment-to-moment basis and over the arc of our lives.

For centuries, artists have created statues and thangka paintings of Tara, always adorned with jewelry. These sacred paintings, usually done on fabric and surrounded by brocade, portray the qualities of their subjects and convey teachings as well. Thus we take special note of Tara’s adornments. A crown rests atop her head. Necklaces of varying lengths cascade from her neck to her waist. Bracelets encircle her wrists. All have been crafted from gold with deep red and blue jewels woven into the designs.

Gold has been the preferred precious metal of jewelry makers for thousands of years. Gold is malleable; gold doesn’t tarnish. Golden light is associated with increasing life-force, healing, and holiness. Holy people of many faiths are often painted in an aura of golden radiance.

Many years ago, I heard a teaching that Tara’s jewels represent her experiences over lifetimes on her way to enlightenment and buddhahood. Profound understanding of the Buddhist teachings and her experiences as a woman led Wisdom Moon to vow to attain enlightenment as a woman and to persevere toward her goal. Tara’s life events were surely difficult and awe-inspiring, ordinary and phenomenal. All of them were precious contributions to her journey, which has benefited countless beings over hundreds of years.

The Mantra

Om Tare Tuttare Ture Sarva Ayur Punye Pushtam Kuru Soha!

“Ohm Tahray Tootahray Tooray Sarwah Ahyoor Poonyay Pushtahm Kooroo Soha!”

When you recite the mantra of Golden Tara, you are urging (kuru) Tara to increase (pushtam) your life energies (ayur) and merit (punye), your contributions to adding positive energy to beings around the world, near and far. Mantra recitations need not be limited to formal practice. Use them throughout the day to slow down and focus on whatever task is at hand.

The Practice

First, visualize the entire mandala of Green Tara emerging into the space in front of you. You are surrounded by your friends, loved ones, and supporters, and she is surrounded by your teachers and all the twenty-one emanations. After the opening prayers, imagine Golden Tara coming into the foreground of the mandala. Recall her praise while visualizing golden rays of light streaming from her heart as well as the golden vase in her right hand, which rests on her right knee, palm open in the gesture of supreme giving.

As you recite her mantra, Om Tare Tuttare Ture Sarva Ayur Punye Pushtam Kuru Soha, imagine that you are absorbing this light and that other beings and other places are receiving the light of Tara as well.

Kuru, which appears in seven of the Tara mantras, carries a particularly bold tone. You’re not meekly asking Tara to help—you’re putting your whole heart and body into this request. “Tara, please do this for me. Remove blockages so more energy flows into my life and work! I’m counting on you!” The same tasks that feel overwhelming in one moment seem entirely possible in the next.

Tara can help you discern the wisdom inherent in the obstacles you encounter in your life and practice. Meditate on the continuity in your life—the joyful moments, the extremely painful moments, and everything in between. Your experiences are not meaningless fragments. Imagine a mosaic forming as you piece the fragments together into a beautiful coherent pattern. Invoke Tara’s wisdom to give you greater clarity about your life purpose and the means to fulfill it.

Recite the mantra at least 21 times or 108 times whenever possible. Then rest in the vibrational field created by your chanting. Allow frustration and doubt to dissolve, releasing energy for healing. You become richer in inner resources, which leads to enriched outer resources as well, both material and spiritual. Affirm your connection to all life forms in the universe. Know that the benefits of your heartfelt wishes and efforts will flow from you into the world.

As you bring the session to a close, visualize Golden Tara receding into her place among the twenty-one emanations. See the whole mandala dissolve into radiant light, which flows into you and merges with your inner light. Dedicate the merit or positive potential generated by the practice to the healing of all beings—with no exceptions.

This is an adapted excerpt from Tara: The Liberating Power of the Female Buddha by Dr. Rachael Wooten.

 

rachael wooten

Rachael Wooten, PhD, is a Zürich—trained Jungian analyst and psychologist who has been in private practice as a therapist for more than 40 years. An enthusiastic interfaith activist, she has studied and practiced in Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and indigenous traditions throughout her adult life.

Rachael has been mentored by spiritual teachers such as her Tibetan root guru Lodrö Tulku Rinpoche and Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. She has taught Tara practices under the authorization of Lodrö Rinpoche for more than 20 years. Rachael has offered Tara workshops through the Resource Center for Women and Ministry in the South, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, and C. G. Jung Society of the Triangle. She currently teaches a monthly Tara meditation group at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in her hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina. To learn more, visit rachaelwootenauthor.com.

 

 

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A Grounding Meditation to Start Living From Your Heart

I would like to open with a grounding meditation. Feel free to listen to the meditation here or you can read along with the text below.

If I may, I’d like to guide you someplace warm. To an island not too far away. It won’t take much effort, just a few conscious breaths. And all I need for you to do is to stop. For this moment, stop seeking, stop solving, stop gritting and grinding. All you need is to close your eyes and receive. 

Quiet now, like water or sand. Settle now, like dusk and dew drop. One breath in, one breath out. One breath in, one breath out. Reorient yourself to face toward what is immovable inside you. Just look now. Trust and you shall see. It is there, to the left of your right lung, tucked just under your left rib, a warm small island, beating like a drum.  If you stand here long enough, you will feel the song inside being written, maybe even prayed over you. Moment by moment, it never stops. 

Can you feel you are unlacing something? Or better, something is unlacing you? Can you feel the fight stopping? The fear quieting? Can you feel your edges becoming more like wind or water, rather than shale and stone? Can you feel the light coming? The waves of warmth rising? 

Now move into this current of grace that your heart has created for you, and feel the great hush wash over you. Feel the substance of love holding your very atoms together. This is your heart, dear one. Never forget this is yours. Kneel here, whenever you are thirsty, whenever your feet are tired, or your hands are sore. Kneel here when you can’t see love any longer. Kneel here, dear one. Reorient yourself toward what is immovable in you.

My new book, Heart Minded: How to Hold Yourself and Others in Love, was written to help remind us, reconnect us, reorient us with our hearts. Through story and guided meditation, I lead you through the fraught and sometimes frightening places holding you separate from your heart. It is a journey of healing that teaches you how to see and feel not from the mind, but from the wise seat of your very heart.

Now more than ever, we are being asked to move into the consciousness of the heart. Where love, compassion, “at-one-ment” become our governing virtues. When we see through the eyes of the heart, when we become heart minded, we stand as a beacon of light, burning back the dark.

Please join me in the heart-minded revolution. 

This originally appeared as an author letter to the Sounds True audience from Sarah Blondin.

 

sarah blondinSarah Blondin is an internationally beloved spiritual teacher. Her guided meditations on the app InsightTimer have received nearly 10 million plays. She hosts the popular podcast Live Awake, as well as the online course Coming Home to Yourself. Her work has been translated into many languages and is in use in prison, recovery, and wellness programs. For more, visit sarahblondin.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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