The site of meditation practitioner and guide Jenny Jennings Foerst
Category: Dharma by Daylight
Maintaining and publishing practice journals is a longstanding Pragmatic Dharma rite. Many Pragmatic Dharma practitioners have journaled their entire path. What is personal when written becomes, in combination with others’ journals, nothing less than a postmodern Buddhist commentary. It is important that practitioners with realization leave these “breadcrumbs” for those who follow, showing what is possible and what making it so typically requires. For the writer, meditation journaling is in itself a contemplative practice. My journals, offered here, exemplify what it means to put in the practice blood, sweat, and tears and let them dry into such digital ink records. They model for students of meditation what it means to bring 100% of one’s being to practicing well.
This journal begins in June 2015. It marks a radically new beginning on my Path, after the Mahamudra awakening of July 29, 2015. It covers integration work with the Unconscious and subtle body: dreamwork, dream incubation, tarot divination, tantra, lucid dreaming, and, beginning February 2018, some kind of “traveling.” It begins from a period of both grieving loss of the past and joy over the new normal. I still occasionally post here experiences fitting these descriptions, but my main practice is now in the Lighthearted journal, which is for now password protected. Much of the beginning of this journal has not yet been cleaned up after I migrated the posts from Tumblr and old private copy. I’ve had to set this cleanup aside because of other demands, but I will clean it up from 2015 on eventually.
It has been a long time since I’ve thrown cards or practiced any premeditated magick. There comes a point in the course of realization where such pointed doings and intentions feel unnatural and can easily pull one out of rigpa, the natural state. Whatever happens is, after all, awesome in the original sense of the word, The greater magick, the cosmic scale of magick is not other than what is. To be realized is not merely to be aware, but to know, to realize the true nature of that being aware. Part of what is known is that one is simply present when magick (reality) happens; one does not manipulate or bend reality to some illusory will. Sitting and practicing concentration meditation feels, for example, all wrong. The most refined jhana is conditioned and therefore coarse and unyielding. Even tantra for subtle body release guided by the very slightest inclination to “practice” feels wrong.
One result after the subject-object split has dissolved and the centralizing self-referencing limitation has dropped away for good—is that the Progress of Insight stage cycling ceases. This was the case for me, and it has been the case for friends of mine who have opened rigpa, stabilized that opening, and then oriented to the all. Dropping down from that extremely subtle level of mind to the coarser level required to form beliefs and change-desires informing magick pulled me out of rigpa temporarily in November 2016. The sign of this was that the Progress of Insight cycling reemerged. Thus, I dropped all deliberate magickal workings. Promptly, the cycling again ceased and hasn’t since then returned.
This said, during the course of dharmakaya release, which is the gradual release of all karmic traces after the equivalent of MCTB fourth path, realization deepens and becomes endlessly creatively form-taking. As A. H. Almaas says, reality is known as multimodal and chameleon-like. So, although for a long while “practice” has consisted of nondoing as some believed-in requirement of the realization of nonduality, it seems that I’m emerging into some refinement of realization by which I can do things without losing the level of realization that is more properly “nondual” wholeness. This is not to say that I’ve changed my mind about the necessity of laying off the magick and its attendant obsessions. I think all that does need to be laid aside for quite a while. But it is possible that, because of that letting go, one can sometimes engage with magick without the usual ill consequences. Nothing is excluded.
This reading was requested by a friend. He has a dream. He is thinking through timing and other parameters of financial investments so that he can retire from work while still in the prime of life. Phase 2 is to invest in some real estate for use in furthering the Dharma. This is the scenario to which 5 questions were formulated by us together and posed by me in a midnight session that was intense as I felt I was inside him empathetically.
I settled on a layout that moves clockwise. The reading of the individual cards and then the Gestalt of the whole follows. I will write in the second person, directly to my friend.
1. What is the heart of the matter we are querying?
As soon as this card was turned, I knew that the juice I was feeling was going to manifest in the responsive cards. With the traditional Two of Disks, the search is for means of growth in terms of security, work advancement, and financial reliability. But there is more to it than that. This card features a corpse with the old-time customary coins on her eyes to keep them closed until rigor mortis sets in. One of the coins here, the gold one, shows the owl of the goddess Athena. This is the sun-like warrior-hero energy that is oriented out toward the world—here, given the scenario being queried, toward your aspirations for the sake of the sangha.
The silver coin is the moon and features Janus, the god of liminal, in-between, transition spacetime coordinates. Janus looks backward in time, to your deep past, and he looks forward to the future you want to realize in terms of your for-the-world scenario. Being moon-like, though, this coin is, at a metalevel, about orienting to what is inside you that needs to be illuminated. This is in contrast to the golden Athena coin whose wise owl looks outward to the world. This card is challenging you to reflect that outward energy inward more, precisely in order to find balance between insight (looking into yourself) and outward- and future-orientation.
The face of the corpse is the veil of flesh between these two orientations that need to be brought into workable balance. The old you is dead and stiffing into immobile form, but a new way of seeing can emerge now, one that consists not just of right view based on love, but on right view that includes personal strength, which suggests is an inward journey you make alone.
On a more obvious denotative note, the coins on the eyes are currency. They are clearly answering to the query about financial investments and payoff. This card is positive when it come in upright position, so the message is that, so long as you can achieve the balance this card enjoins, payoff is on offer. When is uncertain. This is a time of progressive change for you, but it will happen much more quickly once you make a decision based on the overall message of this reading. In short, decide to reflect inwardly before you act outwardly for the outer world.
When this card turns up next to the Hanged Man, it bears a special message: “Wait for the situation to materialize and don’t be so impatient.” See next card.
2. For the next 6 months. how should you approach investment decisions?
First, reread that special message that comes when two of disks is next to the Hanged Man, which is a major arcana card and therefore deserves special attention. The message is that you need to reign in your impulsive urges, exercise patience. This reading so far is screaming moderation and caution.
One of the key features of the Hanged Man in either upright or reversed position is that it thwarts your attempts to get “the answer” the reading seeks. The gist of the card is suspension and suspense—nonmovement and the undecidability for the time being. On purpose, this card gives you ambiguity for answer.
In this deck the artist’s inspiration was Judas, who both betrayed Jesus and yet foreshadows Jesus’s hanging on the cross in self-sacrifice for humankind. Now, the story of Judas is that he betrayed the exemplar of goodness in exchange for money. He received payment as a purse of coins in exchange for betraying Jesus with a kiss. In the picture on this card, he has hanged himself out of despair over the part he has played in the cosmic drama, although it was a preordained and necessary expression of self-sacrifice in the guise of evil. The difference between Judas’s self-sacrifice and the Jesus aspect is that Jesus is free of guilt and shame; the Judas aspect is bound, unfree because of a deep layer of guilt, shame, or both. Judas is in stasis, nonprogress, the sleep before Christ’s purification of everyone’s guilt, doubt, and fear. The Judas aspect is a shadow, and it is not directly serving your true nature until it is purified.
One of the special paradoxes of this card is that Judas is hanging upside down, but when the card is drawn in reverse, as it was here, there is the initial appearance of his being upright, upstanding. The upright and reverse positions for this card therefore read as nearly identical. But the reversed, in appearing to be upright, signals extra confusion, the same shadow side whether upright or not, but more hidden.
The message of this card is to surface and release some buried guilt, shame, or trauma first if you want to free the Earth. Although that seems to be the personal message to you, the response to the question of approach to investments within the next 6 months seems to refuse all answer except “stagnation” or “suspense.” Decisions will have to be made by seeing via inner light, not the outward appearances and signs of outward scenarios.
Questions from this card are these: What do you expect from the sacrifices you are making? How are you hung up and what do you need to straighten out? What are you trying to escape or avoid by pursuing this scenario? How are you seeking higher insight?
In the second position in a reading, this card sends an additional message: If your network fails, then you may have little contingency. Ask yourself what you alone, without a scene of other people, could achieve if required to do so first.
3. What is the shadow side of your plan, or what is currently hidden?
The Devil is another major arcana card, here drawn in reverse. Oh boy! This card is in the shadow side position and its meaning is “shadow side.” This spread is strongly emphasizing a shadow side that you need to work hard at bringing into the light of consciousness and purifying to the extent possible. The Devil in general signals lies, delusion, bondage, addiction, and personal demons. Energy is currently in fits and shudders in you, like an orgasm, as if the kundalini serpent is being uncoiled and redirected up your spine.
In reverse, the meaning of this card is more that you lack some personal strength that you need to build. Love and giving for others is not the balanced wholeness, but only one half. There is currently an underlying weakness of will power or a shallow understanding of how what you think of as your destiny is presenting. You are at a crossroads. You must plumb the depths of this reading and make a decision about your path. Which way will you go?
This is the second time in this reading that self-sufficient strength has been distinguished from love and emphasized as what you need to cultivate to balance out your drive to enact heroic expressions of love. Even with your superabundant love, the result might be immoral or amoral without the self-sufficient strength’s first being fortified. Moreover, in the third position in a reading, this card points specifically to a schizoid-like split in the self, a preference for only one side of a duality and suppression of the other side to the darkness of the subconscious. It says that the result is in some sense amorality.
Questions associated with this card are “What is obsessing you?” And “How can you restructure your energies to be less manipulative of reality?”
4. Given cards for 1–3, what supportive action should you take?
This card shows the archangel Uriel underwater and reaching up with lobster claws to grasp the otherworldly surface atmosphere. Here, in reverse, the card’s feeling is of drowning, suffocation, urgency to get to the top while under oppressive weight that prevents surfacing.
The message of this card is to refrain from reacting to delays in realizing your plan. Be quiet and still. Center within yourself. When what you have been looking for is postponed, accept this. Be willing to release what you expected and roll with the changes that are coming.
Disturbing memories are at the root of why you have alienated part of yourself. Bring to the surface and experience your buried grief in order to release it. Liberate these hidden feelings and you will liberate your spirit. This card warns that you have too many superficially bonded friends and family around. You cannot keep extending yourself for the sake of extending. Rushing into or extending relationships with people not deeply suited for or appropriate to your path comes out of traumatic repressed early memories.
Uriel guards the entrance to paradise, holding the key to hell. He is holding the key to your subconscious. Will you take possession of the key offered here?
5. What is the outcome?
Like the card that opened this reading, this one is a 2. The first 2 was of disks, which signifies money, security, practical resources. Here the suit is cups, which is the suit of emotions, the heart.
The painting is of two wild horses: the white one of inner purification and the red one of passionate heroics. The two wild horses (energies) will need to be reigned in and balanced in order to pull your chariot straight forward. You must tame them and drive them with equanimity and steadiness. The overt message of this card is that you need to heal the two halves of your heart: love and strength. This is the third time in this spread that love and strength have come up as a polarity that you need to resolve.
The manual that came with my deck has two quotes that I think are worth sharing here:
That night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me If I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red one that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.
—Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe
The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart.
Again, the challenge is to go inward, not just upward and outward.
This card also, more conventionally, signals that marriage is on your mind. This is a time of many choices for you and much transition. Marriage might be one of the outcomes of your current self-development.
This spread repeats the same themes throughout: The need to surface repressed trauma, grieve it, and release it; the presence of an inner tension and a need make a decision toward balance; an imbalance that favors the heroics of publicly enacted self-sacrifice over a journey inward to strengthen yourself by yourself; and suggestions that the scenario queried here will be delayed, postponed, as you are challenged to allow other changes to roll in first. You are being challenged, specifically, to be more introspective, quiet, and still—less impulsive, impatient, and oriented to the outer scene.
The beauty of my Mary-el deck is that the picture that is composed visually by all the cards in a layout transcends words. Patterns emerge—like the number 2 and the mirrored colors and forms of the Hanged Man and the Six of Cups. Both of the latter are actually an extremely interesting higher-level hanged man.
Both blue figures are hanging upside down and suffocating. Because the Hanged Man is a major arcana card but refuses all answers except the hint that the querent is caught up in his own bullshit, the Six of Cups offers corresponding clues as to the specific hangup. That card is also in the position of advice to you of supportive actions you need to consider taking. In this case it is to practice patience and to emphasize a personal journey inward to release hidden (repressed) trauma.
Resistance, not Content, as the Problem: The Lesson of Meta-Anxiety
With a few months training? But a buddha would already be there, the training done. A teacher who shall remain nameless can have a root canal done without anesthesia because he is a master of concentration and hypnosis. That doesn’t mean he is a buddha. So if it requires training, and if one says “probably” but doesn’t put out, then how can that count? It is conjecture and speculation until proven. And the self-reported root canal story—who was there to verify it? Has the dentist been interviewed? Why are photos taken of UFOs always fuzzy? A lot of what appears in my texts to mark the stages of the esoteric practice is just dogma. Cultural filters. J said something interesting in his last message to me. He said that he pointed me away from the Tibetan texts for a reason. So in a sense he was saying what Alex was saying: that it is going to be different for us in the West, both in method and result.
Whatever “realistic” is, I’m aiming for “good enough. . . .” On a spuds retreat in May T was talking about anagami versus arahant on a 10 Fetter level. He described [the difference between the two] as similar to dividing a number in half endlessly and never getting to zero. What’s the difference between never suffering and suffering five minutes, twice a year? When he says [elimination of] suffering in this context, he means negative content, not just nondual awareness.
I’m not sure he meant negative content.
Perhaps he meant only subtle clinging. But Culadasa says he doesn’t have negative emotions. There’s a talk where he says he forgot how anger feels.
Greetings amigos. Medication. I like medication and practice. It serves a purpose, just like having right conditions for practice. I did like 8 years of tantra without medication and about a year with medication. The 8 years without medication were fruitful, very fruitful, but hard. A year of tantra with medication, was more fruitful still.
I take Escitalopram, I think in the U.S. this is Lexapro. I still feel emotions, but they don’t drag me down as much. This allows for more productivity without being stressed out and faster serenity when sitting. If, however, I don’t do any of my responsibilities and that affects me somehow, medication wont stop stress. Stress is gone only with sila and view abiding. And Sila happens more often on medication because I am less distracted by heavy emotions. So that’s that.
What is a Buddha? I don’t know yet. I have never met one in person.
As for psychiatric conditions and dharma, I believe some are reversible, and others are irreversible. In fact, again going back to the concept of “freedoms and advantages of the precious human rebirth” as discussed by the Tibetans, such Precious Human Rebirth implies having the mental health to learn and practice the Dharma. In my book, that includes stuff like addiction and maybe even severe depression. If addiction is present, in a hc way, there is no way the dharma will rise in that person, and the same thing I think about people with severe depression, or similar conditions.
Dzogchen doctrine and pretty much Tibetan Buddhist doctrine in general is that the only way to be a living buddha is (1) you are born a tulku, or (2) you completed the four stages of the visions. Personally, I see no reason to amend that position unless and until there is some reasonable basis to believe there is another way. I don’t believe Advaita Vedanta leads to the same extent of awakening as Buddhist paths. I also do not believe Theravadin arahatship is equivalent to Dzogchen Togal buddhahood. If there is comparable evidence to the contrary, I’ve not encountered it but would be open to reviewing any that comes forward, esp. if it isn’t just one person.
I also doubt you can tell who is a buddha from how poignant their teachings are. I bet the majority of the best teachers in the world, say the top 5% of teachers, have less than buddhahood. Meanwhile, I think it is also likely that buddhas stay mainly hidden and are rarely seen in the public eye as teachers. J tells this story of a guy who achieved Rainbow Body on the Tibetan plains. He wasn’t a monk. He was a yak poop shoveler. No one had any idea until Rainbow Body how highly realized he was.
Rainbow body . . . sounds nice. But Buddhas who stay and teach sound nicer to me. I cant say Rainbow body is highest or not. I don’t think it matters. What matters to me is the benefit for one and others.
Buddhas teach and render benefit on other planes, not only or chiefly this one.
I cant speak about that. I’ve read about it, a lot, but I haven’t seen it.
There was a hot air balloon. I was scrolling through dates and places, perhaps to make an itinerary for traveling in the balloon.
Date: Tue 29 Aug 2017
Poor sleep with hallucinations after 28 drops of Valerian. Saw night sky and stars and planets. Saw ghost tigles and threads as in visions. Woke to see the ceiling rapidly breaking up into dark and light spots that were surprisingly big. Rapid swarm. Finally slept. Had incoherent dreams of traveling to a mountain home where Aunt Judy and Uncle Roland were. Saw photos of Jill and I as children superimposed. Saw photo of Kerry as baby. Saw Paige at one point. Was at a conference table later with Stacey and two additional employees who were hired. One was a black lady named Carol. No one real. Stacey was scolding me for trying to hard at my job. There was an image of a yellow smiley face from the 1970s. It was associated with the mountain home and childhood photos. (Jill and I used to have smiley face cups in the 1970s.)
Date: Fri 01 Sep 2017
I slept from 3:30 am to 9:15 a.m. I lay still upon waking and know I dreamed entire scenes but all I could retrieve was that I or someone was fueling at a gas station outside Cherokee, where my son Kerry is going to play poker. So car traveling and mountains in the west. Oh, as I was first falling asleep I saw two weird things. The first was a huge purple scribble that scrambled rapidly through a subway station. The other was the head of a white cat that poked through the matrix at me. White cat was in some of my dreams last year. This one was the same cat! She is usually a dream sign to become lucid.
Date: Sat 02 Sep 2017
Lucidity: Yes, faded to clear light
I slept from 1:30 to 4:30 and then from around 5:30 to 12:30. I recall nothing except in the morning hearing the bird totem and checking off that technique on some online chart. At least I am sleeping at night. I’m resolving to straighten out my sleep schedule.
Okay I read some Wallace passages about Atiyoga and then went back to sleep in the afternoon for another 90 minutes. I dreamed of the curmudgeon GOT character named the Hound. I was not part of the scene, nor embodied, nor Jenny identity. I was the same as awareness. But this awareness did start communicating with the hound, without speaking. The hound is a warrior skeptic, but in memory and the dream I had him conflated with the shape-shifter Jaqen H’ghar, who was a religious assassin who collected the faces of those the sect killed. The faces could be worn by him and Arya Stark to display identities.
So my awareness was telling the Hound that he was grumpy because he was traumatized by his brother’s burning his face when they were children but the way was beyond displaying new faces. The way was about taking off his own face. Right before I had fallen asleep, I had remembered what I told the ICY about J’s having no personality but only personality display. As soon as the advice went to the Hound, I became self-aware and the dream scene dissolved. I started moving through layer after layer of awareness to nonconceptual presence. I understood that I had just penetrated my own masks and was now naked awareness. The sleep continued this way until I rose to make coffee.
I’m not used to this anymore. When it happens it isnt easy to know for sure that it has happened.
Date: Sun 03 Sep 2017
Lucidity: No, but did a (failed) reality check in the dream
I slept nearly 11 hours with phase shifted to begin sleep at 4:30 a.m. I used a new lucid/astral hypnosis audio that has binaural beats in the background. I couldn’t really hear the narrator’s words but the reverb was soft and dreamy. I fell asleep immediately. I had no sleep aids but Epsom salt bath.
I woke up midmorning and remembered no dreams. I changed positions after that and fell back asleep until 2:43 p.m.
Then I remembered rather jumbled dreams. I was taking Kerry to some clinic at a hospital campus, red brick. We waited for hours and they made us leave without being seen. It was their fault but I mustered patience and tried to reschedule, but the front desk girl, who was Asian with a short bob haircut, was without affect or bored and couldn’t care less. Finally the two chairs from my bedroom appeared and I gave them to her to resell so she would get us a real appointment. She then sold only one chair to someone and I was sad because she split the pair up. I never cared for those chairs, didn’t want them, but splitting them up seemed wrong.
Next I was in another sort of clinical setting and holding meeting with my sangha, the ICY. We were arguing semantics over some vocabulary words on a worksheet, and this task seemed a threat to the cohesion of the group, splitting us up. We decided not to have vocabulary homework anymore. Good idea!
Then I was driving to another meeting of the sangha, but took another longer route to our meeting place. There was a long winding road through a semi rural neighborhood. Barry was standing by the road with a headdress on of yellow feathers some of which floated off freely into the air.
Then I was suddenly on a shorter route to both Kerry’s clinic and my sangha, but Kurt was driving. I knew he was going to turn left in two more intersections. But I told him to take the first left. I told him it was Allison Street. And as we approached I decided whether the street name should be spelled Alyson or Allison. I decided on Allison and the green street sign said Allison clearly. I glanced away and read it again: Allison. I was trying a reality check but lucidity failed because I read it the same way twice.
Triggers for this dream are that Noah, who is a few years older than Kerry, separated from the chat forum of the sangha (temporarily). Barry seems a little psychic and is a traditionalist mostly. The yellow feathers are Ratna energy, ruminations and worry. Alyson is one of my authors who was mentioned in an email yesterday, and Kerry was supposed to be a daughter we were going to name Allyson or Allison.
Date: Tue 05 Sep 2017
I had some wild experiences while doing two lucidity / astral projection audios with hypnotic suggestion, guided meditation visualization of becoming vast awareness, and binaural beats. There were moments when I felt altered but I don’t think I slept. I don’t trust the narrator yet, so some of it was a bit scary.
Past two nights I know I dreamed some scenes with my sangha, but recall was not good. I do remember telling them that the next point on the map was to lie down on their backs and float into these ovens. I could see a row of primitive ovens with doors open and waiting. Maybe because of Jim’s expression “baked in.”
Date: Thu 07 Sep 2017
I abandoned western methods. I meditated, prayed, and traced the lotus shaped in a red light. Then I felt it in the throat chakra. 30 minutes into hypnagogia I saw a large white number 17. I became lucid and seemed to remember dreaming it recently, maybe even the previous night. The number was important.
Date: Sat 09 Sep 2017
Afternoon when I went back to bed I quickly dreamed I was in the Village Deli and ordering lunch. I upgraded my side order to soup. They said my total was $60 and I said, “$16?” They said no, $60. I said “No, this is a dream because not even this place would charge that much for soup!” Because I was in Samsaric sleep and realized it, I aborted the dream and woke up. No other successes at night.
Date: Tue 12 Sep 2017
Yesterday dreamed I was breastfeeding Kerry as a baby and was happy. Today had fragmented dreams. In one part, Kurt was clearing single-handedly a large downed tree from the perimeter of a basin on whose edge we lived.
Date: Fri 15 Sep 2017
I was in a flooding basement corridor and a steel door was lowering from above. Jim’s voice was shouting out, “There’s the threshold, Jenny!” I became lucid and then woke up. There were many such waking episodes. Toward morning the waking was into a remembered feeling of deep depression, almost suicidal. Hurricane Irma and family strife were perhaps triggers.
Date: Sun 17 Sep 2017
I had dreams I cannot recall, but I recall seeing a small bedroom with a double bed and telling and showing Kerry that Sharon used to have an equally small bedroom with a double bed and a twin bed. The dream was about comparative wealth.
Date: Tue 19 Sep 2017
Lucidity: No, but successfully incubated (asked for a teacher to come into a dream and teach me)
I was gazing out on a meadow, with tree line in the distance. The scene was cold and late autumn. The grasses and tree leaves were all golden brown, vivid decay, going to seed as the Olds say of the fourth vision. I pulled out my cell phone and started taking photos of the field. I kept moving to a new position to optimize the capture of the lighting.
Then to the left I saw a slope down into an amphitheater. There was a musical concert happening. I knew J was there, even though he was far up toward the front. Nicole and his kids got up and passed me in the aisle as I moved toward him. I sat down in the seat beside him. He was wearing a brown blazer. His hair was long. He kept his gaze on the stage.
I said, “This isn’t my usual music. I like Radiohead.” He said, “Just watch and listen to the show without trying to capture it.” Energy from the third eye and the heart center was transmitted by both of us to the other and received by both of us from the other. I felt deep love for him. I felt safe. I felt seen and held even though he was still just gazing at the show and not touching me or looking at me.
Before sleep I incubated a dream to have a teacher appear and advise me on gaining lucidity in sleep. My teacher in real life is who appeared.
Date: Sun 24 Sep 2017
I am in some sort of group loosely gathered on a remote site or in a small town. It may be Buddhist Geeks conference. Sian from work is there, and we are discussing some review or marketing plan. She has to abruptly leave and I remember and remark out loud that she has four children and no wonder that she has to leave early. She says actually she has five children. I say that I do not know how she manages life.
After she goes I think how she is not trying to write a book and is not leading an intellectual’s life. I am comparing people and remember I should accept all people as buddhas.
I now overhear some conversation in which one conversant is saying she has academic degrees in three areas. She is a combination of Kathy Durant from House of Cards and Laurel Carrington from Awake Network. I notice that she doesn’t mention these are PhD and MS degrees. I am impressed with what she keeps secret and her humility as a kindness to others.
Now I am at a computer in the hotel lounge for the WiFi. I decide to post to the Dharma Overground and about what people keep secret out of kindness to others, or humility. I have three short posts in mind and I type out the first one although I cannot read the screen, which should have been a reality check.
Then I remember that I am banned from the DhO site and banished from the community. I think about using an alias to keep my identity secret. I remember that it upsets Daniel for me to post stuff that implies he is not fully enlightened. I make sure my text is nonthreatening to him. Then I decide to post under my true identity. I know this will likely fail because I am banned. I see Daniel’s picture showing he is online and vigilant. I click “Post” and wait for my post to be deleted by Daniel.
To the left of me, in the hotel lounge, a portal opens in the wall. It is a dark underground tunnel linking Daniel and me. I almost call out his name and wait for him to emerge. But instead I notice that we can simply feel the other’s presence and communicate telepathically. I let him know that the post is neutral and not personal but to delete it if it is not okay for me to post. There is no answer, but he leaves the post on the site. I post the next two in the same way. The topic is secrecy and openness, how each can be generosity, depending on the situation.
Now I am out of the conference hotel and in a grocery store. I feel my bare feet on the cool floor. It feels so good. I know it is normally against establishment rules to enter barefoot, but we are in some beach town where people enter in their bathing suits. So I try to break the rules inconspicuously by acting natural.
I fill my cart with old fashioned glass bottles of milk. At the cash register is an old man who forgot to bring enough money. He too is barefoot. I pay for my milk and when he isn’t looking I place half my milk in his cart and signal to the cashier that this milk of human kindness belongs to the man. Then I walk out.
Date: Tue 26 Sep 2017
Lucidity: No, but did a (failed) reality check and had a false awakening, so close
I thought I wasn’t asleep when really I was. Then I (falsely) awoke at 9 a.m. I got up, dressed for work, and went to work. But it wasn’t my current job. It was a hybrid between my former job as a freelance copy editor and some ideal job I have dreamed of before. Denise and Sian from my current job were there, though. After a while, I vaguely sensed something was off about this reality. Eventually I did the reality check of trying to push the index finger through the opposite palm. The reality check failed because I couldn’t push my finger through and falsely concluded that I was in the waking reality after all. At 9:00 a.m. I really woke up and was stunned and disoriented to find that that the first awakening was false.
Date: Fri 29 Sep 2017
There was a house and a party there with various dharma friends and acquaintances. It was some all night party. There were various indoor and outdoor scenes. One was of being in a rowboat on a pond behind the farmhouse where the party was. The clear part was in the morning. I walked into the bright white farmhouse kitchen. Daniel was there facing the sink, maybe washing his hands, or washing dishes as he once told me he does at dinner parties. He turned around and I was standing right in front of him, smiling and lifting an eyebrow as if to say, “Well now what?” I half expected him to brutally cut me off. But he flashed his dimples, said something merely polite, and remained cheerful. We talked about how we were in general. After about 10 minutes he walked away and then left the scene.
Date: Sat 30 Sep 2017
I am staying in J’s and Nicole’s home in Boston. The home is big and old with a lot of hardwood paneling and cool wood floor under my feet. J is out traveling a lot. Nicole walks around in a house coat and with her hair all tousled, uncombed.
I am comfortable there except that Nicole is a bit eccentric and disorganized (and therefore like me). The home ambiance is ruined by the fact that it is badly infested by huge Darth Vader cockroaches. Some even fly, and I have to swat them out of my hair. I refrain from killing them, remembering how J once spoke tenderly to a stink bug that landed on him during a Skype call. But then Nicole placed some scones she made on a hallway table and I was disgusted to see them covered with roaches that seemed to be throwing crumbs up with their hind legs and burrowing into the scones for fun. Nicole was fine with all this but I lost my appetite.
On the wide wooden landing I stood while Nicole was in taking a bath. Suddenly my dead father appeared in three dimensional form in front of me. He looked so young, so real. He was dressed in his suit from the 1960s and smiling at me. I was excited but I wondered if he were merely a hologram, because he was in black and white. I said to him, “Daddy, I dream only in color now. You are not real.” Then, although he appeared to be an electronic movie, he stepped off the round disc he was projected from and hugged me. I could feel that I was held by him and that he loved me.
Nicole came out of the bathroom, and the holographic image vanished. J was home from conducting retreats. He was bounding up the stairs. I went into the room to tell him what had happened, careful to step over all the disgusting cockroaches running riot. The couple knew of such hologram experiences and were nonplussed, but I had to convince them that this one could hug and therefore take on solid form. They finally seemed to believe me.
Lotuses of Nighttime Lucidity: Renewal and Intensification of Sleep Yoga
Shared here is a practice update on some amazing results of renewed interest in sleep practice.
Inspired by my friend Jim, who is talented at lucid dreaming and even at fading out to the Clear Light Mind in dreamless sleep, I’ve recently committed to some “efforting,” even though that sort of tantric down-pull has in the past plunged me back into Progress of Insight stage cycling. I may be past that danger now because of progress in Dzogchen practices, so I’m experimenting with some tantric magic now.
I don’t gain much traction from western lucid dreaming methods. They feel clunky and not aligned with ultimate reality. For example, I have an app on my phone called Awoken. It is a cool app as such things go. It sounds off 10 times a day with bird chirping to signal that I need to do a “reality check.” A reality check is a series of reality-testing tasks one does to make sure one isn’t in a dream currently. The idea is that if reality checks become a habit in the waking life, then eventually the habit will make its way into dreams, where one then questions the reality of the dream and wakes up within the dream.
To some extent, for me, this works, but the problem remains that it posits a distinction between what is “real” and what is a “dream.” The entire method asks one to discriminate along a line of duality: reality versus dream. By contrast, ancient Tibetan methods have the daytime practice be to see daily life as a dream, because it is a dream, a projection of mind, essenceless. So one puts dream half-and-half in one’s dream coffee and drives a dream car to a dream office. The emphasis is completely different here: It is to see both sleeping reality and daytime reality as one seamless dream projection.
My experiences with dream and sleep lucidity have in the past come from dream incubation rituals, which invites teachers to appear in the dream, as asked, to teach me. I’ve enjoyed nearly 100% efficacy with this method on the first night I invoke a teaching.
Mainly, lucidity has arisen as a mere side effect of my Dzogchen practice. In these instances, I would normally be disembodied and referenceless as a “subject.” The “scene” would be minimalist, almost devoid of setting, and then totally devoid and without narrative development of any kind. These seem to be experiences of Clear Light Mind.
Most notably, immediately after the opening of rigpa in July 2015, I experienced a couple of weeks of uninterrupted lucidity in mostly dreamless sleep. To “wake up” in the morning without waking up at all is an almost indescribably strange experience. It brings home the seamlessness of night mind and awakened mind profoundly. This was the one effect of that life-changing retreat of 2015 that faded after a few weeks. I spent nearly a year working with dreams to try to recoup that attainment permanently, but I ended up putting that work aside because other Dzogchen practices called to me in the daytime insistently.
Dzogchen Trekchö is a path of integration, as is Tögal, or the Clear Light visions. In Trekchö one “cuts through” remaining obscurations of rigpa on the spot, off the cushion. Even so, there is normally one main obscuration that proves difficult to resolve for quite a while.
Accordingly, I’ve been noticing for months, since I’ve been off Cymbalta, that on the threshold of sleep, as I’m going under, some intense dark anxiety arises, terror. At that moment, I want only to escape my own terror, so I dive into the sleep of ignorance, or I wake all the way up and have to deal with insomnia borne of hyper-vigilance. I understand that some of this likely stems from a traumatic incident when I was 18 years old, when my mother fell and stopped breathing while I was asleep. That event plunged me into 10 days of hallucinations that everything organic was decaying and dying before my eyes, over and over again. I was not delusional: I knew the hallucinations were just that, but I couldn’t stop them until a session of hypnosis finally got me to sleep again. When I awoke the visions had stopped, but my problematic relationship with sleep had just begun.
Similarly, in the morning as I’m rising out of sleep, I sometimes feel intense depression, as in clinical depression. This affect seems cognitively linked to lack of achievement the day or night before, when I’ve not stayed on task or accomplished something on my agenda. Once I sit up in bed and begin meeting the new day, that mood evaporates rapidly and completely.
I’ve long pondered these threshold remnant clinical agitated depression manifestations, unsure what to do about them. The problem is that, in order to make a decision to practice through them, I would have to have sufficient lucidity to so decide. But the whole problem is that I don’t have the lucidity in those moments, so how do I get at the lack of lucidity to cut through it? It is a chicken-or-egg dilemma. Hence, the difficulty of this part of the path.
Sleep is a final frontier. A leftover boundary exists where I must discern how to bring lucidity into the most compelling remaining impulse to escape experience. I must stop leaping into darkness or bobbing back up into unrest as ways of escaping pain-memory. At least I can see these liminal moments and acknowledge them, though, so there is hope—hope and faith.
In addition to daytime and nighttime preliminary practices, Wangyal details sacred dreaming methods that involve waking up every 2 hours during the night and moving into a specific sleep position each time. The main practice, though, is tantric visualization of a four-petaled red lotus. The red lotus is visualized out in front, in the dark, but then shrunk and brought in and down into the throat chakra, which is the power seat of communication and dreams. The difficult part of this visualization for me is that the perspective is top-down from behind the eyes and into the throat. This is a pretty weird perspective to try to gain, especially because I’ve worked so long now at not localizing subjective reference at all, let alone behind the eyes or in the head.
At any rate, the red lotus is luminous, filling the space with red light, radiating from the throat to fill the room. Andrew Holocek suggests a preparatory practice that involves tracing the shape of a four-petaled lotus over and over and over again on paper so that the “feel” of the shape can be internalized as body-knowledge. Tantra is normally associated with imaginative visualization, but just as, in my book, the bodily spaciousness attainment is the most important one, so tantric success is more about feeling the projected presence than about “seeing” it. It is important to feel the red lotus in the throat and to feel the nectar of that red light illuminating outward from that chakra to fill the room, to fill space.
After enjoining the tracing of the red lotus on paper, Holocek’s version begins with tracing the shape repeatedly out in front with one’s extended finger, in the dark, while in bed, Then the flower is taken down into its home in the throat chakra. He then emphasizes that the flower should not remain cartoon-like but be seen and felt as vivid and three-dimensional, alive with reality.
Finally, both books describe the inscription of seed syllables, or letters, on each of the four petals, with a fifth one, om, in the center of the flower. The seed syllables are each associated with one of the five elements. Each is also traced, in Holocek, on paper (preferably in proper colors) and then traced in the dark in front first. The order followed can be that of the earth into water, water into fire, fire into air, and air into space—the order of dissolution in death and release into the bardo. When the flower is in the throat, the letters are traced out in stages as sleepiness intensifies. Holocek remarks that when the letters are included then the blessings and powers of the buddhas are internalized in the dreamer. This was an aha for me: It is a spell, as with sigils. Sigil means seal. The letters are the seals of the spell.
The very first night I tried this practice, I had some results that amazed. First, I almost never make impulse buys, but the night before I read all this, I impulsively purchased an automated home lighting system that enables colored lighting. The instructions for the yoga are to see everything as red light and to try to sleep with some actual light on. So I set my new system on a timer to fade out from bright red to dull red and then out.
I mentally went around the four petals in my red sleep chamber, as though circling some drain slowly, and then slipped into some kind of altered state through the om in the center. There was nothing in this state in the way of Jenny, and there were no objects, with the exception of red-tinged formless light. Suddenly a huge white number 17 burst forth in vision. It was insistent, pregnant with some secret meaning. It excited me with its hot-white urgency, which of course brought Jenny back online, whereupon I woke up and recorded the dream.
Then after being a up for 10 or 15 minutes, I repeated the trip around the lotus petals. This second time I went back through the center into a red-light formless lucidity in which there was no Jenny and no objects except the red diffuse light. Somehow the fact that my body was sleeping in my bed was “known,” but not in any sort of discursive way and not with any feeling of a Jenny-body or Jenny anything per se. It is really hard to describe this referenceless knowing, its manner of being knowledge while remaining without any subject-object markers or narrative delineation.
After a good while in this state, Jenny began reconstituting enough to critique the fact that the red light was a kind of object, which is funny. At a certain point, the referenceless knowing has to know that it knows in order to be complete, but that can devolve, like the creation narrative, or Dependent Origination, into individual consciousness. Jenny began remembering that this red light ought to be out by now because the timer was set for the red light to fade to off within 40 minutes of going back to bed. This memory brought home that I was really just sleeping, and this realization that I was sleeping woke me up! I opened my eyes from red light that had bathed its own awareness to the black darkness of the actual bedroom, a transition that was mind-blowing, to put it mildly.
Closer toward morning, I had a regular not-quite-lucid dream. Before me stood Jim, who is a lucid dream sign and teacher in my dreams, and Andrew. Together they were holding a torch aloft, like the Statue of Liberty. Suddenly, that aloft light changed into an IV bottle, and I knew that the medicine was for me. I said to Jim, “What?” And he replied, “This is the juice!” That’s exactly what Jim would say.
The next morning I read everything I could find about the number 17. It is apparently a number of purification and approaching enlightenment. In the major arcana, it is the Star, which has significance as a Jenny card in some of my readings recorded in this journal. I had the night beforehand been scheduling a sangha call on the topic of dream practice for Sept. 17.
But there’s more. When I came into the office building at work that day, I found that someone had drawn a huge red lotus on the white board I pass by every day. I asked a coworker who drew it, and he said, “My daughter was just in here last night and drew that thing, but I have no idea why.”
Blue Lotus Sacred Sleep Lucidity
After all this, I continued to read the later parts of Geshe Wangyal’s book, which concerns the ultimate goal of sleep practice: to stop dreaming altogether, to have the body rest while the mind remains stainless in the referenceless Clear Light of rigpa. This attainment is much harder to reach and generally takes much more time.
However, I reflected on where I apparently am on the Path and how and why clunky dream methods have not been working for me. I determined that I should try to leave dreaming behind altogether and work with a practice that is like the red lotus one but with a blue lotus. Instead of letters or sigils on the petals, the blue lotus of sacred dreamless sleep is adorned with colored tigles, drops of light, again in the colors of the elements. The one in the center is blue-white. This is a simpler exercise, as there are not four different sleeping positions to have to remember to assume throughout the night, and no complicated Tibetan letter shapes to memorize.
Last night was my first night with this practice. Results were amazing, even though I did not have lucidity throughout sleep. I began by praying wholeheartedly to a dakini, Salgye du Dalma, who is the protectress of sleep yoga. I got in bed and closed my eyes after my preliminary practices, Nine Breathings of Purification, yidam practice with this dakini, and about 90 minutes of my main Dzogchen practice.
When I got in the position that Wangyal instructs (left side for women), I was intending to imagine the blue lotus, with the dakini in the center embodied as a blue-white luminous tigle. I was intending to do the whole in-bed practice, which involves seeing a yellow tigle on the top petal, a blue one on the right, a red one at the bottom, a green one on the left, and the blue-white one in the center. I was supposed to travel in a clockwise direction as I became sleepier and sleepier, as though spiraling down the drain, as with the red lotus dream practice, but with the difference that this lotus is supposed to be placed at the heart chakra, not the throat.
But when I prayed from my bed to Salgye du Dalma again, what happened was so remarkable that I never even started with the tour of petal-adorning tigles at the heart. As soon as I called out her name, a luminous and fluidly shifting blue flower shape appeared before me, whether my eyes were closed or open! I mean this was not imaginal visualization, but was there in the room, in front of me!
Over the past 5 or 6 months, I have sometimes seen a domed matrix before sleep. It has irregularly angled and irregularly spaced “grid” lines and a bright violet nimitta beyond the open top at center. This matrix appeared last night right before I called on the dakini. Then, after I called on her, the matrix suddenly shifted and became the blue underwater-like flowing flower with bright luminous white center. Although this was before my eyes instead of in my heart, I remembered to keep my heart open and in flow. But I kept my eyes on the flower in front rather than bring it in and down into my heart.
Yes, I then got all excited and even started imagining telling Jim about all this. I started telling myself, “Bad Jenny! Stop!” I thought I would get pulled out by this excitement. But even while I was falling into this discursive planning and excitement, the flower kept blooming, growing, softly and luminously waving as if under water. It faded and collapsed only if I completely roused myself, and as soon as I went back into relaxation, it began its dance again.
So I was like “Oh, hot damn! this is for real!” I just gazed on the center white tigle, but then something strange happened. There was a flash of the the violet matrix, then the flower again, and then I was absorbed into the light at the center of the flower. There were some shifting scenes and times, and I was traveling fast through ages. Then all stopped and I was in a primitive, prehistoric cave. The cave walls were lighted because light of the dakini came there with my mind. All these cave drawings of animals and men with tools and spears were there, in quietness, timelessness. The texture of the rock could be seen and felt.
This didn’t feel like a dream. It felt like being there. I was also still aware, somehow, that I had gone into the blue flower and that my body was in bed, although I couldn’t feel the bed or my reclining body, and all this was somehow known beyond memory reference or discursive thought.
So this was traveling. Finally.
Afterward, I must have fallen into Stupidity Sleep. In the morning, I was lying in the liminal state and was thinking of things I need to do, like a do list, and suddenly I would be there doing these things. Like I was at the bank actually doing a task, and then I was driving home from work, through the campus gate. It felt as though I were actually bringing these planned actions to fruition on another plane. Again, I was really there, not just dreaming. It was full-on traveling while I was still aware, two places at once, but no place.
I’m planning to clean up my altar, order a picture of this goddess (although her true form is a bright blue-white tigle), and adorn the altar with blue flowers and all sorts of blue things and luminous white things. I’m Salgye du Dalma’s Number 1 fan. I’m going to be her devotee from now on, bend the knee.