Becoming Conscious In Sleep

When the idea of becoming conscious in sleep is raised, many people try simply to find ways to remain awake somehow in sleep. This process generally leads to exhaustion, and imbalances in the physical, vital and mental complex of the outer nature. Sleep is restorative to their processes, and any attempt to artificially disrupt sleep, with the idea that our mental consciousness must have a way to pay attention to what is going on in sleep, is bound to create problems. The question of becoming conscious in sleep is not related to the external personality taking charge of the sleep state; rather, it requires a shift of consciousness away from the external being to the inner, the psychic being. It is similar to the shift in consciousness that needs to take place in the surface consciousness to achieve a separation of the true witness, the Purusha, from the action of the external being, Prakriti. Thus, it is not the external mind that must find a way to “stay awake”; rather, it is through the quiescence of the mind, the vital and the body that the inner being can come forward and observe. The question then is how one can establish the conscious awareness of that inner being at all times, separate from the external awareness.

The Mother writes: “Sleep can be a very active means of concentration and inner knowledge. Sleep is the school one has to go through, if one knows how to learn his lesson there, so that the inner being may be independent of the physical form, conscious in itself and master of its own life. There are entire parts of the being which need this immobility and semi-consciousness of the outer being, of the body, in order to be able to live their own life, independently.”

“Only, people don’t know, they sleep because they sleep, as they eat, as they live — by a kind of instinct, a semi-conscious impulse. They don’t even ask themselves the question. You are asking the question now: Why does one sleep? But there are millions and millions of beings who sleep without ever having asked themselves the question why one sleeps. They sleep because they feel sleepy, they eat because they are hungry, and they do foolish things because their instincts push them, without thinking, without reasoning; but for those who know, sleep is a school, an excellent school for something other than the school of waking hours.”

“It is another school for another purpose, but it is a school. One wants to make the maximum progress possible, one must know how to use one’s nights as one uses one’s days; only, usually, people don’t at all know what to do, and they try to remain awake and all that they create is a physical and vital imbalance — and sometimes a mental one also — as a result.”

“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.”

Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, General Methods and Principles, Sleep, pp. 11-17