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Open Practice: Focus on Flow in Waking and Lucid Dreaming

swimming: like being back in the womb

swimming: like being back in the womb

In the spirit of #OpenPractice, below is my latest conversation with Shinzen Young regarding my chosen form of practice. I hope this will be of some use for others out there who have a similar form of practice.


Date: Thu, 17 Nov 2011 11:54:24 -0800
Subject: Re: The Dark Night
From: "~C4Chaos"
To: Shinzen Young

Dear Shinzen,

I just read your latest blog post on The Dark Night. As usual, I find your articulation very concise, crisp, and clear. So thanks for that.

That said, I want to ask you some specific questions about my own experience with my practice which may or may not be related to the Dark Night phenomena as you define it.

First of, let me describe to you my practice in detail...

My favorite of the Five Ways is "Focus on Flow" or "The Way of Flow." It's my favorite because I've discovered that I have a "knack" for detecting the expansive, contractive, and flow aspects of "reality." In short, I can easily perceive "flow" as compared to say visualizing stuff, or coming up with positive feelings, etc.

Also, I'm an experienced lucid dream practitioner, meaning I can induce a lucid dream state if I put my mind to it. But what I discovered was that I could fairly easily induce a lucid dream state if I use Focus on Flow in conjunction with my lucid dream practice! Your description of "vibratory flow," "scintillating myst," and "champagne bubbles" in your Science of Enlightenment audio series are just what I needed to connect Focus on Flow with my lucid dream practice! So thanks for that articulation. I find them very useful.

Here's how I implement Focus on Flow in my practice: (Note that I find it easier to do lying down meditation because my body can get more relaxed as opposed to when sitting in a traditional sitting posture. In short, I'm able to detect "flow" better when lying down.)

1) While lying in bed I relax my whole body and focus my attention to my breathing. I note "rising" and "falling" of the abdomen as I breathe. I continue this until my body and awareness are in a state of deep relaxation (or equanimity).

2) Sooner or later, when my body and mind are completely relaxed, I start to notice a shift in awareness. The experience varies but the essence is basically the same -- suddenly, everything is vibrating, undulating, flowing! Usually, I feel my body being molded or *kneaded* like a big piece of dough. The best tangible description is as if my body is like "a seaweed being blown by underwater currents." At this point, this is where I switch gears and use Focus on Flow. As best as I can, I note the movements/vibrations as "expansion", "contraction", or just "flow."

Sometimes I feel my body is being violently ripped apart. Sometimes I feel as if my body is like a thin sheet of paper constantly being folded and rolled into a dynamic "Sine" curve. The experience is quite pleasant most of the time. But sometimes it could be a little scary. For example, there are times when I feel as if there are unseen creatures/monsters/zombies gnawing at my arms, stomach, legs, and neck. I believe that this is what is called the "Bhanga" state in Buddhism. I think that this state is also related to "hypnagogic" and "hypnopompic" states. During this time I start to see terrying images, or hear scary sounds and voices. In any case, I believe that I have already acclimatized to this state and recognized it as a *sign post* to a shift to deeper (sub)conscious awareness.

3) After noticing the vibrations and flow, sooner or later, another shift in awareness happens... At this point my awareness shifts into any of the following states: (or sometimes I maintain awareness as I shift sequentially or randomly among these states.)

3.1) Lucid dream -- wherein I know that I'm dreaming and I fly around like a juvenile superhero and do all sorts of cool stuff.

3.2) Non-lucid dream -- wherein my awareness blends into a new "reality" and get lost in the appearances and experiences in the dream.

3.3) False awakenings -- wherein I get stuck into a series of "Ground Hog Day" awakenings.

3.4) In-between -- wherein I stay half-asleep/half-awake that I can still hear what's happening around me including my own *snoring* and heavy breathing.

3.5) Normal waking consciousness -- wherein I jerk back into the waking state especially when the experience was scary.

3.6) Dreamless sleep -- wherein my awareness is snuffed out like a candle and my practice turns into a good night sleep.

Ok. So that's how I do my meditation/lucid dream practice. I hope I have described it in enough detail so that my questions will have more context.

Now here are my questions:

1) Am I doing it right when it comes to applying Focus on Flow?

2) What are the areas where I can improve Focus on Flow so that I can maintain more concentration, clarity, and equanimity as I shift to different states of awareness?

3) Any suggestions on how I can improve my overall practice? Or how can I reach a "critical mass" in my practice similar to a retreat setting?

4) In your opinion, should I just stick with my practice or should I practice traditional sitting meditation in conjunction with my preferred practice?

5) Do you lucid dream? How do you apply your years of practice within the dream state?

6) How do you relate with the dream state or lucid dream state based on the depth of your access to various states of conscious or subconscious awareness?

7) Anything you want to add, or any question that you wished I should've asked? :)

Basically, my goal is to be proficient enough with lucid dream practice so that I can do the Five Ways *within* the lucid dream state. In short, I have more affinity with Tibetan Dream Yoga than with the Theravada or Zen samurai bootcamp style :) However, I prefer to do my dream yoga practice in the context of a more scientifically-oriented approach rather than the traditional Tibetan or Vajrayana approach. So I'm interested to hear your expert opinion and your suggestions on how I can further improve my practice.

Thank you very much for your time and guidance. Take care and keep it flowing...

Geekily Yours,

a.k.a. ~C4Chaos


Date: Wed, 30 Nov 2011 21:19:54 -0500
Subject: Re: The Dark Night
From: Shinzen Young
To: "~C4Chaos"

Hi Rommel,

First, as always, feel free to blog or post this interchange.

3.1) Lucid dream -- wherein I know that I'm dreaming and I fly around like a juvenile superhero and do all sorts of cool stuff.

I do a lot of flying in my dreams, too. And everytime I do, I tell myself in the dream "Now don't forget, you can do this the same way in waking life." But then inevitably I forget! :)

3.3) False awakenings -- wherein I get stuck into a series of "Ground Hog Day" awakenings.

I get a lot of those, too.

1) Am I doing it right when it comes to applying Focus on Flow?

Definitely.

2) What are the areas where I can improve Focus on Flow so that I can maintain more concentration, clarity, and equanimity as I shift to different states of awareness?

Train yourself to maintain flow through a sequence of challenge exercises:
1. Lying down
2. Seated eyes closed
3. Seated eyes open
4. Standing
5. Slow walking
6. Faster walking
7. Walking in a sensorily impactful environment
8. Simple exercise
9. More complicated exercise
10. Washing dishes
11. Cooking a simple meal
12. Cooking a more complicated meal
13. Carrying on a vacuous conversation
14. Watching low-impact tv
15. Watching high impact tv
16. Carrying on a substantive conversation
17. Carrying on an emotionally charged substantive conversation.

Your goal is to be able to be in the deepest flow state you can experience in #1 while in #17. It's like weight training, you build it up gradually. It may seem like an awful big homework assignment but you have the rest of your life to turn it in. When you can do number whatever and be in pure flow with consistency, you're qualified to be called Roshi.

3) Any suggestions on how I can improve my overall practice? Or how can I reach a "critical mass" in my practice similar to a retreat setting?

Do you do silent, intensive retreats? If not, you should be. The combination of day-to-day practice plus periodic retreat is a good predictor of success in the noble quest.

4) In your opinion, should I just stick with my practice or should I practice traditional sitting meditation in conjunction with my preferred practice?

See answer to #2.

5) Do you lucid dream? How do you apply your years of practice within the dream state?

I've never cultivated intentional lucid dreaming but it does sometimes happen to me spontaneously. I do the same practices in the dream that I would do in daily life.

Basically, my goal is to be proficient enough with lucid dream practice so that I can do the Five Ways *within* the lucid dream state. In short, I have more affinity with Tibetan Dream Yoga than with the Theravada or Zen samurai bootcamp style :)

Great.

However, I prefer to do my dream yoga practice in the context of a more scientifically-oriented approach rather than the traditional Tibetan or Vajrayana approach.

That makes sense.

So I'm interested to hear your expert opinion and your suggestions on how I can further improve my practice.

See above. : )

All the best,

Shinzen


Date: Wed, 30 Nov 2011 20:10:27 -080
Subject: Re: The Dark Night
From: "~C4Chaos"
To: Shinzen Young

Thanks, Shinzen! Will put your injunctions to practice. But I don't cook! :)

~ Sent from my iPhone

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Comments (3)

  1. Hello wrote::

    Thanks for posting these emails, I’m a student of Shinzen’s too. I was wondering if you know what Shinzen meant in his response to 3.1: “I do a lot of flying in my dreams, too. And everytime I do, I tell myself in the dream “Now don’t forget, you can do this the same way in waking life.” But then inevitably I forget!”. He doesn’t mean that he could fly in real life if he remembered, right? Or does he?

    Thanks.

    Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 3:02 pm #
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  1. [...] spirituality practitioner and Integral blogger ~C4Chaos describes elements of his Focus on Flow practice on waking and dreaming, including this: Sometimes I feel my body is being violently ripped apart. [...]