A Primer of Integral Yoga – VII – M.P. Pandit

Awakening Sleep

At the end of the day, at the conclusion of the day’s labours, relax. Relax into light, not into tamas and obscurity. Have a wash and rest for a while. Read something light or entertaining so as to take the mind away from its taut condition. Have some light food. It is always advisable to make the supper the lightest fare. The old adage of eating like a king at breakfast, like a prince at lunch and like a pauper at supper has much wisdom in it. If you feel fresh after food, utilise some time for reading some spiritual literature. That will prepare you for the next movement of self-contemplation, self-observation. For before you retire, you must look back upon the day that you have just spent and recount to yourself where you have acted well and where you have failed to come up to the requirements of your Ideal.

It is always rewarding to look back at the end of the day on things that have taken place since getting up from bed. It strengthens the memory muscles and keeps the memory in good harness. You trace the events one by one, the persons you have met, the talks you have had, the situations that developed and the way you handled them. You see for yourself how far today has been an improvement or otherwise over yesterday. Where you recognise you could have done better, where you did wrong, you decide to rectify things tomorrow. No need to brood and condemn yourself. Just decide not to repeat the mistake and what you must do should a similar situation develop. That is enough. In spiritual life, recognition of your mistake, regret for the same and a will not to repeat the same error is enough. Forget about the details thereafter. Tomorrow night when you look back again, see if you have kept to your promise made to yourself. It is a practice that calls for frankness, sincerity and patience. But it has a capital contribution to make to your inner progress.

Thereafter you prepare to go to bed. Sit on your bed for a brief meditation. Withdraw the working mind from its furious activity, slow it down and think of the Divine. When you feel peaceful, when sleep begins to creep in, entrust yourself to the Divine, will that you must remain conscious in sleep and slide into sleep. Do not sleep on your back. That is a wrong posture. It interferes with the process of natural digestion, puts pressure over the kidneys. For men that is the posture that is most favourable for wet dreams. Lie on your left. No doubt you will turn in the midst of sleep; when you wake up, take the right posture once again. Each time you wake up, do not sink into inertia immediately. Recall your poise of meditation before sleeping, and then go to another stretch of sleep. If you have had an interesting dream, try to trace it back from the point you remember.

There is a point at which you wake up fresh, the body feels quiet. Do not go to bed again. You will sink into tamas, inertia and lethargy that will swallow your freshness, pull down your consciousness, cause a surge of confused dreams from the subconscient. When you wake up, do not get up with a jerk. You need a little time to smoothly return to the physical state. Just lie down in the same posture in which you awake. Try to trace the dream from the end which you remember. That is the way to learn to be conscious of your sleep. A will on the body to be conscious in sleep before going to bed, a repeated exercise to remember each time you awake and finally to lie restfully and try to recall what happened during the sleep period, is an effective way to be conscious of your nights. And that is necessary to keep a continuity of consciousness, to integrate the waking and the sleeping states of your life.

If you have any sleeping problem, do not take sleeping tablets. They are always habit-forming and you go on needing higher and higher doses of the drug. Instead, observe your life during the day and spot out what causes tension. For it is usually the after-effects of tension or anxiety that interfere with sleep. Try to eliminate this factor. Before going to bed move about in your room or verandah, pace up and down for a while. Read something that gives you peace[1] and relaxation, not any fiction that excites your nerves. If you believe in Japa, do the Japa till you feel sleepy, or meditate. Do not sleep during the daytime. Often that prevents normal sleep at night. A little nap is different. That is best done on a deck chair in a half-reclining position.

Heavy food at night, excited talk, reading of thrillers, viewing of television for long periods have a deleterious effect on sleep.

[1] Reading of a page or two from the Mother’s Prayers and Meditations has been found to be very soothing and inviting in peace. Try that or any other book of similar vintage.

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