What is sleep?
Is it a means in which we fulfill our need for rest? From a biological standpoint it makes little evolutionary sense, because if a choice appears in which we could choose to have short (and high quality) rest intervals instead of sleep, we would gladly make the trade for more productivity.
If we could do that, we would, but our biology dictates otherwise. Science gives a litany of reasons as to why we need copious amounts of sleep, most of which revolve around the maintenance of physical and mental health. Surely there must be an objective quality to sleep that makes waking up the refreshing experience that it is after one has slept well. What could this objective quality possibly be?
From our own experience, what constitutes sleep and naps appears to be nothing more than the body to coming to rest, and our consciousness that focuses exclusively on objects (thoughts, feelings, sensations, other things) fades out into nothingness. In a sense, it is the un-focusing of the mind and the body as it comes to rest, eventually resulting in the disappearance of the objects of perception (thoughts, feelings, sensations, other things).
Put simply, if we had to describe our experience of sleep, we would all say ‘nothing’.
We describe the experience of sleep as ‘nothing’ because of the absence of objects of perception that we are so used to. We describe the experience of sleep as ‘nothing’ because no time passes between our falling asleep and waking up. We describe the experience of sleep as ‘nothing’ because no language has a better word for it.
Is it not strange that the best kind of sleep is the where we ‘slept like a baby’? The kind where we sleep for long hours without any interruptions, and wake up relaxed and refreshed, like a baby.
Inversely, the worst kind of sleep is one where we experience fitful nightmares, where even in sleep we are denied respite from the trials and tribulations of life.
What is it about this ‘nothing’-ness that we experience during sleep make it so peaceful? What is it about it that refreshes us, invigorates us, that gives birth to so many creative ideas and solutions? What is it that about this ‘nothing’-ness that makes up one third of our lives?
From the viewpoint of consciousness, could it be said that sleep is our experience of the absence of everything (objects of perception)? A ‘holiday’ from a life filed to the brim with objects of perception that we take every night, a trip back to this ‘nothing’-ness that leaves us peaceful, refreshed, and more productive than ever.
A recurring trend in my recent posts is an attempt to describe God, or pure consciousness using language, which only works to a certain extent. One thing that keeps popping up through my own experience is that ‘I’, this unconditional consciousness, free of all definitions and limitations, is present throughout all my experiences. With (this abstract, conceptual reference as a placeholder), ‘I’ am eternally present, and infinitely aware, yet ‘I’ have no objective qualities that can be spoken of without making concessions to the mind because the use of words implies definitions.
I wonder, if this ‘I’ that we speak of be the same ‘nothing’-ness that we experience during sleep?
On the matter, we would have to make a concession by using language to describe what is inherently undefinable so that our minds can begin comprehend and appreciate the beauty of what is being spoken of. For logically speaking, we need objective qualities to make any kind of comparison, and yet in both cases there are none to be drawn. That the ‘I’ that is pure consciousness has no definition/limitation, and the ‘nothing’-ness that is the our experience of sleep, have no qualities that can be discerned.
However, (as a concession to our minds by using abstract concepts as a representation of what is being spoken of) because of the lack of anything that can be said about the ‘I’ and the ‘nothing’-ness of sleep, it must mean that they are one and the same. The implications of this are simple, yet beautiful.
It means that life is a dream in God’s mind. ‘Nothing’-ness is our being, and the world of form is our vacation, a joy-ride that we take in order to experience the joy of playing with, and creating form. It implies a reversal of the wisdom of the world, that in sleep and death we ”return” to the un-manifested from which we came. In life we play in the dream of form, whether we are pleasured or weary it all fades away, and in sleep and death we “return” to God. Nothing can be lost, and every-thing is a play in the dream of life.
In a strange way, sleep is perhaps the greatest teacher (metaphorically speaking) in life. It (relentlessly) teaches people to make peace with death, to accept the absence/disappearance of everything that comes with it/death. It is what the Tibetans mean when they say: “learn to die before you actually do”, to live as gracefully (or playfully) as possible, and with great humbleness and acceptance allow it all to come to pass anyway.
For who knows if you, or anybody else for the matter, will wake up tomorrow?
To put this all into words is to make a concession to what IS. Just know that sleep is a “return” to God, for what else could life be but a dream in God’s mind (metaphorically speaking). Even if we are to disregard the abstract concepts, sleep is indeed a graceful teacher, for it reminds us that life is ultimately ephemeral, yet nourishes us and (indirectly) encourages us to make the most of it.
What better way to describe a dream, indeed?