A Case Against Lucid Dreaming

Lucid dreaming gurus across the web invite us to wake up in our dreams and take control of them. We are further invited to become whoever we wish to be and do whatever we wish to do…traveling to distant worlds and enjoying various pleasurable activities that may be eluding us in our waking lives.

I know that I have simplified all of that…

But my practice is taking me in a different direction. I think our dreams may originate from a deeper and more meaningful place…a level of consciousness that is macrocosmic in nature and beyond our microcosmic comprehension.

If I’m right about that, perhaps we should be learning to stabilize our dreams and then to enter them empty of thought and with conscious awareness so that we can steep ourselves in the possible primordial wisdom that they may hold.



This may be an oversimplification, at least from some of the “Gurus” I have listened to. Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche describes three types of sleep, which may indeed lead to dreaming that originates from different places within. Sleep of ignorance where we just collapse and sleep. Sansaric sleep where most of our dreams happen, originate from our body and all the activities of the day, caused by emotions and feelings. Pretty much most of our dreams are somehow connected with activity and emotions. Most of our dreams are Sansaric dreams. Driven by our pain identity. The third one is sleep of clarity, the topic of sleep yoga practice.

Perhaps you are experiencing what he calls the sleep of clear light? Most of my own dreams are sansaric in nature and I can usually see where they come from. On very rare occasions I may go to a deeper place but I still don’t have a meaningful relationship with that, not as you clearly have.

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It was, indeed, an oversimplification of sorts, Barry…postulated in the hope of stimulating a discussion on our various goals in this practice. For instance, I would debate the premise of today’s Whispers of Wisdom. I might say that, as an integral part of the Macro-Consciousness, we truly are creators but if our lucid dreaming instills satisfaction and pride in that role perhaps we are wrongly attaching ourselves to that creator role rather than becoming just an interconnected part of the creation.

I get two or three of these Lucid Dream Gurus in my inbox every week, btw, promising me a way to control my dreams (for various sums of money, of course). Tenzin Wangyal is not one of them.

I have had Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep in front of me almost daily for the last two years and my practice has definitely edged toward his Sleep Yoga protocols.


I agree with Barry, here, I’m far away from any clear light experiences.

My current main goal is more on personal experiences about concepts like lucid light, clear light mind and a collective unconscious.

Therefore, as soon as I have realized I’m dreaming and performed a RC, I shout out loud my current wish/lucid dream goal. I just ignore the current dream scene and wait for the reaction to my request. I’m always surprised about what happens. That means, my ‘Inner Self’ (or ‘dreamer behind the dream’, my unconscious’, or even collective unconscious etc.) ‘creates’ my lucid dream scene.
I also use it as my WILD technique, but I’m only successful with it about 1:10 or so.


I like this approach a lot. I have been staying passively engaged in the dream scene with some very interesting results. I must keep your approach in my mind for those times when the dream scene slips more toward fantasy

I have found that a modified WILD can lead into a clear light sleep period if you can empty yourself of all thought and emotion as sleep approaches.


To reach such a goal, I’d have to become better in meditation first, I think. But I like it :+1:


I am currently taking his month long Sleep Yoga course. This week the focus is “Letting go of Exhaustion.” Hits the sweet spot for me.


Definitely pondering that.


Most of the time we breath as though air is very expensive. We don’t breath well.

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche


I can relate to the view of B.Alan Wallace, Tenzin Wangyal and others, that differentiate between the “conventional” practice of lucid dreaming and dream yoga.
In this view, lucid dreaming is simply seen as a set of mind skills, that allows the practioner to watch and engage in the dynamic content of the substrate consciousness. Nothing more, nothing less.
TWR and other teachers have noted that, if one engages lucid dreaming only for hedonic pleasures, there is no spiritual benefit in this skill and it is a better form of entertainment.
In contrast, in dream yoga, if one engages the substrate consciousness with certain spiritual intentionality in meditational practice, one may reap spiritual benefits.
Depending on the vector, one could take the approach to drop through the substrate consciousness’ dreamscape into clear light sleep into sleep yoga, or, one could use the vipashyana vector to ponder for example the emptiness of form.
Personally, I am currently working on stablizing lucidity, so the skill itsself, in order to prolong the lucid dreams and have more meaningful exposure for dream yoga exercises.
Almost always, I mix in changing things in the dream for fun but also for bardo preparation.
Fun is important :slight_smile:


Bardo prep is a very good perspective. That is a great post all around @KhyungMar !

These days I tend to only change things when the dream goes in an odd direction. I want to know what my dreams are telling me, at a deeper level, about who we are. I remember a dream that was pivotal some months ago. I was just knocking around in the dream, having a bit of fun, when a man climbed into my car. He turned and looked hard at me through grey eyes and his thought was…“you aren’t listening very well.”

I listen a lot more now. :wink:

TWR speaks of using the dream to allow karmic traces to self-liberate. I worry that when we use the lucid dream primarily for entertainment we are actually creating more karmic traces, particularly in light of how the dream state concentrates everything.


What does “letting go of exhaustion” mean?


Hi Steve, thanks for raising this question. Your thread is titled “a case against lucid dreaming,” but it seems to me that you are presenting a case against using lucid dreaming to control the dream.

In my understanding, lucid dreaming is simply “being aware that you are dreaming while the dream is still going on” – what you then do with that awareness is an entirely separate question. Many if not most at least start with controlling the dream. Some eventually want to go deeper.

I also wonder if it has to be an either/or situation. Some people might choose to sometimes control the dream and other times witness the dream, or dissolve the dream, or – as @Marlise brought up – make a request of the dream and see what happens. If one is controlling the dream, how are they controlling it? To live out fantasies, or to do some dream yoga techniques that involve changing dream elements (potentially including the dreambody)? I think all of those can be useful or positive in different ways, for different people, at different times.

None of these considerations make a case against lucid dreaming per se, but are more questions about how you use or experience or work with lucid dreaming.

What you’re talking about here seems to be using lucid dreaming to go somewhere deeper or more fundamental than the (typical) dream state. Sounds like a great use for lucid dreaming! :slight_smile:


Now that is an excellent question deserving a whole thread!

Would the answer to this question depend of the type of dream and on the state of the dreaming consciousness?


Cool, could have been wisdom advice from a deeper level of substrate consciousness or a karmic mirror of a belief or habit, or something completely different.
My current approach for post dream interpretation of similar dream events is to review how my dream self felt and reacted to the event. I am trying to follow TWR‘s advice to focus more on the who as on the what of the dream. E.g. which karmic habits get activated when somebody in a dream triggers me by saying or doing something?
How do I feel in that dream? Do I sense a loving wisdom message, or something emotionally tainted? If so, where does the taint arise? Etc.

Hmm… I think so too that when used primarily for hedonistic entertainment one deepens the habit and attachment to that entertainment. At the same time, for activities such as flying, I experience them often so energetically liberating and joyous, that there is no noticeable taint to them. I take them as a pure expression of joy which also stems from rigpa.


Being aware of the source of your exhaustion and “breathing it out.”


I must admit that the thread title was meant to be slightly provocative in the hope of stimulating a discussion exactly like the one we are having. All of these perspectives are helping me to hone my practice even more. Thanks to you all!!!


That is true. I feel as though the dream state may connect us to a primordial shared consciousness. The more I study and learn about who we are, the more questions arise. I think the answers may lie within.

This is another very helpful perspective…particularly concerning the presence of an emotional taint. Perhaps that taint is at that deeper level that I alluded to above. Are we flawed as a species (human)? Does the dream state present us with a path to…purification?


When I think of emotional taint, I think of TWR’s teachings on “pain mind”; a term used to describe the conditioned, samsaric mind. For me the view makes sense, that in karmic dreams, it is the conditioned “pain mind” that experiences the dynamic play of the substrate consciousness and reacts according to its conditionings. Why is a dream situation experienced as scary or troublesome or whatever other emotion? According to the view, it is the pain mind that wants pleasure and rejects pain experiences. Attachment and aversion, even on subtle levels, are forms of mental tension and can be called pain which brings the mind out of its subtle, joyous equilibrium, if undetected, i.e. unlucid.

I guess this is also perhaps a matter of perspective? One way of viewing this, could indeed be that our samsaric mind stream is “flawed” (although from a dzogchen point of view, there is no flaw).
The dream state represents a possiblility, a potentiality for purification, when the “flawed mind” transcends its pain mind perspective and, for example, comes to understand by lucid experience the empty display of substrate phenomena.
In a lucid dream, the tainted experiences of pain mind can start to lose their grip correlating to the degree the pain mind transcends into unconditioned, lucid consciousness. I guess one could call this also purification?


It was not long after I asked that question that I answered it for myself. :slightly_smiling_face:

At our primordial essence we are empty and clear. I have felt this. It seems as though, however, that we have picked up a few bad habits along the way. :wink:

I added that bold to underscore the difference between being inherently flawed and picking up a taint.

Perhaps we have picked up some taint…look around at the world.

I agree that the dream state is a fantastic place to work that out. When I am conscious and aware in the dream I feel as though I am interconnected with something that is much bigger than just me.


Regarding “tainted” samsaric identity, the thought came up again that it seems to be kind of schizophrenic:

During non-lucid dreamtime and during waking experiences, we have such a close association to our habitual identities that we mistake them for something real and permanent. One’s own (mistakenly) “true” self, one’s identity body - regardless of intellectual understanding of concepts of emptiness and such - seems to be experientially our ego. As one saying goes “The shirt is closer to the body than the jacket.” Experientially, the ego identites are closer to us than the intellectual understanding of their empty nature. Our identites seem so hard-wired embodied that we do not question their nature anymore.

By meditation practice, this “shirt” may slowly disintegrate and a new identity body may be discovered, which is not another dualistic identity but the raw and pure experience of being.

Meditators seem to “travel” back and forth between these modes of embodied “identities” and may realize this “schizophrenic” situation. There seems to be a strong correlation between how steadily and long (over the years) one spends one’s time in meditation (i.e. “identity-lessness”) and how daytime identification with habitual identities decreases over time.

I kind of like the analogy of a frequency modulated radio station signal playing music.
For radio transmission over the air waves, the music information is being modulated on a carrier wave.
On a radio, we tune in onto a carrier frequency and what we hear is not the carrier frequency but the modulated frequencies on the carrier wave.
In certain meditation in my understanding, we change our focus away from the “music” (of the mind) to the carrier frequency (non-directed awareness/rigpa) and just rest there in our own true nature. There’s nothing to do, just to be.

So, the “tainted” experiences seem to come from a mind which focuses outwardly on the “music” (of the mind) and reacts to its habitual patterns to the “music”. I think that is kind of what is happening when dreaming lucidly: we work with the “music” (dynamic expression of the mind). When our lucid vantage point is clear enough, then this seems to equate to vipashyana meditation. If our lucid vantage point is conventional, then we perhaps just notice the emotional turbulences “caused by” the visions of the dream but deal with them conventionally.
In the ocean, a wave may buoy a swimmer up and down, whereas a surfer may catch the same wave and rides it steadily to the shore.


Barry, his quote about the breath is spot on!

It’s been one year since I’ve been taping my mouth shut at night and it’s helped me sleep deeper and remember more of my dreams. But that’s just the side effect. My main goal was to help my body become more efficient with oxygen as I discovered I was a chronic mouth breather after a near death experience I had in 2017 (fatal heart arrythmia for which I needed an ablation procedure to correct).

If anyone is interested in breathing better, definitely look into the work of Brian Mackenzie at SH//FT and James Nestor/Patrick McKeown.

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