Today, many people have turned their concept of ‘sleep’ into some sort of terrible terrain that they are afraid to traverse each night. If we choose to think of sleep that way then it only makes sense that it will feel that way when we get there. We’ve pre-demonized it.
Half the joy of dinner at a great cook’s house is built by our anticipation of how good the meal will be. Half of the joy of a horror film is that something might jump out of a closet. Anticipation and fear are both projections of the future that are known to consistently exceed reality’s ability to deliver. Thoughts do a lot.
Without our thoughts about it, Disneyland is just another paved lot filled with fake storefronts, common rides and cute characters. Take our thoughts about sleep away and a bed is not dangerous territory, it’s just a rectangular piece of soft furniture for laying down on. There is no reason to fear it. It’s our thinking about the act of falling asleep that we’re afraid of. But now the bed and bedtimes trigger those courses of thought.
It is time to reinvent bedrooms into meditation salons. We don’t go there to sleep, we go there to commune with spirit –to break the bonds of our earthly selves. Dreaming is a very spiritual thing.
Part of the problem is that so many people today use sleep aids. Those impact memory, so people don’t remember their dreams. Even if they are having fun at night too many of us can’t recall what happened.
Even more than just regular old exciting dreams, lucid dreaming can be an extremely enjoyable and rewarding experience. But again, to do it most of us will likely need to have a drug-free mind. If we can work our way through that however, we do get a reward…
Rather than turning the idea of sleep into something scary, let’s make it into something exciting and desirable. Let’s make it into a meditative opportunity. Instead of seeing our beds as hostile territory, we can see it more like a shaman’s platform, or some kind of test area in a science lab.
Bed is the surface that we lay on when we want to explore inner space –where we transport into our lucid dreams –as Astralnauts.
It might seem over-the-top and unattainable, but all it really requires is for us to take the task seriously. I learned it in about 2-3 months as a kid. But I tried every single night. No practice, no skill.
The easiest way is just to repetitively tell ourselves we will wake up in our sleep every night, and then stop to remember our dreams in the morning. Repeat then wait.
I did it by accident, by trying to ‘be awake’ for the moment that I fell asleep. However we do it, it’s important that we understand what we’re doing. We’re simply layering our waking consciousness over top of our sleeping mind much like our ego controls our biological mind while we’re technically ‘awake.’
When I succeeded and woke up in a dream, I’m not sure that was because I caught the moment of falling asleep or not. But after a few weeks of trying I suddenly found myself in a weird state of mind. I was in a dream, but part of me was awake. It was like achieving superhero status. In the dream I could do anything.
Many people have learned to do this. It’s better than labelling ourselves as insomniacs and just surrendering into that victim state. There’s no reason to do that when we can just as easily turn the Torture Chamber of Insomnia into the Horizontal Temple of Dreams. But again, it takes practice before the payoff.
We can all start by just remembering the unguided dreams we do have. If we don’t remember them now, no problem. If we start taking a few minutes each morning to try to, I have yet to meet the person who couldn’t over time.
Even within the first week of trying most people notice they are grabbing more snippets, and eventually the snippets get longer and within a few months people can often remember them quite easily, and in fair detail.
Over time we just get better at it like any other thing our brains do. And, if we remember them we can also think about how fascinating many of them are. They are also good clues as to how our mind is processing the world at any given time.
If we can come to see dreams as a kind of temporary freedom, then bed time isn’t scary. Instead, it becomes more like an opportunity, or a trip to the holodeck, or some fantastic theatre where we even feel what’s on the ‘screen.’ They can be great learning experiences.
Bottom line, sleep will never come easy if we see our beds as hostile territory. But that conception is made entirely of our own thoughts, so to change those we must first accept responsibility for them. From there we can use our minds to turn our time in bed into the very activity of falling sleep, all so we may have the lucid experiences that can not only make bed time quite fun, but they also make for a wonderful and useful form of meditation.
Enjoy your practice.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.