The proposed research combines the thorough behavioral investigation of Tibetan dreaming practices with a neuroscience perspective. Buddhist traditions have cultivated techniques to induce, enhance, and refine lucid dreaming—the ability to understand that one is dreaming amid a dream. Building on the ability to experience a lucid dream, one can then volitionally engage is specific practices and cultivate specific habits during the dream. In this way, it can be possible to extend one’s contemplative practices during sleep and reap additional benefits during one’s waking life. Dreaming may be an optimal state for working with one’s fixed cognitive habits and assumptions about life. In the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Dream Yoga, sleep is used for contemplative work of various sorts. We aim to characterize these practices and how they can shift fundamental habits over time. In addition, we will bring recent neuroscientific advances to the study of neural correlates of such dreaming states. We will monitor advanced practitioners with EEG, informed by extensive interviews, post-sleep dream reports, and real-time two-way communication between experimenters and dreamers during dream experiences. This research will thus advance dream research and produce a comprehensive understanding of how Dream Yoga can further contemplative aims.

Gabriela Torres Platas

Northwestern University