Welcome to day 14 of our Cookbook for a Sacred Life virtual course!
Today our topic is Sleep.
Dreaming and sleeping are two of the five conditions of mind according to the yogis, and yet they are the least understood by scientists. In fact, scientists don’t yet know why we need sleep, they just know that we do. But the yogis have a lot to say about it - they believe that dreams are a combination of imagination and memory and may help us explore other planes of consciousness. “Dreamless sleep” is where they believe we merge once again into the unity of the One and become refreshed. How we enter into sleep each night is an important part of the spiritual path, and can impact our state of mind. So it is important to turn our sleep into a sacred ritual that can support our awakening…
PROMPT: Our culture is habitually overtired and doesn’t seem to appreciate the need for rest. Yet even sleep can be a place to practice getting free from our identification with the small self. What is your relationship to sleep, and how do you think it can best serve you on the spiritual path?
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Sleep/rest is something I really try to prioritize. I am very fortunate that my job and lifestyle allow me to stick to a sleep ritual which supports my practice.
I am also a very heavy/vivid dreamer and have sort of struggled with navigating that experience. If anyone else has perspective to share on that I would be interested to hear
I also have always been a great sleeper and have vivid dreams regularly. I find that the more wholesome my activities and consumption are during the day, the better the dreams are and even if they go to a scary place I am better able to recognize that it is a dream and everyone in there is a version of me and can’t really hurt me. That allows me to stand up to the scary thing or steer the dream in a different direction. Finding doors and opening them is the most effective way I’ve found in dreams to completely change the setting and mood of the dream. Doing mantra before bed really helps me be more cognisent in the dream space and more doors appear.
There’s a book I have but haven’t read all the way through yet called, The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, that may be helpful too!
I love what Ram Dass says here, that “how we enter into sleep each night is an important part of the spiritual path, and can impact our state of mind.”
I am planning to see if I can incorporate more of a sense of sacredness and intentionality into my daily ritual of going to sleep each night.
I have been overtired and under rested for several months now. Just this week I decided to prioritize my sleep and start practicing a winding down routine & doing mantra before I fall asleep. I understand how important sleep is, but my body seems to fight it. Last night was the first night in months that I got over 6 hours of sleep. I feel a lot better.Kinda poetic how today is the day we discuss sleep. I don’t tend to dream, but Ram Dass did appear in a dream recently…so that’s neat.
Sleep is like my sanctuary. It’s a place where I can allow myself to let go of the story of me. Paying attention to how I fall asleep is interesting. Usually I run through action movies in my head that I make up story lines to. This puts me right out. After going through some of these techniques in the course, I’m starting to chant in my head or meditate to fall asleep now too. Dreams are a big mystery. I can sometimes find weird similarities or synchronicities to my dreams throughout the day I wake up from them.
I think a dream journal would help me on my spiritual path. I’ve been doing dream analysis when I have vivid dreams and it can seem like I am getting a message or something though them. There’s also like a psychedelic state I find myself in right after waking up or being right on the edge of falling asleep. I think this state is useful to pay attention to and maybe use in meditation.
Today I’m using my apparent sleepyness as a way to disidentify from being sleepy. I can notice there’s sleepyness. Ah and that too
I think I’ve heard that in REM sleep is where our bodies/brains recover in sleep, and this state is also where we have dreams. It seems contrary to what the yogis are saying, but I could definitely be mistaken here.
Oh wow thank you! This is such great information
I like the differentiation of big self and small self. Although my practice does not lean into a universal atman, this differentiation helps me establish a healthier understanding and relationship with perceived phenomena.
This includes views of how others or non practitioners view xyz, which are often reductive and misleading. Sometimes for the purpose of promoting the path. Yet, the path has value and is better than not walking the path because it is simpler, peaceful, and more consistently happier. Wiser. I find the comparisons made by most traditions to be useful if understood as provisional insights that can be helpful if understood in the right way, but not useful if understood as absolutes.
Carl Jung & Sigmund Freud wrote a fair amount about dreaming. Symbols. Collective Unconscious. Psychological States. Altho I do not particularly hold to these views I find their richness and vision quite fascinating.
I often have insomnia and have found it helpful to listen to podcasts (sometimes ‘white noise’) before drifting off. Not getting lost in the thoughts of attachment and illusion. Limiting which sense doors I am actively engaging before sleeping. Hearing, but not seeing. Binaural beats are not quite enough to keep my mind from wandering, but they have been an interesting experiment as well. Slow the mind. Calm. Stillness. Breath.
Like the prompt says, I count myself among the overtired and someone who has trouble getting to sleep as well as getting enough sleep. I hadn’t ever considered sleep as part of my spiritual path prior to today but it does make a great deal of sense. When I am well rested, I feel happier, my brain and body are able work together together to deal with whatever the day may bring at work or at home. I can see more clearly. I plan on meditating and chanting before bed tonight and going to bed earlier than I normally do. The idea that sleep allows us to go to different planes of consciousness is a fascinating one. That was a really cool discussion Ram Dass had about he’s dreaming and asleep, then wakes up says a Ram with his mala beads, he’s awake but also asleep. His reframing of the language we use like saying “The body is tired” instead of “I am tired”. This resonates for me. Dale Borglum, Ram Dev, of The Living Dying Project often mentions how in the West we say “I am afraid”, while in other cultures it’s “I have fear” or in Tibetan, “fear is here”. It makes it harder to deal with and work with or work through that fear or emotion when we are so completely identified with it in that manner as to completely embody it by saying “I am afraid”. And I think Ram Dass is pointing out similar ideas here too. Its such a small flip of the switch but its a very powerful practice that I hope to try out more. Similar to the witness discussed in a previous days teachings, its that small space given to us where we can take a breather of sorts, and see things from a different point of view.
my relationship with sleep is a bit codependent, hahaha. I notice that if I don’t get 8-9 hours of sleep, my body doesn’t feel well – I experience headaches, dizziness, achyness, sometimes irritable. If I sleep poorly one night, I tend to feel anxiety about making sure I can fall asleep and get enough rest the next night, which usually results in having a harder time resting deeply.
so how can I work with this… well there are lots of simple things that I know help, that im not consistently doing, that will make this whole drama with sleep a little less consuming – winding down and not doing stimulating activities an hour before bed (aka being on electronics), sleeping and waking at a consistent time. today’s lesson helped me realize that this is not only important for making my body feel better but also for my spiritual practice, because once this drama is lessened I can tap more into the spiritual practices around sleep that were mentioned. this has been a helpful reflection moment I love the idea of changing the way I talk about tiredness (the body is tired) I think that’s very helpful and it’s already helped me with emotions (I say I’m feeling anxiety rather than I am anxious, for example) it helps separate the emotion from myself
hahaha I appreciate how you said you’ll use your sleepiness today to disidentify with being sleepy. I’m right there with you
Sleep is part of my life.
When I don’t have enough of it, I feel the ware of the day right as my day begins.
When I sleep, I usually say a prayer of gratitude for my day and I ask my guides to guide me in my dreams. Funny enough, last night I got a little stoned and I forgot to say my prayers so I had some intense dreams! I woke up and after I said my mantras out loud I remembered my dream. I asked myself ‘why was it so intense’ and I remembered, I forgot to give thanks and ask for guidance.
It might be nothing and it might mean everything. Sleep is sacred to me. It helps me evaluate where I am, internally. Love sleep!
Love you guys!! Thanks for sharing and thanks for reading
I’ve found that when I take care of my body and spend time meditating before sleep, I’ve been ready to wake up more easily. It’s as if the meditation allows me to enter into sleep in a more intentional way, and not as a duty to the next day’s performances, nor to a form of pleasure or escape from the day.
Sleep can also appear as a wonderfully justified place to hide and escape—we’re safe, hurting no one, avoiding temptations, etc., but we can’t move out of the attachment to our identities when we remove ourselves from encountering the ‘other’, which, as we learn in the encounter, is the same as ‘us’. We must be careful not to hide in a sacred place of rest.
I love to sleep! It is wonderful most nights to be able to lay down, relax, and drift off to either a dream-filled or no dream state. I do wake early and stay in bed allowing my body the rest that it needs and being present with dreams.
At times, when I was a participant in a dream class, I became very good at recording my dreams and remembering my dreams most nights. Now, I sometimes remember the altered conscious early morning dreams and around the full moon and sometimes the new moon, have more remembered dreams. When I am in a group, my dreams help me understand the processing that goes on, or identify the ‘spiritual’ dreams. Sometimes my dreams are so puzzling and obviously important on either a spiritual or psychological level that I call a dream friend to share and get feedback/interpretation that helps me understand.
When I have trouble falling asleep (and that was prominent in my earlier life) I repeat phrases from a prayer - Toward the One, United with All. That could be Om Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram or anything else really, and I like toward the one, united with all. It works very well for me even when mind wants to go in a thousand directions.
I will again pay more attention to my dreams, and to my sleeping habits, though I do like watdhing shows at night before sleep. I recognize that is a habit and it is one that I did without for many years and it was fine; but then, I had physical spiritual community and a very busy life - now, I have Zoom connections and my 44 year old daughter on oxygen with severe lung disease and her little dog. Such blessings and joy to be here now in this moment.
Sleep is something that I always make sure I am prioritizing. I tend to get 8 hours of every day; I have found when I do not get enough sleep, I am easily emotionally triggered. My dreams also can be very vivid, as if I am actually reliving the experiences in my dreams. Sometimes I have had past dreams of loved ones who have passed, but it was as if they came to visit and check in on me. For me to be my best and continue down this spiritual path, I definitely need 8 hours daily.
Angela i also experience this same thing if I do not get my 8 hours every day. i find when I do not get enough sleep I will sleep the next day for 10 hours. it is if my body has to gain that missed sleep back to feel better again.
I do not have a problem with rest or making time to relax. In fact I think I am too attached to sleep. I love to sleep. By 9pm I am ready to wind down and go to bed and then I find waking up anytime before 6am incredibly challenging. In Rishikesh when I was completing my RYT 200hrs, I woke up every day at 445am. No worries. No struggles. It was already starting to get light by 525am and what a joy it was to rise with the sun! Here in the midwest it is still freezing and dark even at 7am. Am I totally making excuses? hah maybe. I am mostly admitting I am less motivated to wake up to practice under those conditions. And so the work continues I will say just one thing about dreaming, which is not an every night occurrence: if I get up to go to the bathroom, as long as I don’t “wake up” too much, I can actually control what happens next in my dream. A lucid dreaming state which I think is pretty fun to play with.
Sleep is integral to my overall well-being- without enough I don’t feel well, my consciousness is diminished, and I lose the opportunity to dream and explore those states. I need less sleep now, in my 50’s, but it can be more difficult to access at times. When I’m in a good space and aware, it feels nice to end the day, to let go and drift into whatever come next.