The first thing you must know is that meditation is about consciousness. There are three modes of consciousness. I will discuss the second in this email and the final mode in the following email. Waking consciousness is the first-person experience of your life. You are in the driver's seat. You are the seer behind your eyes and the listener within your ears. The second mode of consciousness is dreaming. We all know what it is to dream.

The dream state to the yogis is called svapna. In dreams you have inner senses. You see your dreams and hear your dreams. There is still a consciousness behind those inner senses. That consciousness is what matters most for your meditation to progress. There are many ideas of what dreams might be. One idea favors randomness and chaos. The brain in sleep fires from the brainstem up to the cortex in sleep. Surges of bioelectricity rush through countless neural connections awakening different territories of the brain. Language centers, memory centers, sensory centers, emotional centers, facial recognition centers; as these territories of the brain are activated during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep the cortex puts all this information together and composites a narrative that you experience as a dream. The cortex is responsible for abstracting meaning from seemingly meaningless experiences. A deeper argument, not entirely disconnected from this conversation of dreams, is that the very experience of meaning that is inherent to all people is the product of the cortex trying to interpret life as purposeful. Phenomena like destiny or synchronicity would simply be the consequence of the brain organizing random details of life so that they appear to be meaningful. Ask yourself, when you see a cloud in the shape of a dolphin is that cloud actually shaped like a dolphin or is it just a trick of the mind. A more significant question would be, could you tell the difference between the truth of that clouds shape and the projection of a dolphin onto it?

Another idea of dreams is that they express the subconscious. Dreams are the ways in which our inherited psychological experiences communicate to us. This conversation between who we are and where we came from is transgenerational. Dreams are the echoes of not just our history, both current and distant, but the history of our biological evolution. Archetypes make their way into a quasi-rational and lucid space where they can articulate the deeper challenges and hopes of our personal stories. When we pay attention to them they offer us insights into what we really want and what we ought to do about our lives.

There are even more fantastical ideas of dreams, where dreams are honored as real. As dreamers, we enter another layer of the world that is just as valid and "solid" as the world we all know and share. My intent isn't to articulate the truth of dreams but more to unearth a universal value common to all interpretations. The value of dreams is that they afford us, the dreamers, a nightly experience of reality that is different than what most of us commonly refer to as real. Whether we rationalize this dream-reality away or lift it onto a pedestal as a higher dimension is irrelevant. When we are in our dreams we are all submerged into another world. This gave the yogis the "evidence" that there is more to life than what the sensory organs know. That is all. Without aggrandizing or diminishing dreams, they underline the impact of the inner world. What we choose to do with that inner world is our choice but it is undeniable that there is an inner world within each of us!

Svapna, the dream state, teaches us that we live in two psychological spaces. As jagrat (waking consciousness) radiates outwardly into the material reality, dreams radiate inwardly into the psychological/spiritual reality. The easiest analogy is a tree. Its roots run into the earth. Its branches reach out into the sky. The tree not only needs both but in fact is both. What does this say about us, as conscious beings? We are both our dream-selves and our real-selves. When we work through that statement critically the character that we build up as ourselves has to dissolve because it completely changes when we are in svapna, the dream state. We are not our bodies or our names, our experiences or our relationships. We are the consciousness that is awake to whatever we seem to be in that moment. Dreams are the second step in helping a meditator separate from the solidity of their identity by giving them the nightly experience of something else.

We have all heard this question; How do you know waking life is not some sort of dream? Think about it. You don't. It seems trite to seriously consider, which is unfortunate, but it is true in both a playful but equally profound way. Odd how playful and profound go hand in hand so often. In the previous email, I said if you can't appreciate the fact that you are conscious you are not ready to meditate. In the same way, if you can't seriously appreciate that waking life in some way may very well be something like a dream your meditation will not advance. You must begin to question reality as a meditator. That does not mean to denounce what you know as real but to expand upon what you consider unreal.

To practice this and utilize svapna simply think about the fact that you dream. Fantasize as you meditate that you are dreaming of meditating in that very moment. Repeat, "I am dreaming." You will convince yourself that you are dreaming and then you will feel a great flood of relief. The world will become light. Time will expand. "I am dreaming!" Then the strange wonder of stars and atoms, love and hate, birth and death will make perfect sense.

Some dreams last a few minutes in the night. No one knows what they are. The dream of our lives lasts a lifetime and no one knows what life is. Both are momentary. Both end. What is common to both of these realities is consciousness. You are the consciousness within your name and body as you are the consciousness within your dream self, just as a tree is equally its roots and its branches. As you meditate you will rest in the deeper truth of that unchanging consciousness. It is like sitting on a secret beach, there is a charm to such sacredness. Again, as silly as it seems to "pretend" life is a dream, if you cannot play this game you are not ready to meditate. This game is not for everybody but if you want to meditate effectively you need to learn how to seriously question what is real.