Richard G. Petty, MD

Meditation, Stress and Self-Regulation

There is progressively more evidence that meditation can have measurable effects on behavior and the brain. The trouble is that some of the results have conflicted, mainly because of the different types of meditation and different measurement protocols. So I was very interested to see some new research in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, by a team of researchers from China collaborating with renowned experts at the University of Oregon, who have developed an approach for neuroscientists to study how very brief meditation training might improve a person’s attention and response to stress.

The study itself was done with undergraduate students in China. The experimental group received five days of meditation training using a technique called integrative body-mind training (IBMT), which was developed in China n the early 1990s.

IBMT is a rapid mental training method that aims at inducing a state of alert restfulness using breathing and guided imagery.

The control group received five days of relaxation training. Before and after training both groups took tests involving attention and reaction to mental stress.

The experimental group showed greater improvement a test of attention that was designed to measure peoples’ ability to resolve conflict among stimuli. Subjects were stressed by doing mental arithmetic.

At the beginning of the experiment both groups showed an elevated release of cortisol following the mathematical task, but after training the experimental group showed less cortisol release. This probably indicates an improvement in stress regulation. The experimental group also showed lower levels of anxiety, depression, anger and fatigue than the control group.

The next stage in the research will involve direct measurements of brain function.

Although IBMT is described as a form of meditation, it may be inducing something slightly different from, say, Zen meditation. The important point is that it is possible to produce measurable physiological changes in just five days, and this will make it much easier to examine the dynamic effects of hypnosis, relaxation and this technique on brain function.

I would also be grateful for any readers who have more information abut the precise details of IBMT, and whether training in the precise techniques is available outside China.

I shall keep you posted as new data emerge.

“Peace can be reached through meditation on the knowledge which dreams can give. Peace can also be reached through concentration upon that which is dearest to the heart.”
–Patanjali (Indian Philosopher said to be the Compiler of the Yoga Sutras, Dates Unknown)

“Through meditation and by giving full attention to one thing at a time, we can learn to direct attention where we choose.”
–Eknath Easwaran (Indian-American Spiritual Teacher, Professor and Author, 1910-1999)

“Meditation is not to escape from society, but to come 
back to ourselves and see what is going on. Once there is 
seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness, we know 
what to do and what not to do to help.”
–Thich Nhat Hahn (Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, 1926-)

“A meditator keeps his mind open every second. He is constantly investigating life, investigating his own experience, viewing existence in a detached and inquisitive way. Thus, he is constantly open to truth in any form, from any source, an at any time.”
–Henepola Gunaratana (a.k.a. Bhante G., Sri Lankan Buddhist Monk, 1927-)

Mindfulness and Depression

Mindfulness meditation has rightly been receiving a lot of attention recently. It is quite simply a technique in which you become intentionally aware of your thoughts and actions in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Though originally a Buddhist technique, it is something that can be practiced by anyone, and there are, in fact, similar techniques that have been developed by Christian mystics and Sufis.

It has recently been discovered that some of the techniques that were developed so that a mystic or meditator could carry on without distraction, may also have value in treating clinical problems. After all, if a group of people has spent a thousand years developing tools and techniques for managing the mind, it might be a good idea to see what they have discovered!

There have recently been several excellent books on the use of mindfulness in the management of depression:
The Mindful Way Through Depression
Relaxation, Meditation and Mindfulness
Mindfulness and Acceptance: Expanding the Cognitive-Behavioral Tradition

This whole field was moved forward by some research from San Francisco (NR822) that was presented at the end of May at the 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in San Diego. The researchers used Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) in a group of 53 people with treatment resistant depression.

MBCT is based on the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) eight-week program that was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Research has show that MBSR can be enormously empowering for people with chronic pain, hypertension, heart disease, cancer, and gastrointestinal disorders, as well as for psychological problems such as anxiety and panic.

Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy grew from this work. Zindel Segal, Mark Williams and John Teasdale adapted the MBSR program so that it could be used for people who had suffered repeated episodes of depression.

The results of the study presented in San Diego showed that MBCT was effective in reducing depression when compared to treatment as usual: what we call “TAU.” What seems to happen is that MBCT gives people a set of skills for detaching from the stream of depressive thoughts and feelings. As a result the symptoms decrease. Though the study will need to be expanded and replicated, this is clearly a fertile area for research.

This work is also interesting in the light of recent research showing that mindfulness training may improve the activity of some of the subsystems of the brain dedicated to attention, as well as helping some people with mental illness control their aggressive behavior. Mindfulness training may also help to reduce subjective reduces distress and improves positive mood states. It seems to be particularly good at reducing distracting and ruminative thoughts and behaviors.

And just for good measure, mindfulness may help some smokers quit.

“The purpose of meditation is not enlightenment, it is to pay attention even at extraordinary times, to be of the present, nothing-but-in-the-present, to bear this mindfulness of now into each event of ordinary life.”
–Peter Matthiessen (American Naturalist and Writer, 1927-)

“Meditation is not to escape from society, but to come 
back to ourselves and see what is going on. Once there is 
seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness, we know 
what to do and what not to do to help.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, 1926-)

“Conscious means “having an awareness of one’s inner and outer worlds; mentally perceptive, awake, mindful.” So “conscious business” might mean, engaging in an occupation, work, or trade in a mindful, awake fashion. This implies, of course, that many people do not do so. In my experience, that is often the case. So I would definitely be in favor of conscious business; or conscious anything, for that matter.”
–Ken Wilber (American Philosopher, 1949-)


Regular readers will know that I have been collecting wise words from around the globe for many years, and I now have almost 40,000 of them broken down into more than 500 topics. It has taken years not just to collect them, but to try to check the sources and wording. But if you find errors, please let me know!

Here are 23 of my favorites comments about enlightenment.

I do hope that you find them as useful and inspiring as I have.

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”   
–Carl G. Jung (Swiss Psychologist and Psychiatrist, 1875-1961)

“Be a lamp unto your own feet; do not seek outside yourself.”   

–Buddha (a.k.a. “The Awakened”, a.k.a. Siddhartha Gautama, Indian Religious Figure and Founder of Buddhism, c.563 B.C.E. – c.483 B.C.E.)

“When the divine vision is attained, all appear equal; and there remains no distinction of good and bad, or of high and low.”   

–Sri Ramakrishna (a.k.a. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Indian Hindu Mystic and Promoter of Universal Religion, 1836-1886)

“We loosely talk of Self-realization, for lack of a better term.  But how can one realize or make real that which alone is real? All we need to do is to give up our habit of regarding as real that which is unreal. All religious practices are meant solely to help us do this. When we stop regarding the unreal as real, then reality alone will remain, and we will be that.”   
–Ramana Maharshi (Indian Hindu Mystic and Spiritual Teacher, 1879-1950)

“We attain enlightenment when we love truth for the sake of truth, and not for the sake of self-promotion or worldly gain.”   
–Emanuel Swedenborg (Swedish Scientist, Mystic and Philosopher, 1688-1772)

“Once and for all, dedicate yourself to the service of a high ideal, to the coming of the kingdom of God, and do not be concerned with what will become of you. This ideal will bring you everything."

–Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov (Bulgarian Spiritual Master, 1900-1986)

“The holy instant is the recognition that all minds are in communication. Every thought you would keep hidden shuts off communication.”

–A Course in Miracles (Book of Spiritual Principles Scribed by Dr. Helen Schucman between 1965 and 1975, and First Published in 1976)

“If you are enlightened, you are not free, as some people say, but you are freedom itself. Not like a bird in the sky, but like the sky itself.”
–Wolter A. Keers (Dutch Advaita Teacher and Editor, 1923-1985)

“The reason why so few people find enlightenment is because they have free will and punish themselves by making wrong choices. Constantly, enlightenment is being offered to them, but they refuse to accept it. Therefore they refuse to accept it. Therefore they are being taught problems that are set before them, since they refuse to make choices voluntarily.”
–“Peace Pilgrim” (a.k.a. Mildred Norman, American Peace Activist, 1908-1981)

“All the riches of this world are too less a price for a single word which enlightens the soul.”    
–Hazrat Inayat Khan (Founder of the Sufi Order of the West, 1882-1927)

“To the dull mind all nature is leaden. To the enlightened mind the whole world sparkles and burns”   
–Ralph Waldo Emerson (American Poet and Essayist, 1803-1882)

“Enlightenment must come little by little, otherwise it would overwhelm.”   
–Idries Shah (Afghan-born Sufi Philosopher and Writer, 1924-1996)

“Out of compassion I destroy the darkness of their ignorance. From within them I light the lamp of wisdom and dispel all darkness from their lives.”   
–Bhagavad Gita (Ancient and Sacred Sanskrit Poem Incorporated into the Mahabharata)

“If these little sparks of holy fire which I have thus heaped together do not give life to your prepared and already enkindled spirit, yet they will sometimes help to entertain a thought, to actuate a passion, to employ and hallow a fancy.”
–Jeremy Taylor (English Anglican Clergyman, Writer and Bishop, 1613-1667)

“The great beacon light God sets in all, the conscience of each bosom.”
–Robert Browning (English Poet, 1812-1889)

“God reveals himself unfailingly to the thoughtful seeker.”
–Honoré de Balzac (French Novelist, 1799-1850)

“There is no difference between an enlightened man and an ignorant one. What makes the difference is that the one realizes it, while the other is kept in ignorance of it.”
–Hui-Neng (a.k.a. Daikan Eno, Chinese Chan Monk, A.D. 638-713)

“You may have expected that enlightenment would come Zap! Instantaneous and permanent. This is unlikely. After the first "ah ha" experience, it can be thought of as the thinning of a layer of clouds…”   
–Ram Dass (a.k.a. Richard Alpert, American Spiritual Teacher, Author and Lecturer, 1931-)

“God realization does not begin in a cave high atop the Himalayas. It begins in the pots and pans of the kitchen. Treat all your tasks, however small, as opportunities to see God and serve him.”
Sri Swami Sivananda (Indian Physician and Spiritual Teacher, 1887-1963)

“Enlightenment is not an attainment: it is a realization. When you wake up, everything changes and nothing changes. If a blind man realizes that he can see, has the world changed?”   
–Dan Millman (American Writer, Philosopher and Former World Class Trampolinist, 1947-)

“Enlightenment is the highest good. Once you have it, nobody can take it away from you.”   
–Siddharameshwar Maharaj (Indian Spiritual Teacher, 1888-1936)

“Is enlightenment really possible for the average person? Yes. Big Yes. Enlightenment is very possible for the ordinary individual. Actually it is easier than for some one who thinks that they are special…. whenever someone is ordinary, simple, innocent and natural, that is enlightenment.”   
–Sri Sri Ravishankar (Indian Spiritual Teacher and Founder of the Art of Living Foundation and the International Association for Human Values, 1956-)

Ian Stevenson R.I.P.

I just heard that the Candian-born psychiatrist and researcher Ian Stevenson passed away last month at the age of 88.

You may not have heard of him, but he spent a lifetime on a peculiar area of academic research: he was the world’s foremost authority on the study of reincarnation. He was interested in children who claim to remember previous lives, near-death experiences,
apparitions (death-bed visions), the mind-brain problem, and survival
of the human personality after death.

Stevenson was always careful and cautious about his claims. He wrote his first paper on reincarnation in 1960 and went on to conduct additional field research about reincarnation in Africa, Alaska, British Columbia, Burma, South America, Lebanon, Turkey,
and many other places. The children studied would typically start recalling
their past life story between the ages of two and four, yet seem to
have forgotten it by seven or eight. There were frequent mentions of
having died a violent death, and apparently clear memories of the mode
of death. He gathered testimonies as well as medical records of
information on birthmarks, birth defects, and other physical evidence
for reincarnation.  

Stevenson published over 200 articles and several books, but they were almost exclusively for the academic and scientific community, so they can be heavy going for a non-speciaist. His research database contains over 3,000 cases that
provide evidence suggestive of reincarnation, though he himself was
always careful to refer to them as "cases suggestive of reincarnation"
or "cases of the reincarnation type."

I first heard about his work as a young student in the early 1970s, and I subsequently read most of his books and papers. They make fascinating reading and it is difficult not to be persuaded that either these are genuine cases of reincarnation, or else there is some unknown non-physical method by which young children can pick up information about people and events about which they should know nothing.

Stevenson’s work continues with a new generation of researchers. It is is important to think about the incredible implications if even one of these cases is genuine.

And it bears repeating that there is not one case, but over 3,000, all meticulously documented.

One of his papers is available for free download, and if you are interested in the topic of survival, I also recommend the Survival Research Network and the International Association for Near-Death Studies.

Lucid Dreaming

Stuart Wilde reprinted a very nice article on lucid dreaming on his website. I found the original here. Sadly the author remains anonymous, so I cannot give an attribution. Since there are some page references, I imagine that it is form a book, but not one in my fairly extensive library.

This is such a good article that I am reproducing it below. If the author contacts me I shall let you know who he or she is!

I have been collecting books and articles on lucid dreaming for many years, ever since an early teacher told me that according to some old teachings, learning the art of lucid dreaming is supposed to make it easier to control the transition at the time of death.

If that is too esoteric for you, then I should also mention that lucid dreaming is being explored as a treatment for nightmares.

One of the best books that I know of is by Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold, and it is now available for download here.

Here is the article, with a couple of links that I have added to clarify a couple of points.

If you have reached a stage at which it feels right to be working with your dreams, I hope that this will be of value to you.



Lucid dreaming is a state in which the sleeper becomes alert and conscious that he or she is dreaming. The imagery in this state is reported to be more vivid than in non-lucid states, and it is difficult to distinguish between the dream and reality. The dreamer is able to control what is dreamed.

Lucid dreaming has formed the central core of virtually every shamanic and mystical practice throughout history. It allows the shaman to visit the spirit realms to gain healing power and insight. In the East, lucid dreaming has long been seen as a signpost on the way to enlightenment.

The Goldi shamans of Siberia guide dying or dead subjects through the realms of the otherworld through lucid dreams. Native Americans rely upon conscious dreaming for their vision quests, and consider dreams to be central to life itself, and the foundation of all spiritual matters.

The Australian Aborignes are the oldest lucid dreamers, but the Tibetan shamans have carried the process of lucid dreaming more exactly into the realm of mysticism. In 12th century Tibet there arose famous schools of Dream Masters who appeared to use lucid dreaming as a powerful method of meditation, which was reported to speed up the process of enlightenment. The Tibetan shaman was always "chosen" through a lucid dream, which transformed the dreamer into a new being.

Many Western subjects entering lucid dreaming for the first time report experiencing nothing comparable in the whole of their waking lives, feeling as if they had been radically changed by the event and mysteriously transformed. The essential purpose of lucid dreamwork is ultimately to wake up. Lucid dreaming helps us understand that we are just as asleep when we think we are awake, as we are in dreams.

PART ONE: Brain States

The sleep cycle is made up of numerous clearly definedstages. The first is a transitional state called the hypnagogic, which is the feeling of floating off, sometimes accompanied by vivid or psychedelic images. At this point the brain is in alpha, which then gives way to the slower and more rhythmic theta waves of light slumber. These are joined by rapid bursts of brain activity (spindles and K-complexes). About 20 minutes after the beginning of the sleep cycle, the large and relatively slow delta waves take over. This is the deep plunge into the void of sleep.

The quiet phase and the active phase are the two main stages of sleep, and can be distinguished by differences in biochemistry, physiology, psychology, and behavior. The quite phase occurs during deep sleep and is known as "S" sleep, as it is characterized by slow wave EEG. This Delta pattern takes up most of our sleeping time, thus the "S". It is the state of restful inactivity, your mind does little while you breathe slowly and deeply; your metabolic rate is at a minimum, and growth hormones are released facilitating restorative processes. When awakened from this state, people feel disoriented and rarely remember dreaming

However the second type of sleep pattern, REM (rapid eye movement) is the sleep state that pertains to lucid dreaming. REM sleep or "D" sleep is characterized by rapid eye movements and is often accompanied by dreams, thus the D. The first episode of REM or D sleep in adults lasts about ten minutes but can increase to as much as an hour throughout the night. During REM sleep your eyes move around rapidly, breathing is quick and irregular, and you dream vividly. During this activity, your body remains still, because it is temporarily paralyzed during REM sleep to prevent you from acting out your dreams.

The length of REM periods increase as the night proceeds, and the intervals between REM periods decrease. The first REM period usually lasts about ten minutes, after with the sleeper almost awakens before stage two. The cycle is then highly variable with each individual. Usually the complete REM/non REM cycle lasts about 90 minutes, with the dreamer experiencing four to five cycles of sleep each night. During the last two hours of sleep the REM has increased from ten minutes to as much as one hour.

Therefore "dreaming sleep" accounts for as much as 20 percent of our sleeping life. We spend as much as five years in dreamworlds, and experience over 150,000 dreams in a lifetime. During the last several decades, sleep researchers have discovered that for every 100 persons in REM sleep, over 80 percent will remember a dream if awakened. REM is clearly a unique brain state, though it is similar to the waking state in EEG activity. This may explain why dreams seem so real.

While other structures in the brain are involved in sleep, the neocortex is a major brain area involved in the production of dream images and experiences.

PART TWO: How to Induce a Lucid Dream

a) How to schedule your efforts for best results

Most lucid dreams happen in the late morning hours of sleep. If you normally sleep for eight hours, you will probably have six REM periods with the last half occurring in the last quarter of the night. The probability of having a lucid dream in the last two hours of sleep is more than twice as great as the probability of having a lucid dream in the previous six hours.

If you are serious about lucid dreaming, you should arrange at least one morning a week where you can stay in bed several hours longer than usual. If you can’t afford more time in bed, there is a simple secret to increasing your lucid dreaming that requires no extra sleep.

If you are serious about lucid dreaming, you should arrange at least one morning a week where you can stay in bed several hours longer than usual. If you can’t afford more time in bed, there is a simple secret to increasing your lucid dreaming that requires no extra sleep.

b) Techniques for Lucid Dreaming

Carlos Castaneda is instructed in one of h
is books that the best way to have a lucid dream is to shift the attention while dreaming. His teacher advises him to look for his hands or feet during the dream, which will help him remember that he is dreaming, and have access to using his dream body. The technique does work, although it may take many trials before a person actually remembers to look at the hands or feet while they are dreaming.

Training Protocol for Lucid Dreaming.

Should be practiced each night before going to sleep.

1. Play relaxing music on low volume. Lie down and close eyes. Lie on left side if comfortable, if not, gently touch forefinger to thumb of each hand and let hands rest by side.
2. Listen to tape and do some deep breathing (Noise Removal Breathing p.87 & Level One Breathing p.86).
3. Imagine and feel a point of white light in middle of forehead. Sense it radiating its light in front of the brain and directly in front of you.
4. Imagine and feel you are walking along a deserted beach at twilight. Notice the sky, moon, stars. As you walk, sense the point of white light on forehead, look down at hands and feet. Rotate hands and look at them in the light of the moon and stars.

Next, imagine you reach the entrance to an underground cave. Walk down seven stairs, reach out to open the door and look at hand. Walk into a cavernous room with many doors. Atmosphere of calmness and peace.

You will find yourself drawn to one of the doors. Know that your chosen door holds something of value behind it. As you walk towards the door, feel the point of light, and glance down at the hands and feet. When you open the door, look at your hand. Enter the next room and explore everything – the people or beings you find there may be metaphorical. You may talk to anyone. As you explore, occasionally glance at hands or feet and feel the point of white light on the forehead.

After exploring the room, return to the first room and the entrance that leads to the stairs. Open the door and walk to the beach. Bring awareness back to physical body, and slowly open eyes.

Preparation for Lucid Dreaming

1. Lie on left side if it feels comfortable as above.
2. Close eyes, deep breathing (or Level One Breathing).
3. Imagine point of white light in forehead.
4. As your awareness rests on this point, say to yourself silently: "I intend to have lucid dreams tonight. I recognize when I am dreaming and I am able to move freely in my dream body." (Can use any similar statement).
5. Continue to keep mental focus gently at point of light in the middle of forehead. When you feel yourself drifting off to sleep, let go of the focus.

You may change body position throughout the night. When you catch yourself dreaming, remember the point of light in forehead, and to look at hand or feet.


Critical State Testing: Ask yourself whether you are awake ordreaming throughout the day, so that you can get into the habit of asking the same question while you are dreaming. It is important to ask the question "Am I dreaming or not?" at least five to ten times a day, especially in situations that are dreamlike, or remind you of your dreams. It is also good to ask the question at bedtime. Don’t just automatically ask the question and mindlessly reply, "Obviously I’m awake," or you will do the same thing when you are actually dreaming. Look around for oddities that may indicate you are dreaming, and think back over the events of the past several minutes. If you had trouble remembering what happened, you may be dreaming.

State Testing: Don’t ask other people in your dream whetheryou are dreaming, because they will often reply that you’re not. The best way to check if you’re dreaming is trying to fly. Hop into the air, and if you stay there, you’re dreaming. You can also read something, look away and see if the text has distorted in any way when you look back.

Another method is to look twice at a digital watch, because they never behave correctly in dreams. Don’t use an analogue watch to check because they can tell dream time quite believably.

You may discover that any time you feel the genuine need to test reality, this in itself is proof enough that you’re dreaming, as when we’re awake we almost never seriously wonder whether we are in fact awake or dreaming.

Intention Technique:

1. Resolve to recognize dreaming – In the early hours of the morning, or if you wake in the night, clearly affirm your intention to remember to recognize the dream state.
2. Visualize yourself recognizing dreaming – Visualize yourself in dream situations that would normally make you realize you are dreaming.
3. Imagine carrying out an intended dream action – Resolve to carry out a particular action in a dream, e.g. see yourself flying, knowing that you are dreaming.

The Mild Technique – Mnemonic Induction of Lucid Dreams

Prerequisites: It is necessary to have or develop the ability to remember future intentions using your mental capacity only, rather than relying on external reminders such as lists.


1. Set up dream recall – Before going to bed, resolve to wake up and recall dreams during each dream period throughout the night (or when you wake up in the morning).
2. Recall your dream – When you awake from a dream period, no matter what time it is, recall as many details as possible from your dream.
3. Focus your intent – While returning to sleep, concentrate on your intention to remember to recognize that you are dreaming.
4. See yourself becoming lucid – At the same time, imagine that you are back in the dream from which you have just awakened, but this time you recognize that it is a dream. Find a dream sign (something odd or bizarre in a dream that alerts you to the fact that it’s a dream) and say to yourself, "I’m dreaming!" and continue your fantasy.
5. Repeat – Repeat steps 3 and 4 until your intention is set, then let yourself fall asleep. If your mind strays while you are falling asleep, repeat the procedure so that the last thing in your mind as you fall asleep is your intention to remember to recognize that you are dreaming.

Commentary – If it takes you a long time to fall asleep while practicing this method, don’t worry. The longer you are awake, the more likely you are to have a lucid dream when you eventually return to sleep. This is because the longer you are awake, the more times you are likely to repeat the MILD technique, and therefore reinforce lucid dreaming. If you are a very heavy sleeper, you should get up after memorizing your dream and engage in ten to fifteen minutes of any activity involving full wakefulness, ie. turn on light, read a book etc. Write down the dream and read over it, ooking for dream signs.


This involves falling asleep consciously.

Attention on Hypnagogoc Imagery – This is the most common strategy for inducing WILDs and involves focusing on the hypnagogic imagery that accompanies sleep onset, e.g. flashes of light, geometric patterns.


1. Relax completely – Go through relaxation of every part of body, deep breathing etc.
2. Observe the visual images – Focus attention on the images that appear before the mind’s eye, watching how the images begin and end. Observe the images delicately, and allow them to be passively reflected in your mind as they unfold. Do not attempt to hold on to the images, just observe and let them pass. At first there will be a series of disconnected, fleeting patterns and images, which will eventually develop into scenes.
3. Enter the dream – When the imagery becomes a moving, vivid scenario, you should allow yourself to be passively drawn into the dream world. Do not try and enter the dream
scene. Be careful of too much involvement and too little attention, and don’t forget that you are dreaming now.

Commentary – Step 3 is the most difficult. The challenge is to develop a delicate vigilance, an unobtrusive observer perspective, from which you let yourself be drawn into the dream, rather than trying to participate in it yourself. Another risk is that the world can seem so realistic in the dream that it is easy to lose lucidity. A suggested prevention against this is to resolve to carry out a particular action in the dream, so that if you momentarily lose lucidity, you may remember your intention to carry out the action and regain lucidity.


1. Before bed

A) Firmly resolve to recognize when you are dreaming.
B) Visualize in the throat chakra the syllable "ah", red in color and vividly radiant.
C) Mentally concentrate on the radiance of the "ah". Imagine that the radiance illuminates everything in the world and shows it as being unreal or dreamlike.

2. At dawn

A) Practice deep breathing several times, rounding out the abdomen as you inhale.
B) Resolve eleven times to comprehend the nature of the dream state.
C) Concentrate on a dot of pure white situated between the eyebrows.
D) Continue to concentrate on the dot until you find that you are dreaming.


According to yogic doctrine, each chakra has a special sound or "seed syllable", which is "ah" for the throat chakra. This is viewed as the symbolic embodiment of Creative Sound, the power to bring a world (conceptual or otherwise) into being.


1. Before bed

A. Meditate on the white dot between your eyebrows.

2. At dawn

A. Practice deep breathing 21 times.
B. Make 21 resolutions to recognize the dream.
C. Then, concentrate your mind on a pill-sized black dot at the root chakra (base of genitals).
D. Continue to focus on the black dot until you find you are dreaming.


1. Relax completely- While lying in bed, close eyes and relax completely. Breathe deeply, enjoy feeling of relaxation, let go of thoughts and worries.
2. Count to yourself while falling asleep – As you are drifting off to sleep, count to yourself,"1, I’m dreaming; 2, I’m dreaming…" and so on maintaining vigilance. You may start over after reaching 100.
3. Realize you are dreaming – After continuing this for some time you’ll be saying "I’m dreaming," and you will notice that you are dreaming.

Commentary – Saying the "I’m dreaming" isn’t strictly necessary, the counting works just as well to retain sufficient alertness in recognizing dreams for what they are. You can progress rapidly if you have someone watching, who can wake you up and ask you what number you reached if you appear to have fallen asleep. The observer can tell you are asleep by slow, pendular movements from side to side of theeyes, minor movements of lips, face, hands, feet and other muscles, and well as irregular breathing.


1. Relax completely – After awakening from a dream lie on back or right side with eyes closed. Tighten and relax whole body, breathe deeply etc. Let go of other thoughts and affirm intention to enter dream state consciously.
2. Focus on your body – Focus attention on each part of body and notice how it feels, watching for vibrations or other strange sensations. When these sensations arrive, following will be a complete paralysis of the body. You are then ready to leave the paralyzed physical body and enter the dream body.
3. Leave your body and enter the dream – As soon as the physical body is in a profound state of sleep paralysis, you are ready to go. This paralyzed physical body has a moveable twin, called your dream body. Imagine yourself in your dream body, rolling or floating out of your physical body. Jump, crawl or fall out of bed. Sink into the floor. Fly through the ceiling. This is lucid dreaming.

Commentary – As soon as you step out of bed, remember that you are in a dream body, and everything around you is a dream too, including the bed and the sleeping body you just hopped out of. You can verify whether you are floating in your astral body by using some tests:
1)Try reading the same passage from a book twice;
2)look at a digital watch, look away, then look back a few seconds later.

c) Preventing Premature Awakening

When the lucid dream is threatened by wakening, it is usefulto carry out some form of dream action as soon as the visual part of the dream begins to fade, e.g. listening to voices, music or your breathing; beginning or continuing a conversation; rubbing or opening your (dream) eyes; touching your dream hands and face; touching objects or being touched; flying. Another technique is to look at the ground.


1. Notice when the dream begins to fade – The visual sense is the first to go when a dream fades, with touch being the last. The dream may begin to lose color, clarity and realism, and take on a cartoon-like appearance. The light may grow dim or your vision weaker.
2. Spin as soon as the dream begins to fade – As soon as you notice the dream fading, stretch out your arms and spin like a top with your dream body. You can spin any way you like, but you must feel the vivid sensation of movement in your dream body, not just imagine it.
3. While spinning – remind yourself that the next thing you see will probably be a dream.
4. Test your state wherever you seem to arrive – Keep spinning until you find yourself in a stable world, you will either still be dreaming or will have awakened. Carefully test which state you are in, a text, look at a digital watch.

Commentary – Frequently dream spinning creates a new procedure, or the just-faded dream may be regenerated. By repeatedly reminding yourself that you’re dreaming during the spinning, you can continue to be lucid in the new dream scene. If while you are dream spinning your hand hits the bed, don’t automatically think you’ve woken. If you’re spinning in your dream body, then it is a dream hand and a dream bed.

d) Lucid Dreaming for Problem Solving

1. Formulate your intention – Before you go to bed, think of a short phrase about what you want to dream about, e.g. "I want to visit San Francisco, or "I want to tell my friend I love her." Write down the phrase and perhaps illustrate it, and memorize the image. Underneath the target phrase, "When I dream of (the phrase) I will remember that I am dreaming."
2. Go to bed – Without doing anything else, turn out the light and go straight to bed.
3. Focus on your phrase and your intention to become lucid – Recall the phrase and picture, and visualize yourself dreaming lucidly about it. Meditate on the phrase and your intention to become lucid until you fall asleep, letting other thoughts pass.
4. Pursue your intention in the lucid dream – Carry out your intention while in a lucid dream. Ask what you want to ask, do what you want to do. Be sure to notice your feelings and be observant of all details in the dream.
5. Remember to awaken and recall the dream – When you achieve a satisfying answer in the dream, wake yourself up by going back to your dream bed, blinking or otherwise withdrawing your attention from the dream. Immediately write down at least the part of your dream that includes the solution. Even if you don’t think your question was answered, still write the dream down. You may find on reflection that the answer was hidden in your dream and you didn’t realize it at the time.

Lucid Dreaming to Overcome Nightmares

It is useful to confront threatening characters in a dream or nightmare, and
turn it into a lucid dream by beginning your own dialogue with them. You could ask the following:

"Who are you?"
"Who am I?"
"Why are you here?"
"Why are you acting the way you are?"
"What do you have to tell me?"
"Why is this happening?"
"What do you want from me?"
"What questions do you have to ask me?"
"What do I most need to know?"
"What can I do for you?"
"What can you do for me?"

e) Conversing with Dream Characters

1. Practice imaginary dialogues in the waking state – Chose a recent dream in which you had an unpleasant encounter with a dream character. Visualize yourself talking to them, and initiated a dialogue using the above questions or any of your own. Don’t let critical thoughts interrupt the flow, such as "I’m just making this up," or "This is silly." Terminate the dialogue when it runs out of energy or when you have your resolution. Evaluate what you did right or would do differently next time.
2. Set your intention – Set the goal for yourself that the next time you have a disturbing encounter with a dream character, you will become lucid and engage the character in dialogue.
3. Converse with problem dream figures – When you encounter anyone with whom you have a conflict, ask yourself whether or not you are dreaming. If you find that you are, stay and face the character, and begin a dialogue with one of the opening questions above. Listen to the character’s responses and try and address their problems as well as your own. See if you can make friends or reach a resolution. Wake yourself up while you still remember the dream clearly and write it down.
4. Evaluate the dialogue – Ask yourself if you achieved the best result you could, or how you could improve it next time.


Q:If dreams are messages from the unconscious mind, will consciously controlling dreams interfere with this important process, and deprive me of the benefits of dream interpretation?

A: Dreams are not letters from the unconscious mind, but experiences created through the interactions of the unconscious and conscious mind. More info from the unconscious is available to us in dreams, however if dreams were the exclusive realm of the unconscious, we wouldn’t remember them. You shouldn’t always be conscious in dreams any more than you should always be conscious of what you are doing in waking life. However, if your actions are taking you in the wrong direction (in dreaming or waking), you should be able to "wake up" to what you are doing wrong and consciously redirect your approach.

As for the benefits of dream interpretation, lucid dreams can be examined as fruitfully as non-lucid dreams. Lucid dreamers can even interpret their dreams while they are happening.

Q: Will the efforts of learning lucid dreaming lead to sleep loss, and will I be more tired from being awake in my dreams?

A: Dreaming lucidly is as restful as dreaming non-lucidly. Lucid dreams are often positive experiences and leave you feeling more invigorated. How tired you feel depends on what you did in the dream. You should practice lucid dreaming when you have the time and energy to devote to the task. If you are too busy to allot more time to sleeping, or to sacrifice any of the sleep you are getting, it’s probably not a good idea to work on lucid dreaming right now. Lucid dreaming requires good sleep and mental energy for concentration. Once you learn the techniques, you should reach a point where you can have lucid dreams whenever you wish just by reminding yourself to do so.

Q: Will practicing lucid dreaming affect my psychotherapy?

A: Lucid dreaming can be instrumental in psychotherapy, however if you are in psychotherapy and want to experiment with lucid dreaming, talk it over with your therapist. Make sure your therapist is well-informed on the subject of lucid dreaming, and understands its functions and implications.


“Dreams are real while they are happening. Can we say any more about life?”
–Havelock Elis (English Psychologist, 1859-1939)

“Once you have seen that you are dreaming, you shall wake up. But you do not see, because you want the dream to continue. A day will come when you will long for the ending of the dream, with all your heart and mind, and be willing to pay any price; the price will be dispassion and detachment, the loss of interest in the dream itself.”
–Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (Indian Spiritual Teacher and Exponent of Jnana Yoga and Advaita Doctrine, 1897-1981)

“We are such stuff / As dreams are made on, and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep.” {The Tempest, Act IV, Sc. i}
–WIlliam Shakespeare (English Poet and Dramatist, 1564-1616)

Diseases of Discipleship

You will not find them listed on WebMD, but “Diseases of Discipleship” are nonetheless very real. I have mentioned them in Healing Meaning and Purpose and also here. They are the result of sudden access to spiritual energies that can upset the balance of the body, mind and spirit. The great value of having a teacher is to help you balance and work with these energies without being harmed by them.

Several of my own teachers talked a lot about these diseases of discipleship, but I would particularly like to single out Douglas Baker and the writings of Roberto Assagioli, Del Pe, Torkom Saraydarian, Stan Grof and Alice Bailey.

I have also had a great deal of experience with people undergoing spiritual crises. Many have been referred to me by priests, clergy and intuitives, because many of the individuals thought that they were “going crazy,” and some had ben given psychiatric diagnoses. That extensive experience has helped me and some of my students to describe some of the “symptoms” in more detail.

Roberto Assagioli identified five critical points where problems may arise:

  1. Just before spiritual awakening begins
  2. Crises caused by spiritual awakening
  3. Reactions to spiritual awakening
  4. Phases of the process of transmutation
  5. The “Dark Night of the Soul

Today I am just going to focus on the crises caused by spiritual awakening, because a great many people are experiencing them at the moment.

Here are some of the more common signs and symptoms include:

  • Visual disturbances
  • Extreme sensitivity to light and sound
  • Paradoxically they often also find a raised pain threshold
  • Increased metabolic rate, which may cause a slight increase in body temperature and a little weight loss
  • Variable libido: some people lose all interest in sex, but most experience an increase in sexual desire, which can take them and any partners by surprise
  • Disturbances in circadian rhythms
  • Disturbances in thyroid and adrenal function: the thyroid often becomes slightly – or sometimes more than slightly – overactive and the adrenal glands slightly less responsive to stimulation
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hypertension
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Anxiety and a feeling of “butterflies” in the region of the solar plexus
  • Inexplicable sensations roughly corresponding to the channels identified in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine
  • Irregular breathing patterns, usually hyperventilation
  • Something that feels like electricity under the tongue and under the palate
  • Crying for no readily apparent reason
  • As peoples’ consciousness rises, it is quite common to experience “Synesthesia” in which senses overlap: people may taste sounds, feel colors and “hear and see” with different parts of the body
  • Psychic abilities often begin to appear: clairvoyance, clairaudience, spiritual intuition and the ability to heal
  • Many begin to feel and see their own Inner Light and the Inner Light of other people

Not everyone gets all of these symptoms and they may come and go for a while. Some people don’t get any at all, but they are unusual. There are two books by Hazel Courteney that detail some of what happened to her, and they are well worth a read.

It is important to emphasize that all of these signs and symptoms can also be caused by illnesses. So although most people who are going through all this want to avoid doctors, it is a very good idea to ensure that everything is okay. I once saw someone who had been told that she was having a kundalini experience, even though she did not have any of the usual features. She became very unwell, but felt much better when an insulin-producing tumor was removed from her pancreas.

The most important thing is to help people remain grounded. I have seen many people become extremely grandiose and even fanatical after going through a rapid spiritual awakening. It is also important to ensure that any physical symptoms – such as thyroid or blood pressure problems – do not continue unchecked.

Helping people who are going through spiritual change or crisis needs the help of a person or persons who understand physical and psychological problems, as well as being some way along the path of spiritual development. By “crisis” I do not mean crisis of faith, but a critical turning point in an individual’s personal development.

There are plenty of good ways of grounding using some physical, psychological and subtle system exercises. I have dozens of excellent techniques that I can publish if you are interested. Sometimes it is also a good idea to eat some heavy food.

It can be very helpful to get away form other people for a while. This doesn’t mean becoming a monk or nun, but just to avoid a bad case of people poisoning. In their overly sensitive state they can pick up a lot of negative things from the people around them. I have known a good many people who would begin to experience all the physical and psychological symptoms of the people around them.

Once we have confirmed that the person does not have all this as a result of thyroid disease or anxiety, it is essential to show them what is going on and the best way to approach and conceptualize it.

Next we help people to control some of the impulses that can otherwise swamp them. One of the many reasons for development of the sophisticated mind control techniques developed by Tibetan Buddhism was to help people watch their spiritual unfoldment without being overwhelmed by it.

We also try to help people to transmute psychological energies so that they can be used constructively.

Everybody is different, but in some people acupuncture, qigong, Reiki and homeopathy have all been helpful. Several of the flower essences can be very useful, in particular:
Star Tulip
White Yarrow
Pink Yarrow

Every expert that I know in the field of spiritual development agrees with my observation that there are currently more people having major spiritual changes than ever before. It is essential for us all to know how to protect, support and birth them.

“To penetrate into the essence of all being and significance, and to release the fragrance of that inner attainment for the guidance and benefit of others, by expressing in the world of forms – truth, love, purity and beauty – this is the sole game that has any intrinsic and absolute worth. All other incidents and attainments can, in themselves, have no lasting importance.”

–Meher Baba (Indian Spiritual Teacher who, from July 1925 maintained Silence, 1894-1969)

“You knock at the door of Reality. You shake your thought wings, loosen your shoulders, and open.”
–Jalal al-Din Rumi (Afghan Sufi Poet, 1207-1273)

“Life is a series of awakenings.”

–Sri Swami Sivananda (Indian Physician and Spiritual Teacher, 1887-1963)

“What we usually call human evolution is the awakening of the Divine Nature within us.”

–“Peace Pilgrim” (a.k.a. Mildred Norman, American Peace Activist, 1908-1981)

Charles Tart's Library

If you are at all interested in altered states of consciousness, transpersonal psychology, parapsychology or spirituality, you will find a great many useful and interesting papers written by Professor Charles Tart.

I was smitten by his work when I read his classic book Altered States of Consciousness in 1969, and he reamins one of the most respected figures in these fields

I have followed his work closely ever since, and his library of free articles is a treasure trove containing papers written between 1963 and 2006.

Charlie is currently a Core Faculty Member at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, California, a Senior Research Fellow of the Institute of Noetic Sciences in Sausalito, California, as well as Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the Davis campus of the University of California.

I would like to thank him and many publishers for making all this material freely available.

Mindfulness and Eating Disorders

There is a very interesting report about a study that is going on at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia.

They are using a psychological technique called "mindfulness" that is firmly rooted in Buddhist philosophy, in which a person becomes intentionally aware of his or her thoughts and actions in the present moment, non-judgmentally. Mindfulness is applied to both bodily actions and the mind’s own thoughts and feelings.

The idea is  to help them understand and deal with the emotions that trigger their binges. Unlike many other therapies used in the treatment of eating disorders, there is less focus on food and controlling eating and more on providing freedom from negative thoughts and emotions.

Psychologists Michelle Hanisch and Angela Morgan said that women who binged were often high-achievers and perfectionists and  when they perceived that they didn’t measure up to self-imposed standards or were not in control of situations, they indulged in secretive eating binges.

It is well known that many women with eating disorders develop elaborate methods of hiding the evidence of their binges. Some feel so guilty afterwards they also induce vomiting, overuse laxatives or exercise excessively to counteract the effects of the binge.

The researchers say, "Binge eating is largely a distraction – a temporary escape from events and emotions that nevertheless can cause long-term physical problems including electrolyte imbalances. Instead, women need to learn how to react in a different way… Women who have been through the program report less dissatisfaction with their bodies, increased self-esteem and improved personal relationships," and "They learn that thoughts and emotions don’t have any power over us as they are just passing phenomena and aren’t permanent."

Mindfulness involves techniques and exercises that are very similar to meditation. They could help people live more in the moment, and develop a healthy acceptance of self and become aware of potentially destructive habitual responses.

There is quite a large literature on the use of mindfulness in a variety of clinical situations including substance abuse, oncology, chronic stress, reducing symptoms after organ transplantation, chronic headache and perhaps anxiety.

It will be interesting to see the final results of this study: I shall keep you informed about this and other studies on mindfulness, meditation and acceptance and committment therapy (ACT).

“Peace can be reached through meditation on the knowledge which dreams can give. Peace can also be reached through concentration upon that which is dearest to the heart.”

–Patanjali (Indian Philosopher said to be the Compiler of the Yoga Sutras, Dates Unknown)

"Meditation is not to escape from society, but to come 
back to ourselves and see what is going on. Once there is 
seeing, there must be acting. With mindfulness, we know 
what to do and what not to do to help.”
Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, 1926-)

“Generosity is another quality which, like patience, letting go, non-judging, and trust, provides a solid foundation for mindfulness practice. You might experiment with using the cultivation of generosity as a vehicle for deep self-observation and inquiry as well as an exercise in giving. A good place to start is with yourself. See if you can give yourself gifts that may be true blessings, such as self-acceptance, or some time each day with no purpose. Practice feeling deserving enough to accept these gifts without obligation — to simply receive from yourself, and from the universe.”
–Jon Kabat Zinn (American Mindfulness Meditation Teacher and Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, 1944-)

Robert Anton Wilson R.I.P.

The American writer, humorist, philosopher, psychologist and futurologist Robert Anton Wilson finally passed last Thursday. I say "finally" because he has suffered for some time with post-polio syndrome that caused a bad fall last year. Since then he had required continuous medical care.

I never met him, but felt that I got to know him in the thirty some years since I first picked up a copy of The Illuminatus! Trilogy which he co-authored with Robert Shea. Advertised as "a fairy tale for paranoids," it was very funny in parts, using humor to examine American paranoia about conspiracies. Since then I read more than twenty of his books and there is no doubt that some of his ideas influenced not just me, but a generation of people who were interested in thinking outside that famous box.

Even thirty years later, one of his best and most influential books was Cosmic Trigger I: Final Secret of the Illuminati in which he examined everything from The 23 Enigma (the number 23 appears more often in "random" number series than any other and is said to have hundreds of odd correlations, from the number of human chromosome pairs to the Bible), leprechauns, Mr. Spock’s ears, Discordianism, Sufism, Futurology, Zen Buddhism, Dennis and Terence McKenna, the occult practices of Aleister Crowley and G.I. Gurdjieff, the Illuminati and Freemasons, Yoga, and other esoteric or counterculture philosophies. He also advocated Timothy Leary’s eight circuit model of consciousness and neurosomatic/linguistic programming.

"RAW" as he was affectionally known, also introduced millions of people to the idea that consciousness can affect the material world.

Some people found some of his writing difficult, simply because he was always trying to force people to make new associations and to see things differently. And few people would agree with absolutely everything that he said. Because he did not want them to: he wanted to make people think and to develop their intuition.

I shall always be grateful for RAW’s influence, and I hope that he enjoys the next stage of his journey.

The Irreducible Mind

I get a great many requests for recommendations for books and papers that either debate or provide support for the topics that I discuss on this blog and in my books and articles. That is why I’ve been constructing some reading lists at and linking them to this website.

A friend recently commented that she was surprised that the book and CD series, Healing, Meaning and Purpose that was created for a general audience, contains over 800 books and websites. My response to that was that I think that my readers and listeners are all grown ups who should be able to check everything that any author says!

The days of authors or speakers waving their hands about and making airy statements are finally coming to an end. If an author tells you that "science" proves what they are saying, they must show that they understand the topic themselves. I just saw yet another paper in which the writer said, "Quantum mechanics proves what I’m saying, but let’s not get into that." Well, that’s just the point: let us indeed get into that to see if what you are saying holds water!

Which brings me to a book that I’ve just read and reviewed. It is entitled Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century and it is an extraordinary achievement. For the last century, the vast majority psychologists, psychiatrists and neuroscientists have believed that thoughts, emotions and consciousness are the product of physical processes in the brain. And , of course, the brain is heavily involved in many  mental phenomena. The question has always been if neurological activity is sufficient to explain the whole of human experience.

This new book presents the most comprehensive and critical analysis of phenomena normally ignored by psychology, including mystical experiences, the placebo response, stigmata and hypnotic suggestion, memories that survive physical death, near death experiences, automatic writing, out-of-body experiences, apparitions, deathbed visions and many more.

It comes to the inescapable conclusion that the mind is not generated by the brain but is instead limited and constrained by it. There is no hand waving, and no "science has shown that…" Instead everything is laid out in front of you. There are a hundred pages of citations and references. Despite that, it is an easy and enjoyable read.

I have no personal connection with the book, but the next time that someone says that there’s no proof for any of these phenomena, and that emotions, cognitions and consciousness are just byproducts of biochemical processes in the brain, refer them to this book.

And if Santa brought you any gift cards that you haven’t used yet, you might want to have a look at the book for yourself.

logo logo logo logo logo logo