Editor’s Note: Sri Aurobindo explains that true restorative rest one experiences in sleep happens only during a few minutes which is a sort of Sachchidananda experience. And the rest of the time is spent travelling through various states of consciousness. We also feature below a few passages from the Mother on how to prepare oneself before sleep to experience a refreshing sleep.
The Real Rest which Restores
In sleep one very commonly passes from consciousness to deeper consciousness in a long succession until one reaches the psychic and rests there or else from higher to higher consciousness until one reaches rest in some silence and peace. The few minutes one passes in this rest are the real sleep which restores—if one does not get it, there is only a half rest. It is when you come near to either of these domains of rest, that you begin to see these higher kind of dreams.
A long unbroken sleep is necessary because there are just ten minutes of the whole into which one enters into a true rest—a sort of Sachchidananda immobility of the consciousness—and that it is which really restores the system.
The rest of the time is spent first in travelling through various states of consciousness towards that and then coming out of it back towards the waking state. This fact of the ten minutes true rest has been noted by medical men, but of course they know nothing about Sachchidananda!
This feeling of having enough sleep [when one wakes at night] and after sleeping again of not having had enough is not unusual. It might be inferred that the first sleep is really enough and the second is a tamasic sleep which leaves the body unrested.
Some doctors say that there are about ten minutes of rest which are the true sleep and all the rest is only a process of getting into the ten minutes and getting out again—for these ten minutes are difficult to arrive at. Perhaps you get your ten minutes before the first waking.
The difficulty is that the length of sleep seems important and that by the habit of less the nerves continually seem to get strained—at least I have seen that with many. If that can be overcome then so much sleep might not be requisite.
According to a recent medical theory one passes in sleep through many phases until one arrives at a state in which there is absolute rest and silence—it lasts only for ten minutes, the rest of the time is taken up by travelling to that and travelling back again to the waking state.
I suppose the ten minutes sleep can be called suṣupti in the Brahman or Brahmaloka, the rest is svapna or passage through other worlds (planes or states of conscious existence). It is these ten minutes that restore the energies of the being, and without it sleep is not refreshing.
According to the Mother’s experience and knowledge one passes from waking through a succession of states of sleep consciousness which are in fact an entry and passage into so many worlds and arrives at a pure Sachchidananda state of complete rest, light and silence; afterwards one retraces one’s way till one reaches the waking physical state.
It is this Sachchidananda period that gives sleep all its restorative value.
These two accounts, the scientific and the occult-spiritual, are practically identical with each other. But the former is only a recent discovery of what the occult-spiritual knowledge knew long ago.
People’s ideas of sound sleep are absolutely erroneous.
What they call sound sleep is merely a plunge of the outer consciousness into a complete subconscience. They call that a dreamless sleep; but it is only a state in which the surface sleep consciousness which is a subtle prolongation of the outer still left active in sleep itself is unable to record the dreams and transmit them to the physical mind.
As a matter of fact the whole sleep is full of dreams. It is only during the brief time in which one is in the Brahmaloka that the dreams cease.
– Sri Aurobindo, (CWSA, Vol. 31, pp. 441-443)
The rest must not be one which goes down into the inconscience and tamas. The rest must be an ascent into the Light, into perfect Peace, total Silence, a rest which rises up out of the darkness.
Then it is true rest, a rest which is an ascent.
– The Mother (CWM, Vol. 7, p. 283)
Practice silence and prayer before sleep
The physical and all material physical parts should be absolutely at rest, but a repose which is not a fall into the inconscient—this is one of the conditions. And the vital must be in a repose of silence.
Then if you have these three things at rest, the inner being which is rarely in relation with the outer life, because the outer life is too noisy and too unconscious for it to be able to manifest itself, can become aware of itself and awaken, become active and act upon the lower parts, establish a conscious contact.
This is the real reason for sleep, apart from the necessity that, in the present conditions of life, activity and rest, rest and activity must alternate. The body needs rest but there are very few people, as I said, who know how to sleep. They sleep in such conditions that they don’t wake up refreshed or are hardly rested at all.
But this is an entire science to learn.
– The Mother (CWM, Vol. 7, p.71)
I think there is an entire category of dreams which are absolutely commonplace, useless and simply tiring, which one can avoid if, before going to sleep, one makes a little effort of concentration, tries to put himself in contact with what is best in him, by either an aspiration or a prayer, and to sleep only after this is done… even, if one likes, try to meditate and pass quite naturally from meditation into sleep without even realising it…
Usually there is a whole category of dreams which are useless, tiring, which prevent you from resting well—all this might be avoided.
And then, if one has truly succeeded well in his concentration, it is quite possible that one may have, at night, not exactly dreams but experiences of which one becomes conscious and which are very useful, indications, as I just told you, indications about questions you asked yourself and of which you did not have the answers; or else a set of circumstances where you ought to take a decision and don’t know what decision to take; or else some way of being of your own character which does not show itself to you clearly in the waking consciousness—because you are so accustomed to it that you are not aware of it—but something that harms your development and obscures your consciousness, and which appears to you in a symbolic revelatory dream, and you become clearly aware of the thing, then you can act upon it.
It depends not on what one was during the day, because this doesn’t always have much effect upon the night, but on the way one has gone to sleep.
It is enough just to have at the moment of sleeping a sincere aspiration that the night, instead of being a darkening of the consciousness, may be a help to understand something, to have an experience; and then, though it doesn’t come always, it has a chance of coming.
– The Mother (CWM, Vol. 7, p.119)
This depends on each one; but certainly if you want to sleep quietly at night, you must not study till just before sleeping. If you read something which requires concentration, your head will continue to work and so you won’t sleep well. When the mind continues working one doesn’t rest.
– The Mother (CWM, Vol. 7, p.124)
Relax your nerves, vital and the mind before sleep
If you relax very gently before going to sleep, you will feel great pleasure in going to sleep.
If you manage to relax the nerves, even of only one arm or leg, you will see how pleasant it is. If you go to sleep with your nerves tense, you will have a very restless sleep and change position very often during the night. That kind of rest is no good.
– The Mother (CWM, Vol. 15, p.331)
To sleep well one must learn how to sleep.
If one is physically very tired, it is better not to go to sleep immediately, otherwise one falls into the inconscient. If one is very tired, one must stretch out on the bed, relax, loosen all the nerves one after another until one becomes like a rumpled cloth in one’s bed, as though one had neither bones nor muscles.
When one has done that, the same thing must be done in the mind. Relax, do not concentrate on any idea or try to solve a problem or ruminate on impressions, sensations or emotions you had during the day. All that must be allowed to drop off quietly: one gives oneself up, one is indeed like a rag.
When you have succeeded in doing this, there is always a little flame, there—that flame never goes out and you become conscious of it when you have managed this relaxation. And all of a sudden this little flame rises slowly into an aspiration for the divine life, the truth, the consciousness of the Divine, the union with the inner being, it goes higher and higher, it rises, rises, like that, very gently. Then everything gathers there, and if at that moment you fall asleep, you have the best sleep you could possibly have.
I guarantee that if you do this carefully, you are sure to sleep, and also sure that instead of falling into a dark hole you will sleep in light, and when you get up in the morning you will be fresh, fit, content, happy and full of energy for the day.
– The Mother (CWM, Vol. 4, p.351-352)
It is very difficult to put one’s mind into repose. The majority of men get up very tired, more tired than when they went to sleep. One must learn how to quieten one’s mind, make it completely blank, and then when one wakes up, one feels refreshed. One must relax the whole mind in the pure white silence, then one has the least number of dreams.
– The Mother (CWM, Vol. 5, p.25)
~ Design: Raamkumar