Secret of Meditation, Mysteries of Sleep
Meditation and Sleep: Relaxation, Rest, Insight or Discovery?
Where do you go?
Into what unexplored universe do you wander when your eyes close, your breath slows and the room is quiet and comfortable?
Strings of chatter across the web of your thoughts slow down and can become still.
Some, when they first start meditating, fall asleep.
But usually, excitement along the broadening trail keeps you aware, eager for what might appear around any next bend.
Relief surrounds you in a cozy cocoon. Deep breathing relaxes and lowers resistance.
Sleep shows us the direction in which meditation moves us and gives us a map of the neighborhood into which we're likely to arrive.
Bob Dylan, in Workingman Blues (Modern Times), writes that sleep is "like a temporary death," circling around a profound truth most of us don't think much about.
The difference is, when we sleep, we break free of most physical restrictions; in death, we let go of all of them go.
Sleep relieves us of some waking reality, but it can't take us all the way. Maybe we get close enough to look across the valley.
If you want the big, wide picture, only meditation can take you there.
Note: An earlier version of this article appears in my book Amazing: Truths About Conscious Awareness.
Dreamscape / Landscape
Gwenyth Paltrow and Me
Sleep Giveth and Waking Taketh Away
Dreaming, we have immunity to create more freely than we ever do in real life.
There was my playing with Gwyneth Paltrow, for instance, from which I came out of sleep one morning.
It wasn't sexual, which is kind of a surprise, just loose and free, kicked back and silly like children.
We shared an affectionate playfulness and the easy intimacy of childhood as we goofed around in an unfamiliar apartment and the building's hallways.
It's a mystery to me why Paltrow came into my dreams, since I don't know her at all and haven't seen a film of hers in at least ten years.
I don't know if the real Gwyneth is anything at all like the friend in my dream. But dreams have that immunity. They can do anything, and you may never know what your dream making self is up to.
Next morning, I didn't have to feel funny that Gwyneth was far younger than me or that we have nothing in common of which I am aware. No explanations or apologies expected.
I climbed out of bed in my familiar and happy home, without baggage, other than whatever wisdom I might have gained from the mysterious inner workings of my sleeping imagination.
Separating Meditation and Sleep and Where You Go
While dreams we remember may be of little consequence, in the deeper regions of sleep where little activity can be observed on scans, we may be nowhere at all, afloat in an unconscious vacuum at rest.
But it's just as possible that we are somewhere we don't remember because we don't recognize the place, the hills, valleys and little streams.
The experience might be similar to death, as in Dylan's song. It's not for everybody, but I'd love to be shown that we reconnect with a spirit world every day in that disappearance.
Nobody knows where we go for sure, at least not anyone who makes a convincing case, and science with its utter confidence that what can' be seen doesn't exist has taken itself out of creative speculation.
In meditation, we might be said to be working out at the same gym we use for sleep, but maybe off in another room.
Instead of a music filled session on the treadmill, we may go for special exercises in flexibility, guided by an invisible teacher. Each person's experience is exceptional to them as the presence of a guide or teacher.
Like we did in school, we may listen to our guide, or we may not, preferring the pleasure of walking alone.
It's getting to be a bit of a cliche, but there always is choice. Always.
Just Starting Out With Meditation?
It's easier than you think, and there are guides to help.
The rewards are worth it.
Getting Past Dreams In Meditation
The most important controls from which we are released in meditation are those we keep with us while dreaming.
We commonly think of dreams as freewheeling expressions of feelings and imagination. The truth is that dreams are controlled by feelings invested with imagination.
We may cut loose, but we are always inside the playground of our recognizable world, surreal though some of it may be.
The persistence of reality helps us remember and explain our dreams. It's all recognizable, if not totally comprehensible.
In deep meditation, all the drapes come down, and even when guided by your own intentions, our experience is driven as much or more by external influences as by those within us.
I've had exposures in which the appearance of reality never leaves my mind's eye, even as underlying, unrecognizable powers roil beneath.
Energies are always interacting below awareness, and this gives me a view of layers otherwise unseen. Such experiences feel less satisfying, although as far as I can tell, they are at least as beneficial as any other in smoothing my touch on the day.
On the other hand, I have had meditations where I go missing without sleeping.
My mind evaporates into a place that I can only guess is invisible in physically human terms.
Although I feel at ease - profoundly at ease - the hills and cities in this dimension are not ones I can know.
Getting a Visitor During Meditation
If I knew He was coming, I'd have dressed better.
As I came out of a recent meditation, I was aware of being momentarily in the presence of an entity I'll call God because I don't have a better term.
This guide lifted me back into a waking state with a clearly said, "I am here," right there on the edge of meditation where perceptions flip over.
Was this presence reminding me that I wasn't alone or pointing out where it could be found again?
Both, I think. Either way, it felt nice.
Meditations for Healing and More
Going long and deep.
The best meditations, in my experience, are not voluntary excursions with an intention or focus.
Yes, when I first started and concentrated on the idea of connection, I gained insight and healing from walking myself around the territory.
Most days, I had goals I reached for.
I saw the intense heat that turned the deepest sources fiery red.
Down the tunnel I took myself until I reconnected with emotional powers from which I'd cut myself off. I also was able to recognize areas of tension pooled in my body and to release them.
A chronic knee problem often had me wearing elastic sleeves or dealing with stiffness and pain when out on the long walks.
This condition improved so much after meditation that all that remained was the original injury with no extended symptoms. I no longer needed knee braces, even for distance running.
I sorted out some intricate emotional tangles that I could see I'd constructed as a kid to protect myself. Taking them down, once I knew what they were, was easy in the world separated from reality in which meditation lets you take a good long look.
Going Places with Meditation and No Map
But as rewarding as they were, for me, those early benefits were like grade school, learning the alphabet and how to add and subtract.
Once beyond the basics, a relaxed mind can take you off wherever it wishes to travel.
We get to see sights we never knew were of interest as our internal guides pull back our masks. Influencers, guides and teachers, many invisible, are waiting to spend time adventuring with us.
Our bodies may be still in meditation, but our minds can be more active than at any other time. Again, choice.
I've written about my experiences in "seeing" unfamiliar locations and people in mediation, none of which have I access to otherwise. It's like seeing the world through another person’s eyes.
Those excursions are startling, but sort of inconsequential, like the sidebar in a travel book about the evolutionary future.
There are the major sites, it might tell me, but take a quick peak over here if you want to get a hint about some exciting alternatives.
Learning To Fly, The Cosmos from Home
Each mediation, for me, is like diving into a travel guidebook for the first time. It's done best without a plan. Pick a spot and start reading.
I've been given a chance to fly over high plains, swooping and turning, not like a bird since birds fly because they have to. I fly for fun.
Birds probably dream about the luxury of walking along a promenade without fear of being stalked by predators, kicked, stepped on or chased by children.
I've raced through the cosmos, not flying, but rocketing great distances to see remote places I can never see while awake.
"Here," my guide implies, "is a star cluster at the center of a galaxy, and if you look closely, you will see infant infernos emerge as white hot orbs from their incubator."
Very often, I am lead to an understanding of what are otherwise secrets underlying reality, truths helpful to know in trying for an exceptional life.
Remember: experience is not just something, it's everything.
Being Told What I Didn't Ask
Enhance experience, and everything expands beyond everything as what you once thought was everything turns trivial.
Some of the "secrets" have been shared here, and whether thought in experiments or real life practice, I've been able to lab test every one of them.
Some are so plain and obvious that when I get them, I nearly laugh at how close the truth has always been while I've been blind to it.
Unsought insights, no matter how odd, have always thrilled me. I welcome the the surprises.
They are fewer these days, probably, I think, because the ones I was given at first were basic tools for expanding and elevating on my personal platform.
More often, these days, after years of daily meditation, the bulk of my experience is invisible. I don't know where Ive been or what I've done.
Time passes and I come back.
My hope is that this is preparation for another step up, as my intuition suggests, but because I have only the slightest idea of what a new space might look or feel like, I can’t even guess about it.
Being There in Meditation and Dreams
I'll say this, however: in meditation, I have a spiritual, nonphysical guide or collection of guides, and this presence has eased my improving life experiences by removing doubts from the equation.
There was a time when I rambled along the estuary, repeating my walking meditations about abundance and appreciation, and I was hopeful.
Hopeful was replaced by confident as my teachers reminded me not to welcome fear.
If sleep is like Dylan's temporary death, fear is like the poisoning of a soul, the real kind of death that fuels nightmares.
Have no fear, I was shown, because when we know so much exists outside ourselves, travels among stars, distance viewing, soaring, we understand that nothing happening physically jeopardizes our souls.
The rest of it will one day be gone, no matter what we do.
We've all been to our afterlives... Okay, only the outskirts, but still...
The doors will swing open again when our physical adventures have reached their conclusion. Every day, I'm taken to some place near or connected with that calmly intense interior.
Of course, I am not allowed all the way in, but I can stand close to the veil.
All the way in would be the end of life. I can visit my real hometown, even if it's unrecognizable. If this doesn’t free my spirit for adventure and imagination, nothing ever will.
No problem, as the cliche goes. It frees me. It can do the same for you.
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Meditation and sleep are companions on the road, but only one goes all the way to the end.
© 2014 David Stone