Deep dreamless sleep can result from a mind that is quiet during the day. It cannot come through controlling the mind but only through self-awareness in which one functions as an affectionate bystander to oneself.

Looking In
Nocturnal dreaming is a natural process that we all go through. There are many interesting things about it, not only with regard to the mundane matters but to the philosophic and esoteric issues as well. Here we look into its implications with regard to inner awareness and understanding.

The writer has been exposed to the matter of self-awareness over the last 30 years or so. One of the items of interest therein covers the three states of consciousness - waking, dreaming and deep sleep. They were looked into, not so much from the analytical psychology point of view, but as a matter of observation by a detached onlooker. The understanding by observation is through direct awareness and so it is not of the accumulative type. The writer found that the three states have something to do with the inward journey towards the source of consciousness in oneself. In this endeavor, his being a member of the International Association for Near Death Studies ( has helped him understand some hidden aspects of consciousness. The present article is an attempt to look into the issue of nocturnal dreaming along the lines of ‘know thyself’.

The dreaming that we go through during our sleep has important implications. Here we consider only those associated with self-awareness and the consequent non-verbal understanding of ourselves. In this endeavor, we are not interested in interpreting dreams and using it to improve matters in our practical life. The approach is not for gaining any ego-satisfying ends. Rather, the reflections would let self-awareness permeate the field of dreaming. The resulting perceptions would bring in, of their own accord, a fundamental transformation in our psychology conducive to leading a healthy and peaceful life.

During the day, our minds are occupied with many things that demand our attention. When there is a break in that process, or even during the process, the mind runs thoughts involving concern about the past and future. The thought created ‘I’, the ego, dominates our waking hours. We do not bring in sufficient awareness to be in quiet contact with ourselves. This ends up in winding the mind to the point of making it a stress-filled container. From that situation, some of the stress precipitates down to the unconscious, causing it be a storehouse of these residual stresses. Since the mind is occupied during the waking hours, the residual stresses cannot be released in those hours. While we are asleep, the hidden stresses surface and show up as dreams. Though there can be other explanations, the dominant issue in dreaming, especially of the disturbing kind, is primarily governed by this process. Awareness of the process is what begins the inward journey.

The question is: Can the mind be free from its chattering during the day even as it is paying attention to the practical matters? That would remove the curtain the ‘I’ creates between a person and his life, the curtain that is responsible for the stress build-up. Thought vortices, such as fear, anger, regret etc, function in that curtain. The basis for those vortices is the emotional attachment or resentment with which the ‘I’ functions. These are facts and a quiet awareness of these, without justification or condemnation, begins to dissolve the curtain. Then the residual stresses do not precipitate and accumulate in the unconscious. That means less and less dreams are required to release them.

The quiet, non-interfering self-awareness cannot come in through the practice of any meditative system, belief system or formulas because they are all rooted in self-interest which sustains the ‘I’. Controlling the mind cannot help either, because that would cause a tension between two parts of the mind - the controller and the controlled. Understanding these esoteric facts ushers in a passivity which is the very essence of quiet self-awareness. Only the change that comes through direct awareness can bring about stable and far reaching transformation. The accumulative process of acquiring knowledge about the mind is primarily verbal and so is a burden. It cannot lead to passivity – the passivity which actually purges the accumulations that come in through attachment to conclusions. It is a matter of effortless detachment. That would automatically relax the mind leading to less and less need for nocturnal dreaming. By the way, it also augments the physical rejuvenating process of the body, because the period of dreamless sleep would expand.

An affectionate bystander attitude can help us be quietly aware of our habitual thought movements as we go about our daily chores – washing clothes, travelling by a car or bus, interacting with people, and so on. This would release us from the tyranny of thought formations governed by genetic and societal conditioning. There would be a feeling of being unburdened and the associated mental relaxation. We observe that the mind falls quiet without a part of it functioning as a controlling agent. Under those circumstances, the vortices mentioned above cannot capture our attention and keep us under their thumb. It is only the quiet mind that can receive the ‘otherness’ which can free us from the uneasy living dictated by circumstances.

Jesus Christ is reported to have said the following [Ref. 1]:

“If you are looking for the Kingdom of Heaven, it will not come. Nor will you find it looking for it hear or there, for the Kingdom of Heaven is within you.”

The obvious implication of those words is that it is only through the inward journey that the “otherness” can take place.

What is needed is the boldness to stand alone, not dependent on any system or person for psychological security. Even those who rebel against the conventional systems may fall into their own self-created systems. It can be quite tricky. When we understand the hidden effects of systems on us, we free ourselves from them totally. One cannot go after reality because the usual utilitarian trend of the ego would attempt to use it for its own end. Here we note what J. Krishnamurti has to say [Ref. 2]:

“You cannot go after reality. Reality must come to you, and it cannot come to you as long as there is the corruption of the collective. That is why the mind must be completely alone - uninfluenced, uncontaminated, therefore free of time – and only then the measureless, the timeless, comes into being.”

Good Begets Good
One of Buddha’s statements is that good and evil do not stay where they are; good begets good and evil begets evil [Ref. 3]. Thus, if we can apply ourselves to this matter of nocturnal dreams in a holistic way, it will pave the way for other good things to happen. Catching hold of any problem in life and applying ourselves to it, we can move towards the Divine source in us. Life becomes fun!

People who go through a near death experience see all the above facts in a flash. However, they would have to be patient about integrating it with the earthly life. This is because what they see on the other side belongs to a different dimension of consciousness. Those who have applied themselves to self-awareness before the NDE would find it relatively easier to harmonize the life here with the messages of afterlife. Such is the power of self-awareness.

Related matters are covered in the website
Reference 1. Stephen Mitchell. The Gospel According to Jesus. New York: Harper Collins, 1943.

Reference 2. J. Krishnamurti. As One Is. Krishnamurti Foundation of India, 1955 Ojai Public Talks. First Indian reprint 2010.

Reference 3.

Author's Bio: 

Gopalakrishnan T. Chandrasekaran was born in Madras (now Chennai), India. He received his doctoral degree in Coastal Engineering from the North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA in 1978; served on the research and teaching faculty of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India, the North Carolina State University and the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, Kuwait.

Aside from his professional involvements, he was interested in the philosophic issues of life for the last forty years or so. This led him to the messages of Ramana Maharishi, Lao Tzu, J Krishnamurthy, UG Krishnamurthy, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Eckhart Tolle, Marcus Aurelius and similar Masters. His book entitled “In Quest of the Deeper Self” is the outcome of his reflections on those and his wish to share the outcome with others.

Gopalakrishnan is a member of the International Association for Near Death Studies, Durham, NC, USA. He lives in Kodaikanal, a hill town in the southern part of India, with his wife Banumathy who also received her doctoral degree from the North Carolina State University, in Organic Chemistry. Now they are both retired and currently involved in developing a fruit farm at a village 20 km from their residence. They have a daughter and son who are both married and settled.