brief excerpts (quoting Charles Belyea) from:


Magazine: Yoga Journal
Issue: January/February 1997
Author: Peter Ochiogrosso
Back to The Natural Connection

Both Tibetan Buddhism and Taoism contain specific techniques for dream yoga. Taoist dream practice, called True Dream, Dream Wandering, or Night Practice, employs sleep and dream as a form of meditation. According to Charles Belyea, an American Taoist teacher, dream yoga is one of the five central practices of Orthodox Taoism. Belyea studied Buddhism and Taoism in Taiwan for many years before founding Five Branches Institute, College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Santa Cruz, California, in 1984. He teaches what he calls Orthodox Taoism, an ancient tradition of Taoism as it existed before being influenced by Buddhism. That system, according to Belyea, views sleep "as a natural time for the practice of meditation." He emphasizes that the prerequisite for any dream work is sufficient sound sleep achieved through rest, exercise, proper eating, and an occasional nap. "The first level of practice is to establish healthy and harmonious sleep. This means spending our days in a way that doesn't exhaust us. Sleep must be respected and entered into, not be seen as a collapse of wakefulness or a 'giving in' to exhaustion."

Once that harmony is achieved, Belyea writes in his newsletter, Frost Bell, "we can rest very deeply, restore ourselves, and 'discover' the Body we have in dreams. This Dream Body lacks many of the limits of our waking body. . . . An hour of meditation in dream feels equal to a month- long retreat of practice while awake."

But unlike most other dream workers, Belyea does not believe that dream content should be paramount. "Meeting a great teacher or spiritual being, curing a constitutional illness, or traveling to China in a dream is not the focus of practice. Manipulation of the mind or imagination are not part of our practice. Such exertions are antithetical to the View of Taoist dreamers."

As for dream interpretation in the Sufi mode, although Belyea doesn't feel it would be "integral to understanding the practice of dreaming," he acknowledges that the Chinese, like most people, are fascinated with what dreams might mean. And, he adds, "there's no reason to think that if the waking world can be divided into so many little worlds, the dreaming world cannot also be divided up. Images like Shambhala or P'eng-lai- realms of existence where only the immortals or the enlightened live- these are places in dreams just as there are places in waking life. The difference is that in getting there when you're awake, you have to cross space, but in getting there while you're asleep, you have to cross time."

back to