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My partner has practiced a lot of lucid dreaming. She is good at it, I'm not. All in all, I'm a conceptual, low level beginner not yet recovered from too many years of academics.

I sleep 7 hours every night, and as I've gotten all the intoxicants out of my system (I'm referring to chemistry here, not Kant and Plato) I remember my dreams! I've read about lucid dreaming a bit, and understand it's vital to keep a dream journal.

Does anyone have tips/own experience on what's best to focus on in such a journal? I've asked my partner, but she gets a bit impatient with me.

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    AFAIK dream-yoga is only practiced in context of Tibetan Buddhism, otherwise this would be off topic. I think answers from other schools would be merely opinion-based. – Andrei Volkov Dec 7 '15 at 16:38
  • I thought so too, but Allan Wallace is talking about it in connection with shamata in general; in his book Attention Revolution. He is from the Tibetan trd, sure, but in this book he seems to recommend practicing dream attention more generally, but unfortunately he's not very specific about (what should be) the focus of dream journals – Mr. Concept Dec 7 '15 at 16:49
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Lucid Dreaming and The Dream Journal.

A Dream Journal is actually quite simple to use.

First of all you need some material, i.e. Dreams.

After weeks or months, depending on your dream activity and the ability to remember your dreams, you should have sufficient material to begin analyzing your dream-material.

Next step is to look for patterns. All people have different patterns that occur in the majority of their dreams. One pattern could be "action". Some people have dreams that are action-packed and very vivid. Others have dreams that are very realistic, while others have dreams that are no near realistic. Each have their own dream-pattern.

You want to find these patterns through studying your dreams. Get to know these patterns as your own back pocket. In time and with practice, these patterns will become lucid-dream-triggers. When you know them very well and they occur in a dream of yours, you will realize them and become aware/lucid in the dream.

That step might take a while so don't become discouraged at first. Every morning when you wake up, write down as much as you remember from your dreams. Have a pen and a journal at your bed table or close by. When you wake up, dont move. Stay frozen for some minutes and lie with closed eyes. That will make it easier for you to remember more details from your dreams.

The great thing about this is that the more you write down, the more details you can remember from your dreams. Soon you will remember 2 dreams, then 3, then 4-5 or 7 dreams when you wake up in the morning. When you have enough material, then begin analyzing.

Do yourself a favor and have at least some weeks of material. That will make it easier to find patterns the dreams. When you find patterns, write them down separately and get to know them. They will be unique, just like a fingerprint.

Lucid Dreaming and the relation to Buddhist Practice.

How can this then be used in Buddhist practice?

In Theravada Buddhism, one can use the dream-state to deepen ones practice.

If one is practicing the WILD technique (see also Tibetan Methods), i.e. entering the dream-state from waking-state, one can continously observe conditioned phenomena as they arise and pass away. Why is that important?

Because the stages before falling asleep, exactly mirrors the stages of dying. There is the possibility to gain some deep insights here. Also to sneak-preview and prepare for the moment of Death. Meditating while going from waking-state into the dream-state gives the opportunity to continue to practice even while the body sleeps.

Let me end with a quote from Tibetan Buddhism, by Shugchang.

"In order to make the time we spend dreaming more meaningful, we must first recognize that we are dreaming. That is the initial exercise. The next step is called transforming the dream; the third is known as multiplying. The fourth practice is to unify the dream with the clear light. Recognizing, transforming, multiplying and unifying the dream with the luminosity of the true nature; these four outline the essential applications of dream yoga."

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    Can you tie this with Buddhism a bit more? – Andrei Volkov Dec 7 '15 at 18:14
  • Of course. I have updated the answer. What do you think? – Lanka Dec 7 '15 at 18:44
  • I think now it looks a bit better. – Andrei Volkov Dec 7 '15 at 21:12
  • Great, let me know if further improvements are needed:) – Lanka Dec 8 '15 at 13:00
  • Great advice to lie still and try to remember. Just this morning I was noticing that my dream patterns tend to be: 1) travelling from place to place, 2) conversing with people. And that is about 90% of what happens that I can recall. The journal is interesting because years later you can re-read and you have either forgotten, forgot but can recall, or you recall and have new insights. Just like any journal, these are all valuable. Dreams show the tendencies and motivations of the Basic Self (Psychology term). Dozing and rewaking after you have woken is an easy way to get more insight. – user2341 Dec 8 '15 at 13:03
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Any meditation technique will not have the same effect on two individuals. Each individuals is sum total your previous Fabrications and our past habits. Also our temperaments are different.

Say we have been practicing a certain meditation in your past lives also. In this life also it does become very easy to pick up.

Also our temperament can decide on which meditation subject can work. E.g. in traditional Theravada Buddhism there 40 Kammaṭṭhāna which are segregated by temperament as each is designed to counteract a particular type of polarity of the individual's temperament. If you give a wrongly matched subject the effects will not be the same.

Also the our past fabrication set us apart. Two people with the same temperament and very close habits can have two different experiences due to our past karmic buildup. Even for a single individual two different session the experience will be different since the effective karma as well as the sub total of karma from the previous session has changed.

Many meditation centres you are not allowed to discuss experiences with other than the teacher as others will crave and what experiences others are having.

So the following comparisons are futile:

  • Between individuals
  • Between pratice sessions
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Does anyone have tips/own experience on what's best to focus on in such a journal?

There is a book called Conscious Dreaming that has many really pro tips on successful dream journaling. Here is a small list of tips, some from that book and some from my own experience.

  1. Return to the position your body was in while you were actively engaged in a dream, and your recall of the dream can be better.

  2. Be on the lookout for reality-oddities in your dreams that trigger your knowledge that "dreaming is happening." One such technique that ended up serendipitously working well for me personally was dying my hair blue in waking life, seeing my reflection in a mirror in a dream, and noticing non-blue hair, thus triggering the lucid catalyst dynamic whereupon one becomes entity and environment.

  3. In line with the above, dye your hair in waking life to some funky color.

  4. Definitely do breathing exercises and stretches for your whole body before sleeping, or at least at some point in the day. Think wind channels.

  5. Perhaps the most important point, kept for the bottom of the list: set a strong intention or motivation as you ramp up your going-to-bed process. It could be like in the above, where @Lanka mentioned the dream yoga stages.

Back to your question more directly: what should you focus on in a dream journal? Well, if you are doing it correctly, or at least how I believe to be correct, you'd have your journal near your place of rest, you'd be able to access it and the writing device and convey a dream to paper with minimal posture-change, and you'd be able to reflect for a minute on the whole contents of the dream scene-by-scene or aspect-by-aspect and simply dump them onto the page.

One continuous run-on sentence for a dream transcription is perfectly fine. Be sure to note any texts or syllables or words you see, perhaps for later study or investigation, especially if you have a regular practice of faith, devotion, study, meditation and the like. Otherwise, know that it is dreams. Some are prophetic, some are vascular banter, thus your focus must also be somewhat intuitive to attest to the "truthfulness" of a dream, if I may be so liberal with my verbiage.

With all things, our focus can be on the awareness-that-knows-content and not so much on the content itself.

I would also recommend not reading your past journal entries for a long time. As a trained scientist, it would be folly to mix sample data with experimental input over the course of a study (e.g. your old dream data, being read over again might influence your future dreams).

The dream journal has many benefits, but mainly it is the ability to recall a dream completely, and at more advanced stages affect the dream "from within" for deeper understanding and training.

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