So I started practicing illusory form about 2 weeks ago. Can’t say it’s had any noticeable effects on my dreams… yet. I can say that I’m starting to appreciate how absurd and dreamlike waking life can be.
For example I like to take a lot of walks with my dog and I’ve been incorporating illusory form practice into those walks lately. A few days ago while taking a walk and practicing illusory form I walked by a house and a cheerful voice said “Hello! You are being recorded.” I got this eerie dreamlike feeling that I was dreaming about being in a police state. Then a couple houses down there was a car idling in the driveway and the sound the car made was strange, not like the normal sounds idling cars make. I got the eerie feeling again. It was like that scene from A Wrinkle in Time where Meg, Charles and Calvin travel to Camazotz and they are walking through a suburban settlement and all the children are out in the same place in there driveways bouncing the same colored balls at the same time in complete synchronicity. Then I continued walking and met three teenagers who just got off a bus who were listening to fart and belching noises from their phones and giggling to each other. The distinctiveness of each of these three encounters, and encountering them one after another in such a short time, reminded me of the disjointed nature of dreams.
Then the next day was very windy and blew over a lot of people’s recycling bins. So plastic bottles, paper, bags and cardboard boxes were blowing everywhere. I was outside walking while this was going on and felt like I was in the Hundred Acre Woods on a blustery day. But except for leaves blowing everywhere it was plastic bottles and cereal boxes.
Then later that day I was sitting at my desk with my window open and I saw two middle schoolers or teenagers walking on the sidewalk across the road from my house. The boy in front was walking a large German shepherd and behind him trailed another boy. Suddenly the boy and the German shepherd turned around and the boy who had been following them turned tail and ran away. But the boy with the dog turned back around and continued the way he was going, and the other boy turned around too, but started walking in a very exaggerated fashion, like something you’d see in the Ministry of Silly Walks. This was so absurd my mind just stopped for a moment .
Thought I’d share and see if anyone else has had similar experiences and if this is an effect of doing illusory form practice or if I’m just reading too much into mundane occurrences.
That’s the practice, seeing the mundane as illusory, sometimes stretching or squinting or just exploring with new eyes. I like doing it in newer environments but any one will do as long as the intention is—or isn’t—there. Imagination is an important tool of illusory form and I like how you used it to transport yourself to The Hundred Acres Woods, if only for a moment. At the first retreat I did with Andrew, in person, in Sedona, he gave us rainbow glasses and had us wear them for a time, to disorient/orient ourselves to a slightly different reality.
I remember once sitting at my desk in San Antonio with the window open in a heavy rain. All of a sudden on on my students, maybe 8 years old, comes traveling down the sidewalk in a boat. The streets had overflown and were now streams, and Paul went right past my window and waved to me as I sat, mouth open. I remember thinking back, even then, hey, this must be a dream.
Its so important to do this, you are not reading too much at all.
The more you bring a critical lense to the waking world, and form the habit of questioning the status quo of things, the more it will translate into your dreams.
I made note of this early this morning, when the sun was up around 7am. It was very foggy, but the cloud fog was clear enough that through the gusts of wind, you could actually look directly at the sun, becuase there was enough obscurity to block a lot of the harmful rays, but it was still visible. Then it would disappear behind cloud fog, and reappear. Wish I had take a picture. Very Surreal and dreamlike.
Sounds like a good practice, and even though you have to be more serious in waking life than in dreams, nobody can control your inner dialogue.
Every person I meet, I consider a dream character just like me - a consciousness piloting around a flesh vehicle that for some unknown reason decided to experience birth, life and death (maybe immortality becomes boring after awhile? - What if God got bored - Alan Watts - YouTube ).
If I am required to pay attention and engage with people, at work for example, I take it seriously and I am normal, but everything inside me leans into seeing them and the world as a strange, very dense dream.
I don’t know if it is an illusory form of practice, but one thing I also like to contemplate is the space that you can freely move through. For example, the space between your eyes and your hand, that empty space. What makes this space different from the solid things that are in my vicinity? And how does this empty zone exist at all? It gives me a great feeling when I am able to successfully engage with that space - a feeling of not knowing anything, a gift from something so simple that everyone experiences every waking second.
One is fortunate to find a good teacher and I remember a couple of them. Both always demanded that in reading the words of another that I try to “understand the author as the author understands him/herself.” In other words, my initial aim was never critique, rebuttal, advice, rejoinder, and such. My obligation first and foremost was to occupy the world of the writer best I could. Rather than “critical thinking” we exercised the principle of “sympathetic thinking.” Sympathy – with “pathos,” or fellow-felling. With this in mind I’d ask – and this might not be the place to respond – my questions may be for you and the privacy of a journal. If the response is for us, I am only trying to understand you better. I’m not offering advice, proposing rhetorical questions, frankly, as this point I am not sure I have entered into your world. I am led to wonder – what strikes you as “absurd” and what is “absurd” about waking life, or waking life in these instances? Absurd is a strong and curious word. What is this “eerie dreamlike feeling” you speak about? I am curious about this feeling of “being seen” (to be more precise, of “being a being being seen”) because for me there have been multiple “viewpoints” throughout my dreams, which make me curious about the very notion of a “dreamer,” or even a “me” as a “dreamer,” supposedly “author of ‘my’ dreams.'” I can no longer say with any confidence that “I” am dreaming I too wonder about these curious synchronicities … more precisely, I wonder if I am unwittingly engaged in a kind of priming. I’m not saying I’ve cooked the event prior – I do wonder, however, to what extent I am at least suggesting to my “reality” that it manifest in a particular way. This is in the spirit of illusory form, if I am not mistaken. Then I think the opposite, the “reality” is that way and “I” am just noticing. I remain cautiously undecided – can’t say what the criteria for “reality” here would be. Maybe I’m making sense. Dunno – you tell me. In any event, thank you for these rich and provoking stories. Best wishes in your journeys.
Funny you mention this, I have been doing this more and more lately. Not just thinking it, but really feeling it deeply as well, and commenting on how vivid and intricate the details amd personalities are.
Yes! That is a great way to put it. I’m with you on this one! There is a sense of knowing that is underneath my thoughts but at the same time I am careful not to dismiss other’s experience that are around me. I perceive their experience being just as important as mine and try understand why I am experiencing these beings within my awareness. What lessons can they teach me about myself?
From this I’ve developed what I’d best describe as an inner neutrality. I try my best to look at the situations I face in an unbiased manner and with minimal inner emotional responce (I try not to show this as much on the outside). This is something I still put effort into every day and I feel like is improving. Being able to step back and take the position of an observer while still engaging my flesh vehicle in the play allows me to strengthen this inner neutrality each day.
The more and more the feeling takes over the more it seems to dissolve things which changes both my waking and dreaming experiences.
Me too. I recently visited New York City. Did a lot of walking around the city with my dream journal in hand. Spontaneous conversations — all with Black people— along the way made me feel the cumulative effect that I was interacting with my shadow figure, in real time. The Self shines through during the day time if you let it.
Well said, I need to work on this more. Sometimes I have used the technique to detach from people who are angry or annoying, rather than seeing them neutrally. Still a work in progress, I think detachment is the first step, and neutrality and non judgemnet are higher level steps.
I struggle with the same thing. What I try to do is engage in positivity but as soon as the negativity arises become neutral and I try not to agree or reinforce the negativity. Sometimes I will just be silent while they are waiting for me to respond or agree / reinforce what they’ve said. It gets awkward but I’d rather face awkwardness then feed into the negative loops.
I’ve definitely been noticing that I’m seeing my surroundings in a new way. I think this is a result of actively scanning my environment more and using my imagination to give it that “dreamlike quality”. The angle of a branch, or how the branches on this one tree grew almost vertically from the trunk. A broken fence. A small piece of asphalt on the bikepath covered in moss. How red a stop sign is (I never noticed before), Water gushing from a drain after a large rainstorm the day before. These are all things I wouldn’t have noticed before. Or if I did notice them, I would have done so cursorily, in a way that allowed my brain to dismiss them easily. So interestingly by practicing seeing the world as an illusion the world is actually becoming fuller and more vibrant to me.
Oh wow! Did you do a reality check? Reminds me of the scene in the Studio Ghibli movie Ponyo where everything is flooded and people are paddling boats over a drowned landscape of underwater trees and houses.
Yes if you actively question your reality while awake you will do so in your dreams. I’ve really been leaning into this, especially while taking walks. I’ve also combined it with reality checks. I find the two practices very complimentary.
I love fog! It makes the world so magical and dreamlike. I love how it shrouds the familiar in mystery- even though you may walk the same street every day of your life, there’s something about the way fog obscures your vision that lends a touch of the unknown and the unexplored to whatever it shrouds.
Love Alan Watts. Yes that notion has helped be in the past to see beyond the apparent solidity of experience.
I’m trying this as well. To go back to Alan Watts, if life is play, you can be serious during play. It doesn’t it stop it being play though. It’s only when you forget that life is fundamentally just a game or a dance that seriousness becomes an issue.
This sounds like a wonderful practice. Alan Watts often talks about the fundamental oneness of apparent opposites: black and white, up and down, left and right, day and night, flower and bee, etc. That each would not be possible with out its opposite. This seems to me to be a similar contemplation. Are empty space and solid form really different? Without empty space there could be no form, because form requires a space to exist in. And without solid form, there would be no empty space because space without forms to contrast to wouldn’t be space- it would just be nothingness.
“Anomalous” probably is a better general word to use when you class all these occurrences together. Meaning occurrences which I feel are unusual or unexpected. All these occurrences were anomalous, some- like the incident with the group of teenagers and the two boys and the dog- were absurd. Part of this is just paying attention to my surroundings more and noticing things I’ve never noticed before. Another part I feel is actively trying to see the strangeness of every day life. Imagination is used here.
Like I wrote above I think this mostly is a result of my imagination and trying to see the world as strange, eerie and dreamlike. Mostly it’s just a feeling that the things I am seeing are less solid than I usually take them. And that there is a transient virtual quality behind them. Experiencing how lighter things become when practicing illusory form really gives me a glimpse into how what we experience depends on how we perceive and perception is determined by the thought forms dominant in your mind. When you start seeing how thoughts (which we’ve been taught to think of as less solid and more ephemeral than solid objects in your environment) determine your the solidity of objects you experience, well everything starts to feel a bit less real.
I don’t think I am grasping your thought here about “being seen” and “being a being being seen” and how it relates to seeing from multiple perspectives in dreams. Seen from what perspective? By whom or what? And do you mean physical sight or something like self-awareness or self-reflection?
I agree in dreams perspective is less localized. It’s able to jump around a lot in a way that isn’t possible while awake. Where is the “I” in this? The “I” we experience in dreams is contingent on the perceptions it is receiving, whether it is embodied in a dream body or just a bodiless awareness. But isn’t the same “I” that perceives itself as a unified whole in the dream also the “I” that is creating the dream? How does that work? And is waking life similar? With the “I” we experience as ourselves also creating our experience, like the “I” in dreams?
Yes. Imperfect illusory form I think. We are bringing our imaginations into our experience and allowing it to actively color how we perceive reality. As far as I understand, the game is to use our imagination to actively simulate the experience of emptiness as far as we can in waking life. This eventually will open up the experience of real emptiness to us if we are diligent- which is “perfected illusory form”. So it is a form or “cooking” I would say. Or perhaps another analogy: the thought experiment in modern physics that Einstein used so successfully to discover the general theory of relativity. Using his imagination, Einstein imputed qualities on his every day experience that weren’t readily apparent to that experience and thereby was able to penetrate deeper into the fundamental workings of reality and come up with a theory that has- so far- stood the test of the most determined scrutiny. What we are working with here I think, like with Einstein, is imagination as an investigative tool that can lead to real knowing.
You are making sense. It’s a question of whether the qualities you see in your experience are imparted by you or if they are actually there. Couldn’t this be the desire for objectivity, that perspective the modern world invests so much importance into? Maybe that’s something we’ll have to leave behind. It is okay not knowing whether the qualities are imparted or actually there. There’s a relevant quote I’ve heard before: “The mystic swims in the same water where the psychotic drowns.” Perhaps being comfortable with the not knowing is important.
Thank you for offering your rich thoughts on my experience. Best wishes on your journeys as well. I hope they will be fruitful and transformative.