Tibetan Dream Yoga is the original form of lucid dreaming documented for at least 1,000 years.
Also known as Milam - the yoga of the dream state - it's a suite of advanced tantric techniques.
Just like our Westernized understanding of lucid dreams, the initial aim is to awaken the consciousness in the dream state.
However, as for what happens next, Tibetan lamas have more esoteric goals in mind...
Dream yoga is taught within the trance Bardos of Dream and Sleep. In the tradiditon of tantra, it's usually passed on by a qualified teacher, once the student has passed an initiation.
It's considered a passing on of enlightened experience rather than reading texts, and requires the student to develop sufficient self awareness to achieve conscious lucidity during sleep.
Their aim is to harness the power of the lucid dream state by "apprehending the dream". Students are then required to complete set tasks to take them to the next level. These tasks include:
The ultimate goal in Tibetan dream yoga is to apprehend the dream - and then dissolve the dream state.
When deprived of physical and conceptual stimulus from the dreaming mind, you can observe the purest form of conscious awareness.
The philosophy of Tibetan Buddhism is complex, but you don't need to be an expert to practice dream yoga techniques. However, you do need to show commitment; a technique is only as good as you are prepared to work at it.
One very broad but basic rule is this: continually compare your dreams to waking reality and know what it feels like to be conscious. This will increase your self awareness and you will find it easier to induce lucidity in dreams.
Here's an example of a dream yoga technique. If you already practice lucid dreaming, you'll find it familiar because dream recall is the key to lucid dreaming which ever way you look at it.
Every time you wake up, reflect on all the dreams you can remember. In Tibetan Buddhism, it's believed that the ego travels about during sleep - revisiting places we have been to in real life, and repeating all our experiences.
So it's important to meditate upon your latest dreams and recollections. Stay completely still while you do this, because the "dream body" is disturbed by physical movement and the memories are lost.
As you meditate on your dreams, repeat the mantra: RAOM GAOM, accentuating the O and splitting each word into two syllables. This will help focus your awareness on memories from the unconscious.
To learn more about dream yoga, I recommend The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. Unlike many other books on the subject, Tenzin is clear and concise and offers lots of practical examples.
This book is aimed at beginners to dream yoga, starting with the nature of dreams and their relationship with reality. He also emphasizes how you can incorporate dream yoga into your daily life and reap the rewards of this profound lucid dreaming practice.
What do blind people dream about? Can they "see" in their dreams? Take a look at scientific studies into the dreams of the blind, colorblind, and black-and-white dreamers. In 1999, dream researchers at the University of Hartford analyzed 372 dreams of 15 blind people. They found that both the congenitally blind and those who went blind before five years old did not have any visual dreams at all. That's because our dreams are made up of real world experiences and our innermost thoughts, anxieties and desires. So for someone who has never perceived images or light (or can't remember any) their dreams simply can't manifest visually.
Not long ago, scientists at Frankfurt University discovered how to produce lucid dreams with electronic stimulation. It was a world first. And - astonishingly - it worked in non-lucid dreamers 77% of the time. Now you can buy the same technology for yourself. The foc.us V2 - which delivers the proven optimum 40 Hz transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) - was originally developed to increase working memory in video gamers and improve sleep.
As technology continues to move us towards more immersive dreamlike experiences, one can only wonder what digital wonders lay just beyond the horizon of tomorrow. We may also question just how the future of virtual reality will impact the study and practice of lucid dreaming. Are we, perhaps, the last generation to whom lucid dreaming will maintain an appeal?
Jeremiah Morelli is a whimsical fantasy artist and visual storyteller. He places conceptual fairytale creatures in vivid dreamscapes to capture the imagination. He's also a school teacher, and amazingly finds the time and motivation to create this huge gallery of artwork. Such light and dark fairytale paintings make beautiful places to visit in your lucid dreams.
Inspired and named for the notion of Flatland, artist and photographer Aydin Buyuktas has created a series of works where "a space of surprises creates a space that creates surprises." Based on photos of Istanbul, Buyuktas explains: "We live in places that most of the times don't draw our attention, places that transform our memories, places that the artist gives another dimension; where the perceptions that generally crosses our minds will be demolished and new ones will arise. These works aim to leave the viewer alone with a surprising visuality, ironic as well as a multidimensional romantic point of view."
Experts agree that everyone is capable of having lucid dreams. Dreaming itself is a normal function of the mind. We all dream every night, even if we don't remember. And we all achieve conscious awareness while awake every single day. So what does it mean to combine these states? Why, the amazing ability to have conscious - or lucid - dreams. Sounds simple, doesn't it? So why do I keep hearing from people who say they can't achieve their first lucid dream?