Dream On, But Sleep Is Very Important, Too


Dream On, But Sleep Is Very Important, Too

Everybody dreams. Some remember their dreams; others don’t. The brain never sleeps; neural pathways are always active, whether mediated by ego during waking state or without it, as happens during sleep. Activation of neural pathways produces dreams.

During sleep, we go through four to five cycles of deep sleep and dreaming episodes, each of roughly 90 minutes duration. Electro-encephalography (EEG) studies done on the human brain during sleep, show that deep sleep is characterised by production of low frequency (1-4 Hz) Delta waves, known to help produce life and mood-enhancing chemicals. At this stage, we are totally unaware of our surroundings. But, dreaming episodes characterised by rapid eye movement (REM), are of light sleep kind, from which one can be woken up quite easily .

Dreams are both internal and external. Since ego, the director, is absent during sleep, neural pathways have free run. Thus, day-long experiences or existing memories are the driving force for internal dreams. When there is sanyam or tremendous thinking activity on a particular thought during waking time, it leads sometimes to solution-dreams.Several great inventions and discoveries have come through such dreaming process.

Externality of dreams comes because brain is both receiver and transmitter of human thought. Hence during sleep, memories or signals from knowledge-space impinge on the brain and may modify neural pathways. This can give rise to strange dreams of events and places never visited or interacted with. This is also the mechanism of getting prophetic dreams of which there are many instances. Why don’t we remember dreams? Brain scientists say part of it is to do with creating long-term memory . But it is dreams we remember that make life interesting. We still don’t know why we dream. A possible answer may lie in how synapses behave during sleep.

Synapses are connections between two neurons; they allow the transfer of information through passage of neuro-chemicals across the synaptic cleft, the distance (about 0.02 micron) between neuron and synapse that exchanges neurochemicals.

Scientists have found that during deep sleep, the synaptic cleft widens by about 20%. Perhaps it helps in allowing the cerebro spinal fluid to flow through it and to remove toxins from the brain.

The more we dream during the night, the less restful is the sleep. A really restful sleep is deep sleep without dreams. This helps in flushing out toxic material from major part of the brain. Besides this, the increase of synaptic cleft may also help in explaining the dreaming process.

During sleep, neural pathways are active without ego, so circuit production is quite random. But only those pathways produce circuits in which neural connections are still strong. Thus “loosened“ synapses or those with increased synaptic cleft might not take part in the information transfer and hence, in the dreaming process. So dreams could be random in nature. Besides, this loosening of neural pathways may also explain the removal of some memories of day-long experiences. Sleep is therefore necessary to remove clutter or irrelevant information from the brain.

Too often, we have dreams connected with our suppressed desires; most are based on unfulfilled emotional needs and psychological knots based on strong memories that do not get loosened during sleep and cause recurring dreams. Resolution of these knots through wisdom allows the loosening of strong memories and helps in brain detoxification, producing dreamless sleep.

Om Namah Shivay

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Smart Working And Living In The `Now’


A wood cutter believed best day results are obtained by working hard; so he worked hard every . The first day he cut ten trees; the second day nine trees but the third day he could cut only eight trees.At the end of the week, he could cut hardly one tree despite the same six hours of hard work. Perplexed, he approached a wise man and asked him the reason.

The wise man replied, “More than hard work, what is crucial is smart working. Have you sharpened the saw?“ You have to learn to work smart, more than work hard. The brain, for ages, has been programmed wrongly; it has positioned the future to be your saviour. Hence, people think and believe, “If I get million dollars, I will become happy; if I get married, I will become happy .“

So your saviour seems to be in the future. This is the error the brain has done. The description of time is past, present and future. But the truth of time is present. Past was present, future will be present. Hence, the truth of time is present. If you do not know how to be happy now, you can never be happy. If the brain says, I will be happy in the future it is silently telling I am unhappy `now’. With such programming, when it gets the object of desire, it is experienced in the `present’ when the present has been programmed as `I am unhappy now’. So, despite getting what you want, you are unhappy .

You have to learn to be happy now in the present; and out of happiness, you have to get the object of desire and not `for happiness’. This is smart living. You have to bring in the power of `being’ and not get lost to the power of `becoming’. The power of `being’ is, I am happy `now’ and the power of `becoming’ is, I will become happy if I get this or that. How can there be growth, if there is no drive of `becoming’?

You have to look deeply into your life. The `becoming’ which appears to have brought a lot of growth in the form of development ­ has it given fulfilment? Despite achievements, there is no fulfilment. All growth is oriented towards fulfilment. When you position happiness in the future, there will be no fulfilment. So `becoming’ has not really given what is needed ­- fulfilment. Be happy now and out of joy, go about getting what you want. Get not for joy but out of joy.

Then, your work is going to be fun, your life is going to be a joy. For joy is in the `here and now’ and not in the future. The `will of wish’ makes you live for fantasy , but the `will of comprehension’ makes you see the fullness of the here and now.

Do understand that wishing to be happy in the future is different from `willing to comprehend the now’ what the `now’ is. Once this change happens, then life is always in the now. The future will happen, when it happens, it happens in the now. So the `will of comprehension’ transforms the mind. The brain, as one uses it, is creating a fantasy in the future but no fulfilment, but the moment you transform joy in the `here and now’, then the brain uses `the will of comprehension’. An appreciable revolution happens to the brain. This is smart living.

Om Namah Shivay

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The Greatest Secret-2

Each one of us is a cell in the Universal Body. On our own, no matter how powerful one person is, our existence is infinitely smaller than the smallest number we can imagine. On a collective scale though, every individual is critical to the existence of universe. If every cell in our body gave up, the whole body will collapse in no time. Similarly, if all living beings gave up, it will have an unimaginable effect on the whole of creation.

Part 3 —Attracting the Universe

The law of attraction is based on seeking attention of the universal body. Its scale is infinitely larger than ours though — like an ant trying to stop an elephant in the tracks. What is a lifetime struggle for an average human being is simply but a momentary effort for the universal consciousness. One individual’s efforts or thoughts can’t bring a universal change. Though such change may well be triggered by one person but to make a sustainable or a profound impact requires collective consciousness. And, this brings me to the most important part of my thesis.

Have you ever realized that no matter how engrossed you may be, even a small mosquito bite can easily cause distraction? A tiny puncture by a needle, anywhere on our body, is enough to draw our attention. In much the same manner, to draw the attention of the universal body, we have to jab it (gently). One human being can’t do it single-handedly, it has to be a cooperative effort. If enough of us meditated on the same thing at the same time, we would attract universal consciousness to bring changes beyond imagination.

This raises an important question: how many meditators are required to cause the pin-prick effect on the universal body? The answer is an absolute minimum of 8,000 to a decent 9,000,000 people are required to cause a ripple in the universal consciousness. The more the merrier, of course. Here’s how I’ve arrived at this number (you can skip the next para if you don’t want numbers):

I’m beginning with the proposition that even a tiny prick of a pin causes a shift in our attention to the affected area. Other things being equal, if human body has 37 trillion cells and the point of a pin is .127mm in diameter then one 1 mm deep puncture will impact roughly 9 million cells. If I only consider skin cells (35 billion) in my calculation then a 1 mm puncture will affect about 8,000 cells. Since I’m not a theoretical physicist, I posed this question in a forum and a physicist was kind enough to provide a detailed answer. This number is derived based on his reply.

Om Namah Shivay

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The Zen Mind-3

The way to abide in equanimity of the mind begins by being mindful of our thoughts. (Perhaps, Gisan too could have been more mindful with his words. Personally, I wouldn’t yell at or chastise anyone like that, no matter what the reason.) When you find yourself in a tug of war with your restless mind, simply pause for a few moments. Take a few deep breaths. Ask yourself, “What am I thinking right now?” Look around and become aware of everything around you. The room, color of the walls, paintings, doors, windows etc. Let your mind win. Let it take the rope. Battle no more. Instead, be mindful of its play. Just sit and watch how it generates thoughts. Become a spectator. It’ll slow down and then still itself. Like every drop of water counts even in a gushing waterfall, every thought matters in our ever-moving mind. Thinking is mind’s only occupation and it is a tiring one. Awareness of our thought patterns is the first step in calming the mind. And, awareness, I may add is not possible without attention.

An attentive mind, without exerting, in a natural state, free of mental, religious and intellectual constructs, is the basis of Zen. Effortless attention is the only way to be in the present moment. Zen is when mind is aware of its own presence. It’s an incredibly empowering and calming feeling — to be aware of your mind and understand it.

As D.T. Suzuki said, “The idea of Zen is to catch life as it flows.” This sums it up neatly. Our life is flowing, it’s bubbling inside us, while we worry about how things could have been or should have been. We have all these ideas, notions and preferences on what kind of people we want and circumstances we want to be in. Perhaps, there’s nothing wrong with that. How about though, if we learned to flow with the river of life? What if we learned to enter into the temple of silence where the fragrance of awareness and light of wisdom add glory to every pinch of existence? That would be a Zen mind if you see what I mean. Just everything as it is. No interpretations, no judgments. When you get past the jokes of life, you understand its humor.

Let it be. Let us see. Simply, let it Zen.

Om Namah Shivay

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The Zen Mind-2

In the famous Zen monastery of Sogenji, the abbot, Gisan Zenrai Zenji, once asked his disciple for a bucket of water so he could take a bath. Gisan had led an austere life. He knew the importance of every drop of water, for he had grown up by saving rainwater and using it for survival on non-rainy days. The plants, trees and herbs in the monastery had been reared by Gisan like his own children in frugal conditions, surviving solely on careful harvesting of rainwater.

The new attendant brought a bucket of water which turned out too hot. Not wanting to be late for meditation by waiting for the water to cool down, Gisan asked for a bucket of cold water instead. From the well by the back gate of Sogenji his disciple brought more water. It took some more trips to get the water temperature right. Gisan told his attendant that no more water was needed.

Finishing the story in the words of Harada Roshi taken from Morning Dewdrops of the Mind, I quote:

Having been told this, the monk took the little bit of water left in the bottom of the bucket, threw it away nearby and placed the bucket upside down. Seeing him do this, Gisan Zenrai Zenji yelled, “You idiot! You just threw away that little bit of water on the ground and turned over that bucket!”

Gisan continued: “At the moment you did that you were only thinking of that as just a little bit of water and were therefore carelessly throwing it away, weren’t you? Why didn’t you go just one step further, especially knowing that this is the time of the year when there’s never enough rain? Why didn’t you put it on the garden’s trees or flowers? If you had put it on the tree it would have become the very life of that tree! If you had put it on the flowers it would have become the very life of the flowers and lived on. Why do you begrudge such a small effort as that?”

With these scathing words he severely reprimanded his disciple. Continuing, he said, “In even one drop of water, no matter how tiny a drop, the water’s great value doesn’t change at all! If you can’t understand this value of one single drop of water, no matter how hard you train you’ll never become someone who can give life to that training.”

Gisan had always lived on the few drops of water provided by the rain. The disciple changed his name to Tekisui meaning one drop of water.

Om Namah Shivay

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Stay Sharp With Meditation

You can protect yourself from dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s with daily practice of meditation

Dementia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are diseases of the brain (DOB). They basically degenerate the nerves, attack the central nervous system, make people forgetful and ultimately make them lose their memory completely so that they cannot recognise even their near and dear ones. DOB are generally old age diseases which mostly happen after the age of 60-65 though in some cases, they can start as early as 40-45. Thus the old derogatory Hindi saying sathiya gaya hai, meaning after 60 years he has become senile, is normally used when calling somebody a dimwit! As we age, the chances of getting DOB increases.

According to estimates, there are 50 million people worldwide and nearly six million in India above 65 years suffering from these debilitating diseases. With stress, the onset of DOB comes at an even younger age and hence the number of people suffering from these diseases may even be higher in future. 

Mental Meditation

Many studies done by scientists have shown that mentally active adults suffer less from these diseases as they age. And one of the better ways to increase mental faculties is by meditation. It allows us to focus on a single subject for a long time and increases the concentration and hence mental sharpness.   

Various theories of why DOB take place have been proposed. One theory states that formation of plaques in the brain damages the neurons and ultimately destroys the brain. According to this theory, clumps of mis-folded protein fragments called amyloid-beta form plaques around synapses — the connecting points between neurons. This stops the communication between them and hence the loss of memory. Why this good brain protein, mis-folds and forms plaques has still remained a mystery.

Another theory states that plaque formation in the brain takes place because of reduced number of cerebral capillaries. These brain capillaries, which are very large in numbers, supply important nutrients, oxygen and hence energy to different parts of the brain for its proper functioning. With age and less usage, the capillaries become hardened, less pliable and hence less amount of nutrients flow through them. Thus their effective numbers decrease. Nevertheless, the research does not show how reduced number of capillaries can increase plaque formation.

A possible answer to both the riddles of why plaques form from mis-folding proteins and reduction in number of capillaries could come from electro-chemistry. It is well-known that when a fluid flows in very small capillaries (brain capillaries are approximately 3 X 10-6 m (3 µm) in diameter), a small voltage is created across it. This is the streaming potential. This small voltage also produces a micro current and it is possible that this micro current creates disturbances so that seeding and accumulation of proteins does not take place. The use of micro current for stopping rust in pipes and other materials is well known. It is possible that a similar process may take place in the brain.

Incidentally the nutrients flowing in the brain capillaries together with electrical discharges at synapse junctions between communicating neurons, produce the characteristic electromagnetic (EM) signature of the brain. This EM signature is measured by hundreds of electrodes attached to the scalp and produces the EEG (Electroencephalography) of the brain. As we use our brain, it needs energy to function and that is provided by the flow of nutrients and oxygen in the cerebral capillaries. A larger number of capillaries means increased nutrient flow to neurons helping them to communicate efficiently.

The more deeply we think and use our brain, the more flow of nutrients takes place and this helps in increasing the effective number of capillaries and keeping them functional and in nimble shape. At the same time, the micro current production in them keeps the plaque formation at bay.

Deep thinking is facilitated by cultivating the art of meditation. Meditation helps in increasing concentration and calming the nerves. Besides it allows the brain to function properly and helps in reducing plaque. Meditation can be done at any age, but starting early means the brain becomes nimble and capillaries become active earlier.

Om Namah Shivay

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What’s the impact of meditation on our mind?

A modern fad

Meditation is used pretty commonly nowadays as being one of the hobbies. I remember, I was in my final year of mechanical engineering when I came across this entry–a girl had put meditation as a hobby in her job resume. I was intrigued.

What meditation is not?

Quite often, meditation is considered as an act of sitting quietly in some fancy posture and trying to keep oneself from speaking or opening the eyes. While it’s a good start, yet it’s not even close to meditation.

Meditation is something else

Though I should dare say ‘that’s meditation’ because this sentence itself is totally opposite to the very definition. Meditation is a state, which makes you forget the very existence, just as you do in the deep sleep state.

It’s indescribable

In actual sense, meditation is synonymous with the very nature of our own Self, which is often described as Sat-Cit-Ananda in the Vedanta.

Not everybody reaches that state

Without doubt, the state of meditation is not easily achievable. People spend years to practice and to taste a second of that state. In almost all the countries, meditation is recognized as an elevated activity done purely for the soul.

Impact on our mind

We will now talk about some general benefits that even the practice to achieve the state of meditation imparts to our mind.

More focus

Meditation is believed to lead to better focus in life.

Less anxiety

The practice of meditation has a calming effect on our mind, which directly leads to less anxiety in day-to-day life.

Better creativity

Our own soul is the source of all creativity. When we are trying to tune to it, it is quite obvious that it will lead to better creativity.

Better memory

It’s believed and observed in certain experiments too that meditation leads to better memory.

Lesser stress

As the mind cools down while one engages in meditation practice, the stress is lowered.

Overall better performance

Meditation is believed to improve the overall personality of a person with better control and better focus.

Spiritual benefits

Without doubt, the mind is looking for the original source of happiness, if we look into the spiritual aspect of meditation.

Reaching the goal

The goal is to reach the very essence of our own being. If we are able to reach even an iota closer to it, it would be a worthwhile practice.

Om Namah Shivay

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