Sleep and meditation seem like substitutes – both of them help us think clearly and make us better use of our waking hours. Could a good night’s sleep replace a session of meditation?
While sleep and meditation seem like substitutes, they are actually complementary. Sleep is a largely unconscious process that restores our mind, while meditation is largely conscious, while letting us have a glimpse of the unconscious thoughts that drive our behaviour.
Using an analogy, sleep is like rebooting your PC after having operated it for an entire day. The act of rebooting closes redundant programs running in the background, frees up memory and makes things faster. Just as rebooting the computer is a ready solution to several problems, a good night’s sleep is essential for its restorative powers.
Meditation is analogous to using the task manager of your computer. Whenever the computer is stuck on a particular script, we use the task manager to observe which program is responsible. Thereafter, we choose to either end the process or to let it proceed. Our conscious state always has several thoughts and feelings that pull our strings and manipulate our behaviour like background scripts. Closing our eyes in silence for a few minutes makes us aware of them. And becoming aware of them is the first step to being freed from their grasp.
The irony of having to use a digital analogy to understand the inner workings of our mind is not lost on me. In recent times, we have become more intimate with technological worlds than with our own selves. Hopefully, this analogy can nudge us, in however small a manner, to move us in the opposite direction.