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Big DreamsThe Science of Dreaming and the Origins of Religion$
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Kelly Bulkeley

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199351534

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199351534.001.0001

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Contemplative Practice

Contemplative Practice

(p.257) 16 Contemplative Practice
Big Dreams

Kelly Bulkeley

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the cross-cultural phenomenon of contemplative practice in dreaming. Methods of meditation and prayer can alter people’s states of consciousness in sleep and dreaming, something that many religious traditions have known and practiced for centuries. This chapter looks at contemplative practice in the context of scientific research on big dreams. The discussion includes a detailed case study (Myoe Shonin, a Buddhist monk from twelfth-century Japan who kept a diary of his spiritual dreams), references to other religious traditions around the world, and theories from cognitive science and the psychology of religion. Special attention is given to “lucid dreaming,” the experience of being aware of dreaming within the dream state. The chapter argues that current scientific research supports the idea that religious practices of meditation and prayer can be effective at stimulating extremely memorable experiences of lucidity and metacognition in dreaming.

Keywords:   dreams, dreaming, big dreams, contemplative practice, meditation and dreams, prayer and dreams, meditation, prayer, consciousness in sleep, consciousness in dreaming, Myoe Shonin, lucid dreaming, metacognition

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