Traditional Buddhist practices and understandings of dreams is different from our Western psychological approaches. In pyschoanalysis and psychotherapy, dreams are, broadly speaking, usually seen as a message from the unconscious that can help us understand ourselves better.
In Eastern traditions, dreams are not only messages to the individual about her mind, but they are also messages for the group. Doing ritual dream work in a group helps us see intimately how our minds are connected, and how we can use dream images, processes, places, and events to do needed work on behalf of the larger culture.
Buddhist dream practice is seen as a powerful aid in the process of awakening. In this view, waking life often has the quality of a dream, perhaps a repeating dream (think Groundhog's Day) or even a nightmare. This is our normal mode of operation. We walk around in a dream-like state, avoiding pain and trying to secure pleasure. This is the source of our suffering.
Buddhist dream practice is based on a three-tiered model of mind. The outermost level is that of the individual psyche, the conscious and unconscious mind. The second level is the substrate consciousness, a subtle mind stream that is connected to the group and to previous generations. The third, deepest and most fundamental layer is the primordial consciousness, an ultimate level of wisdom where the "inner" and "outer" worlds are not separate. The realization of primordial consciousness is a key to awakening.
So, we use dream practice to help us wake up! Dream practice prepares us to enter primordial consciousness by showing us that we are all connected, that our minds are not as separate as we may think. Dream practice can help us deeply understand the nature of mental processes, to penetrate to the source of the primordial mind.
In our Practices of the Night retreat, we will learn dream practices for group dream work as well as for our awakening. We will learn traditional Buddhist practices for inviting and remembering dreams, we will do group dream work, and we will get an introduction to dream yoga, an ancient process for using dreams as spiritual practice. We will also learn about practices of deep sleep. There will also be lots of meditation, time to enjoy the land around Tomales Bay, and great food and people.
Megan Rundel is the resident teacher at the Crimson Gate Meditation Community in Oakland, CA..