In August last year, Shambhala Publications published a revised and updated edition of Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche's 1998 book Tibetan dream and sleep yogas. This new, welcome second edition benefits from being expanded with teachings given by Rinpoche at workshops and retreats over the past few years.
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche is the founder of Ligmincha International, an organization dedicated to preserving the spiritual teachings of the Bön tradition indigenous to Tibet. After training as a monk, Rinpoche chose a family life, which gave him a very valuable and less common perspective on spiritual practice compared to many gurus – a human perspective, real and accessible to all who learn from him.
Rinpoche reminds us of the significant number of years of our lives that we spend sleeping. And while it's true that by the standard definition we're unconscious during those years, every 24 hours we have another wonderful opportunity to practice enough awareness to better prepare ourselves for the "one-shot deal" at the end. of this (every) mortal life; to gain enough awareness to help us skillfully navigate the Bardo realm and our rebirth. Practicing during our waking hours is a wonderful thing, but if we slip into uncontrolled, unconscious dreams while sleeping, we have little or no chance of dealing with the moment of physical separation at death. We have a moment to get it right, and that moment determines our next rebirth, so let's try not to mess that up! This sleep yoga practice also simply extends the time we can practice, which many students will no doubt find appealing.
The teachings in this book remind me of lessons we also learn in fields such as neuroscience: that we can physically alter our brains when we become aware of a life of conditioning and habit building, and thereby break the tendencies of a learned personality. .
This presents an opportunity to change the habits of who we are and who we have become in order to create a version of who we want to be. Or, more importantly, breaking the conditioning of who we have become in order to find who we really are. This daily awareness, as Rinpoche reminds us, conditions the mind for nighttime awareness, which prepares us for the transition.
And it is with this concept in mind, both spiritually and psychologically, that Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche really taps into a stream of thought – and one that I had already mulled over: treating life as a dream. Rinpoche insists on not being careless or stupid in approaching this idea. No jumping from tall buildings assuming we can fly or any other manifestation of risky fantasy. Instead, this approach gives us an objective view of our life experiences that we usually view subjectively. And it can really help us get out of our emotional quagmires and personality-shaping behavioral patterns.
At first, the practice of seeing life as a dream can feel like living in a fantasy version of yourself, giving us an almost unusual sense of confidence. Suddenly, we are again the protagonists of our own life story, much like we were in our childhood, but this time less naive. The emphasis here is on the sensitive body.
Those who promulgate the law of assumption (manifesting a desired reality under mentalism) stress the importance of feeling; that the intellect alone is not enough. You can't just think it or even imagine it, you have to feel it. It must be real to the emotional body. We can say that we transform an imagined thought into a felt experience and move it into our fascial system, which our whole being then registers as real. This new visceral "reality" is due to conscious design, which can reform a formed personality as well as a physical reality. However, it is more about upgrading our kunzhi (primordial basis of being) consciousness and luminous rigpa (knowledge of the terrain) spirit. In fact, it is in his very relatable language that Rinpoche addresses topics that are only now being revealed in the realm of quantum physics: how meditation can take us into the space between the smallest known particles, space of the unknown that is the vast majority of our known reality. Oh the oxymoron.
Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche's book covers everything from the history of dream yoga to deep practices in a beautiful, eloquent and profound way. He discusses the value of visualization (and as a visual artist myself, I place great importance on how gentle attention on a deity can help bring the mind and body into the "zone". "), and how yidam visualization can help shift and manifest attributes within us. This is particularly thanks to our mirror neurons which reflect and imitate what is standing in front of them, as an image or as a culture, right down to how to fall asleep while remaining fully conscious. Rinpoche discusses the different forms of dreams and, of course, the importance of maintaining responsible vigilance. For example, consider the error of drawing advice from a dream that was the product of indigestion. Or how can one risk falling into the trap of magical thinking, where one can self-aggrandize or adopt a diviner's attitude in daily life?
This book is full of incredible teachings and information that we are privileged to benefit from. Rinpoche is fully aware that the subject of dreams has fascinated in the West, especially since the beginning of the last century, for pioneering psychologists and psychiatrists such as Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. But in these teachings, Rinpoche takes us deeper, beyond the psychological, beyond the collective unconscious and into the very essence of the mind.
If we are indeed living in an ocean of non-dual consciousness, where we are reminded that there is nothing to seek or transcend, then the act of anything other than being seems counterproductive. The imaginal is just a construct of the ego, and yet we practice and seek enlightenment regardless. This dichotomy and dissonance of reality is skillfully addressed by Rinpoche in this book. The practices he offers can help us stay lucid in our dream state and retain rigpa during the state of sleep, and in so doing, revitalizing our waking reality while handing us the “passport” to the liberation of the “airport” of Bardo.
It is less a book than a manual. One we must read until we understand it. But reading alone will not yield results. It is a practical instruction, which we would do well to practice every evening. Like the breath, the concept alone is not as effective as the practice.