Sojourns Beyond the Body

I stopped writing about my lucid dreams/OOBE's last fall, mainly because real life became so demanding that my nighttime practice fell off somewhat. But recently, I have returned to a fairly regular practice of middle-of-the-night meditation as a supplement to my early morning meditation. As a part of this middle-of-the-night regimen, I usually take 8 mg. of galantamine (an over-the-counter supplement derived from various lilies, including the snow drop lily) immediately upon awakening so that by the time I return to sleep, it's doing its job of increasing the amount of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in my brain. I still marvel that a slight increase in a neurotransmitter involved in cognitive processing can have such dramatic effects on my dreams--as well as my performance at the bridge table! But then again, it rarely induces lucid dream without the meditation beforehand. Not for me, at least.

This morning was pretty typical. I got up at 5:30, meditated for about half an hour til I got sleepy, and then laid back down. Within a few minutes, I was suddenly flying up through blackness. I meditated as I flew upward, and waited for imagery to appear. The last time I did this, a few days ago, the same thing happened, and I expected to see the earth below me at some point. But I suddenly found myself swimming in an expanse of luminous water before I emerged into a terrestrial setting.


This morning, however, I did not find myself in water, but rather in a beautiful woodland scene with people all around. I went from place to place--usually flying as I went--and speaking with people I encountered. One woman even prepared food for me even though she knew I was "from another place" and would soon be leaving and obviously could not eat with her. At another point, I took off and a little girl grabbed my foot; so I flew up in the air with her before taking her gently back to the ground. So much happened over the course of almost an hour (I intentionally brought myself back at about 7 am) that I don't have enough time to share all of it.


Throughout the experience, however, I would look for the Light in all of its various forms--bright light fixtures, the sun, the moon, and other sources of radiance. As I have found for the past 40 years, the Light tends to become dim, or retreat, once I gaze upon it. It's not always been true, but it's been a recurrent theme throughout countless lucid dreams--that when I stare at the Light, it will usually fade.


(Interestingly, the times when the Light has intensified and taken me into a state of ecstasy has been those occasions when the Light appeared and overwhelmed me before I could have any agenda--I was its object, not the other way around!)


In one frustrating dream 30 years ago, I was growing frustrated by the way that the light seemed to "collapse" into an object without any luster. A woman walked up and told me one of the most significant things that anyone has ever said to me: "You must first learn to love the form before you can see the Light within it." So, ever since then, I've been "coming down from the mountain," endeavoring to embrace a more embodied experience, and learning to value everyday life. But throughout, my mystical yearning has persisted alongside this commitment. And lately, the opportunities to gaze upon the Light has occurred with regularity in the often-hour-long lucid dreams that I've been experiencing almost every time I use the meditation/galantamine combination.


This morning, in fact, was something of a new phase. For the first several encounters with the Light, I noticed the dimming effect, and thus started to work with my subjective state as I gazed upon the radiance. Finally, in the last scene, a brilliant white sun appeared overhead, and I looked upon it. At first, it started to fade a bit, so I looked away and smiled inwardly, feeling gratitude to be in the presence of it. I looked back, and it became more intense again. I continued to contemplate with gratitude, rather than with desire, and it maintained its immense white corona.


The issue of yearning or desire is at the center of the spiritual life, especially in Buddhism where desire is at the root of all suffering. And in Christianity, it was Peter's material desire to capitalize on Jesus's transfiguration that made Jesus say, "Get thee behind me, Satan." However, desire is also what takes us beyond the status quo. While it can never grasp the object of its dreams, it can take us to the threshold of attainment where in the end we are called upon to surrender it. This thought came to me when thinking of the role of desire: Desire leads to practice, and practice leads to mastery, and mastery allows us to let go of desire. So to fault someone for desiring this or that may be to commit one of two errors: the error of someone who either has suppressed desire out of fear or judgment, or someone who has grown beyond it and forgotten the necessary and imperfect role that it once served. There is a saying in the East, "To the one who has arrived, the way is foreign." I think this addresses the problem of judging a lower stage of development from a higher perspective.


When I was four, my best friend and I nailed a piece of bamboo to the end of a 2x4 to make a propeller for an airplane. I said to him with absolute conviction that we would fly together on that plane. I was fortunate that no one was there to tell me that I was deluded, because I still desire impossible things.

Comments

Kirk Andrew said…
What type of meditation do you do to bring on lucid dreams? Can you briefly describe the technique?
Kirk, my approach has become rather simple. I sometimes use mantras to combat my distracting thoughts. I like Om Nama Shivaya, because it anchors me in my devotion to the guru within. But ultimately, I try to get beyond thought, and beyond mantra, to a state of full immersion. When I succeed, I "disappear" and only a kind of pure awareness exists. Sometimes I see things--usually grids or or webs, or patterns of such exquisite detail that it's hard to imagine--but it's not important that I do. In order to get there, I tend to do what is called "chopping down the tree" in one Buddhist text; that is, I gently challenge each thought, pushing it away until there's no pushback, no thought intruding. Then I stay in the silence, maintaining a 'no-thought" state, which can take a lot of energy. But if I persist, eventually, there's a shift and I'm "gone" or simply watching.

Of course, sometimes it's just a squirrel mind, and I don't get very far. But I once heard that one cannot determine the value of a meditation on the basis of one's subjective assessment. I think of meditation, metaphorically, as putting money in an IRA. There's not an immediate reward, but the accumulation over time changes one's life. As for lucid dreaming, I think that any sincere effort to increase your focus and clarity through meditation will carry over into the dream state. The particular method is probably not very important.