“By acting a certain way while dreaming, one can cause psychosomatic changes in one’s being…”
~ Carlos Castaneda, The Art of Dreaming
I first read The Art of Dreaming years ago.
I was amazed to learn that I had effortlessly been lucid dreaming for many years, so much so that I thought the lucid dream experiences I was having were normal experiences that everyone had every night. It started as foreseeing crime events, or dreaming of a person and later on ending up meeting that person in waking life; then, I read about the Four Gates of Dreaming as described in The Art of Dreaming. The first gate is very simple: “Stabilization of the dreaming body—arrived at when one perceives one’s hands in a dream.”
In lucid dreaming, Toltec shamanism guides us to train ourselves to become aware that we are dreaming by looking at our hands. As soon as we are capable of looking at our hands in the dream state, often we will instantly become aware that we are in a dream. Those who develop this skill are eventually also able to control the course of the dream, or at very least, wake oneself up out of a dream that isn’t going in a nice direction.
After years of practicing this technique—sometimes successfully—I would be able to see my hands and guide myself into very mystical realms. Other times, to no avail, the chitta vrittas (the modifications of the mind stuff; mental chatter), like a hurricane, would sweep me into complex, inescapable realms that are surely real…until I wake up of course.
Just look at your hands when you’re dreaming. Simple, right?
The idea is that if we become aware of our hands in our dream, we step out of the dream and witness it happening from a very powerful awareness, like watching a movie. To me, this idea is strikingly similar to what the ancient yogis asked us to do with realizing that everything around us is maya, or illusion. We are all viewing life through our own lens. It is through awareness of this that we can step out of the maya that binds us to one set reality and begin to understand that our reality is a direct reflection of what is going on within us. Along with this, one begins to realize how moldable reality is, and consciously co-creates reality through intention followed through with right action.
“If you can have control over the thought forms and change them as you want, you are not bound by the outside world. There’s nothing wrong with the world. You can make it a heaven or a hell according to your approach. That is why the entire Yoga is based on chitta vritti nirodhah (“The restraint of the modifications of the mind stuff is Yoga.” Sutra 2:1). If you control your mind, you have controlled everything. Then there is nothing in this world to bind you.”
~ Sri Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
I have realized that looking at my hands in dreaming and calling awareness to witnessing the dream movie play out is very applicable in waking life as well. Pause, look at your hands, and become aware.
You are the eternal witness.
Everything that spins around you is the maya—the dream stuff—of real life.
Imagine if we all took a moment (or several) each day, to pause; to wake up from the dream; to look at our hands; to realize this divine place within that is eternally witnessing, still, in Nature. When we step into that place of stillness, it becomes more effortless to honestly examine our actions, words and thoughts, as well as our relationships with ourselves and others. By shedding the light of awareness on our conscious or unconscious intentions, allowing ourselves to pause and “look at our hands” (this practice works literally or figuratively), breathe, and become aware, we will more effortlessly obtain clarity in the direction our life is headed.
Be fully aware that what you think is what you live. Be willing to call yourself to awareness and examine these patterns. What needs to be released? Lean deeper into it; examine it like a lover. Nourish it. Eventually, with the light of awareness, it will dissipate until it is so far from you that not one thought arises about it again. The result is a subtle (or not so subtle sometimes!) shift in reality as we know it.
A dear friend of mine says, “Every disappointment is a blessing.” It’s up to us to create alchemy with our life circumstances. The more aware we are of ourselves and our conditioning, the more we can step out of the movie and infuse our lives with intention towards manifesting what nourishes us.
Here’s an affirmation: “I willingly and lovingly create my reality.”
Kristen Coyle is a yogini at heart. 10 years into her yoga practice, she feels as if she has just scratched the surface of this incredible path. She is an E-RYT 500, Licensed Massage Therapist and Reiki Practitioner. She is deeply inspired by Yogi Sri Dharma Mittra and travels to study with him whenever possible. When she is not on the mat, you can catch her at the local hot spring, travelling to some exotic island (she currently lives in St. Lucia), or cooking gourmet vegan food for her loved ones. It is her highest honor to be able to share these teachings and this is a path she is dedicated to for a lifetime.
“Inhale like it is the first breath you have ever taken, and exhale as if it is the last breath you will ever take.” Infinite Gratitude! You can contact Kristen via e-mail or facebook.
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Ed: K. Macku/Kate Bartolotta