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Posts Tagged ‘Dreaming’

Sleep

To die, to sleep—
To sleep—perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub!
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come – Hamlet

Sleep is a very important part of life.  It consumes roughly a third of it, and without adequate sleep, the rest of our life goes downhill rather quickly. A good night of sleep can change your whole disposition.  I must have slept well last night, for I walked through the snow this morning and thought what a beautiful day and a beautiful world this is.

There are many reasons why we sleep.  We sleep, in part, to rest and restore our body; the immune system gets a boost during sleep, and the hypothalamus releases human growth hormone in younger people.  We also sleep to rest our mind.  There are periods of deep sleep where there is almost no thought.  Similar, though not quite, like deep meditation.  I believe this period of deep sleep is essential for restoring your energy body as thought drains a lot of your energy away.  And then there are periods of dreaming.  Some dreams reflect business leftover from the course of the day.  Some dreams serve as fantasy, wish-fulfillment, a way to relieve the frustration we may feel in our waking life.  Some dreams are conscious, aware, but aware in a different dimension, an astral dimension.  Australian Aboriginals call this the Dreamtime, sort of an Outback telephone, a way they can astral travel thousands of miles at the speed of thought and communicate with their relatives.  Sleep is very important for a happy and healthy life.

And yet, for something that is so important to our lives, we look at sleep as something we have no control over.  It just happens… or doesn’t happen, or it is fitful or deep or short or too long.  In fact, we can influence our sleep to a great degree with our waking life.  We can do things to ensure the best sleep, and thereby gain its benefits.

Our sleep is affected by what we eat, and when.  Ever have one of those late night spicy pizza dreams?  Sleep is affected by alcohol, caffeine, nicotine or various other drugs.  Our sleep is affected by the amount and types of thoughts we think throughout the day.  If our mind is racing during the day, it will be racing while we dream too.  If we think fearful thoughts during the day, we’re likely to dream about fearful things at night.

So, a little common sense can help us ensure a good night’s sleep.  Don’t eat much late at night.  Moderate your drinking early in the evening.  Avoid caffeine or nicotine entirely, in the evening, if at all possible.  Get in bed before you find yourself nodding off in front of the TV (from one who knows).

Your position during sleep may have a profound effect on your sleep as well.  In the book Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light they indicate that in order to enter into higher dimensional planes when sleeping, men should sleep on their right side, and women should sleep on their left.  This was interesting to me, as I almost always slept on my left side, and frequently had challenging dreams.  Now, due to the configuration of my bunk, it is nearly impossible to sleep on my left side, so I’ve been sleeping on my right, and my sleep has been much more restful.  Additionally, I now notice that when turning over to my left side, my whole digestive system seems to be in much greater stress, so I roll onto my back or right side instead.  I’m not sure of any physiological reason behind this, but it is very apparent to me.

One of the most effective things you can do to improve your sleep, is meditation (is there anything that meditation can’t improve?).  The practice of meditation helps you learn to reduce the number of thoughts you have throughout the day.  It also teaches you to focus on positive things, so when you dream, your dreams will generally be less frantic and more positive.  Meditation greatly increases the energy in your energy body, making sleep less necessary.  People who practice meditation on a regular basis may thrive on six hours of sleep or less per night.  Advanced practitioners may not sleep at all.  They sit absorbed in samadhi instead.  Rather than sleeping, you could say they are waking up!

Pleasant dreams!

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I often wonder how well I’ll do the next time I enter the bardo, and go through the Tibetan Rebirth process.  I figure, if I’m alive and living in this world now, I’ve failed thus far to recognize the Clear Light of Reality in various forms, and probably got hung up in the Desire and Aversion bardo.  So, in my waking life, I’ve been working on this and I feel I’ve done pretty well.  I desire things, but it doesn’t ruin my day if I don’t get what I desire.  I don’t get angry and I’m rarely frightened by anything.  But my dreams are another story.  In my dreams I’m constantly chasing after my desires, or more often being chased, myself, by wrathful deities, demons, or just ornery people giving me a hard time.  Now, dreams are simply mental projections, just like the hallucinations you will experience in the bardo.  I feel to be successful in the bardo, I’m going to have to learn to be ‘neither attracted nor repulsed’ in my dreams as well, and this is something I can practice.

The first step is that you need to remember your dreams more; to become more aware of your dreams, and in your dreams.  You can do this by simply intending to.  Tell yourself, before going to bed, that you want to remember your dreams, and keep a pad and pen on your night stand.  If you wake up in the middle of the night and remember even just a few bits of a dream write them down.  Soon, you will begin to remember your dreams in vivid detail.  Once you remember your dreams, you’ll start to see patterns in your dream behaviors.  I noticed that whenever I felt intimidated by a dream character, my reaction was fear, and I would try to run away, which was often accompanied by that dream feeling of running in slow motion.

Fear is a very difficult reaction to unlearn.  The only effective means I’ve found to combat fear on this level is anger.  Now, I would normally never recommend anger for anything, but in this particular circumstance, it is very effective.  When I wake up from a dream where I’ve been frightened or intimidated, I get angry, not so much at myself, but at my reactions, and so I intend very strongly that the next time I encounter this in a dream, I’m going to push back hard, and maybe kick some serious butt.  If you intend hard enough, this is exactly what you will do.  That guy comes around in your dream, trying to shoot you in the head, you just start punching him in the face as hard as you can.  You’ll wake up a little upset from the anger, and because you would hope you would never do such a thing in real life, but you will also feel much much stronger.  You might have to practice this butt kicking in your dreams for a few years to really get the hang of it.

evil-dead

Once you’ve mastered that, now, you have to unlearn the anger.  In the dream, someone is giving you a hard time again, and you feel the anger start to rise, then you restrain it.  You think to yourself that you could easily just wail on this guy, but you won’t.  But you won’t fear him either.  You’ll be firm and unmoved.  Then, you make a decision to change the setting of the dream.  You’ll be surprised that you can just make that whole scenario disappear, just by changing your mind.  Just say to yourself, ‘nope, I’m not going to do this’, and switch scenes to walking on a beach during a sunset (or wherever your happy place is).  You’d be amazed at how much control you can actually exert over your dreams.

The key to learning any of these techniques is to think about them when you are awake.  Vow to yourself that you will act in a certain way, this will form your intent.  Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the results you want right away, or if occasionally, you relapse.  Just keep practicing, and you’ll be ready for the bardo!

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