Sleep: death's little sister
Introduction"Awake! Arise! Stop not until the goal is won!" Thus voiced forth the Indian seers and sages of the hoary past. Yet, in spite of their inspired utterance, mankind still sleeps too much, both inwardly and outwardly. Our lethargic body cherishes the experience of sleep and wants to prolong it. But our aspiring heart knows that we must live in the world of dynamic consciousness in order to make significant spiritual progress. A spiritual aspirant who sleeps too much is offering his life prematurely to death, for during the time he should be spending in conscious aspiration and dynamic activity for his own inner progress, he is snoring peacefully in the arms of inertia.
Let us awaken. Let us rise up. Let us concentrate, meditate and contemplate. Let us cry for God with all that we have and all that we are. When we abjure our friendship with death's younger sister, Immortality's Lord Supreme will make friends with us. The sooner our sleep-friend deserts us for good, the sooner our inner awakening-comrade will come to live with us eternally.
Questions and answers
Question: I read before I go to bed. How can I maintain a certain level of consciousness during my sleep?Sri Chinmoy: If you read spiritual books written by spiritual Masters, then their divine consciousness is bound to enter into you and there is every possibility that you will be able to maintain a spiritual level of consciousness during your sleep. But instead of reading, if you meditate most soulfully, then there is almost a certainty that you will be able to maintain a higher, deeper, more illumining and more fulfilling level of consciousness while you sleep.
Question: When I wake up to meditate in the morning I am still sleepy is that all right, or should I try to be fully awake?Sri Chinmoy: If you really want God and not your self-indulgent sleep, then you have to be fully awake; for God-realisation demands constant and conscious wakefulness.
Question: Why does my body tell me that I need more sleep than I really need?Sri Chinmoy: Your body tells you this because the body always, like other ignorant forces, makes irrational demands. First, the ignorant forces make demands, then they feel that these are their most legitimate rights. The best thing you can do is give up your friendship with ignorance altogether.
Question: Often I wake up during the night. Why is this?Sri Chinmoy: It means that the vital being in you is restless. It jumps like a monkey from one place to another inside you, and in each place it visits, it breaks something and creates some calamity. This inner calamity manifests itself as an interruption in your sleep.
Question: If we are tired or sick, should we sleep more?Sri Chinmoy: If we are very tired or sick we should sleep according to our body's necessity, but not according to our body's demands; for the body, being unconscious and ignorant, may demand sleep more than its due.
Question: Why is it that you appear in our dreams?Sri Chinmoy: I appear in your dreams because the Supreme asks me to offer you some special message in the inner world which is of immediate necessity in your outer life, either to inspire you more to dive deep within, or to warn you against the life of temptation.
Question: How can I be punctual in my morning meditation even if I haven't had enough sleep?Sri Chinmoy: Even if you do not have enough sleep, you can be punctual in your morning meditation if you remember from your previous experiences what a good meditation does for you. You must know that if you are punctual and soulful in your meditation, then God-realisation becomes easier, much easier.
Question: What happens to our soul while we are sleeping? What does sleep do to our soul?Sri Chinmoy: While we are sleeping the soul may reminisce about its past achievements and try to envision its future possibilities for God-manifestation. In deep inner sleep, the soul gets a kind of confidence that life's outer turmoils are not affecting the inner parts of the seeker's being.
Question: How do I continue my aspiration in my sleep?Sri Chinmoy: Before you go to sleep, meditate most soulfully and feel that this meditation is like a conscious pathfinder to your goal. You follow the pathfinder. The pathfinder will carry you through sleep and place you in the lap of wakefulness.
Question: Does our consciousness manifest itself during deep sleep?Sri Chinmoy: Yes, our consciousness manifests itself during our deep sleep. But this sleep is not inconscient sleep, where everything is lifeless. This sleep is our conscious oneness with the world of inner silence.
Question: When I am sleeping, even loud noises don't wake me. Does this mean that my soul is far from the physical plane?Sri Chinmoy: Your soul is not far away from the physical plane, but your soul, out of its infinite compassion for you allows you to sleep as long as you want to.
Question: Do dreams have any significance in our spiritual life?Sri Chinmoy: Since you are my disciple, I advise you to read my writings, especially my book on dreams. Here I wish to tell you this much, that if the dreams are encouraging and inspiring, then they are significant. If not, then they are not at all significant.
Question: When I am asleep I feel I am falling off a cliff, and that immediately wakes me up. What does this mean?Sri Chinmoy: This feeling of yours can be interpreted in two ways. Either you are energised by a divine force to dive deep into your being to illumine your body-consciousness and to fulfil God in all parts of your being, or an undivine force compels you to fall down from the height you have attained because it does not want you to enjoy the bliss of spiritual height. When you fall down, if you are not frightened to death, if on the contrary you feel tremendous energy to do something for the Supreme on the plane where you have landed, that means a divine force is operating in and through you. If you are frightened, however, that means you have been assailed by a wrong force. So I advise you always to pray and meditate in order to be inspired and guided by the divine forces for the total illumination and perfection of your life.
Question: When we are sleeping does our soul ever go to you? Is there any way we can know about it?Sri Chinmoy: Certainly, at times your souls do come to me when you are fast asleep. If it is at all necessary for your physical mind to know why your soul came to me or how much spiritual food it received from me, then either your soul or I will let your physical mind know. If your soul comes to me during your sleep, the following day, early in the morning, you will be in a very cheerful frame of mind without being able to account for it.
Question: Is it true that you actually become more tired if you sleep longer than five or six hoursSri Chinmoy: It is not a question of five or six hours, but if you really sleep more than your body's necessity, then a disproportionate amount of lethargy attacks your body. Because of this merciless attack, you feel more tired.
Question: Sometimes in my sleep I feel that I am half awake and I experience a force that seems to keep me from awakening completely.Sri Chinmoy: In your sleep when you feel that you are half awake, that means you have some mastery over the plane of ignorance and some oneness with the illumination of the inner life. This force keeps you from awakening completely, because it wants you to assimilate Peace, Light and Bliss which it has brought down from above for you. Once it sees that you have assimilated the divine qualities that it has brought down for you, then it helps you wake up and be wide awake to the outer world of aspiring realities.
Question: How can we achieve immediate alertness once we wake up so that we can meditate well?Sri Chinmoy: In order to meditate well immediately after we wake up, we must take a few deep breaths, and as we breathe, offer most soulful gratitude to the Supreme. But, before we actually sit down to meditate, we have to wash our face and clean ourselves thoroughly in order to chase away all drowsiness from our consciousness.
Question: I feel we are trying to meditate but we are not succeeding because we are trying in the wrong way.Sri Chinmoy: Meditation is like running. If you run stiffly, you get nowhere. You must be relaxed; the body has to be relaxed. But if you go to the extreme, then you become complacent.
Question: When you look at the disciples, do you see that a lot of them are falling asleep or are they awake but just meditating badly?Sri Chinmoy: Sometimes their meditation is very poor because there is no aspiration in it. They are not actually falling asleep, they are meditating badly. One or two may be sleeping, but as for the others, their meditation is clumsy and awkward because they are meditating in the mind. They are cherishing all kinds of nonsense, which I call jealousy, insecurity, fear, doubt and anxiety. They may be looking at me most intensely, most devotedly, but for hours or days they have cherished these and other undivine qualities. When they try to meditate, these undivine forces come and say, "Where are you going?" and try to prevent them from entering into the Light.
First you have to empty the inner vessel. If you start meditating without emptying the vessel, naturally those undivine qualities will come to the fore. The best thing is to think before your meditation that you have to throw them out of your system. You don't have to do it here. You can do it on your way, or you can do it at home. Then, when you come to the meditation Centre you will come with purity. Think of it like this-every day you are drinking nectar, which is meditation. Also every day you are drinking poison, which comes in the form of doubt, fear, jealousy, insecurity and emotional vital life. When you drink poison, what is it that saves you, what is the antidote? This antidote is faith-faith in your spiritual life, faith in your spiritual parents, faith in the Supreme. If you have no faith, it is useless. God Himself will not be able to make you realise God. When He comes and stands in front of you, you will doubt Him. If God stands in front of you in a physical form and tells you "I am God," you won't believe it, because in your mind you have established an image of God according to your sweet fancy, and God is not going to come to you to fulfil your sweet fancy. He will come to you in His own way, whatever He feels is the right way for your soul.
When you show a little aspiration, all the forces which you have not conquered at night or on previous days will come and try to hold you back. As long as you are fast asleep these enemies will say, "All right, you sleep. Now we can also take rest." But the moment you become alert, they will say, "Where are you going? You can't go beyond our domain," and they will begin to fight with you. The easiest and most effective way to conquer these forces is to smile inwardly and outwardly, with a sincere smile. If you can smile at your enemy and say, "Oh, you have come! I am ready to conquer you." Then you cannot lose. The greatest strength we have is our inner joy, and this inner joy comes from aspiration and from faith that whatever is best for us will come from the Supreme. So it is not always the outer sleep that ruins the disciples' meditation, but the inner sleep.
Question: Guru, what happens if you are really tired after you meditate?Sri Chinmoy: After you meditate you should not be tired. If it is real meditation, you get boundless energy. It will be peaceful and not restless energy; you should not feel tired. If you do, that means you are not meditating correctly.
Suppose you have worked very hard and have accumulated lots of money. You get tremendous joy and power from the money, but if you squander it, then again you will become as poor as you were before. Similarly, while you are meditating you have got Peace, Light and Bliss, the inner wealth. But perhaps you have unconsciously given it all away or thrown it all away. Then you will feel tired.
Question: Can we start sleeping very little and still function?Sri Chinmoy: Certainly! Spiritual Masters don't sleep more than two or three hours a day. When do they have the time? They don't have the time and they don't need it. Their disciples sleep on their behalf.
I am your spiritual Master, and since I sleep very little, I give you permission to sleep for me. But if it is more than eight hours, I take away the permission. No disciple, no sincere aspirant, should sleep more than eight hours. Seven, six, five-and-a-half hours is sufficient for almost everybody. But if that seems impossible, I say eight hours is the maximum. If you sleep more than eight hours, then you are taking those extra hours away from God and giving them to death.
If you sleep for eight hours, you are getting hardly more than half an hour or fifteen minutes of real sleep, soothing and fulfilling sleep. You don't get real rest; you are just in the world of inconscience. The other day at Columbia University a lady told me that just because she meditates more she has to sleep more. This is absurd. If you meditate more, you will receive boundless inner energy and you will develop the spiritual capacity to conquer sleep.
I had a cousin who used to meditate while lying down on her bed. She would look at the moon and try to meditate for about five minutes. Then she would fall asleep. The following day she would say she had meditated all night while gazing at the moon. She was fast asleep the whole time, but she was under the impression that she had been meditating. When you develop spiritual power you will be able to meditate while lying down. You will even be able to sleep and meditate at the same time. But this is not for beginners. True spiritual Masters allow the body to sleep and separate the soul from it. Their body is sleeping, but their consciousness is absolutely alert. While the body is resting they may be doing many things in the inner world.
It is not necessary for anyone to sleep for more than eight hours. I know this definitely. Why do something unnecessary? It is useless. In this world everybody should be wise enough not to do anything useless. If you are sick, then you can sleep ten or twelve hours a day if necessary, but otherwise no more than eight hours. If you sleep more than that, you are just wasting your precious time, which you could be spending in some spiritual pursuit or in doing something that is necessary. If you sleep more than you need to, you are just offering part of your life to death in advance.
Question: When I practice sports, I don't give as much time to meditation as I would like to, as I need the time for practising. Also, I wonder if I should be getting more sleep?Sri Chinmoy: More than half an hour of meditation is not necessary early in the morning. That is enough. Then you can go and practise running. Everyone, good athletes and bad athletes, should practise in order to inspire others, to transcend their own capacity and to keep the body fit. By practising sports you strengthen your body and draw in more vital energy from the illumining vital world, the dynamic world. This energy will help you in your meditation. It will help you to conquer your lethargy. If you are practising for an hour or so every day, you will definitely need less sleep than you would normally need, and not more. Only if you are practising very strenuously for several hours a day will you need more sleep. You may not be able to beat the fastest runner, but your speed and capacity will increase. The progress you make in this way will help you considerably not only in your outer life, but in your inner life as well.
Question: How can we be more active in daily life?Sri Chinmoy: Early in the morning we should meditate on God the dynamic Power. When God's Power enters into us we will be surcharged with dynamic energy. God's Power will never destroy anybody, but it will give us this dynamic quality which we need. Right now the physical body is wanting in the dynamic aspect of reality. When dynamism enters us we will not need to rest for a minute. This dynamism is extremely necessary if we want to reach our goal as fast as possible. If we concentrate and meditate on God the Power, we will be able to give real life to the time that lies ahead of us.
The nature of the body is to encourage tiredness. Our physical body is so clever if every day you are supposed to go to the playground to take exercise, it will give you twenty reasons why you should not go. The physical mind and the body will give you twenty reasons to justify your lethargy. But if you go deep within, you will see not even one reason is sound. Then, when the hour for taking exercise or meditating is past, these forces go away. Divine wisdom comes to the fore and you feel miserable. At that time the word 'lethargy' is not in your mind. The same forces that inspired you not to exercise or not to meditate come and tell you, now it is too late. If you are sick, sleep according to the body's need. But if you have formed the habit of taking naps, you should break it. Do not surrender to lethargy.
Question: Guru, what can we do if we feel sleepy and don't feel any inspiration? How can we wake up and be alert for meditation?Sri Chinmoy: Please get up a little bit early for preparation. Before you start to run, you take all kinds of exercises. We call them limbering up exercises in athletics. For meditation it is also good to do preparation exercises. If six o'clock is your meditation time, feel that at six o'clock the Supreme will fire the starting gun. So before that, if you are not ready, you must take all kinds of spiritual exercises. You can do a little bit of japa, read some of my writings or sing some spiritual songs. If you try to start your meditation the moment you wake up, you will have difficulties. Like a runner who doesn't do preliminary exercises, you will be stiff and slow at the beginning. It is not possible to run the fastest if you have not first stretched your legs and done some limbering up.
Please feel that six o'clock is the time for the race to begin. So if you can get up at five-thirty and spend at least half an hour doing preliminary spiritual exercises before you start to meditate then you will raise your inspiration and aspiration to a satisfactory point and you will be ready to run at six o'clock. Otherwise you will feel inertia and for fifteen minutes or half an hour after you start you will still be half asleep. Then when the referee blows the whistle at the end of the race, you will still be staggering.
This is why it is good for the disciples to meditate at the Centre before I arrive. That is the time for you to warm up. Then when I come it is the time for you to run the fastest. Before that you can prepare yourself inwardly.
Question: I feel that I don't meditate well in the morning and my body is both tired and restless. Is it very important for me to come to early morning meditation, or should I just try to meditate at another time?Sri Chinmoy: Early morning meditation is of greatest importance in our spiritual life. When we have a group meditation in the morning, if anybody is extremely tired, exhausted, feeling sleepy, meditating with greatest difficulty, straining their eyes, please do not come. Please meditate at home or sleep if you want to. But if you meditate that way here, you will ruin the divine vibration and the sincere aspiration of your spiritual brothers and sisters. We shall not mind at all if you do not or cannot come in the morning. But if you come, kindly come fully prepared to stay awake and meditate well. In that way you will inspire others and others will inspire you.
If you feel that you are not fully awake and alert, you can try breathing deeply a few times and practise conscious awareness. If you feel that you are falling asleep and enjoying the pleasure of sleep, at that time say, "No, let me enjoy the bliss of meditation instead." When you are falling asleep, you are entering into other worlds, unconscious worlds. Instead, you have to remain in this world and in the world of divine consciousness. There is a very subtle, peaceful movement in meditation. There is life in it; the life that lifts us up toward the goal. But that life is not in the world of sleep.
But you must make it a point, whether you meditate or not, to keep the physical under control. If you can't tame the mind, let the mind roam. But the physical has to be disciplined. You must learn to sit quietly. The noise that you create with your restless body destroys the concentration of the disciples who are ready to receive the Peace, Light and Bliss that I am bringing down. Then you are like an unconscious enemy to them. You do not know the kind of spiritual crime you commit. You are hungry, but you do not realise it, so you are not trying to eat. But others have realised their hunger and are trying to eat. Their souls feel miserable when there are people who are preventing them from eating the divine food.
Question: It seems that during our group meditations, especially the early morning meditations, everyone is falling asleep instead of meditating. Why do we have so much trouble staying awake, even if we have had five, six or seven hours of sleep?Sri Chinmoy: More individual aspiration is necessary. As soon as you come to meditate you should feel that you have come to the starting point in your race. When you sit down to meditate, feel that the starter has just fired the gun and now is the time for you to run the fastest. Instead, what most of you do is feel that once you have gotten out of bed and taken a shower and come to the meditation room, you have played your role. You feel that the race is over and now you can relax. But this is absolutely the wrong approach. These things are not even the preparation. The runner does not feel that as soon as he arrives at the track he has run his race and now he can relax. No, he comes to the track with utmost eagerness, and once he arrives there, his eagerness increases. All his energy is focused on running the race, and he does not relax until the race is over.
So please do not feel that you have done your part just by coming to the meditation. You must also run the inner race with utmost eagerness and inspiration. If you feel that you have played your role just by getting up so early in the morning, or just by coming to the meditation, you will never be able to meditate well.
Question: Sometimes I wake up very early. Is it a good idea to get up and meditate even if it is not my usual meditation time?Sri Chinmoy: Please take it as a golden opportunity. If you feel fresh and energised, just sit up and meditate for fifteen or twenty minutes. This will add to your inner wealth.
Question: In the morning is it a good idea to get out of bed immediately when you wake up?Sri Chinmoy: Yes, you should get up immediately. At that time you should feel that God has knocked at your door. He is paying you an unexpected visit. When God comes and knocks at your door, if you don't respond immediately, He will go to someone else's door and your opportunity will be lost.
Question: Sometimes when I'm going to be up really late and I've only had five hours of sleep I feel I should rest further.Sri Chinmoy: That is true. If your body demands rest, what can you do? You have to be wise. You must try to regulate your life so that you can get adequate sleep. But sometimes the tricky mind and the lethargic body will tell you that you need more sleep when you actually don't. So please try to know whether your body really needs more sleep or whether it is only your mind which is making you feel tired.
Question: If we are up very late and we feel that if we get up to meditate at our usual time, we will not be able to get by the next day with that much sleep, should we meditate later or should we meditate at the usual time and go back to sleep after our meditation?Sri Chinmoy: If you have a fixed hour to meditate, the best thing is always to get up at that hour, except under most unusual and unavoidable circumstances. After even three or four hours of rest one can easily meditate. But if somebody has gone to bed only half an hour or an hour before his scheduled meditation time, then it will be very difficult for him to meditate, if not impossible. At that time there will be no meditation; it will only be a mental exercise and a physical torture. But if one has slept for three hours, then he should be able to meditate at his fixed time and afterwards go back to sleep.
When you have a fixed hour for meditation, feel that at that hour your Beloved will come and knock at your door. If the person you love has made an appointment to meet you at a certain hour, you will definitely come to keep the appointment in spite of your lack of sleep, just because you love that person. So if God is your supreme Beloved, you will not allow Him to stand at the door and wait for you in vain. You will just run to let Him in. If you don't answer the door, then He will go away. Then, when you do get up, your meditation will not be as good as usual, and your soul will make you feel sad that you have disappointed your Beloved.
Question: Guru, my hours are a little erratic. Sometimes when I get in late I feel fine, so I have my morning meditation then, at three-thirty, or four, depending on the time I get home from work. Then I go to sleep afterwards.Sri Chinmoy: That is good. If you are not sleepy, do your meditation before you go to sleep for the night. Three-thirty or four a.m. is the best time to meditate. In India it is called the hour of God. In your case you cannot avoid going to bed so late, so how will you be able to get up and meditate well after only two or three hours of sleep? When it is unavoidable, God will always make exceptions.
Question: From what I understand about ashrams, they go to bed early. But because of our activities, we go to bed at twelve or one o'clock. So, how can we be expected to get up early and meditate?Sri Chinmoy: They go to bed early? Dearest one, you are mistaken. In some ashrams I have visited they go to bed at eleven or twelve or later because every night there is some function or activity. And in many cases they also have to go to work or to school early every morning. In some Indian ashrams, for example in the Himalayas, they do go to bed early. But in the modern ashrams it is a different matter. They do not go to bed early.
Question: You say that if we are sick or exhausted we should sleep. What if we wake up and our body says that we are really exhausted and need sleep?Sri Chinmoy: When that happens it is not the body, but the physical mind that is speaking. Even if you sleep for twenty hours, the physical mind will say, "I am tired, I am tired." Finally, when you do get up, that same physical mind will tell you, "Now it is too late to meditate. The time is past."
Question: Usually after six-thirty I get the feeling that my meditation is over and I don't know what to do next. Should I just go back to sleep?Sri Chinmoy: You can read spiritual writings, chant, or learn spiritual songs. Singing is also a form of meditation. Nobody is going to laugh at your voice when you are alone at home. There will be only you and the Supreme to observe. You can also do japa, repeating 'AUM' or 'Supreme' or your own spiritual name. If you read my writings, sing spiritual songs and do japa, that is an extension of your meditation. But do not go back to sleep unless it is absolutely necessary for your health. If you do, you are just entering voluntarily into the arms of death.
Question: Can I get up early to meditate and then take a nap later on in the day?Sri Chinmoy: In India it is said that it is a great sin to sleep during the day. There is some truth in this. First of all, during the day if you sleep even for six hours, you don't get the same kind of rest that you would get in a few hours at night, so you are wasting your time. Secondly, day is the time of awakening. When you are supposed to be awake, if at that time you are sleeping, then you are unnecessarily making friends with uncertainty.
At night you are dealing with uncertainty and you know it. Sleep is necessary at this point in your spiritual journey. You cannot do without it. But during the day, when you have the opportunity, you should keep yourself alert as much as possible. Again, if necessity demands, it is better to meditate early and then go back to sleep or take a nap during the day, than to try to meditate after 8:00 in the morning. When it is unavoidable, when you are doing something most important and you have to go to bed late, if you get up early to meditate and go to sleep again during the day, it is all right. But, if you just watch television or do something silly and go to bed very late, that is very bad on your part. Either you will not be able to get up the next morning to meditate, or you will have to go back to sleep again during the day. But at that time it will be because of something totally unnecessary. It will be because of your deliberate acceptance of ignorance. At that time it will be very bad.
Question: What happens if we aren't regular in our meditation?Sri Chinmoy: if you aren't regular in your meditation, the ignorant forces will pull you back. One day you won't meditate because you are exhausted. The next day you will say you didn't lose anything by not meditating the previous day. The third day you will say that meditation is not at all necessary for God-realisation. And by the fourth day you will have totally forgotten about the existence of your soul.
Question: Does it influence the vibration if someone sleeps in the meditation room?Sri Chinmoy: At least one night before a meditation no one should sleep in the room. But if you have only one room and it is unavoidable, then there is no real harm in it.
Question: When I meditate after six-thirty in the morning, I don't feel that it's as rewarding as when I meditate earlier.Sri Chinmoy: That is absolutely true. Early in the morning is the best time to meditate, and the earlier the better, provided you can be fully awake and alert. Each person should have a fixed time for his morning meditation, but it should not be after seven o'clock. Of course, in some cases this is impossible. Some people have to work until the small hours of the morning, and it is not out of laziness that they do not get up early. But there are many who can easily get up before seven o'clock to meditate, but don't. What are they doing? They are just enjoying sleep. They are entering into the world of death.
Question: How is it possible to have a good meditation in the morning when we have gone to bed in a very bad consciousness?Sri Chinmoy: Our good meditation doesn't depend on what we did yesterday. The Supreme forgives us every night while we are sleeping. If not, we wouldn't struggle to get up the next morning. We would just say, "It is useless to try. to meditate today when I was so undivine yesterday. Let me just sleep." His Forgiveness gives us the capacity to meditate well the following day. His Forgiveness is unconditional. He empties our inner receptivity-vessel at night so that we can fill ourselves with His divine Light in the morning. That is the spiritual reason for sleep, and that is why we should always meditate early in the morning before we begin our daily activities. Once we have the spiritual capacity to empty our inner vessel ourselves, and invoke the Light of the Supreme, then we will be able to transcend sleep.
Question: What should we do when we become very tired? I know we are not supposed to drink coffee or tea. Are there any spiritual methods for waking ourselves up or for getting more effective sleep?Sri Chinmoy: There are spiritual methods that can come to your rescue when you are tired. You can do alternate breathing exercises for five minutes.1 But do not do it mechanically. Concentrate while you are breathing, and you are bound to feel that you are breathing in divine energy. Coffee gives you energy; tea gives you energy; but divine energy, which you are breathing in constantly, has infinitely more power than coffee and tea.
I have said that seven or eight hours of sleep is necessary for beginners. But there is a yogic method of getting rest. In one second you can take the rest of fifteen minutes, half an hour or even more. How can you get that kind of rest? When you go to sleep at night, feel that your whole body from head to foot has become a sea of peace. You have become peace itself. Consciously try to feel that you are not the body, but an infinite expanse of peace. When you can consciously feel this peace, you will see that your physical body has merged with it and totally disappeared in the sea of peace. If you can do this exercise effectively, you will need very little sleep.
It is not the number of hours you sleep that is important. During eight hours of sleep you do not get even one hour of sound sleep, and perhaps you don't get even a couple of minutes. Since you know how to meditate and concentrate, what is necessary is to feel the infinite expanse of peace and to embody peace inside yourself. We feel that when the body is active, dynamic, we have strength. But the real strength is in inner peace, not in outer action. When we have peace in infinite measure then automatically dynamic energy comes from there. In the outer field of manifestation we become dynamic energy, while inside we are all peace.
Indian tradition says that at night if you sleep on your left side, you get better sleep. During the day it is best to sleep on your right side. Never sleep on your chest. There is truth in all these things. The sages also say never to sleep with your hands on your chest, or you will have nightmares. Many people do have nightmares unnecessarily because of this.
What you can do if you feel that even eight hours of sleep is not enough for you, or if you are unable to get to bed at your usual hour on a certain night is this: try to imagine that you are going to sleep for twenty-four hours. Try to feel that you will have a sound sleep for twenty-four hours. Then as soon as you wake up in the morning, try to feel that you have slept for twenty-four hours. Never think that you have slept for only three hours or four hours. It is the mind that convinces the outer consciousness. The conscious mind alone can satisfy you. If your conscious mind tells you that you have slept for twenty-four hours, then you will believe it. This is not self-deception. It is self-control in the conscious mind. We say that we have slept for twenty-four hours because the figure twenty-four gives us the feeling that we have had a considerable amount of rest, a more than adequate amount of rest. This figure has enormous strength. We may not sleep for even four hours, but the figure twenty-four immediately gives us a sense of satisfaction, relief and fulfilment. In this way we can get up early in the morning.
SDS 41,1. This exercise is fully described in the chapter on Pranayama in Sri Chinmoy's book The body: humanity's fortress.↩
Poems from the first edition
SleepLord, is sleep death or rest?
"Son, sleep is death; sleep is rest.
Sleep is fulfilling rest
When angels visit you
You enter into the world
Of the illumining Beyond.
Sleep is death
When the vital world
Threatens you and frightens you.
Sleep is death
When you fail to see
The flow of Eternity's river
He smiles at meWhen I sleep
After my prayer,
My Lord smiles at my child-heart.
When I sleep
After my concentration,
My Captain smiles at my soldier-will.
When I sleep
After my meditation,
My Beloved smiles at my surrender-life.
When I sleep
After my contemplation,
My Friend smiles at my oneness-soul.
This is just a suggestionFather,
This is just a suggestion:
Since You are extremely tired,
Let me take care
Of Your creation
For a while.
This is just a suggestion:
Since you are not tired at all,
You should not make friends
Don't think, don't sleepWhen he was a child,
His father said to him:
"Don't think, my child.
God never thinks."
Since then, he never cared
To learn the art of thinking.
When he was a child,
His mother said to him:
"Don't sleep, my child.
God never sleeps."
Since then, he never cared
To learn the art of sleeping.
God's meaningLive in the sleeping body;
God means frustration.
Live in the roaring vital;
God means indifference.
Live in the doubting mind;
God means superfluity.
Live in the aspiring heart;
God means necessity,
Although I sleepAlthough I sleep
During my morning meditation,
God appreciates my attempt.
I thank God.
Although I sleep
During my evening meditation,
I am proud of my attempt.
I love myself.
O sleepless onesO sleepless silence,
My heart desires
Your beauty's height.
O sleepless sound,
My body desires
Your duty's joy.
O sleepless God,
My life needs
Still God wants you to work for HimAlthough
You have fallen asleep,
God wants you to work
God wants you to conquer sleep
So that you can be
His sleepless partner.
You have told a good many lies,
God wants you to work
God wants you to conquer falsehood
So that you can be
His perfect partner.
God taught meBefore the first hour
Of my sleep,
God taught me
How to sleep.
During the second hour
Of my sleep,
God taught me
How to wake up.
In the last hour
Of my sleep,
God taught me
How to capture Him,
How to possess Him,
How to treasure Him.
Editor's note from first editionThe questions in the first section of this book were asked by the disciples of Sri Chinmoy's Miami, Florida Centre.