Lucid dreaming teaches us we don’t need anything. Pretty possessions might be nice, but we already own them, physical or not.
About 6 months ago (complete guess) I was reading about this guy who let go of everything and became homeless because he wanted to build a business from scratch.
At the start he was into extreme camping, so he would pitch a makeshift tent on an abandoned building then blog about it. These days he tours the country staying in Buddhist temples and learning about some cool things.
Today he’s going to share some very cool stuff and I’ve learned a ton reading it.
(Reader Story, By Omar Von Gimbel)
In Buddhism there are different aids to enlightenment; the four establishers of mindfulness, the four right strivings, the four bases of power, the five faculties, the five powers, the seven enlightenment factors, and the eight noble path factors.
Right now I want to talk about the four bases of power or “iddhipada”. The Pali language (the language spoken by the Buddha) doesn’t always translate perfectly into English. In this case iddhipada is no exception.
Iddhipada is a combination of two words. “Iddhi”; power, success, accomplishment, potency, and prowess, and “pada”; base, basis, or constituent.
In the context the Buddha was using, the word was referring to super-paranormal powers. Now I don’t know how you feel about levitation, walking on water, teleportation, clairvoyance, remembrance of past lives, and mind reading, but it really doesn’t matter.
In Buddhism, these are considered to be far less important than the base mental qualities needed to achieve these powers, but you might be interested in learning more about iddhipada.
The mental qualities that achieve these powers
The four base mental qualities that help you achieve lucid dreaming are:
- energy or effort
- intention or desire
- consciousness or mind
- wisdom or investigation
The key to developing these mental qualities is placing concentration on each one.
The Pali word this comes from is “viriya”. Viriya is commonly translated as energy, diligence, enthusiasm, or effort.
Basically, you are not going to achieve lucid dreaming if you don’t do the work. It is often said that “knowledge is power”, however that isn’t really true. APPLIED knowledge is power.
For example, if you were stranded in the wilderness in freezing conditions, would knowing how to start a fire save your life? Absolutely not!
What will save your life is actually applying that knowledge. You have to put in the effort of gathering firewood, creating the friction to cause a spark, and physically maintaining that fire so it doesn’t go out.
This is probably the least favorite, but most essential element to achieving lucid dreaming. You have to actually do the exercises to see their results.
“Chanda” is defined as intention, interest, or desire to act.
This mental quality is a psychological “yes”, a choice, not some sort of pathology. You obviously have the intention to learn lucid dreaming or why else would you be here?
Often, in the beginning, the desire to act is based on faith. You might have read about lucid dreaming, or maybe you know someone who has done it. Later as you begin to experience results for yourself this intention grows.
The desire to act becomes stronger and more exciting at this point. Go with it. Use your increased interest to put more effort into your practice and get even more results.
“Citta” is one of three overlapping terms in Pali to refer to the mind, the others being manas and vinnana. Each is sometimes used in the generic and non-technical sense of “mind”, however their primary uses are more distinct.
Citta is more of a heart/mind word. The emphasis would be on the emotional aspects of the mind. In psychology, they sometimes refer to this part of the mind as the “mammalian” brain.
This refers to the quality of your mind, as opposed to the mind as an entity or process.
Have you ever heard the expression “that kid’s got heart”? That is what we are talking about here. Basically, your mindset has to be in tune with your goal to experience lucid dreaming.
It will do you little good to do all the practices if you have a bad attitude about lucid dreaming. I’m not saying that a healthy skepticism is bad, and I will get into that more in the next mental quality. However, the universe is a curious place. If you set out to fail at lucid dreaming you will fail.
“Vimamsa” means investigation, inquiry, pondering, contemplation, and discernment.
This skillful wisdom is where we get a sense of whether we are doing a successful practice or if we are just spinning our wheels. If there is just exertion, we don’t know if it’s right or wrong.
A teacher can only show the way to lucid dreaming. It is up to you to do the practice, and constantly check in with yourself to see if it is getting you results.
This is the healthy skepticism I was talking about. If you’re spending months and years in an attempt to experience lucid dreaming with no results, don’t keep doing the same things.
Question your teacher. By that, I mean dig deeper. Ask if there is something you are missing. Find out if you truly understand the process. Maybe there is an important detail in the practice you are missing.
Faith is not meant to be blind. Rather it grows from confidence. Confidence comes from experience. Use your inherent wisdom to check what you are doing with your personal experience and trust your own judgment.
Developing these mental qualities
What good would an analytical discussion be if I didn’t offer a tool to help you get started?
Meditation comes in different forms. Typically meditation is used to develop concentration and tranquility. From this concentration comes the meditative “trances” or states of rapture. In Pali these altered states are called “jhana”.
This type of meditation is called “samatha” meditation. However, I am going to teach you a different meditation this time. The meditation practice known as “vipassana” or “insight” meditation.
Vipassana is about being aware in the present moment. Even though it is considered an advanced meditation to samatha, paradoxically, it can help you train to achieve the deeper levels of concentration.
Vipassana is cool because it can be done at any time, not just when sitting cross-legged on a meditation cushion. You can practice mindfulness while walking, sitting, lying down, eating, doing the dishes, or whatever.
For this practice, you are not trying to exclude your thoughts by focusing on a single point of concentration. However, you don’t want to let your thoughts carry you away either.
The reason it’s considered an advanced meditation practice is not because it’s harder to do, but because the rewards gained are greater than just deep concentration.
Even though deep concentration will help you achieve lucid dreaming, present moment awareness will help you develop the mental qualities I have been discussing. These mental qualities are what lead to skills like lucid dreaming.
How to practice vipassana meditation
Sitting can help you get into the right mindset a little better, because it’s more often associated with meditation. Sometimes these stronger associations set the tone for our practice.
However, if you want to sit, stand, lie down, or walk that’s OK too. The only thing I would stress is to have a straight back. Not a stiff and rigid one, but a good, straight posture in the back.
Now simply start by paying attention to your breath. Notice you are breathing in. Then notice you are breathing out again. Simple enough, huh?
Don’t force the breath, just let it happen naturally. Speaking of naturally, thoughts are a natural part of having a mind. When you are new to meditation, they will be like a wild monkey: all over the place.
The difference between vipassana meditation and samatha meditation is that you’re not trying to force your thoughts out of the practice.
Simply acknowledge your thought without judging it and return to your breath. At first it may be difficult to keep them from carrying you away, but as soon as you notice you are thinking again just make a mental note of it.
Simply acknowledge to yourself that you’re thinking again and return your attention to your breath.
It doesn’t matter if you are thinking good thoughts, horrible thoughts, thoughts of the past, or thoughts of the future. Don’t judge them. Just respectfully acknowledge them and return the focus to your breath.
This goes for feelings as well. Sometimes vipassana will bring up certain emotions like joy, or even anger. Don’t judge them as good or bad. Simply acknowledge them and return your focus to your breath.
If you get an itch, or perhaps you notice a pain in your body, that’s OK too. If it becomes too unbearable then scratch it or make an adjustment before returning to your breath. However, these can be great tools to keep you in the present moment.
In this case, simply focus on the unpleasant feeling instead of your breath. Study the process like a scientist.
What is this pain? Where does it come from? Is it real, or just another state of mind? Will it go away on its own? How long does that take?
Sometimes you will notice it goes away by itself and you can simply return to your breath. Sometimes you get another thought and forget about the pain. Instead the thought is more powerful at holding your attention.
When you realize this, acknowledge your thought, and – you guessed it – return your attention to your breath.
The benefits of vipassana meditation
Not only will you develop the mental qualities necessary for lucid dreaming from vipassana meditation, but you will notice a few other side effects with time.
Insight meditation actually dissolves mental hindrances like greed, jealousy, anger, and stress. In exchange character traits like wisdom, compassion, and patience grow in their place.
My favorite benefit is what psychologists call “observing ego”. People with observing ego are what others refer to as “cool”.
It’s an ability to be aware of your thoughts and actions as they happen. Instead of having moments where you look back and think “I should have said ‘this’ instead”, or “I wish I did ‘that’ instead”, you develop the ability to check yourself in the moment.
You begin to see other people’s actions for what they are. Instead of reacting to them, you are able to choose to act or not to act. You become the ’cause’ of the ‘effects’ in your world instead of the ‘effect’ of the ’causes’.
What do you think?
Are you willing to put in the effort to experience lucid dreaming? Do you have the desire to see it through until it happens? Do you got heart, kid?
What about vipassana? Is this a meditation you can practice? Do you already practice vipassana? If so, what are some of the benefits you have gotten from it?
Is this all too much? Did I just make all this up? Are you just not cut out to reach your goals?
Leave me a comment and share your insight on the subject, and if this was helpful be sure to share this article on Facebook or Twitter too.
Photo by Stuck in Customs
Omar Von Gimbel is in search of the Dhamma.
Wandering from sangha to sangha learning the difference between what the Buddha taught and Buddhism, he writes about the wisdom he gains, the different cultural traditions in Buddhism, and how to apply these lessons to modern life at kinesthetictiger.com.
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