Lucid Dreaming and Spiritual Enlightenment
by Beverly (Kedzierski Heart) D’Urso, Ph.D.
Proposal for IASD2009
Copyright © 2008
Some people have associated lucid dreaming with ego control and satisfaction. I will show how lucidity relates to expanded states of consciousness, and compare it to the work of the contemporary spiritual teachers, Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle. My topics include: inquiry, the present moment, expansion of self, the connectiveness of all, facing pain, viewing death, and the interdependent illusions of space, time, and thought.
In my dreams, as in my waking state, I can act with various levels of consciousness. By the term dream, I mean an experience of an outer world made up of characters and actions that my expanded self has helped to create. In this sense, I view the waking state as a kind of a dream. I aspire to come from an expanded level of consciousness, or lucidity, in every moment, whether awake or asleep. In sleeping dreams, time and space may appear to differ from the waking state. Events can happen almost instantly, so I can quickly see the results of my thoughts, desires, or fears.
When I act in my dreams, or in the waking state, with a contracted level of consciousness, I may judge, attack, suffer, stressfully pursue ego gratification, or just plain not pay attention. However, when I question if I am dreaming, in other words, question my reality and my assumptions, and notice them in some way as ‘not true,’ my consciousness expands. This inquiry process seems similar to the techniques of Byron Katie, the author of Loving What Is. She helps people end their suffering by asking them to question any stressful thought and see if they absolutely know it as true.
If I believe that I am not dreaming, I may feel limited. When I know I am dreaming, my fear decreases, my mind clears, and I respond in more appropriate and creative ways. I often experience expanded potential. Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now, calls this state ‘Presence.’ With even partial lucidity, small frustrations disappear quickly, and I experience more fulfillment. When I know I am dreaming, I focus more on the present moment, usually realizing that I will wake up soon. Concerns, such as ambition or regrets, don’t come up, and I can co-create interesting dramas, which sometimes seem to enhance my waking state as well. When I have increased lucidity, I easily surrender to, and fully face seemingly painful or scary situations, a process that both Tolle and Katie recommend.
The more lucid I become, the more I notice that my view of how others act towards me may reflect how I act or have acted toward them, others, or myself. I listen carefully to what others have to say to me and sometimes change my actions instead of defending myself. My response comes from an expanded self. In her work, Katie calls this the ‘turnaround.’ In my extreme levels of lucidity, I experience no separation, but rather a connection, with everything. Eventually, I no longer have a body nor an environment. Tolle calls this expansion into ‘Being.’ Others use the word ‘Source’ or ‘God.’ I like the term ‘Dreamer.’
Lucid dreaming also gave me a spiritual perspective on death. In non-lucid dreams, I used to think of my ‘dream body’ as my ‘self.’ Because I did not have awareness of my expanded self, I believed that if my dream body died, I died. I continued to feel this way until I woke up out of the dream. Then, as a child, when I knew I was dreaming while I was dreaming, I experienced myself as more than just my body before I woke up out of my sleeping dream. Eventually, while very lucid in a sleeping dream, I let my sleeping dream body die, and yet woke up whole. As an adult, I now see that I can similarly “wake up” in my life before my physical body ‘dies’ and really enjoy the experience of my expanded, lucid self.
In Tolle’s recent book, The New Earth, he says, “To awaken within the dream is our purpose now. When we are awake within the dream, the ego-created earth-drama comes to an end, and a more benign and wondrous dream arises. This is the new earth.”
1. “Lucid Dreaming/Lucid Living,” Online Publications, D’Urso, Beverly (Kedzierski Heart), 1982-2008.
2. Lucid Dreaming: A Bridge to Lucid Living, D’Urso,
Beverly (Kedzierski Heart), Ph.D., Workshop Before the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD) Conference 2007, Sonoma, California, June, 2007.
3. “Loving What Is: Four Questions that can Change your Life,” Katie, Byron, and Mitchell, Stephen, Harmony Books, New York, New York, 2002.
4. “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment,” Tolle, Eckhart, New World Library, Novato, California, 2004.
5. “A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose,” Tolle, Eckhart, Penguin Books, London, England, 2005.
Dr. Beverly (Kedzierski Heart) D’Urso (USA), an ‘extraordinary’ lucid dreamer all her life, has used her practical teaching called lucid living to give workshops and present at conferences for decades. She completed her Masters, involving Cognitive Psychology, and her Ph.D., focusing on Artificial Intelligence, at Stanford University, where she also did lucid dreaming research. Dr. D’Urso has over fifty publications and has won several IASD dream contests.
LEARNING OBJECTIVES AND QUESTIONS
L1 Discuss some aspects of lucidity that demonstrate an expanded level of consciousness.
L2 Compare Byron Katie’s inquiry and turnaround processes to getting lucid and learning from dream characters.
L3 Explain Eckhart Tolle’s terms ‘Presence’ and ‘Being,’ and how they relate to lucid dreaming.
Q1 Describe three aspects of lucidity that demonstrate an expanded level of consciousness?
Q2 How does Byron Katie’s inquiry process relate to getting lucid?
Q3 Give two ways that lucid dreaming relates to Eckhart Tolle’s term ‘Presence.’
Lucid Dreaming and Spiritual Enlightenment
by Beverly (Kedzierski Heart) D’Urso, Ph.D.
Presentation for IASD2009 Chicago Copyright © 2009
TITLE NAME EMAIL
LEVELS OF CONSCIOUSNESS
15:00 (Time left)
I’d like to speak today about various levels of consciousness in the waking state and in the sleeping dream state. I’ll start with some background.
I define the term dream as an experience of an outer world made up of characters, actions, and environment that my expanded self has helped to create. People have viewed this expanded self as the brain of the sleeping body.
I don’t agree. I view my expanded self as a higher, collective mind of nonphysical form. I talk about this more in some of the fifty other papers I have on my web site: www.durso.org/beverly. I also plan to put this presentation and the chart I will create on my web site soon.
Also, in this talk, when I call something “untrue,” I mean that I let go of my assumption, and no longer see it as “real or absolute or true. By “untrue,” I do not mean “false,” but rather “I don’t know for sure.”
So, as you have heard, lucid dreaming occurs when I know that I dream while I dream. When asleep and lucid dreaming, I see my whole environment including my dream body and others, as untrue, particularly in relationship to my waking state.
By my definition, I view the waking state as a kind of a dream. I believe that I can NOT know with absolutely certainty that I am NOT dreaming at any time. The spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now, made this exact point as well. Therefore, I assume that I am always dreaming and apply the positive lessons from lucid dreaming to my life, which I call lucid living.
I have heard people associate lucid dreaming with only ego control and satisfaction. So today, I will attempt to show how lucidity actually relates to expanded states of consciousness, and compare it to the work of the contemporary spiritual teachers, Eckhart Tolle and Byron Katie.
I discovered these teachers last year after setting a goal, with strong intention, to have greater lucidity or consciousness in my waking life. I use their techniques of expanding consciousness, as well as my own lucidity techniques, which I see as similar.
You can find links to their sites as references that follow my online abstract for this presentation. Their sites list their books and recorded workshops, which I actually prefer and mostly got from my local library.
To summarize my techniques for lucidity, I constantly ask myself if I am dreaming and question my world and my assumptions in the moment. I look for clues that I am dreaming, such as strange, impossible, or uncomfortable changes in my environment, my feelings or my body.
For example, I have suggested that students ask if they are dreaming whenever they wash their hands. Coincidentally, Tolle gave the exact same exercise asking people to focus on “being in the moment” every time they wash their hands.
As I speak, I will refer to a chart that I will create which describes levels of consciousness, including lucidity. I need to point out that I can act from any of these levels of consciousness at any moment, while awake or asleep.
Also note, that at the higher levels, I still have access to the abilities of the previous states. For example, someone in an enlightened state, can still change his or her responses.
At different times in my life, I may have dreams that I don’t even recall, while in my waking state I seem very lucid. The opposite can occur as well. Also, I often lose and gain lucidity in a single dream.
After my presentation, I plan to allow time when we can comment, discuss the chart, and ask questions.
So, I will begin.
WAKE SLEEP STATE
I divided the chart into columns for the waking state and the sleeping state. Note that the non-lucid levels have actions that obviously do not happen in the sleep state, but merely relate to it.
CONTRACTED - No reflection nor dream recall
I think of the term “unconscious” to mean alive, but unresponsive, and others have many different definitions, so I’ll start with what I call contracted, or low level of consciousness. At this level, I do not reflect upon what I do.
When I act in the waking state or the dream state at this level, I may blame, suffer, have fun, or just plain not pay attention. In the sleep state, I may have dreams, but I do not recall them.
REFLECTING - Recall past life issues and dreams
However, when I notice in life, after the fact, that I have acted, for example, in hurtful ways, I fall into the level I call reflection. I do not have enough consciousness to notice or change my actions in the moment, but I can recall life issues or dreams from my past and begin to learn from them.
STUDY LIFE AND DREAMS
For example, to reduce my tendency to always blame others, I may seek therapy. To learn from my dreams, I may join a dream group. At this level, notice that I remember dreams only after they happen and, therefore, they get called non-lucid dreams.
In this reflecting level, I still may feel limited, especially when my experience seems uncomfortable or unloving. I see my world as unchangeable. For example, in the waking state, I might feel justified in feeling hurt that my husband always seems to arrive later than he promised, and therefore he must not love me.
I may go as far as assuming that if he does not love me he will leave me, and I will perish. Without a higher level of consciousness, I could then feel very depressed and might act in an angry manner. I could actually help make this scenario my experience.
In a sleeping dream, I might try to run away from some scary witches that chase me while I focus on the dream body’s thought that they will devour me. Afterwards, in the waking state, I might figure out ways I can deal with the witches next time in these nightmares.
I feel that Eckhart Tolle refers to these next levels of consciousness as ‘Presence.’ He talks about how we can really pay attention to our environment or our body and sense a greater aliveness or stillness. For him, presence involves having no thoughts.
When I question my reality and my assumptions, my consciousness expands. I call level semi-lucid.
This inquiry process in the waking state seems similar to the techniques of Byron Katie, the author of Loving What Is. She helps people end their suffering by asking them to question any stressful thought and see if they absolutely know it as true.
In the previous example about my husband, I could ask, “Is it absolutely true that my husband does not love me?” At this point, I could look for ways that he acts as if he does love me. More questions of Katie’s involve asking how I feel when I have the thought: “My husband does not love me,” and how I feel when I do not.
In the sleep state, this corresponds to questioning if I am dreaming. Even if I do not believe that I am dreaming for sure, just the mere act of questioning brings me to this semi-lucid level.
LUCID - See thoughts and world as untrue
I call this next level lucid. In the waking state, I really know my unpleasant thoughts as untrue assumptions. With even partial lucidity, I find that small frustrations disappear quickly, and I experience more fulfillment. I focus more on the present moment, and feelings of ambition or regret don’t come up. Time tends to disappear.
When I know I am dreaming in the sleep state, in other words when I see my dream world as untrue, my fear decreases and my mind clears. I do not have to do anything, but merely realize that I dream while I dream. At this lucid level, I often experience expanded potential and more awareness.
MORE LUCID - Change Responses
If I question my assumptions, especially when I do not feel positive about what I am experiencing, it can help me respond in more appropriate and creative ways and I become more lucid. My response to what happens comes from my expanded, or inner, self and not my thoughts.
I can accept what is happening and easily surrender to, and fully face, painful or scary situations, a process that both Tolle and Katie recommend.
I have done this in my waking state when a doctor told me I needed a procedure. I insisted I would not go through it. Finally, my doctor said that, “it is like I see you on a cliff about to fall and I want to stop you.” I often recommend to my students not to jump off a cliff unless they really know they are dreaming, so I told him okay.
However, seeing this common dream theme, I suddenly did become lucid. Instead of focussing on my fears and thoughts of pain, I became calm and accepting, thereby making the whole process much easier. Then, like magic, I began to see numerous sychronicities.
In my sleeping dreams, I have often become more lucid right before a head-on automobile collision. Right before impact, I realize I am dreaming, and I might instantly fly up into the sky or even wake myself up.
At this more lucid level, I also notice that my view of how others act towards me may reflect how I act or have acted toward them, others, or myself. In her work, Katie calls this the ‘turnaround.’
So now, in my waking state, as well as in my sleeping dreams, I attempt to listen carefully to what others have to say to me. Even if I feel hurt, I may find ways to show I agree with them, instead of just defending myself. Katie also discusses this approach.
VERY LUCID – Change life and dreams
At this very lucid level, I can co-create interesting dramas in my life and dreams in my sleep. My expanded self has the awareness that what it expects seems to happen. If I do see or hear something that I don’t like, I can attempt to heal the situation, or pay attention to it and fearlessly accept it as a part of myself that can teach me what I need to learn.
When I really “get” the lesson, my world seems to change, showing me on the “outside” what somehow exists on the “inside.” Some lessons I have learned in my sleeping dreams also seem to enhance my waking life, and vice versa.
LUCIDITY ENHANCING LIFE
In my life, I feel that lucidity has helped me fulfill many lifelong goals, such as finishing my Ph.D., finding a mate, having a child, dealing with grief, and healing my body. I did these things with an attitude of presence and acceptance, and not what I call “will power.”
At this very lucid level in my sleeping dreams, not only do I not experience fear when “attacked” by “monsters,” but I can do things such as fly through walls. I can have these experiences because I don’t see the monsters or the walls as “true.”
Once, in a very lucid sleeping dream, as my expanded, lucid self I felt, “I would love to be sitting in a boat on this lake in the distance.” Instantaneously, it happened. Others have talked about this process occurring in the waking state and call it “manifestation.” However, in the waking state, I seem to experience a time delay, not necessary in my sleeping dreams.
In my final level of lucidity, I would still experience a dualist world, but really know all parts as One, I’ll call this “enlightenment,” or the level of most lucidity. I believe that spiritual teachers, such as Katie and Tolle, experience this state of no separation and a connection between everything in their waking life.
In my sleeping lucid dreams, I have often viewed everyone and everything, including my own dream body, as One. Many years ago, in a sleeping dream, I was giving a presentation at a dream conference and suddenly stopped when I became most lucid. I assumed that all the people in the audience existed only in my “head on the pillow,”so I felt I had no need to continue.
Now, as I said earlier, I refer to “others,” as well as my dream body, as all parts of a “higher self,” which expands as all the parts grow. Therefore, I won’t quite stop talking now. I must add that when I experience the most lucidity, I see these “others” experience lucidity as well.
THE HAPPY DREAM or the NEW EARTH
In Tolle’s recent book, The New Earth, he says, [quote]“To awaken within the dream [referring to life] is our purpose now. When we are awake within the dream, the ego-created earth-drama comes to an end, and a more benign and wondrous dream arises. This is the new earth.”[end quote]
Also in this level of most lucidity, The Course in Miracles, another spiritual teaching, says we can merely enjoy the [quote] “happy dream [of life][end quote],” and God will take the last step. I call this last step the level of Unity.
UNITY BEYOND LUCID
In some sleeping dreams, I feel that I go beyond lucidity. I no longer have a body nor an environment. I have a sense of “nirvana” that I can’t explain in words. I have felt myself merge into vibration, sound, and light, and then into nothingness, or what I can also call everythingness.
We could describe this as expansion into ‘Being,’ as Tolle does. Others use the word ‘Source’ or ‘God.’ I like the term ‘Dreamer.’ For now, I aspire to come from an expanded level of consciousness, or lucidity, in every moment, whether awake or asleep.