Active Imagination, Dream Yoga and Sleep Yoga: Paths to Individuation, Liberation and Enlightenment

” My aim is to bring about a psychic state in which my patient begins to experiment with his own nature- a state of fluidity, change, and growth where nothing is fixed and hopelessly petrified. ” – C.G.  Jung: The Aims of Psychotherapy

” I must not sleep like a beast, but cherish the experiential cultivation which mingles sleep with realization. ” – Padmasambhava: Natural Liberation, 8th century

Active imagination, dream yoga, and sleep yoga, are powerful transformative practices that can bring about the experimental psychic state that was Jung’s goal. Jung said about individuation that: “If man does this consciously and intentionally, he avoids all the unhappy consequences of repressed individuation.  In other words, if he voluntarily takes on the burden of completeness on himself he need not find it “happening” to him against his will in a negative form.”  This counsel can be applied to liberation and enlightenment, the goals of the Tibetan Buddhist practices of dream and sleep yoga.  Each of these practices can create value out of our suffering and yield productive growth and not repeated negative patterns of unconscious suffering where we are “hopelessly petrified.”

Active imagination is a meditational practice Jung developed where one’s waking consciousness enters into a dialogue, through one’s imagination, with different parts of one’s self that are rooted in the unconscious in order to explore the unknown other for self-realization.  Dream yoga promotes the use of lucid dreaming, where waking consciousness reawakes into the dream to interact with the dream environment.  This lucidity is mirrored in the ability to recognize the dream like quality of daily life.  Lucidity in dreams can demonstrate the illusory quality of fears and reactivity and can be understood as a way of building psychic immunity to our own conditioned mind.  Lucidity in the dream, potentially leads to lucidity in deep (non REM) sleep where it is possible to experience, liberation from “samsara,” our karmic delusions, and ultimately attain the “clear light.” This, in a sense, 24 hour and beyond, mindfulness practice is intended to penetrate the states of waking, meditating, dreaming, deep sleep, death and the bardo, and is aimed at “abiding in non-dual awareness,” the primordial, unconditioned state of mind.

One need not be able to attain lucidity in dreams or deep sleep in order to find benefits.  Developing lucidity in our waking life helps us to turn inward to reconnect with ourselves in spite of  the increasingly addictive distractions of daily life that can numb us into passivity in our pursuit of self-realization.  Lucid dreaming themes increasingly appear in our culture, in movies, and the rapidly evolving digitally enhanced virtual reality technologies.  In this course we will explore these practices in light of Jung’s alchemical psychology and Tibetan Buddhist perspectives on liberation, the obstacles and cautions, and the personal and collective implications in our modern world.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s