In this fast paced, rat raced life, when we are struggling to complete our TO-DO list, it may seem that cutting back on sleep may be the only answer. Yet we all know from experience that if we do not get adequate sleep we not only become grumpy and not nice to be around, but it can also be detrimental to our health.
Although I am no sleep doctor or professional of any sort, I have learnt a thing or two about using meditation as a tool to deepen the quality of my sleep. In fact, it is not only at the end of the day that we have to be concerned about our sleep. The quality of our waking hours will also determine the quality of our sleep at night. Try sleeping after a bout of anger, after gossiping about your friends or being unfaithful to your partner. The chances are you will be tossing and turning in your sleep and you are not likely to come out of it feeling rested.
Although many will argue that we need 8 hours of sleep a day, it has been proven time and again that in practice, yogis do need less sleep. Having a simple and uncomplicated lifestyle also helps, as does a vegetarian diet since a plant-based diet is much quicker and easier to digest.
But the main reason the yogi needs less sleep is because of their ability to manage their thoughts. If we are able to have fewer but more powerful thoughts, we conserve our energy and are able to stay light and stress-free. So we don't leave all the hard work and responsibility to our sleep factory to replenish us, but with meditation and peaceful thoughts we are able to constantly rejuvenate ourselves.
We can complain about having bad dreams but this is the result of not having done the work of cleaning our sub-conscious. Filtering our thoughts, letting go of the past, and choosing to retain good memories, are all ways in which we can help to make our dreams sweet!
With the advent of electricity we have turned night into day and day into night. If we would follow the rhythm of the day as nature intended, we will be in tune with the natural energies that surround us. Staying awake at night throws us off balance. The body will function, but not optimally.
Firstly, before retiring to bed, it is important to sit for a few moments of reflection to check on the day and see how positive or otherwise we were and how much we may have misused our precious energies. Therefore, if we need to ask for forgiveness or apologize to someone we should. If we settle the karmic accounts of the day, we will sleep with a light heart.
Secondly, as we lie in bed, imagine floating off to a land of light, the home of the soul; this visualization helps us to realize that we are not just this body and the paraphernalia that is connected with it. Just as actors go home after their performance, so too we need to take off our costumes and return home after a days performance! This world of the soul is a world of light, simple and quiet. Take thoughts up above to this place of silence and visualize the body resting down below. In the morning, imagine that I, the soul, have come down from this world of light, free from all worldly concerns, and ready and eager to play todays scenes on the stage of the world.
Its time... to improve the quality of our sleep by improving the quality of our thoughts. Use meditation as a tool to improve the state of mind. Bring closure to the day and awaken refreshed and ready to tackle the day's TO-DO list.
'It's Time...' by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London, UK