When Dreams Speak Mindfully

Bunny Left side 072813In all the ways I have considered present moment awareness, I do not remember wondering whether or not my dreams were mindful. In fact, dream speak has never been on any kind of awareness meter for me, until recently.

“The moment is all you ever have and it is enough” is what I heard myself say in a dream. It brought me right into the present for immediately, I was awake. Certainly, I am familiar with that sentence as it has appeared in a number of blog posts and is the second sentence of my Twitter bio as well.

Thoughts may not be tangible but they are powerful, although like bubbles, they float to the surface and burst—every time. Maybe the closest we come to reality is being in the moment. While I am somewhat curious about what I was dreaming—I have never remembered–I am more curious about being jolted into mindfulness.

For a few months now, I have been sitting meditation through two flares, which has made the entire experience—physically and emotionally–different from any previous. Meditation helps me distinguish between qualifying the flares and immersing myself in them.

In other words, it is not a matter of how I am feeling but that I am feeling what is occurring in each moment. The idea that the moment is the only reality that I am experiencing opened up possibility after possibility for me, and eventually, found its way into my dreams.

There is a lojong slogan in meditation instruction that says, “regard all dharmas as dreams,” which Pema Chödrön explains as “regard all thoughts as being the same as a dream [for]…as we sit in meditation, we could begin to realize that we create everything, all our thoughts, with our mind” (Chödrön).
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In meditation, rather than letting the thoughts trample all over me, I try to witness them for the transient dreams they are, first flaring and then, fleeing. If I do anything more than witness what is occurring, I attach to the thought, giving it life. This is when the “what ifs” and thus, the story, begin. When we attach to the drama of any thought, we have completely left the moment.

Pema Chödrön advises using the word “thinking” whenever we find ourselves attaching to a thought during meditation. As we utter the word in our mind, the story that once gave life to that thought vanishes. Immediately, we are present, as if awakening from a dream. With the thought gone, we return to a light emphasis on the breath and resume our role as witness.

As this exercise works so well for me during meditation, I use it post meditation as well. The practice is the same, including the breath. Regardless of what is occurring, no-thing is bigger than the moment; I find this particularly helpful in moments of physical and emotional discomfort.

“In our everyday lives, we are run around by these thoughts that we make so solid with our mind and our thinking. So when we say, ‘regard it all as a dream,’ we lead ourselves toward something that many people have discovered throughout the ages about the nature of reality: it’s not as solid as we think” (Chödrön).

More and more, I stay with what is occurring in the moment rather than going off with a thought. It is a shorter and more scenic trip. Also, impermanence seems more a friend than I ever thought possible.


All quotes are from How to Meditate: A Practical Guide to Making Friends With Your Mind by Pema Chödrön, Kindle version, May 2013.

In a Free Fall Flare

My regular Thursday and Sunday posts have been rather irregular for I remain in a free fall flare or the state of still falling apart, which is not to say it is not enlightening for it is.

As a dear friend pointed out, a flare is a flash of light, and this recent lupus flare is full of light for me. It is not so much a matter of physical or emotional discomfort but more a matter of “nowness” as Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche calls it:

“The way to relax, or rest the mind in nowness, is through the practice of meditation.

“In meditation you take an unbiased approach.

You let things be as they are, without judgment, and in that way you yourself learn to be.”
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche

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I, myself, learning to be is what this flare feels like, if not quite a true free fall at least in constant motion. Sometimes, the flare feels like a game of pinball, silver-steeled balls bumping up against this teaching only to zip over to that tradition and back up to yet another healing alternative–all disappearing only to re-emerge.

No doubt that sounds rather scattered and perhaps unpleasant but it does not feel that way. Frankly, it feels like heightened awareness for unlike the game of pinball, I am allowed to sit in the energy of each moment and explore it through the practice of meditation.

“Sitting meditation opens us to each and every moment of our life. Each moment is totally unique and unknown….

“This very moment, free of conceptual overlay, is completely unique. It is absolutely unknown.

“We’ve never experienced this very moment before, and the next moment will not be the same as the one we are in now.

“Meditation teaches us how to relate to life directly, so that we can truly experience the present moment, free from conceptual overlay.”
(Pema Chödrön, How to Meditate: A Practical Guide)

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In the eyes open meditation that Pema Chödrön is describing, we separate the storyline or thoughts–the conceptual overlay– from the energy of the emotion or sensation we are feeling. In essence, we are open to it.

I am new to the eyes open meditation that Pema Chödrön advocates and first tried it during the online retreat offered by the Omega Institute. In eyes open meditation, the gaze is downward but the head is erect and one is constantly aware of what is occurring in the present moment.

“Open the eyes, because it furthers this idea of wakefulness. We are not meditating in hopes of going further into sleep, so to speak.

“We are not internalizing. This isn’t a transcendental type of meditation where you’re trying to go to special states of consciousness.

“Rather, we meditate to become completely open to life— and to all the qualities of life or anything that might come along”
(Pema Chödrön, How to Medicate: A Practical Guide).

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Meditating with my eyes open was not as difficult as I thought it might be, even the first time, but then, I have the advantage of being in a flare, of being in a flash of light. In a flare, it is obvious that the gift of any moment of discomfort is present moment awareness.

Beyond the flare, practicing this wakeful kind of meditation at the start of my day prepares me for the post-meditation moments. Sitting meditation isn’t always comfortable and neither is life but meditation helps us sit down into the shifting emotional energy that flows through our daily lives.

We learn to go deep, beneath the conceptual overlay or storyline, to the energy of our emotions, of our pain. When we sit within the energy of our pain, we see into the state of us. There, we begin to heal—to suffer less—for we accept the alternating pain and pleasure that is the nature of our human condition, part and parcel. We, ourselves, learn to be.

Thank you for reading my blog. It matters a great deal to me that you do.