Or (va) we can support (alambanam) a peaceful state of mind through the knowledge (jnana) that we gain from dreams (svapna) and deep sleep (nidra).
PRACTICAL LIVING Another tool Patanjali offers to practice reflection and experience more inner peace is to meditate on our dreams. According to Patanjali, all of our mental activities are in action while dreaming (see Sutra I.6). Dreams often provide us with experiences that can give us a lot of insight about ourselves. Many of us have had revealing or ‘enlightening’ dreams. Some of us have had dreams that we thought made no sense. If we commit (see Sutra I.1) to meditating on our dreams, a part of us that is ‘hidden’ while we are awake, reveals itself. If a dream impacts you, but you don’t seem to get its message, talk to people. Often we are not able to see something that is too close to us. Many years ago I had a very vivid dream: I was 5 years old and getting married to no one in a big Indian-like wedding. I woke up with a mixture of strong feelings, but could not make sense of the dream. That morning I went out for a walk with my mother and told her about my dream. She stopped walking, looked at me and said “it’s very clear what this is about” and proceeded to give me a perspective that involved instances of my childhood that I did not consciously remember. My mother helped me unravel a very important part of myself that appeared in a dream but alone I could not decipher.
The second part of this sutra mentions the importance of deep sleep (nidra). Mothers, insomniacs and night-shift workers have experienced several sleep-deprived nights and can express the importance of getting enough deep sleep. When we get enough sleep the body and mind awaken refreshed, with a wonderful sense of calmness yet also energized. That experience acts as a support (alambanam) for experiencing more awareness and inner joy.
IN THE YOGA WORLD Dreams where we have a transformational experience can be life-changing in awake life. Some people dream about receiving messages from those who have passed away. Others dream that they were visited by divine beings. The actual image in the dream is more of a reflection of what we believe in (ex: a devout Catholic is more likely to have Jesus appear in a dream than a non-Catholic). Regardless of the image, the experience in the dream can transform us, just as if it had happened while awake. Since the mind is still active in a dream, the memory of that experience is often as “real” as any other. Patanjali suggests we place attention on those dreams and reflect and meditate on them since they can bring us a lot of serenity. It’s in that subconscious state that many of our samskaras (imprints) that are deeply stored somewhere in our subconscious come out.
INSPIRATIONAL PERSON Sangeetha is, in my definition, a true teacher. A woman who has studied and continues to study Yoga and reflect on her own life, I get the feeling she is practicing what she studies and teaches. It is very easy to grasp something intellectually and then repeat it to others. Sangeetha is one of those rare cases who understands it mentally, but also has a huge capacity to reflect and continuously implement that into her own life. While studying about trust (see Sutra I.20) before a test she would give us the following day in class, I began to experience a lot of fear. The fear consumed me so much that I could not sleep and was transpiring profusely. Eventually, I fell asleep and had a dream that lead me to the most profound experience I have ever had: in my dream I overcame layers and layers of fears and and at the peak of my deepest fears, I let go and was flooded with a sense of calmness that I had never felt before. Sangeetha, thank you for being the catalyst to that dream, it changed me in inexplicable ways. Thank you for the loving way you look at people. Thank you for your practical and wise teachings. Thank you for making me want to go back to India every year!
Do you have any experiences you would like to share? Please interact as much as you like – everyone will learn from your personal experiences!
Thanks and next week we will look at how universal and applicable to anyone and everyone Patanjali’s teachings are!