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How to engage in dream-koan work

The Basics

The Basics

We are endowed with three primary phases of consciousness: ordinary waking consciousness; dream consciousness; sleep consciousness.

We will focus on ordinary waking consciousness and dream consciousness. We do explore sleep consciousness in our personal practice. Our work with others focuses on ordinary waking consciousness and dream consciousness. For now.

The origins of ordinary waking consciousness remain a mystery. And may become clear to you through your own practices.

The structure of ordinary waking consciousness:


  1. Sensory cues from the environment (external or internal) are connected with a deep “inner’ feelings, that lie hidden from ordinary waking consciousness in other-than-ordinary-waking-conscious awareness. As example, anger, greed, lust, joy, fear, shame can be shoved “down” into other-than-ordinary-waking consciousness. These un-consciously experienced feelings stir an internal response, or REACTION.
  2. Our ordinary waking consciousness tries to make conscious sense of the hidden feeling by creating stories that seem plausible to our ordinary waking consciousness. We do this by picking a small set of “facts” from the infinite array of facts available to us, and/or by creating “facts” out of thin air. Can this be called anything other than IGNORANCE. Our ignorance does not have an evil intention, and we are completely unaware that we are doing this. Never-the-less, it is IGNORANCE.
  3. Based upon this REACTION-IGNORANCE story-making dynamic, we project our story onto the environment (both external and internal) with thoughts and words and deeds. PROJECTION.


What seems evident from current scientific research (neuropsychobehavioral science), is that the human neocortex is capable of an incomprehensibly large array of associations. The associations appear to be used as a tool to “make sense” of an innumerable array of external and internal cues. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the associations are used to try to make order out of the chaos that envelops us. There are those that assert that the associations are a mechanism to try to predict what will arrive next in our life. We believe this is so. Perhaps we fear the unknown. And our associations are skewed to give much more weight to those feeling experiences that have caused pain. Trauma. Traumas are potentially life threatening and therefore to be avoided. Perhaps at all cost.

This is one of the reasons that we chose the name “8th Wave.” The 8th wave comes from the surfer/sailor myth that ocean waves come in sets of 7, building from smallest 1 through largest 7. In reality, we never know what the 8th Wave will bring. Smaller?! Bigger?! Does it matter. As they/we are all part of the same Great Ocean.

You might say, our usual waking consciousness is largely devoted to predicting that 8th Wave. And how we do this is really intriguing. And baffling. And laughable! We take in an immense amount of environmental (external and internal) cues. At a level of other-than-ordinary consciousness, feelings arise. The feelings can certainly have positive and negative values; perhaps neutral, although we are not sure of this. We then take only certain pieces of information from the environment (external and internal) and create a story, a group of associations, around the feeling. Sometimes the information is representative of something that is occurring physically in our local time-space. And sometimes we simply make up pieces of information, pieces of imaginary information, that we then believe are “facts.” These pieces of information are then used to create the story, to explain these deep other-than-ordianry feelings. And we fully believe this story to be true. The Truth. When in truth, it is a fairy tale based upon multiple degrees of ignorance.

We then respond to the environment with actions based upon our fairy tale. Our actions produce feelings in the environment (external and internal). The environment then responds through its own cycle of reaction-ignorance-projection. And this wave continues. Wave upon Wave.

Dream consciousness is different. As long as you have a guide that is familiar with accessing the deep feeling levels in dreams.

Be wary. Some people who work with dreams, unaware of their own other-than-conscious feelings that the dream elicits, prefer the “safety” of dream interpretation. People who interpret dreams are always doing so from their own ordinary waking consciousness. Focusing upon the story line (REACTIONS), they make associations (IGNORANCE), and then PROJECT their own meanings upon the dream. Because the interpreter has more “experience” with dreams (read associations = ignorance) than the dreamer, their interpretation is often accepted by the dreamer. In our experience, this is merely rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

An example. A dreamer recounts the following dream: “I am standing watching a big group of people walking into a Walmart. They are poorly dressed, ignorant, losers and I don’t want to have anything to do with them. I walk off in the other direction.”

Take a moment. What does this dream bring up for you? What are your mental associations with Walmart? What are your associations about people who often go to Walmart?

I ask the dreamer, “How do you know it is Walmart? Do you see a sign?” “No.” “Do you go inside and see Walmart advertising?” “No.” “So this is a group of people going in somewhere unknown to you?” “Yes.” “So you’re not part of the group?” “No.” “How does it feel to not be a part of the group?” “Lonely. I don’t feel good enough. There is some shame.” So from her/his place of loneliness, inadequacy and shame (FEELINGS), she/he PROJECTS IGNORANT losers and Walmart onto the story.

What does this bring up for you?

Dream consciousness turns everything upside down. Feeling becomes preeminent rather than the storyline.

Dream consciousness. We can accept that different figures in the dream represent different aspects of ourselves. The bear in the dream brings fear (perhaps as a doorway to power) and is part of us. Because the total environment is not “real” in the sense of our usual “waking” consciousness, we can accept that what is external is a part of the internal. The usual boundaries that we accept in “waking” consciousness are blurred. We begin to see and feel our inter-connectedness with all Being.

Dream consciousness. Spacetime is warped. Or perhaps more real. Gravity is suspended. We are babies. We are dying. We are boys then girls. Girls then boys. Strangers are our parents. We descend into the center of the Earth. We travel in a flash to distant galaxies. All of these aspects are part of the story line. What are constantly underneath are FEELINGS.

Dream consciousness invites descent into FEELING. All the aspects of pain. All the aspects of joy. All the aspects of anger. All the aspects of tranquility. All the aspects of fear. All the aspects of grief. All the aspects of bliss.

DREAM consciousnes. We experience that a wonderful way to cut through the usual ordinary waking consciousness cycle of REACTION-IGNORANCE-PROJECTION is by directly experiencing the feeling present in dream consciousness.

Dream consciousness is always based upon phenomena eliciting FEELING that emerges into stories. The FEELING is essential to our heart essence. In cutting through the REACTION-IGNORANCE-PROJECTION cycle we come deeper into our heart essence, closer and closer to our true nature. Eliminating projection, we can see directly with our heart essence. Is that your soul seeing? Perhaps.