| Death & Sleep
die daily’, wrote St Paul (1 Corinthians 15:31).
Contrary to popular belief, I do not believe
Paul is talking about dying to matters of the flesh, nor is he talking about facing
persecution and physical death daily.
Rather he is talking about dying to the dominance
of the waking consciousness, so that we may embrace our spiritual consciousness
So, sleep can teach us how to die and connect us to our deeper self.
The 4,000 word essay Falling for Sleep by Rubin Naiman also makes this clear and more. The following is basically remixed from this essay (into <500 words):-
- The mechanisation and medicalisation of sleep has happened since the
Industrial Revolution, when productivity – and thus wakefulness - became so
important. Sleep was neglected and encroached upon, demoted to merely a complex
biomedical process. Attempts were even made to eliminate sleep, and artificial
lights and computer gadgets are still threatening this.
- We are caught in wakism, a subtle but pernicious addiction
to ordinary waking consciousness that limits our understanding and experience
of sleep. Hyperarousal is an
inevitable consequence of our wakism; it refers to a turbocharged pace of life
that is not modulated by adequate rest. Hyperarousal is rooted in an arrogant
disregard for natural rhythms, and this has serious side effects.
- Hyperarousal and insomnia both encourage drug and substance dependence.
Caffeine, energy drinks and stimulant drugs help stoke perpetual motion, while
alcohol, marijuana and sedating medications provide temporary, artificial
- Sleep is now only a physiological process that is tweaked with tips and
sleeping pills. However, sleeping pills produce a kind of counterfeit
slumber. They do not heal insomnia; they suppress its symptoms. Ongoing
reliance on sleeping pills undermines our sleep self-efficacy, or trust in our
innate ability to sleep. They also result in dependence or addiction, and
significantly increase the risk of serious illness and death.
- Sleep has become impersonal and something outside our awareness, only
assessed in metrics (e.g. sleep stages, sleep length). Contemporary medical
views presume that there’s nothing in the world of sleep worth personally
investigating. However, medicalisation obscures sleep’s true nature, concealing
the personal, transcendent and romantic dimensions of sleep.
- We are in dire need of restoring our sense of sleep’s mythic dimensions
– of reimagining our personal experience of sleep. Mythic perspectives suggest that there is something
in the deep waters of sleep worth accessing, and invite us to personally
investigate it. From a mythic perspective, deep sleep is a state of profound
serenity. But we commonly fail to notice it due to our pervasive wakism. Deep,
natural sleep threatens our wake-centric self. The Dalai Lama teaches that
the psychospiritual experience of falling asleep is identical to that of dying.
Our familiar, waking self dies in sleep. Sleep is a return to our default
consciousness, our deepest Self.
loss, then, is not simply a medical problem; it is also a critical spiritual
challenge. Our epic struggles with accessing deep sleep are struggles with
accessing deeper aspects of ourselves. As wakists, we presume that who we are
is limited to our waking-world identity. Essential parts of who we are,
however, are obscured by the glare of waking life. And these become more
visible at night – in the deep waters of sleep and dreams.
is more an art than a science. It is about humility and vulnerability. We do
not work to get it; rather we stop working to receive it - as a gift, an act of
need to fall in love with sleep (again).
'Every human being streams at night into the loving nowhere.' (Rumi)
Death & Immortality