Sleep is usually looked upon as a given, as something you don’t need to learn how to do. Because it is innate to each of us and the immediate effects of lack of sleep are not apparent, we often don’t value enough this important Pillar. Let’s see if looking at Sleep from another angle can convince you of the value of 8 dark and quiet hours.
What happens when you sleep?
Sleep, and more importantly, dreaming, demonstrates to us our ability to perceive the beauty and terror of our inner worlds.
When we dream we live in a world of our own rules and boundaries, one that allows each of us to explore our behaviors, thoughts, and emotions without an external audience.
The key there is the word “external”. We have all had dreams of helplessness, of being alone in our strangeness, of being the object of ridicule. We have all experienced exhilarating moments during sleep; the feeling of flight, the ability to go back and re-play a scene over and over until we get it right, or to live through it in different scenarios and to enjoy all of them, allowing them all to bring us to our desired outcome.
These two contrasts of abject helplessness and omnipotent control demonstrate to us that the world we experience as we sleep lies inside our head. While we may have an audience in our dreams, that audience is wholly owned by us and tucks away at the first hint of any kind of outside stimulus; no one will ever know more than a garbled word or two of your dreams unless you decide to tell them.
What implication do these opposing dream experiences have for our waking lives? The incredibly powerful idea that how you experience your waking life is dictated not by external realities, but by internal decisions.
The examples you set for yourself in your dreams; the humiliation of wearing only your underwear to school or the exhilaration of flight or breathing underwater, are more than random visions, they are a reaction to the reality you experience and a way that your unconscious self demonstrates to you your own power to frame your perception of the world.
Sleep and dreaming teaches us that no matter the circumstances, you can be embarrassed or proud, fierce or meek, powerful or feeble. The choice is yours, and Sleep presents that choice to you every night you lay down to it.
That extraordinary ability of demonstrated control over your reality that Sleep exposes you to is far too often overlooked as we scramble to see the sense in downregulating dopamine receptors or the mighty battles between free radicals and antioxidants.
Often acknowledged in past cultures, our dreams are a clear communication to each of us that we have far more capability than we might otherwise believe to shape, act in, and experience our world. Without Sleep we can not dream, and without dreams we cannot discover for ourselves our own ability to shape our perceptions of the world.
Will you now pay attention to and learn from this most wondrous of Pillars?