Eloping with your beloved or bashing up your boss….these are what dreams are made of. Getting terrorised by gangsters or ghosts or getting hopelessly lost in an unfriendly foreign land…these are our dreams turning into nightmares.
Riding our wishes, we become what we want to be in our dreams. Dreading our fears, we face what we never want to happen. Deep in sleep, our secret desires or fears buried down in our minds come to life as we dream. All these pleasures or tortures vanish in a second when we wake up to our stark reality. And we wish if only these come true. Or, that our fears never materialise.
Despite their power to please, amuse, bewilder or frighten us, our dreams dominate us. Rarely, we get dreamless sleep because our minds go on ticking even when we are asleep. We speak and listen, see all colours and feel all emotions in our dreams. Yet dreams remain mysterious.
Both our desires and fears in our dreams are an illusion, called ‘maya’ by the Eastern mystics who add that even when we are not sleeping, the world around us is also just an illusion or maya. A life lived through the mind is a life of dreams. That is the meaning of the concept of maya.
Says Osho, “Dreams are only a translation of thinking in the language of sleep and thinking is nothing but a translation of dreaming in the language of the day. You go on moving between the two: dreaming and thinking. Both are desiring. So the problem is not dreams but desiring. Now the challenge is how to overcome having these desires for when the dreams are over everything is the same. Nothing has happened and nothing will happen after they are over.”
So the crucial question is: how do we stop dreaming in our sleep and even while awake?
The Russian spiritual master, Gurdjieff used to say that the first effort is to awake in a dream and see the dream as a dream. He had a few techniques for how to awake in a dream. He would teach his disciples that every night, when they went to sleep, they should go on repeating as deeply as possible, as passionately as possible, ‘This time when I start dreaming in the night I will raise my hand and touch my head. And immediately when I touch my head the remembrance will happen to me that this is a dream.’ For months together the disciple would think, auto-suggest. Every night falling into sleep they would repeat it again and again with deep passion, so that it entered into the very unconscious layers of the mind.
The challenge is to go beyond the illusion or maya to face the reality. Being more and more aware at all times is the answer. The Zen masters of Japan practice a very demanding system. When the disciples sit in meditation with eyes closed, the master watches them with a stick. The moment he sees one of them losing attention or awareness, he hits him with the stick. After many years, when the disciples become very aware during the daytime, the same procedure is started when they sleep! Fortunately, the enlightened master, Osho, has gifted us easier methods with his meditations. Let’s stop the ticking of our minds with them and wake up.