In Hindu philosophy, “turiya” is the state of pure consciousness, and it can only be achieved when the three natural states of consciousness—waking, dreaming, and deep sleeping—are integrated.
I spent the last four years at a hyper-competitive college, whose culture in no way valued sleep. We’ll sleep when we’re dead, was the accepted concession. This was not necessarily anyone’s fault; we just had a lot we wanted to accomplish in a concentrated amount of time. We wanted to be good students, which meant hours of reading and completing assignments; we wanted to be good friends, which meant making time to hang out with one another whenever we could; and we wanted to do fulfilling things—make theater, music and art, play sports, edit student journals, participate in student government, or get involved in activism—which meant hours of meetings and rehearsals. My housemate was in a theater group that rehearsed from 11:00pm-1:00am, which was the only 2-hour-block that they were all free to meet.
Needless to say, sleep was not a priority. The pace of our lives on campus was quick, which was necessary in order to keep up socially, extracurricularly, and academically. But the physical, mental, and emotional consequences of this cultural norm went ignored. In reflecting now, I can see that ironically, it was this lack of restful sleep—and rest in general —that kept me in a sleeping state for all four years, lacking the energy, clarity and awakeness to confront my problems, my pain, my self-consciousness and my toxic relationships. Without the time to rest, there could be no mental and emotional processing, integrating, self-inquiry, or healing.
It’s been almost a year since I graduated, and I have done more self-integration in that period of time than I did in my 21 years of life leading up to graduation. I’ve been able to feel the process of awakening take place, and I have begun to understand and appreciate the things that make me who I am. Key to this is that I have had the time and energy to do so. Slowly but surely in the few months following graduation, I awoke from my sleeping state, evolving towards self-awareness, allowing me to release the burden of toxic friendships and to purposefully connect with those people and things that I love.
Dismissing the vital role of sleep is not unique to the culture of college campuses: ⅓ of American adults do not get the recommended 7 hours of sleep a night (CDC), and in 2016, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention called sleep deprivation a public health crisis. Capitalism, the bedrock of American society, awards productivity and discourages laziness, which leads to cycles of seemingly endless work days sandwiched by nights of little sleep. But it is a misconception that packing more hours into our work days will allow us to be more successful; even though the output may be higher, the quality has likely suffered.
This month, ENDPAIN is dedicated to exploring the theme of sleep. Sleep is the body’s most natural healing modality, able to mend both our bodies’ physical ailments and our psychological traumas, but somehow we’ve taken it for granted and dismissed it as secondary. Dreaming lets us enter a reality in which the normative, linear rules that govern our waking state do not exist, allowing us to think about things in a totally new way, fostering innovation, creativity and sometimes profound healing, and yet we often regard our dreams as whimsical and irrelevant.
We are not saying, “it’s simple… get more sleep!” because we know it’s not that easy. There are endless obstacles, some more direct, like sleep disorders (Insomnia, Narcolepsy, Sleep Apnea), and others more insidious, like Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, technology and the violence and horrors of the news. There are tons of resources out there for improving your “sleep hygiene” and we don’t want to add to that saturation (though everyone should find those resources and deploy them). Rather, as with all of our themes, we are hoping to shift the narrative, and inspire our readers to leverage and integrate the organic power of sleeping and dreaming. Conversely, we want to encourage our community to awaken to those things that might have been dormant for a long time, to bring people out of their states of sleep and into a state of self-awareness.
If you have a story about sleeping, dreaming, or awakening, don’t be shy — SUBMIT!