Conscious Sleep ~ Lucid Dreaming
Are you consciously aware of the time you are going into sleep, the time you awaken, and the time you are sleeping? If not, you may find this blog to be the start of a whole new adventure of the night.
Through the years I have been fascinated not only with dreams as described by Carl Jung (see my July blog, Unraveling the mysteries of the Dream World) but also by various inner states while sleeping and dreaming consciously.
So that you have an idea of how to start this adventure, I will address three practices of conscious sleep; Yogic sleep or Yoga Nidra, Lucid Dreaming, and the practice of Natural Light.
There is so much material on each of these subjects that I will give you an introduction to one of these on the 12th of each of the months of September, October and November. I will also add references so you can research any additional information.
In a workshop that my teacher Swami Veda gave, he suggested that we stay aware while going into sleep. So, when I do stay aware I find that whatever I am thinking about as I drift into sleep changes into symbolic images. Here are three examples of this shift.
I am laying in bed saying the Rosary and the image of an luminous blue Rosary appears. I am pleasantly surprised to then see the appearance of the Divine Mother.
While I am drifting into sleep I am thinking that I would like to learn more about my unconscious, and I see the image of myself going down the stairs into the basement.
I go back to bed after jotting down two dreams that I had remembered. As I am falling back to sleep I remember another dream that I had during the night but I didn’t get up to write it down. I try to remember where in the sequence of dreams it belongs while I am drifting off to sleep. I can see my thoughts about these three dreams change into the image of three puzzle pieces falling into place.
Primarily what Swami Veda had in mind when he asked us to stay aware while going into sleep had to do with learning the practice of yoga nidra. Ideally with this practice one is able to stay in the state of awareness throughout the night.
Yoga nidra is how many of the masters of the Himalayans learn to be awake yet asleep. They are able to stay in that incredibly peaceful state of consciousness between waking and sleeping. It is a blissful state that we are normally able to enter a few times a night, but since we are not consciously aware of being in this state we don’t get the full benefit of the experience.
The practice of yoga nidra begins with laying on ones back with a small pillow supporting the neck, and systematically relaxing the body. The practitioner remains in a state of light pratyahara, or the withdrawal of the senses, becoming increasingly aware of the inner world, yet they are also aware of their environment. It is among the deepest possible state of relaxation while still remaining fully conscious.
Swami Rama of the Himalayas said, …Yoga nidra has immense benefits and can be used for learning the subtleties of life. Only by yoga nidra can one study how the mind slips to dreaming and then goes to deep sleep, how the conscious mind withdraws itself and goes to the lap of the unconscious. The yogis recall all their samskaras [mental impressions left by thoughts], watch them, examine, and even select and reject them according to their need. Those thought patterns that are disturbing are rejected, and those that are helpful are strengthened. With the help and practice of yoga nidra, one can go beyond all the levels of the unconscious.
At the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas Swami Rama demonstrated yoga nidra to a group of scientists. (See Beyond Biofeedback by Elmer and Alyce Green) When they clinically tested him, all indications showed that he was in a deep state of sleep. They were surprised to find that when he returned to the waking state he was able to tell the scientist everything that happened in the building while he was in yoga nidra.
Swami Rama said, …Yoga nidra is one of the finest and most beautiful exercises; it will help you to solve problems and give you solutions to questions where the answers are consciously unknown to you. In yoga nidra the clarity of mind is more profound than in the waking state. Yoga nidra is a revitalizing exercise that gives total rest to the mind, brain, nervous system, senses, and body. The aspirant learns to analyze or resolve all his desires, thoughts, and feelings through the practice of yoga nidra.
In doing this practice I have found that the most difficult part for me and others is to totally relax without falling asleep. It is interesting how when we are confronted with unconscious material we tend to repress it.
Part of the process of yoga nidra is to systematically image a blue star on 61 energy points of the body. Often times when I have led a group in doing this practice, participants are either distracted or fall asleep at a point on their body that is weak or painful. For me my most vulnerable point is my throat.
For the actual practice of entering into yoga nidra I recommend Dr. Stephen Parker’s CD on Yoga Nidra which can be ordered from CD Baby Music Store. I also recommend the book Yoga Nidra by Swami Satyananda Saraswati. You can watch Swami Rama and Swami Veda talk about yoga nidra on U-tube or download articles from their website.
I hope this information has sparked your interest in learning more about the practice of yoga nidra and experiencing the benefits of this practice. I would be interested in hearing about your experience in doing this practice.
Love and Peace,
Picture taken by Maryon Maass
Mary Mohs LVN, MA, RYT,