Nidra in Yoga Meditation
QUICK EXPLANATION ON NIDRA
Nidra = one of the five kinds of thoughts or vrittis ; there are five kinds of movements in the mind-field and one of them is nidra (according to the yogasutra 1.6)
Nidra = movements in the mind that are “dreamless sleep”, this vritti is maybe the hardest to understand as being a movement in the mind-field; the mind is still present (it has not gone nirodhah) but is occupied with absence, blankness, inertia, and all other four thought patterns are not present.
5 kinds of thoughts are: pramana, viparyaya, vikalpa, nidra, smriti
Nidra = unconscious sleep
Yoga Nidra = Yogic deep sleep, this is different from nidra, it is a state of being; namely being awake in prajna (the deep sleep state). How does a yogi sleep? Consciously! You can learn to dive into the deep sleep state while remaining conscious. Generally when people fall asleep they do this unconsciously (which is called; nidra). Learning to direct the attention inward and allowing the mind to fall in to the deep sleep (meaning leaving the waking state and falling through the dreaming state) but remaining awake leads to yoga nidra. It is not the practice that is called yoga nidra, but it is the state of conscious deep sleep that is yoga nidra. So yoga nidra is a state of being not the practices that lead up to this state.
In contrast to the other four kinds of vrittis we cannot consciously observe that we are in it, otherwise it would be called yoga nidra and not just nidra. We do want to be become familiar with this vritti so that we can regulate it. How long do you sleep? Is it too long or too short? How are the circumstances related to the moment of sleep: how is the bed in which you sleep and the room? How do you fall asleep and also really fun is to start noticing what wakes you up; which vritti replaces nidra and wakes up all the instruments to start to play again in the manifestation of Divine Mother? When you start to regulate nidra remember that the middle path is most important, so do not deprive yourself of sleep, nor sleep too long.
Relaxation and nidra
One of the skills we want to have is to be able to release the tension of the body, letting go of the karmendriya of grasping. When we practice this we want to stay in the waking state of Consciousness, therefore we do not want to fall asleep. Yet the paradox is that to fall asleep nicely you could do some a relaxation practice, like scanning the body, so that you fall asleep relaxed with no unnecessary tension in the body. We want to train the mind that when it is in bed we want to be able to let go of everything and fall asleep. If you are practicing relaxation on your mat or blanket then you do not want to fall asleep, but stay conscious while you drop into relaxation as deep as possible. Also when you are in bed you get a free moment to not fall asleep unconsciously, but try to stay conscious while this happens. Then instead of nidra is will be yoga nidra.
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DAILY OBSERVATION AND YOGIC SELF-AWARENESS ASSESSMENT
Eventually the concept of nidra will swim around in your awareness all the time, as it becomes a part of constant self-awareness. Also, becoming aware of nidra will have the effect that you will increase your use of this word in your daily vocabulary to express yourself and you will discover how nidra relates to other concepts, processes, or insights. For example, you may come to see that nidra is related to tamas, or you find a relationship between mudha and nidra. Eventually you will discover how all these concepts dance together and coming to know this dance will guide you towards that which is beyond all the concepts. This is because as you increase your self-awareness, you will discover that everything you can observe is not who you truly are, your true Self has nothing to do with nidra, you are the One that is able to witness all these concepts. Therefore nidra itself have to be transcended, who you really are is beyond nidra. This will increase the non-attachment towards nidra itself, while you can be in awe of the beauty of the Divine dance of Consciousness that appears to play as unconscious sleep, as nidra. Therefore practicing self-awareness is actually practicing not-self-awareness by which the True Self will eventually reveal itself.
Look at the self-assessment PDF (assessment-yymmdd.pdf) and a PDF that includes daily internal dialogue and daily observation (sumseven-yymmdd.pdf) on the website of www.abhyasaashram.org (when you are on this page scroll all the way down to find the downloadable PDFs) These PDFs can be used as tools to explore and expand your understanding on nidra.
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MORE ON NIDRA
Nidra; thought or state?
Nidra is seen as a vritti, thought, or movement in the mind-field in the yogasutras; this is a unique way a viewing sleep because could also been seen as a state, namely one of the four layers of consciousness; waking, dreaming, deep sleep and Turiya. Both are useful to keep in mind.
Nidra as vritti: As long as the Seer is not resting in its true nature it is identified with the movements in the mind-field. If you are sleeping you are not Self-realized, so there is some movement in the mind-field or some identification. If you look at the mind-field as a screen on which movements can be projected then you could see sleep as if there is a black slide projected onto the screen. There is still something projected, as if “unconsciousness” itself is projected onto the mind-field, therefore this slide can be seen as a vritti; a blackness that is a movements or projection in the mind-field. This way of looking at nidra is useful, because it means that this vritti can be brought under conscious control, like all the other four kinds of vrittis. And it also shows that you will have to go beyond nidra to find the Self.
Nidra as a state of consciousness: There seem to be four levels within the apparent manifestation; waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and turiya (which means literally ‘fourth’ = pure consciousness). The first layer that appears to move outward from pure consciousness is the deep sleep state. When we are sleeping means that consciousness has receded into this layer, receded from the waking and the dreaming states, like a tortoise withdrawing its limbs. To know what sleep means will help you to understand the nature of this level or layer of Consciousness. Deep sleep (not dreaming) means that all the samskaras and antahkarana itself has receded into seed-form; the potential is still there, but everything is non-active. Therefore we want to know what sleep is, so that we can recognize it for ourselves as being a different level of Consciousness, with its own characteristics and nature. Consciousness (which is ever conscious) can appear to move into this layer unconsciously, then we call it nidra, or it recede back into this layer consciously, then we call this experience yoga nidra (conscious deep sleep).
Stabilizing the mind
The yogasutras give a few suggestions on how to stabilize the mind. Before we start to deal with gross coloring and subtle coloring the mind has to be made stable. One of the ways to do this is to focus on the nature of sleep; this suggestion can be done both towards the dreaming state or deep sleep state. To take a moment and remember the nature of these states will calm the mind.
Nidra – four primitive fountains
When pure Consciousness appears to manifest, due to the notion of avidya, it seems to forget its true nature, and can now play as an individual. This appearing individual wave within the non-dual ocean of Consciousness seems to have four different fountains that burst forward, and form the four basic desires or categories of desires. Every individual seems to have a way in which it feeds itself, so food is one. Every appearing individual seems to be able to reproduce itself, so sex is another one. It seems to protect itself and have a desire to stay alive, hence the third is self-preservation, and it seems to have a rest-cycle, which we call sleep. Actually you could say that food, sleep, and sex are all coming from self-preservation, but these four categories together form the four primitive fountains. We cannot live without a resting cycle, so we have to learn how to regulate sleep, so that it doesn’t become on obstacle on the journey towards Self-realization.
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YOGASUTRAS ON NIDRA
1.6 The five varieties of thought patterns to witness are: 1) knowing correctly (pramana), 2) incorrect knowing (viparyaya), 3) fantasy or imagination (vikalpa), 4) the object of void-ness that is deep sleep (nidra), and 5) recollection or memory (smriti).
pramana viparyaya vikalpa nidra smritayah
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1.10 Dreamless sleep (nidra) is the subtle thought pattern which has as its object an inertia, blankness, absence, or negation of the other though patterns (vrittis).
abhava pratyaya alambana vritti nidra
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1.38 Or by focusing on the nature of the stream in the dream state or the nature of the state of dreamless sleep, the mind becomes stabilized and tranquil.
svapna nidra jnana alambanam va
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SWAMI RAMA ON NIDRA
”Actually, sleep is one of the states of mind – waking, dreaming, and sleeping. Sleep is not a modification of chitta according to philosophy. Patanjali, being very practical, wants you to understand that as you are trying to control the other modifications of the mind, you should also bring sleep under your control. Patanjali says that anything that is to be brought under your control is a vritti, and you should accepts it as a vritti from a practical viewpoint. Patanjali never said that the waking state could be controlled. He is talking about sleep in particular. That which is enveloped with sloth and laziness is called sleep. When you are fast asleep you forget things completely. Though you sleep everyday, you are not aware during sleep. You become unconscious of the facts because your conscious mind does not functions during sleep. When it does not function, you do not perceive things at all. During deep sleep there are no contents in the mind. If you are away from the world of facts, and if your senses, which help you in relating with the external world, do not function in the external, then mind should work within. That does not happen during sleep. Mind also does not relate to your memory during deep sleep. Before you go to sleep, you become drowsy, your conscious mind starts fading, and you see things in a distorted form. Once I wanted to know how sleep comes, and I could not sleep. For three days I remained well alert because I wanted to watch what happens when sleep comes, but sleep wouldn’t come.”
~ Samadhi pg. 144
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SWAMI JNANESHVARA ON NIDRA
Read the whole article “Integrating 50+ types of Yoga Meditation” on www.swamij.com
Swapnanidrajnana: Meditation on the states of dreaming (Swapna) and sleeping (Nidra). This is not meditation on the content of those states. Rather, it is meditation done in the waking state, where the object on which the meditation is done is the flowing stream of the other two levels of consciousness. It is this flow itself that is the focus of meditation.
Read the whole article “Witnessing” on www.swamij.com
Nidra/sleep, sleepiness, blankness, focus on non-being: sleep, the state of mind wherein attention is drawn to the “object” of blankness or inertness associated with sleep (this is a different perspective from tamas, one of the three gunas previously mentioned, though they might be related.)