Book Review: Dreaming Yourself Awake

Imagine you are holding a lantern in a lush temperate forest in the dead of night.  The frogs chirp and crickets hum their songs in tranquil peace.  Treading ankle deep in undergrowth brushing up from knee to waist you visit one dominant tree.  Its distended bark feels rough against your palm.  As you look upwards, beyond the thick canopy, towards wispy moon-illumined clouds above, your lantern light wains.  You begin revolve, tumbling back into consciousness.  Or so it seems.

Dreaming Yourself Awake, written by B. Alan Wallace and published by Shambhala, instructs the enthusiastic dreamer towards investigating the worlds upon worlds of heightened awareness. Wallace has studied with a Tibetan yoga guru in Dharmsala, India, extensively during the 1980’s.  All the while, psychologists like Stephen LaBerge focused on preforming experiments to help gain acceptance for lucid dreaming within the halls of academic life.  Our author would both develop a transformative dream yoga practice as well as a sincere professional relationship with LaBerge and other dream scientists.


Without going into all the details, Dreaming Yourself Awake distinguishes itself from other books of the same genre by presenting a cornerstone meditative technique known as Shamatha.  Shamatha is a breath attention based practice which aims to clear the (mental) air for effortless focus.  The practice has three core principles: relaxation, steadiness, and vividness.  Without mindfully addressing each in one’s waking hours, it would be rare to experience the dawning of awareness within a dream.  Despite his convictions, Wallace is far from pessimistic.  He believes that anyone who practices Shamatha can succeed at lucid dreaming or even Tibetan dream yoga.  Wallace also goes further than most authors of this genre by artfully explaining true success:

“Such clarity is a gateway to inner freedom.  Awake to the potential of every situation you become the master of your destiny.  Dream practice can heighten creativity, solve problems, heal emotions, or provide scintillating inner theater.”

Returning to my own theatrical vignette, the ability to retain focus ultimately prevents dreams from spinning out of control.  Although Shamatha owes more to Buddhist traditions than those of modern psychology, Wallace also presents techniques such as “dream spinning” which were essentially invented by Stephen LaBerge to prevent dreamers from losing control.  In short, if you find yourself tumbling back to consciousness, keep tumbling while introspecting on the gossamer of your own consciousness.  Your waking self will undoubtedly thank you.

List of books I enjoy related to dream mindfulness:

Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

Lucid Dreaming by Robert Wagoneer

Our Dreaming Mind by Robert de Castle

Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge

I intend to teach yoga nidra and Ashtanga Vinyasa intermediate series during my regularly scheduled class – Sunday 12:30 PM at YVT, 113 Church St. Burlington, VT, USA, Planet Earth, of the Milky Way.


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