Charlie Morley – Dreams of Awakening
Interview by Renate McNay
Renate: Hello, and welcome to conscious.tv. My name is Renate McNay, and my guest today is Charlie Morley. Hello Charlie.
Charlie: Hi, how are you doing?
Renate: Very well, and you?
Charlie: Very well, thank you.
Renate: Good. Charlie is a lucid dreamer, and I have to read this because he is doing so much. He is a lucid dreamer, and he’s teaching lucid dreaming in the context of Tibetan Buddhism. He’s the co- creator of ‘Mindfulness, of Dreams and Sleep’ and gives workshops around the globe and lectures at university. That’s a lot for your age [laughing].
Charlie: I get that a lot.
Renate: Charlie has written this wonderful book, it’s called Dreams of Awakening, and I have to say Charlie, already on the first page, I fell in love with this book. It says here, “For the Dakinis, the awakened women to whom I owe so much.” Tell me about that.
Charlie: Dakini, is a Tibetan word that when translated means ‘Sky Dancer’. Someone once said the Dakinis are like fairies, but I’m not sure that’s quite right, but they are these beings that exist on a different plane of existence as these sky dancers, a female energy, but also on this plane of existence they exist as female embodiments of wisdom. What I realised after I wrote the book was, ’Who has really helped to make this happen?’ and a lot of power women came up – Lama Zangmo the female Lama who runs the Buddhist centre near where I live, my mother, my aunties, the lady who helped get the book published in South Africa, all these kind of power women coming up. And it was really feminine energy that helped make that book happen.
Renate: Right. And is lucid dreaming also happening in the more feminine side of…
Charlie: It’s very interesting. The process of lucid dream training is actually very yang. There is a masculine element to it, you have to do it. You have to set your alarm clock, do the checks, do the awareness practices, falling asleep, calling asleep, very active masculine aspect, warrior aspect even perhaps. However once you are in the lucid dream, it becomes very yin, because the unconscious is so powerful, so huge, that if you go in there with too much yang energy, you’re going to get kicked out of their pretty soon. You have to go in and surrender to the awesome power of the dream. Then it becomes very feminine, a process of co-creation rather than trying to control or dominate the dream at all.
Renate: Well, how did it all happen? I saw from your notes that you self- taught when you were seventeen how to lucid dream, and the funny bit was that you used the snoring of your father to anchor your awareness. [Laughing]
Charlie: [Laughing] it’s true, that’s a funny little bit in the book. My dad’s snoring used to come through the walls [demonstrates sound], so I used to come into the hypnopompic state, just be aware of the snoring, and then drop down…
Renate: Can you just say what the hypnopompic state is.
Charlie: It’s the transitional state of mind between sleep and dream, and wakefulness. Now, a lot of people are aware of the hypnogogic state which is the transitional state of mind leading into dream, but people are not aware of the hypnopompic, partly because of the way we wake up. Most of us wake up in a state of alarm, with our alarming clocks – don’t get me started on alarm clocks – so we wake up so quickly we don’t notice there is a gap. But there is a gap, and when we wake up slowly we can explore that gap. It’s a very refined level of consciousness the hypnopompic effect.
Renate: Good. Okay, so you used the snoring…
Charlie: [Laughing] it’s not the major way I learned to lucid dream, but it’s kind of a funny offshoot. When I was about sixteen I got interested in consciousness, and psychedelics, and far out stuff, lucid dreaming, a little bit of Buddhism, but Buddhism seemed like too much hard work at sixteen, so I put that one on the back burner. I bought some books on lucid dreaming, taught myself how to do it. The path before that started a little bit earlier because on my twelfth birthday I wanted something called a nova dreamer, which is a kind of electronic sleep mask you put on that’s supposed to give you lucid dreams. So I guess when I was about eleven, I was aware of lucid dreaming and knew that I was having them, because I wanted this mask to help me have more. So maybe it started early, but I was eleven so I’m not sure how deeply I was thinking about these things, but then at sixteen, seventeen, I taught myself how to do it.
Renate: Did you have anybody you could talk to about what you were experiencing?
Charlie: Not really and that’s probably why the first few years of training in lucid dreaming were lost almost entirely in sexual fantasy, because I had no teacher and I didn’t know anyone else who was doing it. I managed to do this thing where I could enter the dream with fully conscious awareness. A dream that felt as real as this state now, perhaps even more real, and at the age of sixteen, what was main my idea to do in this very realistic place, sexual fantasy, and a bit of skateboarding. I used to love going skateboarding in these lucid dreams.
Renate: So is it like a virtual reality you entered?
Charlie: Absolutely. You give a virtual reality machine to a sixteen year old and they get up to all sorts of things. But then luckily, a couple of years later, I got into Buddhism properly, when I was on the cusp of eighteen, early nineteen, I thought ‘okay, let’s do this Buddhism thing properly’, and then I stopped all that side of things, and I learnt the new application of lucid dreaming. It was actually a conversation with a South African monk. I was talking to him about lucid dreaming and he mentioned this term “dream yoga”. I said “What’s dream yoga? Some sort of stretching in your sleep?” He said, “Oh no, dream yoga it’s a series of practices found within Tibetan Buddhism that have lucid dream training at their foundation.” I said “Oh I can lucid dream.” He said “What do you do in your lucid dreams?” I was a bit embarrassed [laughing], I said “Oh this and that, mainly skate boarding.” I daren’t say all the sex, I was too embarrassed. I said “What do you do, as a monk, what do you use the lucid dream state for?” He said “We don’t use the lucid dream state for sexual fantasy we use it for spiritual practice in our sleep. We use the lucid dream state to prepare for the moment of death, in our sleep. And we use our lucid dream state to examine the very nature of reality to impact upon our experience of reality in the wakened state”.
Renate: I want to go onto that a little bit later. When I was reading some years ago the book by Sogyal Rinpoche…
Charlie: Sogyal Rinpoche, he was my first teacher “The Tibetan book of living and dying”.
Renate: I got so scared when I was reading about all the bardo…
Charlie: Bardo, the death states…
Renate: What happens when we’re dying… and then I thought ‘I’m going straight to the Absolute, I’m not even bothering with the bardo’. He says, and you mention this in your book, “Bardo is a nightmare”.
Charlie: I don’t think it’s actually Sogyal Rinpoche who says that, I believe it was another lama, but anyway the lamas have said for most of us, for the untrained mind, the bardo is a dream-like experience, but what they say is, for most of us in the untrained mind, bardo can be closer to a nightmare, because we have a complete lack of awareness in there. Why do we have a lack of awareness in the bardo? Because we have a lack of awareness in our sleep. Because exactly the same process that occurs when we fall asleep is said to occur at the point of death. So if we can train ourselves to fall asleep consciously, we train ourselves to die consciously. If we train ourselves to recognise the dream, and go [snaps fingers] “Aha I’m lucid”, we can train ourselves to recognise the after death bardo state [snaps fingers] “Aha, I’m dead”. That realisation of ”Aha I’m dead” in the bardo, apparently contains the highest spiritual potential for full spiritual enlightenment at the point of death. Apparently.
Renate: As I was saying earlier, I did a lot of out of body travelling, and at times I would go to places that where incredibly scary, and all the things that I would see... there was definitely something, like what I later understood as bardo, where all kinds of souls are hanging out, or are stuck.
Charlie: Out of body exploration can be a great way to explore that on your own terms, to explore all the different dimensions of reality that exist.
Renate: Is there a connection between lucid dreaming and out of body?
Charlie: Absolutely. It could be branches on the same tree, although they are most definitely different practices. Lucid dreaming occurs within your own head space. Ninety nine percent of everything in a lucid dream is your own psychology. There is that crucial one percent, but that’s like opening a tin of worms right now. But to answer your question, an out of body experience in my opinion is not in your head space. An out of body experience is taking an aspect of your consciousness, dislocated from the physical form, and experiencing other dimensions of reality that seem to exist outside of here [pointing to head].
Renate: Yes that’s interesting, that’s how I experienced it. Okay, you said something profound that quite hit me…
Charlie: Are you sure it was me [laughing]?
Renate: [Laughing] there is so much wisdom in this book. You said that we sleep for about thirty years in our life. We are thirty years in a black-out, why would we not be interested in where we are? That seemed to be a kind of motivating force for you to find out what you’re doing.
Renate: Tell me about it.
Charlie: The thirty year thing for me has always chimed particularly true, because I’ve just turned thirty, so I’ve always had this thing leading up to it, that I haven’t even lived that long. So at the end of the average life span, if you were to tell me that my life up to this point would be given up to non-awareness, unconsciousness, black-out, which for most people is their experience of sleep and dream, I would ask for my money back. I would say, “No I don’t sign on the dotted line, this is where I get off. Life is too short already without giving up thirty years of it, to lack of awareness.” Now, being aware in your sleep and dreams doesn’t mean it’s any less restful – so people watching may say “I want to black-out for thirty years, I work so hard.” Well if you work so hard, why not have more refreshing sleep, because the sleep of unconsciousness is not sleep at its full potential. If we can bring mindful awareness into sleep, let alone into the dream state in a full and lucid dream, our sleep becomes more refreshing as we enter into a state of meditation in the sleep state which recharges us far, far better than normal sleep.
Renate: Yes, that’s interesting. So let’s go a step back. You became interested in Buddhism, did you start meditating, or were you left to learn lucid dreaming within that context?
Charlie: I’d been flirting with Buddhism since I was sixteen. I was wearing the Malla and stuff like that, and liking the fact that I was Buddhist, but I wasn’t really doing anything. It wasn’t until I took ‘refuge’ which is like the equivalent of a Buddhist christening where you formally become a Buddhist. That was when I was nineteen with the late Akong Rinpoche, who sadly died last month in fact, he was my refuge lama. Then I took some vows and formally became a Buddhist, and then I started practicing. I was practising with Sogyal Rinpoche, he was one of my first teachers, and with Akong Rinpoche and lama Yeshe Rinpoche. I was going to retreats, going to meditation classes and eventually just following anyone who was teaching on dream yoga, or lucid dreaming, following them to wherever they were doing workshops, which at that time, there weren’t many people. One of them was this guy Rob Nairn, who is this wonderful mindfulness meditation teacher, and he wrote a book called Living Dreaming Dying and in there was a reference to lucid dreaming. I thought this guy really knows his stuff, so I followed him out to South Africa in my early twenties and I told him about my experiences - by that time I had been doing some of the Buddhist stuff, not just the embarrassing sexual stuff - and he thought there was something to that, and then started giving me instruction. He led me to Lama Yeshe who started giving me instruction, and I realised you could have read every book on the planet on lucid dreaming, but the moment you start getting one on one instruction from enlightened masters, as in my opinion Lama Yeshe Rinpoche is, stuff takes on a very, very different dimension. And you realise that them giving instruction is not like me giving instruction - in your next lucid dream, do whatever - when they give the instruction there’s actually a blessing with it. Once I started doing what he was telling me to do, in these lucid dreams, things became very, very interesting, very, very quickly.
Renate: So does that mean, at that moment for you, it became a spiritual practice?
Charlie: Yeah. Even in my late teens I was starting to see the potential of that.
Renate: What would you use lucid dreaming for? What were the benefits?
Charlie: Let’s work from the base, fun and fantasy. Unfortunately a lot of the books on the subject, a lot of the stuff you see on the internet focuses on this. Get lucid meet movie stars and have sex, and all that kind of stuff. That’s great, but there’s so much more to do with this stuff. It reminds me of the difference between using hypnosis for a stage show – hypnotise someone and make them think they are a chicken - and hypnotise someone to love themselves more, or to give up a harmful addictive habit. It’s the same hypnosis, and yet look at the different uses. So lucid dreaming can be the same. It can be nothing more than a stage show, but if you’re ready to move beyond that, then we work in areas of psychological and physical healing. So we can work with phobias. We can work with negative thought programing. In fact anything we can work through with hypnotherapy, we can work through with lucid dreaming, and in no way do I say that lucid dreaming is better than hypnotherapy. It’s simply horses for courses. So we work into areas of healing. Then we work into areas of psychological exploration. For example the unconscious is storing everything we have ever done. Every memory we have is stored in there. In the lucid dream state we can access those memories, to explore the sort of patterns that we may be stuck in, in our waking state.
Renate: How do you decide what you want to access?
Charlie: Well, you might do dream planning. So in your waking state, you work out, in my next lucid dream, I want to access the trauma that occurred to me, as a ten year old boy, for example. Then, in the lucid dream state, either because you have made the plan already, the unconscious will present it to you, or you might have to call out to the unconscious mind, literally your instruction. And you can actually meet internal archetypes within the lucid dream state. So you can do stuff in the lucid dream state like call out “Inner child. I want to meet my inner child.” Very often, nine times out of ten, a psychological representation of you inner child will arrive within the lucid dream, and will allow you to directly interact and converse with it.
Renate: Okay. So let’s just clarify a little bit. Let’s start, how do you go into a lucid dream? And then I want to know, how does it feel to be in a lucid dream?
Charlie: So how to get there, there’s a variety of techniques. The ones I teach are sourced from western psychology, a bit of neuro science, and a lot of Tibetan Buddhist techniques as well. So these are direct meditation techniques that you do, as you are falling asleep, or that you do in the day time to prepare yourself for sleep. Certain awareness practices that you do as you go about your daily life, knowing that you will dream about what you do in your daily life to create triggers, and a fair few hypnosis techniques as well. So there are verified techniques that you do that lead to lucid dreams. And anyone can do this, there’s nothing special about a lucid dreamer, everyone can lucid dream. In fact as children we did it naturally anyway. So there are techniques that we engage to do that. As far as how does it feel… Describing a lucid dream is kind of like describing the taste of chocolate. Until you taste the chocolate, it’s hard to describe. And yet, I think I can do quite a good description of what the lucid dream state is like. The first thing that shocks a lot of people when they have their first fully lucid dream, there is a spectrum of course, but their first fully lucid dream is that their awareness is the same as this state. So you are in the dream, and you can remember – ok so I am in a dream, so this is all my psyche, my body is asleep in bed…
Renate: So you wake up in the dream…
Charlie: …you wake up in the dream, so there’s no physiological awakening. You are sound asleep, snoring, drooling, whatever you do in your sleep, but the right dorsal lateral, pre fontal cortex - in case that means anything to you - has reactivated in the seemingly unconscious dream state and is experiencing reflective awareness in rem dreaming sleep. So the science can be verified. Once this has happened, you are aware within your mind, you are conscious within the unconscious.
Renate: So who is it that is aware? What is it that is aware?
Charlie: Your consciousness. It’s very simple, it’s you. You’re in there with the same baggage. So if you’re scared of spiders, when you go into the lucid dream state, you still have that fear of spiders. However the cool thing is, in the lucid dream state you can cure yourself of that fear of spiders, so when you wake up, you no longer have it. But once you’re in there, the fact is that it is as real as this [pointing to sofa]. It’s not a kind of dreamy hallucination. It’s not like you are kind of tripping on acid or something. It feels as real as this [touching sofa]. People say you have to pinch yourself to see if you’re dreaming, if you pinch yourself in a lucid dream, you’ll just feel the pinch. It will feel the…
Renate: So your senses are awake?
Renate: Because in your dream, when you dream, your senses are not.
Charlie: Non-lucid dreaming, yeah. Non-lucid dreaming is as different to lucid dreaming as chalk and cheese. The thing about the lucid dream state is that the front part of the brain is switched on. So you are now experiencing life as you experience life in this [present] state. This is why you can learn in a lucid dream.
Renate: So how do you know in which reality you are?
Charlie: Because there are certain things like reality checks, to tell. A lot of people, in their first few lucid dreams, they don’t even believe they have had a lucid dream. They might say, “Oh no, I didn’t have a lucid dream, I had an out of body experience, because I went to a place that is as real as this, and I could touch things, and they felt real. No, no, that wasn’t a dream, that couldn’t have been a dream.” And I think that is a classic response to people’s first lucid dreams. Then they have a second one, and they have a reference point for the taste of chocolate, and they go, “Wow. I love it!” I get emails from people and I can always tell, when they are from someone’s first lucid dream, because they come in, about four o’clock in the morning, and I can tell the time they sent it, “Oh Charlie you never told me it would be like this. It’s so realistic. It’s so like real life, but you’re in the head.” For me for example, a lucid dream was actually a state of hyper reality. And I say this not as form of hyperbole, but as an obvious fact. Right now you’re close enough, so I’m not wearing my spectacle, my glasses, but if you were sitting further away, I would need to wear my glasses because my vision is imperfect in this state. In the lucid dream state I have perfect twenty/twenty vision. In the lucid dream state I can see for miles because I’m not seeing through my eyeballs, I’m seeing through my mind. For me in fact, the experience within the lucid dream is one of hyper reality. If I were to eat the chocolate cake within my lucid dream, this isn’t dependant on my taste senses, which of course decay with age. This is dependent on my memory of chocolate cake. So when you eat in a lucid dream a chocolate cake for example, you are eating your internal archetype of chocolate cake, which is why for many people, it’s like the best chocolate cake you have ever tried. In fact there is a group in America who are using lucid dreaming, for weight loss, because they’ve realised that eating in a lucid dream it’s so realistic, that the brain sends sensation signals to the gut - I’m full. So these women are going to the lucid dream state, eating chocolate cake, waking up in the morning and they don’t have their sugar cravings, and they’re losing weight through this. That’s down there with sex and fantasy in the lucid dream state, but think of what that means. If eating chocolate cake in a lucid dream is so realistic that the brain acts like it’s happening, imagine what happens when we explore our compassion training in the lucid dream, our spiritual practice in the lucid dream, opening ourselves up to move beyond our habits, our limitations. In the lucid dream it’s not just like we’re imagining it, our brain thinks it’s doing it, so we can make lasting neural changes to the networks in our brain while we sleep. I mean that sounds too good to be true. That sounds like something from star trek.
Renate: It is. I want to move in.
Charlie: It’s the kind of thing that makes me want to run out into the street and go, “Have you heard the good news?” I mean this is just crazy. And the thing is, it’s available to everybody. There is no club to join. There is no equipment to buy. There is no religion to be part of. You just go to sleep. You go to sleep and have dreams. If you dream, you can lucid dream, and if you lucid dream, you can make direct psychological interventions in your bed.
Renate: Yes, but the difference is Charlie, you are on a spiritual journey. Your goal is a different one, to someone who just wants to lose weight. You want to wake up. You want to know who you are, and that’s pretty awesome to be able to use that, and it has so much potential it seems…
Charlie: I know what you mean. We’re getting to the stage when we see the lucid dream as a blank canvas. And you’re right, lucid dream is a blank canvas…
Renate: That’s right.
Charlie: …and used in the wrong way, as I proved myself for the first two years of practice, it can be used to further egotistic fantasy. But so can meditation. You could practice mindfulness to be a better shot as a hitman. We know that. In fact the American army are now bringing mindfulness into their training, but we won’t go there. So even something like meditation is in one way a blank canvas. Now when you get to the deeper levels of mindfulness and compassion starts to arise spontaneously, the thought of being a better hitman would dissolve naturally. So too with lucid dreaming. Once you start to go to those deeper levels and seeing what the mind is doing in that state, the thought of wasting your lucid dream on your sexual fantasy, soon dissolves. Now for me it took two years to dissolve, but that’s because I was a sixteen year old boy with no guidance.
Renate: Of course, that’s where your hormones are. That’s what happens.
Charlie: For most people, I’ve found even if they do get into lucid dreaming for sketchy motives, it only takes that one lucid dream were that penny drops and they see the full potential of it, for them to really open up to it. And I think we really have to trust people to do that. They may get into it for weight loss and this kind of stuff, and to be honest, if that’s a door into lucid dreaming, I’m fine with that. If that opens the gate for them into the practice, who am I to judge. Because I feel the practice has a kind of intelligence, a power of its own which will reveal to the dreamer the full potential once they are done eating chocolate cake and meeting movie stars. I hope.
Renate: Sure, yes. Can you give us an example of something you sorted out for yourself, within your body and your psychology?
Charlie: Yes, I’ll give you one of each. I’ll give you a psychological one, and a body one. I’ll give you the psychological one first. When I was first asked to teach lucid dreaming, I was only about twenty five, and looking back there was obviously a lot of psychological pressure on me. Could I do it? Did I know what I was talking about? All this kind of stuff. And I used to get these reoccurring dreams about huge tidal waves engulfing me. Now I know enough about dreams that you don’t need a dream dictionary for that. Big tidal waves engulfing you is about pressure, lack of control, feeling swamped, feeling drowned. And I realised it was because I was doing a lot of the workshops. It was becoming quite popular after a couple of years. Now in one of these dreams I was watching a house, and this house was filling up with water and the doors were starting to go like that [spreading arms] and I thought in the dream, ‘that house is going to explode.’ At that moment the house did explode and a huge tidal wave came towards me. Now, with the fear of seeing the tidal wave, I became lucid. Fear it’s quite a good way to become lucid and I started interpreting the dream whilst I was in it, ‘Oh I see this tidal wave is my pressure, okay.’ As I turned fearlessly and I started swimming in this tidal wave, body surfing, and then the wave finished and I thought I would wake up, because often once you’ve got the message in a lucid dream, the unconscious will wake you up spontaneously so you can write it down or acknowledge it, but I just didn’t wake up. I thought, ‘this is strange, maybe this issue is still with me.’ So I turned to the sky and called out at the top of my voice, “What shall I do with my life? Shall I do ‘Throw Down’?”, which was the name of the hip hop group I was in at the time…
Renate: We forgot to mention that…
Charlie: Oh we’ll get to that. That’s how I was making my living at the time. I was in this sort of hip hop group. I said, “Should I do ‘Throw Down’, or shall I become a lucid dreaming teacher?” I called it out to the sky, and at the moment I said it, [snaps fingers] the dream changed, and the scene with the tidal wave in had changed into a cocktail party on the ground floor of a house. This is all in the book, at the back, and I realised, ‘Oh wow, everybody at this party, has an answer to that question’. So I looked around, and saw this guy in white robes, a Buddhist monk but in white robes. I thought, ‘That is interesting, maybe he is my spiritual side.’ So I went, “Hey man what should I do with my life?” And he said, “Charlie you have to teach lucid dreaming, this is how you can really benefit people.” I thought, ‘Wow okay, that’s a good endorsement from one part of my sub conscious.’ I turned to my left and there was a young guy with a big pony tail. Now when I was young, my defining feature was my pony tail. I had this big pony tail, so I knew he was my inner rebel, hedonistic side inner teenager. So I turned to that aspect and said, “Hey man what should I do with my life?” He said, “Do Throw Down man, Throw Down rocks!” So I thought he wants me to stay in the music industry and have fun. Then I asked two other aspects in the dream, and they both said to do lucid dreaming. So again I thought, ‘I’ve got a nice balanced view here’, but I didn’t wake up. Obviously the punch line wasn’t there, so I left the house, which is quite weird in a dream, because usually the dream will change. I left the house and walked down the street, and I thought ’What a strange lucid dream, I obviously haven’t got the message yet.’ I then I turned around, and as I turned back to the house, the aspects I’d spoken to were at the window, peering through the curtains, and when they saw me they went, “Good luck Charlie, good luck. You can do it, we believe in you [blowing kisses].” In the dream I just went into floods of tears, and I woke up in floods of tears. I’d never felt so supported. Now, I wasn’t in a brain scan to prove that was most definitely aspects of myself talking to me, but I’ll tell you what, I went to sleep that night with the pressure, with the self-doubt, with the lack of belief in myself, thinking ‘I can’t do this, I’m out of my depth, I feel lost.’ I woke up with a sense of purpose, and a sense of knowing that even if I did not believe in myself, even if my little egoic self didn’t have confidence, my higher self, did. And actually after that dream I started to go through the long process of moving out of the music world and into full time, lucid dream teaching. So these lucid dreams can do profound things to our state of mind. It can engage deep, deep shifts whilst we sleep.
Renate: Let me ask you something, are you happy?
Charlie: Yes, happier than ever. I’m so happy at the moment, and you’ll see this on my face book page, I’ve started to get joy induced insomnia. This happened for the last three months. I’ll wake up at about four o’clock in the morning, as I often do for a pee or something like that, and I’ll start thinking about how great everything is, about the book, about the workshops, the fact that I’ve just got engaged, and the fact that I love helping people and stuff. I’ll get so excited that I can’t get back to sleep and I’ll just sit there with this huge grin on my face. I call it joy induced insomnia. So I am incredibly happy at the moment. The thought that this thing I’ve been obsessed with since I was sixteen years old, and that I’ve loved talking to people about, the thought that I now get to travel the world sharing my experiences and more importantly, helping others to have those experiences, is literally a dream come true. No pun intended. So yeah, I’m very happy at the moment.
Renate: Wonderful. And what was the other example you wanted to share?
Charlie: Oh, the other one. This is a bit gross, but it is a great example [both laughing] I’d heard of all of these great examples in books, like the book by Robert Wagner, and some of the emerging texts…
Renate: By the way, just for our viewers, we have an interview with Robert Wagner as well.
Charlie: Oh Robert’s been a great mentor to me, a very helpful man and a very kind man. He helped me with the book a lot. A great, great lucid dreaming expert.
Renate: Yes, so check him out.
Charlie: Definitely. So in his book he had a lot of example of people who had used lucid dreaming for healing, physical healing. And all these reports from universities and stuff like that I’d found. Well I thought that’s great, but I’d really like to talk from experience, and I hadn’t had that experience yet. One day I was teaching in New York and I managed to pick up an ear infection. I love to go surfing, and I went surfing near a sewage pipe in New York. The classic tourist… I didn’t know where I was, what I was doing, I picked up an ear infection. I tried the antibiotics, they didn’t work. I tried the ear drops, they didn’t work. After a while I thought I’m going to bring in the big guns here, lucid dreaming. I had this thing called glue ear, which is a bit gross. It’s when your ear blocks with so much wax, like a solid chunk, and you can’t hear, and nothing goes through it. So I went into the lucid dream state, and I became like, “Oh I’m dreaming what did I want to do? I know. I wanted to heal my ear. Okay, right, what do I do?” I’d never done it before, so I thought I’ll rub my hands together and imagine this healing energy coming out. So I went, “Healing energy, healing energy in my hands, come out now”, and this light started coming out. I thought, ‘wow, how cool is this’. Now I’m sound asleep in bed. Obviously I’m not moving, I’m lying down, but in the dream, I go like that [rubbing hands together] and I put them up to my ear, and call out statements of healing intent, “May I be healed of all non-beneficial disease, may I be healed, may my immune system be boosted” all these kind of things. And then in the dream I start hearing this crackling, like when you put in an ear drop, it crackles as it goes through the stuff in your ear. I thought that’s pretty realistic, it’s even doing the crackling, and then all this ear wax started pouring out of my ear, in the dream. Then I thought that’s pretty realistic, it’s making all the ear wax come out. Then I wake up in my bed with all the ear wax coming out. It’s a bit disgusting, but it’s my first experience of a physiological healing response being engaged from a psychological, apparently unconscious dream state. I mean, this is crazy… the ear wax thing, is just a little thing, but imagine if we take this to its logical conclusion. Imagine if we see that lucid dreaming allows us to make direct physical intervention into our health, while we sleep. The implications of that could be huge.
Renate: So what actually happens with the mind, with the neuro transmitter? I always thought healing has to do with something – because I worked for a long time as a healer myself - and I used my out of body gift to go into other people’s body and do all kinds of things. Healing, like miracle healing, were always in conjunction with a shift in the mind, and only when that happened would the healing stay.
Renate: So what happens when you lucid dream, and you do something profound, I mean something more profound than healing your ear. What goes on in the mind? Are neuro transmitters connecting?
Charlie: Well let’s look at the question in terms of mind and brain. From the point of view of the mind, it’s definitely as you say, the shift of consciousness within consciousness that effects this healing response. So because in the lucid dream state we have created that shift in mind that says, “I am now healed. What used to cause me disease has now served me, I’ve moved through that.” That seems to be a huge part of it. But also from a neuro logical point of view, what we do in the lucid dream state creates lasting neural pathways in the brain. So in a non-lucid dream, that’s not true. Non-lucid dreams, you dream of killing your mother – don’t worry about it, it’s all symbolic, it’s not going to make you a murderer. But in the lucid dream state, they’ve proven that if you go into the lucid dream state and ride a bicycle for example, you are increasing the neural pathway towards cycling that will affect you in the waking state. So they’ve done a lot of research – the Max Planck Institute, Hilgenberg University - on athletes, because they found if you do long jump training in the lucid dream state, you get better at long jump in the waking state. They found if you went into the lucid dream state and did press ups, you can increase potential muscle mass in the awake state. So let’s think of that for healing, perhaps we are creating a new connection that says, “I now no longer have this ear infection.” I have created a new pathway towards healing and ease, rather than disease.
Renate: Well, that all sounds too good to be true [laughing].
Charlie: Doesn’t it. So let’s bring if back to ground here. Lucid dreaming can be made out to be too good to be true, so let’s ground it in the fact that it’s a practice that needs training to get there. I was speaking at the advanced hypnotherapy conference a few months ago, and what we were talking about with a group of hypnotherapists was that hypnotherapy is much more accessible than lucid dreaming. Right now either of us could go into a state of hypnosis within about twenty minutes and we could start implanting suggestions of healing intent, it’s much more accessible. Lucid dreaming, you have to wait until you are tired enough to go to sleep. You’ve got to go through the deep sleep stages, and then to the dream. You need to know the toolbox of techniques to become lucid and apply them. You have to stabilise the lucid dream state to such an extent where you can interact with it at will. So actually it takes some leg work to get there, but once you are there, it is a very, very powerful state to be in. So once you’re there and doing it, yeah, it seems too good not to be true, but let’s not make any qualms, it takes a lot of leg work to get there. It’s not an easy practice, but it’s not rocket science either. Children naturally lucid dream, not every night, not all the time, but children spontaneously have lucid dreams. So we don’t actually need to learn lucid dreaming, we need to remember it. Think how easy it is to remember something, a skill you practised as a child, compared to learning something from scratch. So your unconscious knows what it feels like to be in a lucid dream and wants you to go back there. So it’s not rocket science but at the same time it takes a little bit of leg work to get to the point where you can be fully conscious in the dream state and have full co-creation and influence over the direction of the dream. It’s well worth doing it.
Renate: So what’s your highest goal with lucid dreaming?
Charlie: Well the highest goal is preparation for the death and dying state. The highest goal is to prepare myself for that moment, but I guess there’s a goal even higher than that, which is to wake up in this state. Lucid dream is used as a metaphor for awaking in all schools of Buddhism. And Buddha himself - he who has awakened - awakened from what? Awakened from the dream of dualistic existence. Awakened from the dream of separateness, into a non-dualistic state of complete oneness, complete lucidity. Apparently every time we train for a lucid dream, every time we go, “Aha I’m dreaming”, we are preparing ourselves to go “Aha, I’m dreaming in this state”, and to wake up in this dream awakened reality, which would be realisation, which would be awakening. These are very high aims and I’m not sure I’m the man to do them. But you have to have these aims, and why not, it seems far out. Every lucid dream I have, I’m training for my enlightenment, I may not look like the person who’s training for enlightenment, but I’m going to give it a shot, and have a lot of fun while I do it, and help as many people along the way. I think I’ve never said this publically - I said to my teacher recently, “If just one person that I’ve taught on the work shop so far, or until the day I die, if just one person makes it through the bardo state with a little bit more consciousness because of something I’ve help them learn, wow, it would have been worth it all.” If just one person I can help through that bardo state, one person I can help have a little awakening in this state, everything would have been worth it, because that’s the real point: it’s not about my awakening, it’s about helping others.
Renate: Sure. What my teacher said once, was to help one person find the truth, their true nature, is worth more than feeding thousands of the people.
Renate: Because there is a vibrational shift happening which affects so much more. I liked what you said that in lucid dreaming we experience oneness because we are both the creator and the created, the projector and the projected.
Charlie: Yes, the state of oneness gets thrown around especially in new age circles quite a lot... oneness, oneness with all. I think if you really want a direct experience of oneness, have a lucid dream. And do what? Do nothing. Just go into the lucid dream and remind yourself, everything is me, everything. My most profound experiences in a lucid dream have been when I have become lucid and just stopped, and gone to a tree, and just gone “Wow!” This tree is me [pointing to tree in studio]. This tree is made of my mind. The underside of the leaf, the top of the leaf, this table…
Renate: You can eat the olives [laughing].
Charlie: The plastic olives [laughing]. I think in the dream state they would be olives, and not plastic. So we can just explore that state, because in a lucid dream, you are the tree, the leaves on the tree, you are the wind that blows through the leaves on the tree. That’s crazy… or even elements in the lucid dream. So for a true experience of oneness, have a lucid dream, because you can’t forget it and your experience of the waking state is changed after that.
Renate: Well, wouldn’t we treat the planet in a completely different way, just with having this experience, with this realisation…
Charlie: One thing we can do, I teach this as a kind of imagination experiment in the book actually, and at workshops, just as an imagination experiment. We’re not going to go crazy on this one, is to go around your daily life, and just think, ‘If this was a lucid dream, how would I respond to this situation?’ It doesn’t mean we’re going to fly off buildings and go crazy, especially if someone is projecting their stuff onto you. It’s just to think, ‘Okay, if this was a lucid dream, how would I respond? And I think, well, in a lucid dream I wouldn’t argue. I wouldn’t be mean to this person - Oh wow I’ve met a shadow aspect, wonderful, so what’s this aspect come to tell me about?’ It’s just a little imagination experiment, but if you can go around your daily life imagining that every stranger on the tube, is actually part of your dream, then we’d be so kind. Why would you ever be unkind to anything in your lucid dream? It would be like shooting yourself in the foot. Once you accept that everything in the lucid dream is part of your mind, we’re kind to everything, we’re compassionate to everything, and so too in this state. When you look at people woken up in this state, famous examples someone like the Dalai Lama, a definitely very awakened soul, if you watch how he interacts with people, and just having this in the back of your mind, ‘He’s seeing this as a dream’, it makes complete sense.
Renate: Is he really doing that, do you think?
Charlie: It’s interesting… I saw the Dalai Lama in London last year, or may be the beginning of this year. He was on stage early and someone put a water bottle in front of him and he picked up the bottle and he was looking at it... fascinated by this water bottle. It reminded me of somebody in a lucid dream were, even a water bottle is fascinating. Even a water bottle deserves your attention, your love, who knows… who knows?
Renate: Of course, it’s all the same thing. I’m so fascinated that I’m forgetting what I’m doing here [laughing]. So let’s talk a little about bardo… because I’m still scared. So you’re preparing yourself for the afterlife?
Renate: And you say it’s good for you to think about death. You actually say that in your book
Charlie: Absolutely. Death is one of the few shared communalities of human experience. We know it’s going to happen to all of us, and yet we never talk about it. We act like it’s never going to happen.
Renate: It’s a failure. It’s treated as if it’s a failure.
Charlie: Yeah. And what’s the other shared communality of human experience? The weather! We talk about it all the time, at least us Brits. I’m not saying that every time you talk about the weather… you’re at a bus stop with a kind old man, and he says, “There’s rain coming,” and you say, “Yeah you’re going to die”, not like that… we can start at least to bring awareness mortality, awareness into our daily lives. I’m thirty and I think about death all the time. I’ve had loads of friends who up to this point didn’t make it. There’s a kind of arrogance, especially amongst young people that we’re going to live forever, and hopefully we will live long and fruitful lives. And by thinking about death paradoxically, it wakes us up to life. People who are more aware of death are not morbid – are not kind of, “Humm why bother we’re all going to die!” They are the opposite. People become engaged with life, because they think… maybe we shouldn’t live our lives like it’s our last day on earth… everybody would not be turning up to work, having sex with everyone, doing crazy stuff. But maybe we could think, ‘What if we say it’s our last year, or last five years?’ Let’s try and think like that. If this is my last year am I really benefiting people in this year? Am I really doing my best to help and prepare myself spiritually for what may come? And it wakes us up. There’s is no better way to shake us up, and wake us up, than to think about death.
Charlie: And once you hear about the stuff, the lucid dream training, preparing ourselves for the dream like hallucinatory experience of the after death bardo state, you can’t un-know it. So even unconsciously, every time you practice lucid dreaming, you’re reminding yourself, ‘Ah, I’m practising for death now.’ Because we don’t know when death comes, so this might be our last night. So let’s spend this night practising for that moment. And it becomes… very dawning, morbid practising for death. Okay here’s a great thing: practising for death, as in lucid dreaming is also really, really fun. So we’ve got two wonderful wings here to fly with. We’ve got something incredibly fun, explorative, and entertaining, but is also a deep spiritual practice that has the potential to wake us up both in this state, and at the moment of death, and that sounds great.
Renate: Well I guess it’s a lot of fun having you as a teacher [laughing]. What you say is, there is actually a potential, going through the bardo, to fully wake up.
Renate: To fully realise yourself.
Charlie: Yeah. It’s said that every time we train ourselves to become lucid in the dream, we are training ourselves to become lucid in the after death bardo state. Bardo is a Tibetan word that means place in between. So this life is actually seen as a bardo.
Renate: Life in between dying and being reborn.
Charlie: That’s one bardo. But in fact our entire existence is made up of bardos. So this life is a bardo. The bardo between birth and death. Now within this life, there are multiple bardos. The bardo of sleep, meditation, dream. There are these bardos.
Renate: We could say levels?
Charlie: It’s not so much levels...
Renate: …or states?
Charlie: Yeah, states, intermediate states. These are all transitions. There are no stop gaps, it’s all a movement. When we die, we enter another bardo, the after death bardo. In fact even within that there are multiple bardos. So it’s said that the after death bardo is similar to a dream. It’s not a dream, but it’s similar to a dream. So when we train ourselves to enter the dream consciously, we prepare ourselves to be conscious within the bardo state. So rather than saying, “Aha, I’m dreaming,” we say, “Aha, I’m dead.” Now we want to say, “Aha I’m dead” because apparently having that realisation holds the highest spiritual potential, the potential of full spiritual awakening at that point. Now I won’t know whether this works until I die, so who knows?
Renate: And then you can tell us [laughing].
Charlie: I’ll come back as a little boy, and say, “Hey guys, it works!” But if you look at these reincarnated masters, for example someone like the Dalai Lama, a very well-known case… before he dies - if he does what traditionally happens - he will probably write a letter saying I will be reborn to a parent called whatever, to a mum called whatever, to a dad called whatever, in a town called whatever… he will give direct instructions. People think, ‘Well, how does that work?’ Well, in theory the Dalai Lama will die lucidly. He will die with fully conscious awareness, enter the bardo state, “Aha okay I’m dead” and now guide his rebirth, guide his mind stream into his next reincarnation. And in many ways, this is how the system of reincarnation is based within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. It’s based on fully entering the death state consciously, or in some cases even bypassing the bardo and going straight to a pure realm of consciousness where they can enter their next incarnation. So from a point of view of Tibetan Buddhism, you start talking about lucid dreaming, they will take you seriously. In the west if we start talking about lucid dreaming people will think about new age things, floaty things, unscientific, this kind of stuff. In Tibetan Buddhism, lucid dreaming, forming part of dream ology is seen as a profound practice and not child’s play at all.
Renate: Their whole of life is about the moment you are dying.
Charlie: Absolutely, yeah.
Renate: But when you say the potential of fully awakened, that sounds for me like you don’t have to come back.
Charlie: Well, within Tibetan Buddhism we have something called the bodhisattva-vala.
Renate: Yeah, you can make the choice.
Charlie: Yeah. So if you were to reach that state within this lineage you would come back. Yes, you could hang out in nirvanic fields and stuff like that, but essentially they’ll come back because they’ve taken a vow that they won’t reach full nirvana exit, full nirvana enlightenment until everyone else has. So they’ll keep on coming back and this is how the reincarnated master system works. It’s a nice thought isn’t it, to check out, but unfortunately we’ve got to come back to help others.
Renate: So, what are you doing in your workshops?
Charlie: The workshops. I actually teach something called mindfulness in dream and sleep, rather than just lucid dreaming. Whereas lucid dreaming is training the participants in the art of becoming conscious within their dreams and in directing the dream at will, mindfulness in dream and sleep tries to go a step, not beyond that, it moves beyond that aspect of the practice into conscious sleeping and day time mindfulness practice. So it’s not just focusing on the lucid dream state because we’re asleep for thirty years, yet we only dream for six of it. So if we’re just focused on lucid dreaming, that’s twenty four other years of our sleep that we are not using properly, or not using to full potential. So we teach conscious sleeping practices. So hypnogogic mindfulness, entering the sleep state with fully mindful awareness, and hypnopompic mindfulness, which is a meditation practice you do as you wake up. The moment you wake up, you extend that moment in a state of meditation. We also train in daytime normal sitting mindfulness meditation practice because the original lucid dreaming induction method is meditation. If you do enough mindfulness meditation in the daytime, you will have lucid dreams, because every moment of meditation you’re stocking up the lucidity tank. It’s like a tank of awareness, and eventually it will over flow into the dreams. So meditation is a very important part of this. Also meditation is the way we bring this practice into everyday life, because if you just taught lucid dreaming out of context of the spiritual part, then as you thought before, it could be used just for egotistic fantasy, but taught in this way and as part of Karma Kagyu Lineage, of which I’m in a small way part of, it places it in a spiritual context. So although I’m not forcing people to do anything in their lucid dream, I do make it my little mission to present them with things that are more beneficial than the sexual fantasy stuff, and the mindfulness meditation will help with that too.
Renate: How long do you meditate a day? Do you meditate every day?
Charlie: I have a commitment practice, so I have seven to eight hours a week that I have to do, but sometimes I get to Sunday and I haven’t done anything, and I’ll have to do four hours in a day. The best is if you can practice every day. But with my lifestyle… even before, when I was self-employed in the music world, it was impossible.
Renate: We haven’t got around to talking about music world. You were in a Buddhist hip hop group. What is that?
Charlie: Well hip hop is a culture which has, as its base music, dance, art and rapping. So actually like a lot of culture, hip hop has these four pillars, but these four pillars are breakdance, DJ ing - playing the records, rapping and graffiti. Still the four pillars you find in most culture, art, movement, speech and music. So I was in a hip hop group called “Throw Down”, that wasn’t the Buddhist one although there were three or four members in the crew – there were about twelve of us - who were Buddhist practitioners. The Buddhist group I was in was called “Zen Mystery” which was full-on Buddhist rap lyrics, taking on mantras and scratching them, and putting them through vocoders and stuff, that was great. It was really, really fun. There’s a guy actually around today called MC Yogi who does these great raps about the Bhagavad Gita and Buddhist stuff. That was who I wanted to be at that age. I was a wannabe MC Yogi.
Renate: Your whole life sounds like a ball.
Charlie: Yes, it’s been fun, and actually, strangely when I first started teaching I thought, ‘What a polarity here, to go from hip hop music into this.’ But I realised, actually everything had been a preparation for this. I studied scriptwriting at university and that prepared me to write the book. Every time I was on stage rapping and performing, that prepared me to deliver talks and workshops and presentations.
Renate: You were actually an actor, you were trained…
Charlie: Oh yeah, I was an actor for many years. My mum was an actress. I started very young, I was in Fairy Liquid commercials and all these embarrassing things, and that prepared me to deliver the material, because there is a lot of material around on lucid dreaming. You can go to web sites, books, stuff like that, but nothing beats one-on-one tutorials, or a group tutorial. If you can make the stuff come off the page, especially all the boring science stuff, which most people fall asleep at, if you can make it fun and engaging, not only do you help people learn more, but you actually open them up to the process in a fun way, and people think, spirituality can be fun, and it can be. No one said spirituality should not be fun. Buddha didn’t say it. Jesus didn’t say it. In the west we think if it’s not hurting us, it can’t be working properly. Meditation isn’t a who-can-sit-still-the-longest competition; it’s about awareness of mind. So we can engage that with a smile on our face. Smiling whilst we mediate is one of the greatest things we can do because it tells the body I’m enjoying this. Who knows we might even start enjoying it.
Renate: Well Charlie, I’m afraid our time is up. It was such a joy having you here.
Charlie: It’s been a joy to chat to you.
Renate: Good luck to you I’m sure you will be flooded at your workshops. I’ll show your book again. It’s Dreams of Awakening. It’s such a wise and wonderful book. Thank you for writing it.
Charlie: Thank you for reading it.
Renate: Thank you for being with us, and god luck with waking people up with lucid dreaming. Thank you for watching conscious.tv and hope to see you again soon. Goodbye.
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