Interview: From Lucid Dreaming to Lucid Living ~ with Andrew Holecek

Andrew Holecek is a former dental surgeon, concert pianist, competitive freestyle skier, and now author and teacher. He has practiced Beethoven’s sonatas in his lucid dreams, rehearsed lectures, incubated dreams to receive ideas for books, healed himself in dreams, had hyper-lucid dreams more real than waking reality, received precognitive dreams that accurately foretold physical events (and probably prevented serious untoward experiences), received scores of teachings, and purified countless bad habits. Get to know more about these fascinating practices, as we sit down with Andrew to unveil the world of lucid dreaming and why it matters. 

What are the nocturnal meditations, and why should one bother with them?

There are five of these practices. Liminal dreaming, Lucid dreaming, Dream yoga, Sleep yoga (also called luminosity yoga), and Bardo Yoga.

Liminal means threshold and liminality refers to the pre and post-sleep and dream state. So, it’s basically what you experience, the minute your head hits the pillow, before you drop off. And so it’s working with this plasma dimension of mind when you’re not quite here, you’re not quite there, you’re not solid. One of the really cool things about liminality is working with liminal principles, because if you become comfortable hanging out in this groundless state, it helps you understand liminal experiences, liminal places and also liminal beings like LGBTQ+ people, those are liminal beings. Artists are liminal beings, and eccentric spiritual teachers are liminal beings. 

Now, the two main practices are Lucid dreaming and Dream Yoga. So liminality works as what’s called lucid sleep onset practice. It’s a practice on its own, but liminal dreaming greases the skids for lucid dreaming. That’s this marvellous space where you’re dreaming, something clues you into the fact that you’re dreaming, and you attain full consciousness that you’re in the dream state. You’re still dreaming, but you’re aware that you’re dreaming. 

There is so, so much to say about Lucid dreaming, it’s fundamentally for purposes of self-fulfillment. You can also use it for psychological development, there’s a vast, incredible array of things you can do. But to put it in contradistinction to Dream Yoga, which is the next practice; dream yoga is more spiritual than psychological. It’s more about self-transcendence than self-fulfillment. 

The fourth practice, Lucid Sleep (dream yoga) is more graduate school level. So this is, believe it or not, where you can attain full awareness, and consciousness in the deep dreamless state. It’s been in the wisdom traditions for thousands of years. From this state, you can bring the extraordinary insights from that experience into your waking state.

The last practice is Bardo yoga. This is where you use the nocturnal mind, the dimensions of darkness, to help you prepare for the end of life. In the Tibetan tradition, this is the ultimate practice, where you use sleeping and dreaming as a way to prepare for death. There’s a very deep, intimate connection between sleeping, dreaming and dying. 

What brought you to this world of nocturnal meditation? 

What triggered it for me was a massive experience I had, 40+ years ago, where I entered this altered state of consciousness for about two weeks. This changed my life completely. 

I had just finished graduate school and took a year off to figure out what am I going to do with my life. And so I had this amazing experience where, for two weeks, all my dreams were virtually lucid. What was interesting was that my daytime experience became more dreamlike. As my days became less real, my dreams became more real. I got to the point where I could hardly tell the difference between being awake and asleep. At first, I thought, maybe this is what enlightenment means. But then I wondered, maybe this is what insanity means, right? Because I couldn’t tell what was real. That’s what triggered things for me to explore lucid dreaming more officially.

How does someone know they are lucid dreaming?

So when you lie down at night, you’re going to sleep. You’re mostly thinking, thinking, thinking, you know, reflecting on the day. But you may notice if you pay attention to your mind, and this is what liminal dreaming does, that at a certain point, the thinking starts to change to imaging. You’re seeing imagery, there are more pictures involved. And so scientists call this a thought-image amalgamation phase. You’re starting to go offline from the waking state and transition into the dream state. You go from thoughts to thoughts & images, then an image inflates into a very short, lucid dream. So, you can have a short lucid dream that lasts 5-10 seconds, usually too short to do something with but that’s still a fully legitimate lucid dream, where you realise, oh my gosh, I am dreaming. They range from really short, micro lucid dreamlets, all the way to hyper lucid dreams. These are lucid dreams that can last 45 minutes or even longer, that seem more real than the waking state. Now, these are unbelievable, these will change your life because they’re so deep, they’re so profound. You wake up from just one hyper-lucid dream, it is like a near-death experience. It’s so vibrant, it’s so powerful. You can’t have these lucid dreams and not be aware of them.

What I work with, is trying to cultivate this so it doesn’t happen just spontaneously. You can cultivate it as a practice, you can become proficient at it. 

What’s so amazing about lucid dreaming?

You can engage in all these amazing, amazing activities, you can really have fun. You can fulfill all your wildest fantasies, which is great, but that’s not real transformation. That’s just entertainment. So the higher levels of lucid dreaming, and then Dream Yoga in particular, are basically when you start to work with your mind in a really powerful way. 

Think about it, what is a dream made of? Your dream is made of your mind. So when you’re working with your dreams, you’re working with your mind. And so this is where the great transformation takes place. 

Scientists have shown that the brain can’t tell the difference between something that’s dreamt, visualised, or directly experienced. This is where the game changer is. By changing your mind, through neuroplasticity, you’re changing your brain. 

According to Buddhist tradition, the practices that you do in the dream state are 7-9 times more effective and transformative than what you’re doing in the waking state. Ultimately, it’s a way to supercharge your psychological and spiritual development. 

How can nocturnal meditation benefit us in daily life?

It helps us understand the nature of the mind. It helps us see that the world is not as solid as we think, it’s not as heavy. In reality, this changes everything. You have more flexibility, more enjoyment, more levity, and you’re literally more enlightened. Things aren’t so cumbersome, and super serious anymore. Your relationship to your mind, and your world changes dramatically. 

This is why I like the contributions from Dream Yoga. With this deeper end, you start to explore the nature of things. What is the nature of suffering? Why do I suffer? Well, take a good look. One of the reasons you suffer is because you mistake things to be so real. When you realize yes, it’s still there, appearance is still there. But appearance is not in harmony with reality. This is the very definition of a non-lucid dream. Appearance is not in harmony with reality. You think you’re awake when you’re dreaming, but you’re just dreaming. You just don’t know that you’re dreaming. When you attain lucidity, when appearance is in harmony with reality, that’s lucidity. And so then what we do with Lucid dreaming and Dream Yoga is you take those insights and then you extrapolate them back to the waking state. And you realise, well let me ask the same questions. Am I awake right now? Is this world really what I think it appears to be? 

Lucidity is also a code word for awareness, to bring awareness to the waking state. Ultimately, lucid dreaming leads to lucid living.

If you bring in Bardo yoga, lucid dreaming also pings forward and leads to lucid or conscious dying. And so this is where we are really talking about profundity because not only can the state help you with your life, it can help you prepare for the end of your life, therefore, lucid dreaming is uniquely situated to lead to lucid living, and this leads to lucid or conscious dying. There are so many benefits here. That’s why I get so jazzed about teaching!

Andrew will be sharing his passion for the nocturnal meditations 4-10 October, 2024 at Mandali. Learn more about the Lucid Dreaming retreat here.

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