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March 16, 2010


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I have had general anesthesia during three of the four operations I have undergone in my life.
Upon the occasion of my third operation (on my lumbar spine), I remember meeting my anesthesiologist in the staging area adjacent to the surgical suites. He installed the intravenous fixture in my left hand and started the perfunctory steroid drip and injected a small amount of narcotic into one of the several ports in the drip line. Within a few minutes I was wheeled into the operating room, which was very cold, brightly illuminated, and where some terrible heavy metal music was playing at high volume. People in green scrubs were flitting about, pushing carts and engaging in small talk.
Forthwith, my anesthesiologist came by and said that things were about to get under way. He asked how I was feeling and I remarked that I wasn't really feeling any particular way at all. My surgeon was tapping me on the cheek and said that the operation went very well.

I did not leave any of the story out. I did not lose consciousness for even one nanosecond. There was no interval whatsoever between the anesthesiologist asking me how I felt and the surgeon telling me the deed was accomplished.

When there is no self-consciousness, there is no anything. There is also no "nothing". That is exactly, precisely, inevitably the state of affairs which pertains in death. The same as "before" life began.

It is decidedly not equivalent to deep sleep. Deep sleep is an experience which an organism has. The state I have failed to describe (since it is beyond description) precedes and eventually supersedes life.

Willie, interesting story. But I'm a bit confused. You said you didn't leave any of the story out. Which entailed no interval between (1) the anesthesiologist asking you how you felt and (2) the surgeon telling you the operation was over.

Obviously quite a time went by between (1) and (2). Yet you weren't aware of what happened during that time. This is exactly what happened to me. I remember the doctor telling me he was starting the intravenous drip, and then I remember waking up in the recovery area.

Yes, I, like you, felt that no time had passed between those two moments. But in reality, I missed a lot that happened (thankfully, because I wanted to be unconscious during the colonoscopy).

So I don't understand how you can say that you didn't lose consciousness "for even one nanosecond." Clearly, you did -- objectively speaking. It was only your own subjective sense that no time passed between (1) and (2). This shows how unreliable our subjectivity can be.

On the possible state of 'conscious dreamless sleep', as you say, we don't know many people who can do so but that doesn't mean that *nobody* can. Look up Dream Yoga and Sleep Yoga in Dzogchen: they are related but the latter is more difficult to achieve. It also includes being aware of the transition states between waking and sleeping, such as hypnagogia. Tenzin Wangyal has written on this, and teaches it. I knew him when he was in Europe but sadly (for me) he has camped in the USA.

However, in Dzogchen it is not considered in and of itself the ultimate state of happiness.


I have to wonder if you are being too literal here. The quotation above, "It is like the state of a deep dreamless sleep" is a metaphor--hence the word "like". Maybe the author was simply using dreamless sleep as a way of talking about an experience?

Brian - what I meant was - I did not lose consciousness. Obviously, a few hours had passed without my noticing it, but there was no sensation of fading out or reverie or any other sign of a shift in awareness. During the time that I was being operated on, I was not. There was no me to have or not have consciousness or unconsciousness. There was no sensation of a blank or absence. What there was, and still is, and always will be, out of pure necessity, is Reality. When there is not even nothing - that's It! Scientists are attempting to make some sort of sense out of the condition of Reality before the Big Bang and attach a mathematical or rational model to capture it. Trouble is - there is nothing to capture.

It was the same kind of "not", during my spinal operation, as the kind of "not" that pertained before the Big Bang. Before my birth, I am not. During my operation, I am not. When this body dies, I am not.

That's about all the freedom I can stand!

You don't have to close your eyes to enter deep sleep...

Well.. very interesting topic... i was looking for something like this...!!

I'm very happy to tell you that when i sleep..... its always dreamless sleeps for me from past couple of years...!! or even if i would have dreamed i dun remember anything about it when i wake up..!! but according to me i dont dream when i sleep... Firstly i thought it's weird but now i think its very good for a Person's mind to rest totally and leave your subconsciousness to do whatever is does...!! :)

I never dream. I didn't know not dreaming had any meaning, as you say I go to sleep, I wake up. But I have also experienced being conscious whilst asleep. Aware I was asleep and aware of myself in every cell of my body. ( not that I counted ), watching my body sleeping, which I find cute :)

this is such a fascinating topic, deep dreamless sleep. rupert spira and the advaitists claim that consciousness is ever present even in dreamless sleep. now, from the sleeper's perspective there is no gap in consciousness but from the wakeful state of an observer, there is or appears to be minutes or hours of minimal brain activity and responsiveness to stimuli which the observer interprets as unconsciousness. so aren't both states just reporting their observations? ought we not to mix up states of consciousness but respect each state as such. john wheeler in his book the light before consciousness states that consciousness does go in deep sleep, anaesthesia, coma but awareness remains. consciousness is always conscious of something, if there is nothing to be conscious of as in deep sleep, there is no consciousness ... but awareness is upstream from consciousness. he likens awareness to the sun. the sun shines whether or not there are objects to reflect it or not. in deep sleep there are no objects , therefore no consciousness. but that doesn't mean that the sun or awareness is not present. this is his argument. i don't know how that can be verified. can anyone elst out there shed some light on this important subject as i see it tied into an understanding of death.

dear writer of this article, yes i can indeed see where you are coming from, why would complete unconsciousness and unawareness of anything be something to be aspired to? surely if this dreamless sleep is divinity then we are all gods? well while the above is true and the nature of human existence is in essence divine, I would like to point out that there is one VITAL point that you have missed out or purposely overlooked in an attempt to discredit seven thousand years of direct mystical experience (im not accusing you of this, simply acknowledging it as a possibility) considering that a great many people today seem to have a vendetta against religion because of seemingly contradictory statements that all religions make with science, and of course it is easier to say that every single human that has since the beginning of time recognised a divine aspect of reality is wrong and that only in the past thirty or so years, compared with a traceable twenty thousand years of at least some kind of religion/spirituality, have we realised the truth and all become cut and dry atheists that only believe in what we can experience with the five senses. Yes this is indeed easier than, God forbid, admitting that we have not yet, in around two hundred years of physics discovered the answers to these questions, and whatever the facebook generation cant prove in a laboratory is just wrong, we all got it wrong since the beginning of time. Would it not be better, and indeed more true to the scientific method that just because these things seem contradictory doesnt mean they are incorrect, it simply means we have more work to do to uncover the truth? Well I digress, what you have overlooked friend, is that although Sankara and the upanishads say that dreamless sleep is essentailly pure consciousness, the root of reality, and the world of The Divine, they do not say that simply by going to sleep we attain Godhood, no, the goal is, by meditation, that is concentration on nothing, and i dont mean not concentrating, i mean concentrating ON nothingness, holding your awareness without flinching, until your mind descends into dream state and then dreamless sleep, while you are STILL AWARE, THAT is the state of enlightenment, because dreamless sleep without this factor IS nothingness, but when you enter the state in full consciousness, so that you factually experience the duality of knower and known becoming one, that is when you meet God face to face, you're not unconscious, youre fully conscious of nothing but consciousness itself, in that state the great sages saw the entire cosmos resting, and also realised that it is the innermost self of every human being and indeed everything that exists, that is what there was before the big bang, undifferentiated consciousness, that is why the apostle Paul/Saul with whom i share a name, said that although God seems to be far away he is in reality not far from each of us and indeed we walk around, come and go, and have our lives in him, and if all life and all existence is this one thing and truly there is no seperate existence (although as when a 2d screen viewed with glasses on appears 3d, when the one thing is viewed with the medium of the mind it appears seperate) then we can see why Jesus Christ said to love others as yourself and always put other people first, because in doing so you are actually putting God/Your higher/inner self first.

Now If you have the ability to retain awareness right down to the level of dreamless sleep where the brain barely functions but YOU are still conscious (Im sure youve heard of lucid dreaming? well this is one step further, Its simply, Lucidity) then the promise of eternal life doesnt seem so ridiculous does it? because you are not your body, the body is simply a vessel for your true self, when the body dies you do not die, but if you have not found God then for all intents and purposes you do die, and your consciousness is effectively recycled and put into the fetus after 49 days of gestation in the womb. However if you have found God, when you die, all creation awaits you, eternal bliss, and you are not reincarnated, however many of the sages lead me to believe that when you die having come to enlightenment, its not quite the same as reaching the state in meditation, theres something brilliant and secret awaiting the enlightened on at that point, who knows, i personally hope that its the eternal bliss and full consciousness without seperateness, but with some creative ability there as well, like creating your own heaven,although it is said that once you acheive enlightenment, every desire you ever had ends and you feel complete and utter fullfillment, so you probably wouldnt even want to create your own heaven.

Another point though, its not enough to just acheive Samadhi (as its called) in meditation, you need to enter this state of unity regularly and then once youve experienced the ultimate reality that all existence is one, you need to remember it constantly, see it in the eyes of every person, every animal, see it in the rising of the sun, the rain, the clouds even stone, and remember that that very thing you are seeing, that is you and you are that, and then eternal life, knowledge and bliss is yours for the taking. Amen

Melatonin stimulates deep dreamless sleep (also known as delta-wave sleep, because our brain predominantly emits delta-waves on EEG). Melatonin is the hormone of the pineal gland (which many people, including Descartes consider(ed) the remnant of our third eye; in Vedanta the pineal gland is called Ajna), and is a powerful anticancer/anti-aging/immuno-modulating substance.

Physiologically speaking, deep dreamless sleep is the most important part of the sleeping cycle. People can live without the superficial, beta-wave REM sleep (in which dreams occur).
But, they cannot live without the delta-sleep. It is a phase in which your body (and soul) is regenerated/recharged.

Exogenous melatonin (taken as a supplement), as well as antidepressants prolong and deepen the delta phase of sleeping, and suppress the REM sleep (dreaming sleep). Dreaming (REM phase) has nothing to do with rest and rejuvenating,
it's more of a shock for an organism. It's a phase when the stress hormones are released (and our immune system goes down).
So, suppressing this phase can make people live longer, and live happier.

To cut it short:

Dreaming sleep (REM/beta-wave- phase) is bad.
It's a fake sleep (since our brain emits the same waves as if we were awaken). Especially lucid dreaming, which is an epitome of supreme egoism (people want to control everything, even their own dream).

Dreamless sleep (delta-wave) is good. We lose our, we just flow into the universe.

Dear Brian,

I am (somehow) experienced this state of dreamless sleep, I was not trying to reach this state (I'm not highly keen on spiritual stuff), but it happened naturally when I was practising what is called "allowing" by Sen in www.calmdownmind.com. What they mean with is death of "ego" not the sense of I, so when you are in this state you're awake and conscious, but since you have no longer have your ego or even single thought, it feels like a dreamless sleep. You feel deeply one with everything. It's hard to describe if someone has not experienced it personally. For me, I can't tell that the experience was extra-ordinary or blissfull, but it was a relief, since there was not no noise in my mind, no doubts, no thoughts, no nagging feeling yet I felt very warm, calm and light at the same time (I became almost transcluent). When you let go of struggle and control, you also let go of your ego, at this stage you become pure consciousness (The ego or mind don't totally shut down, the ego becomes transparent and fluid, the mind goes to background). I was looking for more information about this state that I somehow experienced without trying and found your site and wanted to share my experience (sorry, English is not my native language)

You say: "I'm conscious when awake, and I'm conscious when I dream (I often remember my dreams), but I'm completely unconscious and unaware during deep dreamless sleep.
So if this is what I'm supposed to aspire to, enlightenment-wise, no thanks. I'm just not attracted to existing in a condition where I don't know that I exist, or that anything exists".

You are aware during deep dreamless sleep, but you aren't aware of the world and your body. There is just pure awareness, which is awareness which is aware only of itself. If you want to have a customized enlightenment where you want to preserve your body, your mind and all of its desires but without the suffering, then you'll have to preserve your ego too (experiencing brings happiness and its counterpart, pain), and if you preserve your ego, then there is no liberation. Liberation is liberation from yourself and therefore, the world which is projected by you.

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