We spend up to a third of our lives asleep. By the time we reach the age of sixty, we've slept 20 years. What would you give to have 20 years of your life back? What would you do to add another 20 years to your sixty?
There is a way to get at least part of it back. We can learn to sleep consciously. This is the first in a series of articles on how to do so.
Conscious Sleep Has Positive Effects
Other than getting back some of the time we lose to sleep, retaining consciousness during the sleep states can have several other beneficial effects.
- You deal directly with unconscious aspects of your mind, bringing them into awareness. You directly face your fears, hopes, aspirations, desires, and hates.
- Much of the benefit of spiritual practices and psychotherapy is window washing. It sweeps the dirt from the mind, so we can see clearly. As with meditation, conscious sleep restructures the contents of your consciousness you allow yourself to experience the deep parts of your mind.
- You learn detachment.
- You can experience increased creativity and learn to exercise your imagination.
- You can experience psychoemotional healing.
- You can take a vacation, exploring new worlds.
- Eventually you may experience states of consciousness similar to those you encounter during deep meditation as you begin to enter the deep sleep state consciously. Advanced practitioners consider sleep to be a perfect time to meditate.
Who Can Learn To Sleep Consciously
In rare cases, from what I've been able to read, some people learn to retain consciousness 24 hours a day throughout much of their lives. In most cases, the retention of awareness into the sleep states is more sporadic, but with practice, much more extensive than we are conditioned to believe is possible and experience as the norm. The ability to sleep consciously is inherent in all of us.
A System of Conscious Sleeping
Tibetan Yoga is one system that has formalized the techniques to take consciousness into the sleep state. The intellectual underpinnings of this set of techniques are Buddhistic. One of the basic concepts of Buddhism is that we live a conditioned existence that is inpermanent, subject to change, and ultimately insubstantial due to this change. Following this line of thought, the waking state is no more real than the sleep states, and just as we are aware when in the waking state, in the sleep states we can also be aware.
This points the way to the first step in retaining awareness during the sleep state. Throughout the day, stop occasionally and realize that your perceptions are illusory. It isn't that there isn't something out there, but that what you perceive, and what you think about it, is a result of pattern-making processes in your mind and the your interpretation of what you experience.
As you learn to accept the self-created aspects of your world, you begin to build a detachment that will help lead to increased awareness during sleep, and an increased skill in dealing with what you encounter during sleep.
Some other daytime practices to increase you chances of sleeping consciously include
- Meditate. No matter what your goal, meditation cannot help but assist you. The grounding, centering, and clarity it induces are immensely helpful in learning to sleep consciously. Perform your meditation at least several hours before going to bed, though.
- Don't go to bed exhausted. I can almost guarantee that exhaustion will prevent conscious sleeping. Be tired, but not overly tired when you go to bed.
- Don't overeat. Digestion takes energy. You are better off with no more than a little food in your stomach when you go to bed. That little bit can help prevent the nausea that sometimes accompanies deep relaxation.
- Practice rhythmic breathing.
- Avoid alcohol or sedatives close to bedtime if at all possible. These interfere with normal sleep patterns.
In the next article of this series I will talk about the techniques to use when you are going to sleep to develop your ability to sleep consciously.
[tags]sleep, conscious sleep, meditation[/tags]