Dream sadhana

I’m writing this post to answer a question that A Ramana Devotee, who wrote this guest article a few years ago, asked recently in a comment.

A useful concept before I start: Years ago my friend Jyothi invented the term “imposed sadhana” to describe a spiritual practice that we do without choice. Nisargadatta gave an example in his final talks: a person who is dying of cancer thinks constantly of dying of cancer, thus practicing one-pointed attention.

Is it possible that God, in response to our desire for liberation, in order to lead us to liberation, arranges our lives in such ways that we react by performing these involuntary sadhanas?

I’ve mentioned many times on this blog that I became a seeker as a result of a visit I made as a tourist to Meenakshi Amman Temple in Madurai in 1985. Gradually over the years that followed, seemingly out of nowhere, a desire for liberation emerged and took control of my life. This process was very slow. Roughly ten years passed before I began to notice the desire consciously, and another three years elapsed before I recognized the desire for what it was. In the beginning it seemed to be for other things.

I first noticed the desire when I started to have dreams in which I flew like Superman. I could see that they were potentially very pleasurable but they frustrated me because I had no control over my flights. As soon as I got airborne, I usually crashed or woke up. Because I could see the potential pleasure, I reacted to this situation by striving to attain voluntary control in these dreams. This was my reaction while dreaming . What I was doing, really, was trying to be more awake while I dreamed. I suppose this is what people mean when they say “lucid dreaming,” but I didn’t say to myself, “I’m doing lucid dreaming.” I just simply did it.

Eventually I was able to fly in my dreams with voluntary, deliberate control. This was the first imposed sadhana that resulted from my visit to Meenakshi Temple. As a result of this unchosen practice, my dream state became more conscious, and the difference between my dream state and waking state became less pronounced. This is still true today.

Incidentally, as the desire for liberation continued to grow, the next thing that happened was that I found myself reading all 20 volumes of Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander series about the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. I thought this was strange because I had never had any interest in novels of this kind, and I had seldom if ever read 20 books by the same author. Eventually I realized that the reason why the books appealed to me was very simply because I liked the idea of sailing ships moving with the air. Then it occurred to me that airplanes also move with the air, so I became a pilot. I flew airplanes for a couple of hundred hours, but this didn’t satisfy me because flight in ordinary airplanes wasn’t free enough, wasn’t birdlike enough, so I learned to fly an aerobatic airplane (loops, rolls, spins, etc.). That didn’t satisfy me either so I flew gliders for a couple of hundred hours.

Then one day I realized that I didn’t want to fly in the air. I wanted to fly in consciousness. I wanted inner freedom. I wanted liberation.

I lost interest in airplanes, started reading spiritual books, and began to do sadhana.

8 thoughts to “Dream sadhana”

  1. “Is it possible that God, in response to our desire for liberation, in order to lead us to liberation, arranges our lives in such ways that we react by performing these involuntary sadhanas?”

    You already know this, but I’ll write here anyway for people reading these comments. I’ve been on an “imposed sadhana” for ten months now. I’ve been given a suffering/blessing and have been practising involuntarily since then. Without this, I’d not have been able to be so concentrated on it, and my progress would have been nothing like this. By progress, I mean energetic shifts, clearings in my system (in whatever bodies they’re), thus leading to shifts in consciousness and heart opening.

    Understandably, I don’t even pray to God, asking to be relieved of this great pain. If it’s the faster way, so be it 🙂

    1. I’d like to add that imposed sadhana doesn’t have to be just “practising one-pointed attention”. Pain is the nature’s awareness magnet. Wherever the pain is felt, awareness is automatically directed there. The greater the pain, the greater the awareness.

      In addition, in my experience, enlightenment is seen as the only way out of the painful situation, so in order to “get it”, directing consciousness on awareness (meditation) became automatic and continuous, too.

      1. I think you’re right that pain is nature’s awareness magnet. Awareness heals. Why else does pain exist? What other function could it have?

        But I wonder if this mechanism still works properly in humans. In other animals, yes. If a mouse injures its paw, presumably it hides someplace quiet and focuses on the pain, helping it heal. But don’t people tend to look away from pain? Maybe our brains got so big and our intelligence so great that we acquired the ability to dull our awareness in thoughts, sabotaging the process.

        And are suffering and pain the same thing?

        How to dissolve energy blocks

  2. Loved it. Any tips on lucid dreaming? I occasionally have lucid dreaming. Do some recommended exercises but I think probably not doing as much as I should.

    1. I didn’t use any method or strategy so I can’t offer any tips. In my case, without effort on my part, I began to dream almost every night that I was flying. I could see that these dreams would be a great deal of fun if I could control them, so I naturally tried to control them and eventually I did. I made these efforts in my sleep so I had as little control over the efforts as I did over the dreams. My desire for pleasure and my belief that the desire could be fulfilled, made me do what I did automatically.

      This sort of process reminds me of a comment of Nisargadatta’s that I often see quoted on social media to the effect that all that’s required for enlightenment is “earnestness.”

      If only we could want what we want to want, life would be so pleasant. 🙂

      P.S. There’s nothing wrong with lucid dreaming but I think it’s more valuable to become lucid in the waking state.

      1. Thanks Freddie. I truly believe in Ramana Maharshi teachings but you know, I’ve learned so many things that made a difference in my life from so many people including yourself… I believe that if we are opened we can learn from everyone so I choose to listen to what others have to say, enquiry, question, try for myself. I like Buddhism too and they talk about the bardos and as you know according to the teachings lucid dreaming helps during the death process +many other uses that I find very interesting hence why I asked. Your answer was good, thanks.
        PS – I do work to become lucid in the waking state and not lost in thoughts and I do believe I am more lucid but still lost in thoughts a lot of times. The world is an illusion:)

        1. Sounds like a good approach. I was like that too for a long time. In the last couple of years I’ve become narrowly focused but that was after exploring lots of different things.

  3. Interesting to read this note Freddie. I too have had vivid dreams which over the years turned lucid (and a lot more lucid when i started contemplating/reading spiritual books. Coupled with a few astral projections also which were interesting but I stopped pursuing it shortly after). I never conflated that the vividness of my dreams and that they too included flying were a pre-set up for a desire for liberation. It still doesn’t seem that way. Although, I must say that the dream world got invented due to some level of noticing dissatisfaction in the waking world and the ability to more granularly control the dream word felt as if dream world was preferable as it is easily manipulated, is more fun as there are less constraints in that world.

    I remember in my childhood once I had an amazing flying dream and a few others which I couldn’t stop thinking about. They were more exquisite than what I’d ever seen or experienced in the waking world. When I’d go to sleep, I’d start imagining the same set up and story and that way it’d transition into dreaming about the same story in continuation of sorts. At some point, I got enamored with flying aspects where I’d try to control the speed/turns etc but it wasn’t smooth which were clues to me that it is a dream and perhaps, that’s what caused the dreams to become lucid.

    One other related experience in recent times was when on weed – I was watching TV and then whatever was immediately in front of me became real/tangible and total reality. for example, the movie on the TV became real for me as if I were sitting right there in the scene and then suddenly a family member called me and then family room and member became real in a jerky way. I thought I’d ask my family member if I’m imagining this or is it real – but a voice/thought responded back that the family member will also say what I want them to say. There is no way of knowing whether it is real or not. So much so that I couldn’t even say for sure whether my eyes were open or not. It appeared to be either (in a tactile tangibly real way) depending upon how my thoughts about it were. It is either ALL real or NONE real at the same time. After that, the believability of dreams and waking states to be just different kinds of dreams (illusions) only shot up for me.

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