Waking, dreaming, and sleeping happen in you

Many years ago, Science magazine declared that one of the most important and unanswered questions in science is What is the universe made of? Today, we still don't know the answer.

Part of the problem is that we, as human beings, are part of the very universe we are trying to understand. Therefore, it goes without saying that if we don't understand our own nature, we are likely to misunderstand the nature of the universe.

To fully understand ourselves, we must look at the entire breadth of our life experiences. Usually, this doesn't happen. Most of our analysis happens from one state of mind--the waking state, which we are in right now. All that we know about perception and reasoning, we know based on our waking experience. Since we don't conduct scientific experiments in our sleep or in our dreams, those two crucial states of human experience don't contribute much to our understanding of the universe.

The dream and deep sleep states have something important to teach us. If we want to know the nature of the universe and our own nature, we have to consider all the data we have access to, not just the data we accrue while having a waking experience.

The dream state

Within a dream, we assume an identity, operate in an environment, and are subject to apparent cause and effect. The content of the dream appears to be made of matter. You and I, as characters in that dream, cycle through successes and failures, ups and downs. What is the nature of  that dream world and what can it tell us about the universe?

A close analysis of the dream state tells us that what we consider to be matter within a dream is nothing but mind on waking up from the dream. What we consider to be an enemy in our dream is nothing but our own nature as the mind. You, as the mind, become both the hero and the villain in the dream, not to mention the battlefield itself. Within the dream, such insights are not revealed. One has to become wise to the dream’s nature to see them. The implications of this on our current experience in the waking state can be startling.

But even an analysis of the dream state is not enough. What about that great mystery we call the deep sleep state? The mystery that both scientists and sages wonder about? What secrets might it whisper about the nature of the universe and ourselves?

The mystery of deep sleep

Deep sleep is a unique state of experience. It is the experience of no thing. In deep sleep, the individual mind…

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Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is board certified in Emergency Medicine and holds a Master’s degree in Management with a focus in Health Leadership from McGill University. He practices in the Washington, DC metro area, where he also leads meditation gatherings for clinicians. He is the author of the book Michelangelo’s Medicine: How redefining the human body will transform health and healthcare. Follow him @DrAnoopKumar.