Stories & Movement

DAILY PHOTO: Rainy Day in Sonamarg

Taken in July of 2016 in Sonamarg

Taken in July of 2016 in Sonamarg

 

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BOOK REVIEW: The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

The Tibetan Yogas Of Dream And SleepThe Tibetan Yogas Of Dream And Sleep by Tenzin Wangyal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazon page

I stumbled upon this book in a used bookstore, and didn’t know what to expect–but was intrigued. It’s a book on the Tibetan Bön approach to dream yoga and sleep yoga, written by a Bön lama (monk.) Dream yoga is a term used in Buddhism and other Eastern traditions to refer to what is called lucid dreaming in Western scientific circles. My review will focus on the more than 3/4ths of the book that deals in dream yoga (lucid dreaming.) The 40-ish pages that deal with sleep yoga are outside my wheelhouse. The author suggests that that part is for initiates who are familiar with certain background concepts. I’m not an initiate, and—in fact—I have no idea whether there is any merit to sleep yoga practice. Lucid dreaming is a well-studied and documented phenomena, but, as far as I know, what the author calls sleep yoga remains unstudied. All I can say is that the part on dream yoga is readily comprehensible, despite much of it being couched in spiritual terms, but a lot of the section on sleep yoga is arcane and ethereal.

As it happens, I was pleasantly surprised with the portion of the book about dream yoga. Having read a number of books dealing with the subject recently, I wasn’t sure whether I would learn anything that was both new and useful. But I was exposed to ideas that were new, useful, and mind-blowing. There were a few ideas for helping one to achieve lucid dreaming—mostly through practices carried out during the day—that I’d not seen in other works, at least not put in such clear terms. Also, while there is a lot of reference to the Bön and Buddhist spiritual traditions, this didn’t result in the explanations being needlessly complicated or arcane. There is a lot of information that one doesn’t need if one is a secular practitioner, but many readers will find it interesting, even if it’s not necessary to advance their practice.

The book is organized into six parts: 1.) The Nature of Dream, 2.) Kinds and Uses of Dreams, 3.) The Practice of Dream Yoga, 4.) Sleep, 5.) The Practice of Sleep Yoga, and 6.) Elaborations. The last part has information pertinent to both dream yoga and sleep yoga.

There are some graphics in the book including photos, line drawings, and tables. Most of these aren’t essential, but some make it easier to imagine what the author is describing (e.g. when he discusses sleeping positions.) The book has a glossary and bibliography. The former is useful, and the latter doesn’t hurt (but it’s only one page and offers only a handful of citations.) The glossary is mostly of foreign terms, but includes English terms specific to the religious traditions discussed. It offers both Tibetan and Sanskrit variants of the word if they exist, which is a nice feature. There is also an appendix which summarizes the crucial practices elaborated upon in the book.

I’d recommend this book for those interested in developing a lucid dreaming practice. I will say that it may not be the best first book to read on the subject, unless you are a practitioner of Bön or intend to be. (For that, I would recommend Charlie Morley’s “Lucid Dreaming: A Beginner’s Guide…” which I recently reviewed.) However, this book makes an excellent follow-up once one has read a book that is couched in simpler terms (i.e. not specific to a certain spiritual tradition) and which reports on the science. I found that the book gave me a number of new ideas, and—in fact—offered some insightful ideas.

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BOOK REVIEW: Lucid Dreaming by Charlie Morley

Lucid Dreaming: A Beginner's Guide to Becoming Conscious in Your DreamsLucid Dreaming: A Beginner’s Guide to Becoming Conscious in Your Dreams by Charlie Morley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon page

 

Lucid dreams are those in which the dreamer is aware he or she is in the dream and can interact with the dreamscape. Most people experience lucid dreaming only as a happy accident. Some people dream lucidly in their youth, but never as an adult. Some people become aware they’re dreaming under specific conditions, e.g. on a certain medication. However, lucid dreaming has been practiced in some traditions for centuries, most notably by Tibetan Buddhists (though chapters 5 & 6 demonstrate that it’s much broader than just the Tibetans.) Furthermore, having confirmed lucidity in dreams in sleep laboratories, scientists have moved to advance our understanding of the phenomena using the scientific method and by taking advantage of the latest brain imaging technologies.

Charlie Morley has written a couple books on the subject as well as giving a well-received TEDx Talk on the subject. Morley studied under a Tibetan lama as well as studying up on the science of the phenomenon.

There are eight chapters in this book. The first three chapters constitute part one, the basics. This part introduces one to the subject of lucid dreaming, considers some of the reasons why people get into it, and explains how to recognize one is in a dream. The remaining five chapters form the second part, which is about going deeper with one’s practice. The second part explores what one may see in a dream, and how one can use the experience of being lucid for self-improvement. Lucid dreaming is one of the few access points to one’s subconscious mind. The second part also charts the development of lucid dreaming in both the West and the East, as well as offering suggestions about how nutrition may help in one’s practice.

The book is written as an instructional manual, and offers “toolboxes” of techniques to help advance one’s lucid dream practice by teaching one to remember one’s dreams, understand the phases of sleep, recognize one is in a dream, achieve lucidity, and know what to do once one is lucid in a dream. These are handy summaries of the lessons taught in greater detail in the text. All of the chapters but 5 and 8 have one of these toolbox summaries. There are also frequent text boxes of strange but true facts about lucid dreaming, tips from experienced lucid dreamers, case studies, and stories used to make relevant points about lucid dreaming. There are no graphics, but they aren’t missed.

I found this book to be useful and interesting. It’s readable and logically organized. I’d recommend it for anyone interested in developing a lucid dreaming practice—particularly if one is starting from scratch. There are a number of books on the subject, but many will be too ethereal to be of value to a new practitioner, but Morley writes in an approachable fashion and organizes the book to help one get into a practice as efficiently as possible.

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DAILY PHOTO: Nishat Bagh, Srinagar

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Taken in July of 2016 in Srinagar

Taken in July of 2016 in Srinagar

 

Bangalore–during one of the city’s many iterations–was once called the “garden city.” While this title is as likely to be mocked as honestly cited these days, if I were issuing that title to an Indian city it would have to go to Srinagar. Many Indian cities have an impressive botanical garden, and some have some picturesque parks. But Srinagar takes the cake for a city its size. Besides the Botanical Garden there’s the Nishat Bagh (pictured), Shalimar Bagh, the Char Chinar, and Nehru Park. Furthermore, there are historical sites such as the Pari Mahal and Chashme Shahi Bagh that are also loaded with plants and flowers.

DAILY PHOTO: Marmot Along the Road to Pangong Tso

Taken along the road to Pangong Tso in August of 2016

Taken along the road to Pangong Tso in August of 2016

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The one on the bottom was rocking out, singing “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey into an air mic. Not really, but you can imagine it, can’t you? In fact, I bet you now have that tune stuck in your head. You’re welcome.

POEM: The Certain Man

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I met a man

along the road

who thought he knew

which way to go.


Certain was he;

he knew the path.

He had a map.

He’d done the math.


“Your map won’t help

you now, I fear.

Past the map’s edge

the world turns queer.”


“I’ll find my way,

be sure of that,”

the man dismissed

with words he spat.


When I returned,

an hour ago,

I passed a car-

cass in the snow.


No doubt, twas he,

the certain man–

hit a blizzard

in burning sands.

BOOK REVIEW: The Best of Poetry: Thoughts that Breathe and Words That Burn ed. by Rudolph Amsel & Teresa Keyne

The Best of Poetry: Thoughts that Breathe and Words that Burn (In Two Hundred Poems)The Best of Poetry: Thoughts that Breathe and Words that Burn by Rudolph Amsel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon page

This is a collection that gathers 14 poems for each of 14 different themes. If you’re a math whiz, you know that means it’s a collection of 196 poems, but they round it out with four bonus poems to make a clean 200. If you’re a poetry reader, many of these poems will be familiar. They’re classic works from master poets from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries (a few earlier.) Still, they are worth revisiting, the collection is inexpensive, and the organization, itself, is thought-provoking.

The fourteen themes that create the organizational schema for the book are: 1.) rapture: words that burn, 2.) a door opens; a door closes, 3.) love, 4.) humor & curiosities, 5.) memory, 6.) nature, 7.) tales & songs, 8.) solitude, 9.) contemplation, 10.) mystery & enigma, 11.) parting & sorrow, 12.) animals, 13.) inspiration, and 14.) cities. Then there are a couple bonus poems each attached to both the introduction and the epilogue.

As mentioned, the poets are mostly household names of English-language poetry, including: Emily Dickenson, Walt Whitman, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, William Blake, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, W.B. Yeats, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Thomas Hardy, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Carl Sandburg, T.S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Ben Johnson, Lewis Carroll, Oliver Wendell Holmes, William Wordsworth, A. E. Housman, Edgar Allen Poe, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Frost. There are some names that are less than household names, but none that are obscure to poetry aficionados.

Again, many of the poems are well-known. Some of them are fragments of long poems, but most are stand-alone works. Examples of some of the standards include: “Chicago” by Sandburg, “If” by Kipling, “The Road Not Taken” by Frost, “Let My Country Awake” by Tagore, “The Tiger” by Blake, “The Raven” by Poe, “Kubla Khan” by Coleridge, “The Daffodils” by Wordsworth, “The Jabberwocky” by Carroll, “She Walks in Beauty” by Byron, and “There Is No Frigate Like a Book” by Dickinson.

 

I should point out that this is the first volume in a multi-volume set. There is also a second volume out, but I don’t know what the plans are beyond that.
I enjoyed this collection. I’d read most of these poems before, but the vast majority deserve re-reading and re-reading again. I’d recommend it for poetry lovers.

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DAILY PHOTO: Giant Maitreya of Diskit

Taken in August of 2016 in Diskit, India

Taken in August of 2016 in Diskit, India

 

It’s over 100ft (30m) tall.

 

A Maitreya is a “future Buddha,” meaning a Buddha who hasn’t yet appeared, but who was prophesied to live in an era to come. For people unfamiliar with Buddhism, this might seem strange. The Buddha we normal think of is Gautama Buddha, or the Shakyamuni Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama.) He was the founder of the religion, but one of many said to have achieved enlightenment. In other words, the Buddha we think of was an awakened one, not the awakened one.

BOOK REVIEW: William Blake: Selected Poems ed. Paul Butter

Selected PoemsSelected Poems by William Blake
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon doesn’t carry this edition.

So, e-Bay

Blake’s “The Tyger” is one of my favorite poems, and one of the few that I’ve bothered to memorize. Even if the words made no sense, they sound beautiful together, but not only do they make sense they forge powerful imagery. Blake wrote many poems that managed to be both pleasing to the ear and meaningful.

This collection consists of about 80 poems and fragments (of longer poems) that are pulled from Blake’s collections. Much of Blake’s work is about nature, though the worlds of man and the divine also feature prominently. With respect to the human world, poems about children are particularly common. Most of the poems and partials fit on a single page or two, but some are as short as a four-line stanza and others are as long as a dozen pages.

The compiler of the poems, Peter Butter, doesn’t feel the need to pile in rambling prologues and introductions—a plus in my opinion. The only ancillary matter consists of two timelines: one of Blake’s life, and one of with key events that happened over the course of his life. I will say that these two timelines are confusingly arranged in the edition that I read. They are two pages each, with the pages of each facing each other. So, as one flips, one reads a page of life history, one of world history, one of Blake’s history, and one of world history. Either rearrangement of pages or formatting changes would fix this right up.

This is a great little collection with which to get a taste for Blake. I’d recommend it for those who want some of his classics and some others, but without the need to wade through unabridged collection—in case he turns out to not be your cup of tea.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite lines from the collection: “Wisdom is sold in the desolate market where none come to buy,”

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POEM: Thar Be Dragons

Source: Wikipedia (Public Domain)

Source: Wikipedia (Public Domain)

 

Where dunes are whisked in wisps down the valleys

Quiet as midnight in pitch black alleys

Thar be dragons

Where boxes tumble into churning seas

Submerging with the ease of a sea breeze

Thar be dragons

When you twitch into the deeps of sleep

Amid the bleating of counted sheep

Thar be dragons

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