The Art of Beautiful Sleep

In this cycle of time, sleep is an essential requirement to open the door to healing, happiness and peace.  It is difficult to imagine healing, happiness and peace if human beings sleep very little and in a very poor quality of sleep.  Conclusions like this have not only appeared in the daily world of many humans, but have also appeared in many world-class health journals such as the Harvard Medical School journal, have become a topic of conversation that is widely discussed on YouTube, as well as being discussed in many spiritual communities in the world.  The wonderful book written by Matthew Walker Ph.D, a professor of psychology and neuro-science from UC Berkeley, entitled “Why we sleep” is one of the most beautiful works in this field.  So it is very appropriate if this month the Compassion family to share stories about the art of beautiful sleep.  There are 3 sides of sleep that we want to share this time, the biological side, the psychological side and the spiritual side.  So that friends get a relatively complete picture of sleep.  It has been a characteristic of Guruji for a long time, before distributing medicine to others, the medicine is first taken by himself, then the impact on body, mind and spirit can be seen.  In the past few months, Guruji has been experimenting with sleeping in the ashram.  So that the story that is shared becomes a living story (alive).

The biological side of sleep

As concluded by many world-class sleep experts, the state of lack of quantity and quality of sleep can have implications to many things.  Not only has a negative effect on the health of the body, but also has a negative impact on mental and spiritual health.  This is especially true if a person is rarely able to enter deep sleep areas (deep sleep, delta sleep).  Not only can the brain be damaged if humans are deprived of sleep for years, but it can also damage the immune system and other systems in the body.  It is difficult to imagine clear thoughts and clear feelings that are often happy and peaceful when a person is deprived of sleep for many years.  What’s more, if we talk about deep spirituality.  It is impossible for the secret realm to open up through dream yoga, if the quality of one’s sleep is very poor.  In order to have a relatively deeper understanding of sleep, it is better to agree on the language of scientists about sleep.  Sleep in this case is divided into REM (rapid eyes movements) aka sleep with moving eyes, light sleep, and deep sleep (delta sleep).  Mathew Walker simplifies it into REM and non-Rem (NREM).  These three types of sleep are needed.  But what is needed most is deep sleep.  In terms of brain health, these three types of sleep heal the different parts of the brain.

In the language of the neuro-science (human brain), when awake, the human brain waves are at the beta and alpha levels.  Upon entering the half-sleeping (half-awake, half-sleeping) realm, one enters the theta wave.  Deep sleep occurs when a person enters a delta wave.  Some have reached the gamma wave level.  But very rarely.  The practitioner of dream yoga (dream yoga) who will be described below enters the gamma waves when he enters lucid dreaming (bright dreams).  Sleep researchers like Matthew Walker monitor 3 things when studying sleep, namely brain wave movements, eye movements, and muscle movements.  The health watch which has been widely sold everywhere (Guruji uses it too), as well as measuring the quantity and quality of sleep, apparently also monitors the last 3 movements.  So that it can provide input about the quantity and quality of sleep every day.  For practical daily purposes for the beginner public, pay attention to the freshness of the body when you wake up in the morning.  If you sleep enough, your body will wake up in the morning with a fresh and healthy quality.  At 10 and 11 am (AM), the body shows no signs of drowsiness.  Until lunch time (12:30 p.m.), a person can move without depending on caffeine at all.  That’s honest advice about getting enough sleep.  If you wear a health watch like Guruji wears, the data can be more accurate.  Just waking up told how many hours of REM sleep, how many hours of light sleep, how many hours of deep sleep.  Data and graphs from day to day, week to week can be stored on a PC or on a cellphone.

What is clear is that Matther Walker’s conclusion on page 4 needs to be addressed deeply: “The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span”.  If a person has had too little sleep over the years, it is possible that his lifespan is also short.  What is worthy of deeper reflection, Walker’s findings in rich countries (United States, United Kingdom, Western Europe, Japan and South Korea), where the quantity and quality of human sleep decreased very dramatically.  Again very dramatically.  Walker added, the number of people who are sick physically and mentally are recently increasing dramatically.  Mainly due to lack of sleep.  That’s why scientists like Walker persuade many doctors to “prescribe” the importance of quality sleep.  In medical language, it is very important to understand “the significant sleep placebo effect of melatonin”.  Sleep has a significant placebo effect on the quantity and quality of melatonin produced by the body.  These findings at the same time provide honest and clear input, be careful with excessive material wealth.  The immediate impact on sleep quantity and quality is devastating.  As someone who once sat at the top of the corporate world at the age of 38, leading thousands of people, it must be shared here, the wealth and power at the top does have a very disastrous impact not only on health, but on the quality of peace as well.

Because sleep has such a significant impact on the health of the body, it is worth pondering over the following practical tips:

  1. Be careful with caffeine and nicotine.  Caffeine is found in tea, coffee, dark chocolate to energy-boosting drinks.  Nicotine is in cigarettes.  Walker is very explicit in this (page 26), that caffeine is not a food supplement, but a psychoactive stimulant.  It is the second largest trading object after oil.
  2. Alcohol is a power that is very disturbing to sleep.  The earlier we can avoid it the better
  3. Although sleep is very important, using sleeping pills is not recommended.  It is not recommended.  Especially because it can have a bad impact everywhere
  4. Exercise is highly recommended.  Try to exercise at least 3 hours before bedtime
  5. A short nap is very helpful.  In blue regions of the world where many healthy and long-lived humans such as Ikaria in Greece and Okinawa Japan, people enjoy healthy naps.  Note, avoid napping after 3 pm because it can have an impact on the quality of sleep at night
  6. Balinese elders know the term sleep like a baby, before 3 pm in particular, whenever and wherever feels sleepy, sleep fast as long as it does not violate norms and ethics.  In the world’s large companies it has even begun to suggest that workers are allowed to sleep during working hours.
  7. Avoid large meals at least 4 hours before bedtime.  It makes the digestive system work hard during sleep, so the quality of sleep can be disturbed.  Drinking liquid things before bed can also make a person wake up too much at night because they are bothered by urinating.
  8. It is important to recognize the art of drinking water as Guruji has been doing over the years.  The goal is that the color of urine is always clean and clear, so that on the one hand it does not hold pee too much while sleeping, it not only disturbs the quality of sleep but can also cause the prostate diseases.  On the other hand, it does not cause a lack of water which can cause kidney problems.  The art of drinking water is simple, before lunch time (1 PM), drink it using a bigger glass.  After 1 PM, drink using a cup.  Even after 8 PM, drink only half a cup.  Just a few times.
  9. Relaxation before bed is highly recommended.  From meditation to listening to music.  Write down the remaining tasks and work in a note is also included in the relaxation group.
  10. For bodies that tend to be cold, a warm shower a few hours before bed will be very helpful.  For bodies that tend to be hot, regular baths are also very helpful.  It helps the body to approach a point of balance.  At the point of balance, the body is easily healthy, as well as easier to get to sleep.
  11. With regards to balance, if you had less quantity and quality of sleep during the night, then you should you have less activity during the day.  If you sleep more than enough during the night, you can do more activities during the day.  Again, balance is a safe and comfortable home not only for the body, but also for the growth of the soul.  The spiritual Compassion family has been guided by this kind of sleep preparation.  A few seconds before closing your eyes, remember the things that we are grateful of.  Then whisper this beautiful mantra to yourself: “I am a very deep gratitude.”  Remember to feel the pause between two breaths.  It is a very helpful force.  Because at the time before going to sleep (and the time of just waking up), the brain enters the theta waves where the door to the subconscious opens, reminding itself again and again to guide itself to sleep with deep gratitude.

The psychological side of sleep

The journal Harvard Medical School has repeatedly written, how the quality and quantity of sleep can affect the physical and mental health of a person inside.  The influential journal Psychology Today has published many times about the relationship between sleep quality and mental health.  The logic is easy to digest, the quantity and quality of sleep that is more or less in the long term easily makes a person easily stressed and even easily become depressed.  Many of the dangerous signs of mental illness – from bipolar disorder to schizophrenia to whispering of suicide – start with chronic sleeplessness.  It is understandable then if Noam Shpancer Ph.D gave the title of his writing in the journal Psychology Today like this: “Wake Up To The Benefits of Sleep”.  In the early part of this paper, Shpancer even highly recommended the importance of sleep for mental health.  At the end of his article, this insight therapist even suggests the importance of sleep education (education for the community about the importance of sleep), as well as sleep hygiene training (training on habits that support sleep, an environment that supports sleep, and rituals at bedtime).

Just because Guruji wanted to give a live story to all friends, one night Guruji accidentally shortened his sleep to only 3 hours.  Staying up late watching his favorite YouTube.  Like TED, hearing his favorite mantras and music.  Sure enough, the next day not only did the body feel weak, concentration dropped drastically, finding ideas to write about was very difficult, but also visited by lots of bad memories, bad moods, difficulty to become happy, and even prone to irritability (although only inside) because small and simple things. Spiritual life such as practicing mindfulness is also disturbed.  Often forget things, easy paths seems hard, pick up and putting glasses, cups, plates that usually doesnt make any sound, now become kinda noisy. On the Contrary, at night when Guruji can sleep in a very good quality of sleep (7 hours more, plus sleep in deep sleep aka longer than usual), the feeling is easy to be happy, the mind is easily become calm and balanced.  Even Guruji can feel happy with those small and simple things.  Good concentration, finding the right topics to write on social media is easy.  Taking and putting the plate (glass) does not make any noise.

As lesson learnt, the quantity and quality of sleep does have an impact on mental health.  Happiness, as an important barometer of mental health in this era, really requires adequate quantity and quality of sleep.  It’s hard to imagine any profound happiness in a person who has poor quantity and quality of sleep over the years.  Very difficult. Based on Guruji’s own experiences shows that the quantity and quality of poor sleep disturbs almost all aspects of life (body, mind and spirit).  Including a troublesome relationships with close people.  There are chances someone can make mistakes on social media, which can lead to dealing with the law enforcement.  Therefore, let’s consider some psychological steps to make all friends have a relatively healthy sleep.

  1. When Guruji sleeps up to 9 hours a day (the recommended standard is 7-9 hours a day), it feels very easy to be innerly happy, even Guruji can be happy because of simple and small things.  In order to have a healthy sleep, learn to be kind to our own weaknesses, past mistakes and failures.  They are not the hands of the devil, but actually a convincing path to maturity.
  2. Our weaknesses are our guardian angel whom are here to teach us to be humble.  Past mistakes will stop being a mistake once a person focuses on the lesson, failure often provides input on the limits of one’s ability.  Without knowing the limits of one’s own abilities, many humans can be in danger or even can get hurt.
  3. Simplifying one’s own mind and life will greatly help improving the quality and quantity of sleep.  The practical step is to bring the desire closer to reality.  Many things in life can easily seems beautiful if one has a little hope from any other people.
  4. Self-love is also very helpful.  It reduces the tension inside, reduces conflicts with many people, while improving sleep quality.  In the daily life, talk in only those things that help your mental growth.  Try not to complaint much, share a smile that are full of inner acceptance.  Keeping in mind, that you are your own best healer.
  5. Learn to multiply your happiness using deep gratitude.  Accompanied by deep gratitude, even a small joy like a breath of fresh air, can share both great and deep happiness.
  6. Because the brain likes patterned daily activities, live each day in a relatively fixed pattern.  For example, getting up in the morning, going to sleep and going to work at the same time daily.  There is much less stress and tension inside if the daily activities mostly done in a pattern.  As soon as life moves outside from its usual pattern, quickly turn on the lantern of mindfulness inside, so that any unfriendly energies such as anger can be minimized.
  7. Beware of the thinking-feeling loops in everyday life.  This drains a lot of energy, interferes our sleep quality as well as the early seeds of mental illness, and can even cause a stroke diseases.  In short, when a bad memory visits, don’t allow it to give birth to bad thoughts. Or even more, bad thoughts give birth to bad feelings.  Once bad thoughts and bad feelings often loop together, in these kind of situation not only our sleep can be disturbed, but we are actually watering the seeds of stroke deases and mental illness inside.  The practical remedy is, when bad memory visits, realize that it is only the movement of one of the neurological circuits in the brain.  It has little thing to do from the outside events.  Just be mindful, share a smile that is full of acceptance, then let it pass naturally with the time.
  8. In our time, happiness is still the best mental nutrition.  Because happiness that comes from outside (praise, competition, etc.) are easily stolen by other people.  Learn to develop happiness from within.  For that reason, balance the internet (social media) with the inner net.  That is, identify the thought-feeling network inside.  When the body is tired, the mind is restless, try to grow in a cooler environment.  When inside is strong, healthy and happy, multiply our inner happiness by doing service to others.  At least through the eyes that are full of acceptance.  It’s good if you can listen to others sincerely.
  9. Above all, practice mindfulness in every move of your daily life.  From eating, drinking, working to loving a family.  Be aware that the nature of things which is always comes in couples.  Where there is sad there is also joy.  When a bad mood is visiting, remember that it will be replaced by a good mood.  Be a witness at the riverside, who always shares a smile at every flow of events in everyday life.  If you want to go deeper, use the gap (between 2 breaths, 2 activities, 2 memories, 2 sounds) as an anchor to stay connected to the present.  Remember, the only time humans can be happy is right now (the present).
  10. The practical step is to get along with the present without being too attach with good or bad, without being too attach with right or wrong.  Live everyday like a child that opening gifts, playing and singing.  Try less poisoning yourself with guilt from the past, try less pollute the soul’s journey with fear of the future.  Grateful that accompanied by beautiful smile in every present, that is more than enough.
  11. Among the 7 billion people on earth, there is only 1, once again there is only 1 person who can heal, be happy and make yourself completely at peace.  And that person is you yourself.  Keep away from all anger and hatred within yourself, build a friendship as healthy as possible with your innerself.  Keeping in mind, only those who finds a friend on the inside will be treated as a friend on the outside.  Remember beautiful souls, health is not everything, but without health everything is useless.  For that reason, combine health with deep gratitude, that’s a wonderful gift for the inner soul.

The spiritual side of sleep

Deeper than just healing the physical and mental bodies, sleep also heals and reconciles the spiritual body.  Not only is it justified by old holy books such as the teachings of dream yoga (experiencing unity through dreams), but it is also justified by Guruji’s own personal experience.  The founder of psychology, Sigmund Freud, was right in the interpretation of dreams, when he said that more than 85% of dreams are useless trash.  However, if you can thoroughly and neatly read and interpret the 15%, someone will be guided very neatly.  There is indeed a spiritual teaching that mentions dreams as a kind of hindrance and deficiency on the spiritual path. We shall respect those thought.  But on the path of Tantra there is a simple logic that is worth pondering: “The spiritual quality of a person in the waking realm (awake) can be seen in the dream world.  The quality of a person’s journey later when he/she dies, can also be seen in dreams ”.  For example, someone who is full of anger on a daily basis will easily be seen in a dream who is also full of anger.  He who in dreams is often afraid and confused, there is a possibility that later when he/she dies, he/she is also being afraid and confused.

The things that deserve to be ponder more deeply, mistakes in dreamland (eg anger) can be corrected in the waking realm.  By learning to be patient, for example.  But mistakes when you die are beyond of any repair.  Because the journey of death cannot be reversed.  Or it can’t be repeated.  It is a one way traffic.  In this perspective, sleeping with the dream plays a very important role in the spiritual journey.  Deeper than that, without the 15% dream (called lucid dreaming in Tantra), the spiritual journey is prone to darkness and without any direction at all.  After combining the holy book with personal experience, here are some of the immediate benefits of dream yoga.  First, a person will get a unique medicine that is suitable for the unique characteristics of each person’s body.  Second, friends can be told things that might endanger the journey of life.  Or things that are still lacking on our spiritual journey.

Thirdly, if one done his/her daily practice diligently and sincerely, one will be told which living Guru to follow.  Fourth, as long your mind and heart are clean and clear when entering the dream realm, secret Guru often open the secret realm, one of the way is through the lucid dreams.  One example that can be shared with the public, a person’s relationship with the cycle of the moon and the sun can be seen through the quality of sleep and bright dreams.  People who are close to the Buddhist path, for example, will easily sleep well on full moon nights.  Seekers who are close to the Shiva path as another example, would find it easy to sleep well on moonless nights (tilem).  Likewise with the crescent moon, as well as the half moon.  Try not to compare our own suitable path by saying it is more better than others.  Just go on with our own beautiful path, respect those people who take different paths.  Because of the vital role of sleep and dreams for the spiritual journey, here are some suggestions for better quality of sleep and dreams.

  1. Go to bed with a stomach that is not too full.  A little hungry.  We should not eat four hours before bedtime.  Drinking enough water is good.  It is not only related to the digestive system which is intended to take a break, but in order to enter the world of sleep accompanied by less worldly spirits.  In the world of long-lived human research, this method is also highly recommended.
  2. Leave the undone tasks by writing it on your notebook.  So that thoughts and feelings are not burdened with too many worldly attachments.  At the same time, a person can enter the dream world with thoughts and feelings that are relatively calm and more balanced.
  3. In a less friendly cycle of time, for example you are close to the full moon but the time cycle is far from the full moon, prepare extra sleeping devices.  From sufficient exercise, a relatively clean bedroom situation, less disturbance from close people, deeper prayers, to deeper meditation before bed.  So that the bad effects of an unfriendly time cycle are minimized.
  4. Because humans include body, mind and spirit, always maintain a harmonious relationship with the local spirit.  From caring for gardens and plants around the house, feeding birds and wild animals, keeping the house clean not only physically, but also spiritually (far from hostility, more close to a friendly energy).  A friend in Bali who has inherited the offerings and penunggun karang, the lower realms beings are actually deserves to be cared for.  This does not mean that we are worshiping them, but because we are sharing compassion to them.
  5. If before bedtime there are soul wounds, anger and hatred that are still left unsolved, it is wise to cleanse yourself with Tirtha (holy water) to forgive: “Not only that you who suffer, people who hurted you also suffer.  Sadly, they want to heal themselves by hurting others.  And by doing this they are not only fail to get the medicine, but even worse, now they drink a new, more dangerous poisons”.
  6. If before going to bed, friends are visited by a lot of bad memories in particular, rest the mind in the gap between 2 memories.  For example, the environment around the sound is boisterous by karaoke, for example, protect yourself by listening to your favorite music using a headset.  If it’s really hard, rest your mind in the gap between 2 sounds.  The practice of touching the gap is very helpful in this regard.
  7. If you sleep with your spouse or children, talk about only things that beautify your soul before going to sleep.  If sleeping alone, also talk about things that beautify the soul.  From thankfulness to being grateful for everything that you have.  Especially because the conversation just before bedtime affects the journey to sleep.
  8. Make a mental list of things to be grateful for in life.  From a healthy body, a family that is safe, has no debt, having a beautiful home, to a peaceful mind.  At least, stay away from any kind of complaints, feelings that are always feel lack in something, or even excessive energy of competitiveness.  Gratitude is a beautiful path that is very helpful in the sleep journey to lucid dreaming.
  9. Prayer is a very helpful force.  Whisper to yourself a thank you prayer at least three times before going to bed.  It’s good to also make positive affirmations within yourself by whispering a beautiful mantra: “I am a very deep gratitude.”  This assertion is recommended not only in the spiritual world, but also in the world of psychology.
  10. Remembering the beautiful messages from the holy book before bedtime is also very helpful.  For example, humans are not physical bodies looking for Light, but Light, which is borrowing the physical body.  Do your best, embrace the results with a beautiful attitude.  Whatever happens in nature is like the clouds that come and go.  And you are a witness that is full of harmony.  You are like a clear blue sky, completely untouched by the clouds that came and go.  Don’t forget to imagine the holy letters of each religion around the throat before going to bed.  Mainly because the energy movement during sleep is most dynamicly happens in the throat chakra.
  11. Meditation is the best friend before bedtime.  Sleep with your body on your right side.  The right shoulder is below your body.  Feel the gap between two breaths.  At the end of the in-breath, there is a split second pause.  At the end of the out breath, there is also a split second pause.  No need to hold your breath, no need to slow down your breath.  Breathe as naturally as possible.  In this gap, imagine that you enter the mind that is as large as the space.  Which can give place to anything and anyone.  Embrace every memories and experiences that comes with a smile that is full of acceptance. And for the rest, allow the journey of the soul to be lifted up by the perfection of sincerity.
    May all beings be happy, free from any kinds of suffering.

Photo caption: The atmosphere of the Ashram where Guruji lives at night

About the author

H.H. Guruji Gede Prama

Gede Prama started his spiritual journey through a dialogue with his symbolic Guru in a village at the north of Bali. The journey is then being enriched with his experiences of studying abroad, his meetings with the world greatest spiritual Gurus: His Holiness Dalai Lama, The Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, as well as Professor Karen Armstrong; and also being deepened by his intense meditation practices.

Despite the fact that he was once a CEO of a large corporation with thousand of employees, and was traveling abroad frequently for the purpose of teaching, yet, being deeply moved by the Bali bombing incident in 2002, he then decided to leave everything and went back to his home island.
He has never leave Bali for the past few years. In fact, he rarely leaves the silence of the forest where he lives, except for the purpose of teaching at the sacred sites within Bali.

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