Welcome back to our series on learning to sleep consciously. Part I of the series focused on the possibility of sleeping consciously, and some of the benefits of doing so. I discussed some of the activities and thoughts to use during the day to encourage and ease the onset of conscious sleep. In Part II of the series I talked about the different phases of sleep and activities to carry out as you prepare to sleep. This week I will begin from where I left off.
Nighttime Practices (Continued)
Similarity Between Meditation and Light Sleep
Recall from the discussion about the stages of sleep that the first stage is light sleep. In this stage, the brain gradually begins to shift from a preponderance of beta and alpha waves, to a preponderance of theta waves. It is now that you begin to see images or colors, hear sounds and voices, experience vibrations in various parts of our body.
It has been noted that theta waves also become predominant during meditation. You can use this to your advantage as you learn to sleep consciously.
Difference Between Meditation and Light Sleep
A major difference between meditation and the state of light sleep is self-awareness. As you drift off to sleep, your self-awareness dissipates, slowly disappearing until we no longer possess it. In meditation, however, while you withdraw from the external world, you retain self-awareness. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras has termed this withdrawal, in which the mind withdraws from contact with the senses, yet imitates their input.
Therefore, to remain conscious as you go to sleep, meditation is the perfect avenue.
Two Types of Sleep Meditation
The first type of meditation I have found useful is to concentrate on a center at the level of the throat, centered approximately two inches below the occiput of the skull. Either visualize it as a white, incandescent sphere the size of the eraser on the top of a #2 pencil, a pearl-gray incandescent sphere about four inches in diameter, or a flame approximately an inch tall. The sphere itself glows, throwing off light that radiates away into a larger sphere. If you wish, mentally repeat the sound ah. Simply hold that focus.
In Eastern and Western mysticism there is a concept of centers in the body. One of these exists at the level of the throat, just below the occiput of the skull. There are many conceptualizations around this center. Mystical physiology (for want of a better term) is a fascinating study. You don't need to know this in order use the technique, but one of the set of associations with this center is that it symbolizes the juncture between the conscious and unconscious minds. Since you are learning to sleep consciously, an act that involves taking consciousness into states that are normally unconscious, using this center as the object of meditation is completely appropriate.
At first, it will be difficult to maintain your meditation and your visualization, but over time the visualization stabilizes and you find yourself watching the center rather than actively creating the form.
A second type of meditation is to just close your eyes and watch. This is more difficult than the first meditation as it is a form of bare attention aimed your internal field of vision.
Whichever form of meditation you chose, the state of focus that I find most helpful is a type of detached, yet passionate, observation. By detached I mean that you do not allow yourself to be emotionally influenced by what you see. As with any meditation, attachment will lead to the I'm doing great, wasn't I syndrome in which your attachment to a passing thought pulls you away from your focus. Any thoughts that come, acknowledge them and let them go.
By passionate I mean that you must put yourself into your meditation. You are actively observing. It is a form of relaxed tension, an outpouring of yourself into that to which you are giving your attention. The state of observation you are establishing is relaxed, and in a sense passive, but actively passive. Without that focus, you will find your awareness fraying away until you wake up and realize you were asleep.
The technique outlined above is simple. That doesn't mean it is easy, any more than learning to make a perfect putt in golf is easy. It takes practice, and more practice. Mental control is everything in learning to sleep consciously, and as I said in the first article in this series, your physical state has a great deal to do with your results.
When you achieve success in this technique, you will know it because you may find yourself in what could be your first lucid dream. Gradually imagery will build up in your field of vision, imagery with all the reality of the physical world, yet you will know you are dreaming. Go ahead and adventure! You've added another dimension to your experience. If you go no further than this with sleeping consciously, you've gone a long way toward gaining control of your life and your mind.
You cannot use this technique to reach this state without learning to focus, visualize, and be detached from your thoughts and emotions. While you were learning to sleep consciously, you experienced personal growth and development that will assist you in all areas of your life.
However, learning to fall asleep consciously doesn't carry you through the night. In the next, and last part of this series I'll take it from here.
Enjoy your practice!
[tags]brain waves, sleep, conscious sleep, meditation, lucid dreaming[/tags]