December 13, 2011
About a year ago I discovered that sleep can be a spiritual exercise. Who knew! Most things that are good for me generally require that I make time in my day, and establish a new habit. However all that Dream Yoga requires is that I approach differently the act of sleep and dreaming. By making some adjustments, I try to make my sleep mindful and aware. When I first heard this idea it sounded like an anomaly to me. Sleep by definition is a state of non-awareness. In deep, dreamless sleep, one does not know anything. Upon waking there is a sense of missing time and an after taste of bliss. Dreams feel real while dreaming, have their own time frame and one is unaware of the physical body or the physical world. If I were to remain aware during sleep and dreaming, wouldn’t I be just awake all night?
I discovered the answer to that is no.
Let’s talk about the dream state first. Everyone dreams but most people believe that the dream world they have created is real until they awake. The emotions experienced in dreams are so real that our heartbeats and breathing reflect the emotional experience being lived in the dream. People have been known to weep, to scream and kick during particularly vivid dreams. Psychologists tell us that dreams are the communication of our sub-conscious mind. Buried feelings and unresolved issues ignored in the waking state present themselves as dreams. By learning to be aware while dreaming one experiences lucid dreams. I make a decision to continue with the dream but I know that the dream is of my own creation and that it is a message from the depths of my mind. The next step is to realize that I have the power to effect the outcome of this dream scenario. I used to experience vivid recurring dreams where the outcome was always fearful. In one particular dream I would enter my home and find it to be a watery, damaged mess. I would usually grieve, sometimes weep helplessly. After months of practicing lucid dreaming, I occurred to me that the mess was really within my own psyche, my real home. Once I realized this I would allow the dream to continue but create a different conclusion. I would give myself a mop in my right hand and begin to clean up the water from the floors and furniture until the apartment was tidy again. When I awoke I felt clear, well and with a tidy presence of mind. Although this example is general and simple, we can work of specific and complex issues at a very fundamental level during dreaming. The mental shift can be profound.
To be aware while in deep, dreamless sleep takes far more practice, but the experience is worth the efforts. There is a level of bliss far beyond any pleasure we ever experience in the waking state.
It is said by the Buddhists that the act of falling asleep is a daily rehearsal for death, the Big Sleep. Each night we withdraw from our bodies, we detach from all five sense, and finally we let go of even our thoughts. We leave behind all that we hold dear, our family, our spouse, our homes and careers. And we feel happy for having abandoned them all. In the next blog, I would like to explore this topic further.