When we say good night to the world and drift into sleep, the golden person, the immortal one, the energy body, the soul, gently moves away from the nest of the physical body, though still safely attached by a thin silver ethereal cord, to begin its night journey in the daybreak of a dream.
Those journeys beyond the body, beyond the dense energy of the physical world, are our natural opportunity to dip into and explore the world of pure energy, infinity itself. This is why the Hindus and the Tibetan Buddhists call the bardo of the dream the bardo of death.
In dying, our incarnate essence leaves its nest for the final time, this time with its umbilical cord severed, as it is born into the greater world of energy. To the Buddhists and Hindus the ability to smoothly make that transition, that is, to be able to sustain a sense of cohesion and awareness beyond the body, to be ready to continue life beyond the physical world, determines what comes next. Will we choose to reincarnate in this world, in another carnate round of preparation, or, from an enlightened place, continue the journey beyond the carnate, beyond the body, in infinity?
Buddhists, Hindus and the Seers of Ancient Mexico spend much of their energy in this life becoming familiar and comfortable with life in the bardo of the dream to prepare for their definitive journey at the time of their death in this world.
Every night we do die to this world when we enter sleep and life beyond the body. I recall, as a child, when I first became aware of this truth. I realized that when I closed my eyes to sleep I could not be certain I’d return, the terror of which interrupted my going to sleep for weeks. Every person must pass this gate of challenge in this life. Many get waylaid at this gate, starting in childhood as we cling to parents, lights, and rituals to assure safe passage through the night and rebirth the next morning.
Children are not fully socialized, that is, they have yet to be talked out of their knowing perceptions of energetic life that they encounter beyond the physical world. They are challenged to reconcile with these ‘imaginary friends’ or stand up to scary projections. Seniors, as they prepare to die, often have clear visitations with evolved energetic beings—people they once knew, though long gone from this world—who come to prepare them for safe transition into the next life. Dying people may experience the lifting of the socialized rational veil that once blocked these perceptions and find themselves in a condition professionals often call dementia.
In between childhood and the dusk of life we are all challenged every night to let our physical bodies go to rest and open to a world of energy. So awesome is this task that it’s no wonder we remember so little of where we’ve been and what we’ve done during our nighttime adventures.
When I prepare to sleep at this stage of my life, I simply note when I need to return to this world, with the total confidence that I will be dropped off—that is, awoken—at the exact moment I’ve asked to arrive. What happens in between leaving and arriving is sheer magic, mystery, and adventure. Time and space are nonexistent in that world. I can awaken from but a moment of dreaming and recall endless dream journeys in what was only a minute or two of actual time. The only question is how aware I will be in the dream, or really, how much I will allow myself to remember.
It’s all about remembering. That is the essence of recapitulation in waking life. The more we remember the more we recover of ourselves. It’s not really about the skill of memory. It’s more about our readiness to expand our knowing of ourselves. Can we accept aspects of ourselves that seem foreign and uncomfortable and unfamiliar to our working sense of self? Are we ready to allow ourselves to experience the energetic world that is generally checked by the filter of rationality, keeping us fixated on the dense world of solid objects?
We owe to psychoanalysis the resuscitation of the dream, a modern attempt to reclaim the value of the night. There is indeed much to be gained by the analysis of dreams, much to be discovered about the shadow dimension of ourselves in the unrestricted playground of the dream. Again though, the challenge: how prepared are we to accept the unacceptable or unknown aspects of ourselves? Despite the analytical value of the dream, this approach does lend itself to domination by the ego with its monkey mind that quickly and associatively springs away from the dream itself.
Native American approaches to dreaming and the night became popularized and made accessible to the masses by Patricia Garfield with the publication of her book Creative Dreaming in 1974. She researched how the dream in the Native American world functioned as an active playing field that was valued as much as that of waking life. A father instructs his son, awoken by a nightmare, to return to the dream and actively confront the bear who chased him.
Carlos Castaneda’s publication of The Art of Dreaming in 1993 opened the gate to the active side of infinity through the step by step development of conscious dreaming. Don Juan made it clear that our dreaming attention was a dormant ability simply awaiting our attention. If we merely call to it, it will awaken, and with it our growing ability to venture into the bardo of the dream with awareness.
For myself, I am well aware that most of what I know comes to me in my nightly journeys. Though I don’t always remember the experiences, I clearly retain the lessons. Deja vu is really just a moment of remembering. I know that my dreaming partners, Jan and Jeanne, are amused at my reluctant remembering.
I offer these rudimentary steps to those who wish to accept the invitation to a dream:
1. Know that you are already a dreamer.
2. Put a pen and dream notebook next to your pillow with a handy light. Better yet, as Jan suggests, learn to write in the dark, in your sleep!
3. State your intent to remember your dream. Say it out loud—I intend to remember my dream!
4. When you awaken, no matter how tired and certain you are that you can’t possibly forget your dream, write it down!
5. Dismiss not the tiniest fragment of a dream. Every morsel is a golden nugget.
6. Know that you are safe and protected; you can always wake up if you need to.
7. If you don’t want to be in the dream you are in, change it! State your intent, change the dream, or wake up.
8. Treat your dream as a lesson of some sort. When you review the dream keep it simple. Imagine your dream was a movie you had just seen. Say to yourself: What do I feel, what do I take from it? What possible relevance might this have for my life? If nothing comes, let it sit, take another look later. Watch what happens in the day. Perhaps the dream will suddenly make sense in an encounter you might have.
I conclude with a story and a song. Carlos Castaneda and don Juan Matus enjoyed going to the movies together. One movie struck don Juan’s fancy: You Only Live Twice. I’m not certain it was the Bond girls don Juan liked. I think it was the song of the same title, sung by Nancy Sinatra. Here’s the link.