By Janet (Janaki) Murray
When I awake in the morning, I remember my sleep. I remember the quality of it, the feeling, the darkness, the peace, the blankness, the comfort. In this way sleep is good preparation for my meditation. My mind is already “attuned within.” Yet I had not seen it in quite that way before I read Swami Nirmalananda’s August Teachings: Who Sees Your Dreams? Her August Teachings article describes how contemplating sleep and dreams can take you into “experience of Atman or svaroopa, also translated as ‘Self.’” She offers this as Quick Fix #8:
Patanjali says you can contemplate your experience of dreaming and deep sleep in order to calm and quiet your mind:
svapna-nidraa-j~naana-alambana.m vaa. — Yoga Sutras 1.38
Or contemplate your experience of dreaming or dreamless sleep
[when your mind is distracted or disturbed]
No wonder I prefer morning meditation. While writing this I feel an immense gratitude to my own Self for being “always aware” while I am not — and for reporting back to me once I am awake!
Sleep for me personally is a deeply peaceful experience — most of the time. I find the contemplation of sleep is like sleep, a peace-filled quietness and nothingness. The difference is, of course, that I am awake, so it comes without any of the heaviness and density that sleep can have. For me it is a great way inside. It’s heartening to discover that I’ve been naturally doing this yoga practice for the mind.
Naturally, I also pay little attention to the content or “story” of my dreams. Swamiji explains:
Yet it’s not the content of your dreams or sleep that is so important. It’s your ability to remember, for the memory is information given by your Self to your mind. This attunes your mind within, so it is not distracted any more.
Though occasionally dreams are quite entertaining, I try instead to remember my “feeling.” My unconscious mind is clearly struggling to sort something out. If my dream has a feeling of sadness, anger or fear, I take it as an indicator to look at what is going on in my conscious, waking mind. There could be an issue I need to take care of or process. Something is disturbing my peace and distracting me from my own Self. I am not sure that this is quite in the spirit of contemplating dreams. Instead, my practice here leans more toward psychological analysis than yogic awareness. It does, however, help me to deal with the disturbance of my mind and re-attune to my own Self.
Yet, like a dream’s story, a dream’s emotions are content. I recognize that I’ve been analyzing them. I had not truly contemplated my dreams until I read Swamiji’s August Teachings: Who Sees Your Dreams? I’ve now been practicing Quick Fix #8 for a few days. I must confess I was skeptical of Patanajli. I thought (before I tried this practice) that contemplating dreams would surely activate my mind. After all, there can be a lot going on in a dream.
However, I am finding the effect of contemplating my dreams very similar to contemplating sleep. I find the same peace-filled quietness of mind drawing me inward. Yet there is not the same blankness and nothingness as contemplating sleep. Instead, there is color, light, images and movement. In fact, I perceive the same types of things that occur during meditation. I am more aware of the crossover between sleep and dreaming and meditation. The Self is more strongly present in all three than in “normal” waking life. It would surely be beneficial to pay more attention to sleep. After all, I do spend a third of my life asleep. This practice has piqued my curiosity. I am recognizing there is clearly much more to this than I first thought. I resonate with what Swamiji says about the practice:
One of the wonderful things about this quick fix is that it’s not quick. While you can begin it immediately, it’s something that grows on you. You get better at it as you continue, just like with anything. Yet there’s a mystical force at work in the process.
I look forward to discovering more through practice this month. I remember on one of the Year-Long Programme phone calls with Swamiji, reporting to her that I felt like I have been asleep. She replied, “Yes!” She explained that I had been asleep and was waking up — awakening to my own Self. I was waking up from the heaviness and density that is the normal way of living. I was awakening to the One Reality. It is like I had been sleep walking through life or “living in a dream.” Swamiji calls it “divine amnesia” in her August Teachings.
Now I have found a whole new way to live, as the not-knowingness of my own Self slowly dissolves from the inside out. Swamiji describes this for us in so many ways. In this article, however, the following sentences especially resonate for me:
The light of Consciousness shines through your mind, illumining you from the inside out. This is a whole new way to live, in the mystical reality of your humanity and Divinity simultaneously.