I once heard that when we are asleep, we are resting in God‘s arms. This sweet idea has stuck with me ever since.
Sleep is something that graces us after we perform our rituals of brushing our teeth, washing our face, and maybe a little gentle yoga or prayer. Once we prepare, we surrender and sleep usually falls over us. Some of us, like my husband, are able to fall into the graces of sleep at any given moment—mid chew, driving, or even before his head hits the pillow.
Some of my students are caught in the cycle of sleeping aids to sleep and caffeine to get going. There are many points in between. Not many of us fall asleep five to 10 minutes after going to bed and wake up effortlessly without the aid of a buzzing alarm clock or our favorite cup of joe.
Our yoga practices can be similar. We either approach them in a tamasic (resistant) way of coming to the mat, doing a little asana, and then lying there and not being able to continue. Or, in the rajasic (energetic) way of not being able to slow down the bodymind enough to create any space, only adding to the tension and perfectionism of the day. When we find the middle ground we are propelled to make changes.
The way we slip into sleep, down the rabbit hole, and how and what we dream of speaks volumes to our mental, emotional and spiritual health. When making important decisions and improvements in the areas of our waking state, we need to look into the reflection of our day through the moonlight of the night.
Our tendency is to hit the ground running when our alarm clock buzzes and to achieve all of our goals, but we seldom gaze into the mirror of the other end of the day, and we disregard the importance of falling away from ego and into grace.
Sleep, like creativity, is also a tool in helping us work out our karma and samskara in a way that can lead to furthering our spiritual path.
I have had the experience of great healing and recognition through dreams and sleep. It even gives us a chance to act out things that we would not normally be able to physically or emotionally. You don’t have to be a mystic to realize that sleep is important and aids us in moving about our lives.
When my husband was tucking our three-year-old in the other night , he asked her what she was going to dream about. “Fairies! Princesses!” he suggested. She gazed up at him like he was crazy and said, “No, I am going to dream about God.”
When a baby is first born they do not see themselves as separate from their parents, but very soon they develop the “ego,” which allows them to identify what makes them separate and helps them explain “reality.” As we age we want more and more boundaries, rules and structure. We teach our children the importance of following the rules as well. We talk about others who break the rules and hypocritically struggle to follow them ourselves. We have rules and structure for the same reason we have rituals that prepare us for sleep, and eventually we must surrender all attachments to them.
Like the Alice In Wonderland story, we need to experience opposites—nonsense, chaos, and darkness—to fully know the light. Through the looking glass we can unravel ourselves from the karma of the day and experience a more sattvic (balanced) state.
As we move from dreaming to the dreamless state of sleep, our egoic labels fall away and we are temporarily suspended in this “ego-less” state.
“Held in the arms of God.”
Dani McGuire is a yoga teacher, business owner, yoga therapist, and asana addict that loves love, life, family, food, God, and, of course, yoga. “Since I am unable to quiet the mental chatter and control thirst for earthly pleasures I live, write, and laugh and my human-ness.” Dani leads yoga workshops and teacher trainings, and takes her yoga off the mat through Pranayoga Foundation, a nonprofit teaching yoga to people with cancer and chronic illness. For more about Dani check out her personal website or PranaYoga.
Editor: Anne Clendening