Behind the Scenes

Buddhism, Beki and a Dream

‘Wolstonbury Dreaming’ has been four thousands years in the making!.. It’s also the result of an unique blending of cultures.  East meets West.

‘Behind the Scenes’ is an attempt to explain the role of Beki, the current owner of Chantry Farm, Buddhism, with its teachings on Dream Yoga, and a particular pivotal dream in how this has all come together.

Beki: “I was born in Sussex and have been here most of my 50+ year life, but for nearly twenty years (1993-2010) I was ordained as a Buddhist nun in the Tibetan tradition and that involved quite a lot of travel. An intensive part of serious monastic study and practice is a ‘Traditional Three Year retreat’.   For that, I went to upstate NY because there was an incredibly accomplished old Tibetan Retreat Master and scholar there. It was while is was in that retreat, in 2003, that I dreamt of this land. At that point I hadn’t seen it before, although I was vaguely familiar with Wolstonbury as part of the South Downs..

This vast rolling landscape appeared! It looked like England, but I didn’t know if it actually existed as a place.. Walking in the dream landscape was a Tibetan meditation master called Jamgon Kongtrul (see Sacred Ground).  Roll on seven years to 2010, and the farm came on the market:  I saw it in waking state for the first time!  Even the name Chantry resonated with it’s origins from ‘to chant’ .. there’s a whole story in here which may end up in going into a book..  Even without all the necessary money, I was convinced it would be possible to buy.  In 2011, through the kindness and trust of a generous soul, and his family, the purchase was complete!”

A SISTER SITE

On the Chantry Farm.org website we’re building a history page to cover details of the lovely old flint barn circa 1150.. But in 2010, one of the first developments, along with planting an 80 tree orchard, was to find a reliable water source.  A borehole was drilled to tap into the glorious mineral water which has gently filtered through the swathes of chalk here. There were plans to bottle it as Wolstonbury Water, but establishing a small campsite took precedence.

Thankfully the local council supported us in that and planning was granted, with all the necessary paperwork in the following years.. Getting through licencing hurdles for composting loos etc took some doing.. but thankfully, as environmental values deepen, things are changing.. The initial years with no electricity supply and very limited means to heat water made for a lot of work, not least in research..but our guests loved the vibe and sense that the activities here are heartfelt and genuinely sustainable. When the predictable challenges arose, Beki found inspiration from that dream.

BUDDHISM and DREAM YOGA

Tibetan teachings on Dream Yoga involve developing awareness, during dream. Cultivating the ability to recognise, without waking up: This is a dream! (see Dream Science for more info)  Once Lucidity is developed, as with all awareness practices in Buddhism, there are stages… In the ‘Kagyu tradition’ Dream Yoga is part of a series of meditations: The Six Yogas of Naropa.  These profound practices are based on six states our consciousness ‘goes through’ – living, dreaming, dying..The meditations are designed to guide the practitioner to complete realisation and tap into unfabricated natural awareness.   To master ‘how we are’, how we exist, including our relationship to the ‘outer world’ of appearances, and also, to know and navigate, what happens when we die. These profound practices, relatively unknown in our culture, require foundational training, but, as ‘modern science’ catches up with lucid dreaming, wider interest in Dream Yoga develops in the West.

There are plenty of accomplished lucid dreamers who find ‘recognising dream’ – lucid dreaming -, is a spontaneous ability. Often from childhood. Of course it’s not necessary to be Buddhist for that! Yet lucidity can be cultivated and enhanced.

Buddhism has an extraordinary amount of different techniques to assist anyone on the journey to ‘awaken’ from confusion: We can live a whole life (or multiple lifetimes) not understanding the way things are. To fully understand, we need to be ‘Enlightened’. Buddhism is a tool for that aim. The Buddha gave 84,000 teachings (!) to suit various individual temperaments over 2000 years ago. As the Buddha’s teachings spread around the planet, they changed emphasis to suit different cultural dispositions. There are many different lineages, with different focus. Vajrayana or ‘Tibetan’ Buddhism, with its lofty home in the Himalaya, is in some ways shamanic and it includes a myriad of teachings on dream. Although Naropa was an Indian teacher, his main student for the Six Yogas, was a Tibetan named Marpa. Marpa took the teachings across the Himalaya up into Tibet.

We’ve seen interest in Mindfulness go mainstream in the West, but strangely within the Mindfulness Movement, sleep and dream (which we do for about 1/3 of our lives) is often ignored. Yet awareness in dream is a helpful indicator for how aware of our projections and delusions we really are. We imagine plenty of things in waking state which aren’t true! All levels should be taken seriously by anyone attempting mastery of their minds. Sleeping is an often missed chance for us to become aware. A potential portal to accelerated understanding of our own minds and the apparently external universe! Working with Dream starts with simply being able to recall what we have dreamt. This is where Wolstonbury Dreaming aims to help. Basic but sacred steps towards a richer life. A greater understanding of how our minds work, day and night.

Dream Yoga in Buddhism is also used as a ‘rehearsal’ for death. The Buddha pointed out that although most people lose consciousness in dream and death, both are ‘transitional states’ (bardo in Tibetan) with important opportunities for maintaining awareness. Of course when we die, our physical body and its usefulness is finished. We’re not going to wake back up and carry on using it! In Tibet, the art of dream and dying whilst retaining consciousness has been taken to impressive levels: The term ‘Tulku’ is used to describe accomplished meditators who maintain enough awareness during and after death to navigate that Bardo, and thus select, with awareness, their next rebirth. This is the stuff of miracles to the uninitiated! Or people simply can’t believe its possible. Jamgon Kongtrul is one of those ‘tulku’s. Any of us who instead just ‘black out at the wheel’ are left to the winds of our karma. Yet here we are! Again! In a fortunate life (it must be quite privileged for you to be reading this..) – so we didn’t do badly last time around. However, the Buddha warned, it’s not a situation to waste..

Although its not possible to teach Tibetan Buddhist Dream Yoga to campers staying just a night or two, there are a lot of contemporary workshops and excellent teachers on Lucid Dreaming these days. Charley Morley and Robert Waggoner are two experienced and competent teachers – if you are interested, they can be found online. Hopefully they will lead workshops here in the future too! Beki also owns “a sister woodland” eight miles north which has planning permission, is blessed, and we’ll be able to take it to yet another level still once those facilities are up and running..

Lucid Dreaming exists as a great tool for developing profound awareness, but many lucid dreamers haven’t heard Buddhist teachings which link these states of awareness to what happens when we die. Its fun to fly for sure, but there’s a lot more to it than that!

Many teachings in Buddhism which precede Dream Yoga are designed to deepen understanding of how things happen in our waking state. What causes things to happen the way they do? Buddha gave many teachings on the law of Cause and Effect – aka karma. Its a biggie! Yet oddly again, karma is often missing from much ‘mindfulness’ practice. We need to be mindful of what we do, what we think, and what we say. Cause and Effect play out in our minds as well as the material world (for example a tomato seed always grows into a tomato, not a peach) but the Buddha explained understanding the laws of cause and effect has to be applied to what we do every second! Life is certainly dream-like, but there are ‘laws of cause and effect’ operating in our waking state which we are not (usually) able to ignore. The more subtle karmic laws – even down to how we think, also require mastery and awareness if we want to be completely free of all suffering and able to fully help ‘others’ attain the same ultimate freedom.

Given we all dream, there are some great opportunities to make good use of them. It can be so much fun, and also, as ability deepens, it can also become incredibly profound and radically improve our waking state – not least in helping us overcome illusions of separateness. There are two main necessities to start out:

1) The aspiration to become aware in our dreams.   2) Good dream recall.

So as Buddhism moves around the planet and through time, it adapts focus to suit the people of the place. If Wolstonbury were in Tibet, circa C10, out walking the hill you might meet an adept ‘cotton clad yogi’ – the famous meditation master, Milarepa. There’s a dietary east meets west connection here.. Milarepa is often depicted with green skin as his diet contained so much nettle soup.. which we also have an abundance of nettles..   Milarepa was Marpa’s primary disciple. Milarepa mastered awareness in day and night to the point he could fly through the sky in waking state. Why do that? To demonstrate what is possible when delusions about the so called ‘material world’ cease – how playful it can get.. The laws of cause and effect are not ultimate laws, they are relative to a material world full of concepts – to those of us stuck in the relative world of concepts.. The more rigidly we hold concepts, the more rigid the world appears. Everyone in the West knows of Jesus, who also demonstrated ‘miraculous ability’ whilst he taught of union with divine omniscience. There are many profound similarities in many of the world’s old religions and miracles are merely that which is beyond the norms of any particular community. Flying by plane would seemed miraculous to most people in the 1600s!

As all highly realised Teachers tend to do.. Milarepa taught a wide variety of people he met along the way.  He was famous in Tibet for singing to his students. Were you to encounter him whilst walking Wolstonbury Hill, maybe you would have been given this gem:

“He who feels no difference between dream and waking, has reached the realm of true practice.”

Clearly, as most of us can’t fly unaided in the daytime, that state of awareness is some way off.. and he commented on that too

“I see this life as a conjuration and a dream. Great compassion rises in my heart for those without a knowledge of this truth”.

There is much more which could be said about Buddhism and Dream Yoga, but one thing which Wolstonbury Dreaming is testimony to is beautiful opportunity.. In this case an extraordinary place to take an inner and outer journey, – it only exists due to someone remembering their dream..