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Image by Alex Grey

What is it about humans that makes them look anywhere but inside themselves, everywhere but in the here and now, for happiness, peace, and the answers they seek? What is it about someone else, some place else, some other time that is more exciting, more attractive, more alive, and more sacred than yourself, right here, right now?

The answer is clear, and it is immediate. You think you know yourself and so looking at yourself is boring. You listen to your thoughts all the time. You know them by heart. You feel your feelings all the time and you have a love-hate relationship with them. They are comfortable, but you know they keep you trapped, because you’re addicted to them.

Consequently, we tend to throw ourselves into the outer world of relationships, inspiration, gurus, quick fixes, anesthetizing distractions, and worthy causes. This is a good thing, because it not only forces us to see ourselves mirrored in others, it causes us to make a genuine contribution to the lives of others and to the world. However, to the extent that it is avoidance, inner wake-up calls first become louder and then externalize as physical health problems, accidents, or broken relationships, and missed opportunities. Because we don’t know ourselves we get in our own way; we sow the seeds of our own destruction in the outer world.

The foundation of this problem is that we mistake the endless neurotic chatter of our minds and emotions for thinking we know ourselves. All of that has been called “roof-brain chatter” and “monkey mind,” because it is superficial and mindless. It mirrors how and where you are stuck. It has very little to do with listening to yourself. To do that you need methods that get you to look and listen to a depth of your consciousness that you normally ignore or do not access. It is largely terra incognito, unexplored, unknown territory, generally written off by you with a smug assurance that you already know your mind. Do you?

If you did, wouldn’t you know what your dreams mean? Do you? If you did, wouldn’t you look at your dreams regularly? Do you? If you did, wouldn’t you be at peace instead of in inner conflict with yourself? But instead of looking within at our dreams we look outside for inspiration and revelation. Near death experiences are one popular form of mystical experience where many people are currently looking.

One day you will most certainly have a near death experience. However, it will be a one-way ticket! Many people think, “why wait?’ And so they read books and watch YouTube videos of testimonials of near death experiencers. They read about mystics. They learn to meditate. They want some of that awe, overwhelming love and peace, psychic awareness, and fearlessness that are common markers of near death experiences. They think that if they just surround themselves with the culture of near death experiences, if they just mimic those states in meditation, all that love, inspiration, healing, and fearlessness will rub off on them.

While this can and does occur for many observers of NDEs, it is basically a fantasy. Why? Because you are trying to live someone else’s experience, or you are trying to live some idealized, imaginary idea you have about what it means to be truly happy, as demonstrated by NDEs. You aren’t listening to yourself; instead, you are listening to others and their experiences. You aren’t following your inner compass; instead you are trying to follow what other people think your inner compass is telling you. You aren’t interviewing or following the recommendations of your own emerging potentials; instead you are looking to external authority and those voices internalized as script injunctions from your family and society and labeled as “intuition,” “inner knowing,” conscience,” or “God’s will.”

What is particularly ironic is that you are having mini-near death experiences all the time and don’t even recognize it. Every night when you go to sleep you imitate the dying process. You lose consciousness. You lose your identity. You die to your thoughts, your feelings, your sense of self. It’s all gone. If you are like most people, you give yourself over to this extinction of identity without a second thought, because it is habit and because you know you will wake up again in the morning and remember who you are. Your life will pick up pretty much where it left off, with oblivion forgotten. This innate experience is probably the intuitive foundation for mankind’s belief in reincarnation. It’s nice to think of death as going to sleep at night, only to know you will awaken, first in your dreams, and then “for real” in the morning.  What could be more comforting or reassuring?

The similarities between dreaming and near death experiences are so obvious and extensive that it is astounding more people do not view their dreams as mini-near death experiences and use them as such. Can you wake up in your dreams and realize that you are dreaming, just as people wake up in near death experiences and realize they are dead? Yes. This is called lucid dreaming. There is extensive literature on it, and with motivation and persistence, most anyone can learn to have lucid dreams. There are even some people who normally have them quite frequently and think nothing of it.  It does not require impressive spiritual advancement to have lucid dreams; children and criminals can and do have them. The ability to lucid dream, contrary to popular opinion, is therefore not a marker of spiritual development.

Can you have out of the body experiences in your dreams like some people do when they have near death experiences? Yes. They are rare, but there are many documented accounts of them. For example, see the books of Robert Monroe or the experiments by doctors who have hidden numbers or messages in hospital rooms of the clinically dead, who were then revived and could accurately report what they said. Out of the body experience while asleep is another experience associated with near death experience that some claim you can learn.

Most people already know that they can have visitations from the deceased in their dreams. In fact, like lucid dreaming, although both experiences are rare in dream accounts in general, encounters with the deceased in your dreams is probably much more common than you think; you only remember some small fraction of those experiences that you do have.

While rare, people can have mystical openings in dreams. Energic openings involving the psychic and oneness through energy and control are the most common. However, subtle level openings associated with saintly mysticism and universal love can occur in dreams. For example, people may report being embraced by Jesus in a dream and feel completely and unconditionally loved. A third type of mystical experience can happen in dreams, called “causal” or “sage mysticism.” This type includes a sense of self-transcendence and oneness with the timeless ground of all experience. Similar experiences are sometimes reported in near death experiences.

Intention matters. What you look for you tend to find. So pre-sleep incubation, or the art of setting intent regarding what you want to experience in your dreams or not experience in your dreams, affects your dreaming content and agenda – whether or not you remember your dreams. Many important aspects of near death experiences are therefore potentially available to you tonight in your dreams if you want to incubate them and look for them.

In addition, there are ways to increase the likelihood that you will have more elements in your dreams that are like those in near death experiences. One way is meditation. The more you put your monkey mind aside in your waking life the more likely you are to do so in your dreams. Without those perceptual filters you are more likely to see more clearly, as people do in near death experiences. Another way is Integral Deep Listening. By interviewing both characters from your dreams and the personifications of your waking life issues you dissolve the distance between self and the other, whether it is another person or a dream character. You become and grow into your potentials. Consequently you are less likely to be reactive in your dreams or to see dream figures as “other” and make assumptions about them the way you do of people in your waking life. Many dream characters, personifications of life issues, or images from near death experiences will have practical recommendations for you as to how to overcome barriers to having more near death experiences in your dreams and in your waking consciousness in general. Because you will find that they tend to score higher than you do in core qualities associated with enlightenment, and therefore with near death experiences, such as confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing, becoming them will allow you to partake more and more of characteristics of near death experience, whether you are awake or asleep, alive or dead.

These processes are fun, simple, and powerful. When you use them you not only prepare yourself for your own death, you make it more likely you will make the most of the after-death experience. But more important, you will bring core qualities associated with life after death into your everyday life, such as inner peace, love, acceptance, compassion, wisdom, and fearlessness. To learn more about using Integral Deep Listening to heal your life issues, awaken to your dreams, and prepare for life after death, see IntegralDeepListening.Com, DreamYoga.Com, or email me at joseph.Dillard@Gmail.Com.