Just like the Monkees, many of us Sleepy Jeans experience our strongest wishes and deepest beliefs through our waking dreams. And as impressionable children, we all were scolded at some point by a teacher or relative telling us to “Pay attention!” or “Stop drifting!” or “Get your head outta the clouds!” Even as adults, when we let ourselves wander unabated at work or school, we chastise ourselves or allow others to tether us to the ‘task-at-hand,’ the more productive plane.
But daydreaming is not a mere escape mechanism, an arbitrary foray into la-la land, a state of nothingness, a bad habit to be avoided.
Daydreaming is meditation without intention. It is, like any altered state of consciousness, a direct link between who we think we are and who our souls know us to be. If you doubt the validity of daydreams, break down your next one into its characters, situations, and feelings involved. Is it memory-based, self-created, or one with elements of the other? If so, which way around? Is it about a relationship, a financial goal, a personal wish or triumph?
The most important distinction between night dreaming and day dreaming is AWARENESS. In a night dream our body is controlled solely by our subconscious, or some would say solely by our soul. But in a day dream we may be brushing our teeth, walking our dog, eating our lunch, playing a puzzle game. There is a concrete level of ‘activity,’ of physicality that separates daydreaming from its nightly counterpart. And if we practice awareness, our memory of what we dreamt moments earlier while we were at the grocery checkout line or fixing dinner or pulling weeds can be much clearer than the details of our dreams the previous night.
Meditating is intentional daydreaming in a controlled state of surrender. To break this down, ‘Intentional daydreaming’ and ‘controlled surrender’ are not oxymorons when you look through the multifocal lens of intention. Daydreaming is not an arbitrary state of being when it is done with intention. Surrendering one’s body intentionally is best done in a controlled environment.
When we are driving on so-called ‘autopilot,’ engaged in a vivid daydream, and suddenly our brain registers that our exit is approaching, we can often make an immediate shift and switch lanes successfully. We have shifted from a state of receiving to a state of reacting, from conceiving to perceiving, from internal to external.
But sometimes we are too late. We miss our exit and become angry at ourselves for “zoning out,” or being “out of it” and inconveniencing our practical ego — which has important things to do and places to be! We can liken this experience to waking up at 3 a.m. to go to the bathroom and stubbing a toe on the bedpost or banging an elbow on the doorframe. We can sooner forgive this type of being “out of it” because we build sleep into our day, and a side effect of sleep is grogginess, a state of being less aware of our physical selves and environment.
In our culture, daytime grogginess or being ‘out of it’ is unacceptable, for it implies imbalance and suggests a probable lack of productivity. Rather than building time into our day to intentionally practice being ‘out of it,’ as it seems to happen naturally anyway, we are encouraged to engage in various forms of activity and believe we are ‘taking a break.’ We read, we play games, we engage in conversations, all of which are healthy diversions from other stress-inducing activities, but all of which require us to do, to be active, to be present. And as we have all experienced, while we engage in these activities, we often do so as a bridge to daydreaming anyway. But we feel the need to subsume this desire for ‘accidental meditation’ through the guise of ‘getting to the next chapter,’ ‘reaching a new high score,’ ‘learning new information from a stranger.’ So many diversions, but all illusory to disguise what we truly need — Peace.
Being at peace and being inactive have been joined semantically in our culture. It may appear that daydreaming is a state of inactivity, but this could not be further from the truth. We are simply being active at a deeper level, in a more subtle, internal way. Being absent and being vacant are as different as being receptive and being passive. The prior are states of intention, the latter are states of inactivity or un-intention.
‘Intentional daydreaming,’ otherwise known as free or mindful meditation, means actively deciding to engage with the “It” that you and others may decide you are “Out of” as you engage. The “It” when you are “Out of it” is literally your ego, the part of you that operates as a human being with earthly needs. Making this decision is a frightening step, for it means you are acknowledging that there is a part of you which is beyond a human being with earthly needs. You are also a spiritual being with supernatural needs, divine needs. Already, as far as modern society is concerned, you are teetering dangerously close to the edge of sanity. Just as seeking therapy started out as an admission of mental instability before it became acceptable as a productive form of personal maintenance, so too will actively engaging with the supernatural part of oneself be considered an admission of ‘trouble’ for the unenlightened eye of current conservative, externally-minded individuals.
‘Controlled surrender’ is another imperative aspect of non-ego exploration, of being okay with being ‘Out of it.’ What does it mean to say, “I am letting myself surrender?”
Surrender, to modern-day people squelched by the knowledge of war and touched by the psychology of abandonment, has been transmuted into an act of negativity, inaction, and even death.
In the Bible, the Egyptians surrendered to the Jews prior to the exodus. General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General U.S. Grant in April, 1865, at what became the end of the U.S. Civil War. A bullied child surrenders his lunch money to the bully who oppresses him. But these are external acts of surrender, more recent connotations of a much deeper, more ancient concept.
The true surrender in the story of the exodus is not about the Egyptians at all, nor even the Jews. It is about how Moses surrendered himself to G-d, and in so doing empowered himself and his people to vanquish their oppressors. When Lee, like any army general, surrendered to the opposing forces, he was not surrendering to the Union itself. He was surrendering to the apparent will of the universe which had rendered his side defeated. A bully craves power, to be a false G-d, and the bullied child who surrenders is surrendering to the fear the false G-d instills. All surrendering at the ego level is surrender to a false G-d, an illusion of power at the most marginal, external level.
When you surrender internally, you acknowledge the limitations of purely physical existence and turn off your ego, thus becoming united with the universe. In our physical world of diversions and judgements, it is no longer enough to simply enact surrender, even internal surrender, haphazardly. You can not walk into the middle of an intersection and stop, prepared to dismiss your ego and embrace your non-earthly self. In the current social climate, the only acceptable way to surrender is through awareness of the ego and acceptance of its limitations. Your ego needs to be there to guide you to a safe, stable physical location in which to let you surrender it.
Unlike daydreaming, which is arbitrary, meditating unites your human self with your spiritual self, enabling you to surrender to the incomprehensible, infinite energy of the universe. You can not unite with the divine while you are still concerned with being ‘Out of it,’ and you can not live fully without allowing energy that is different and perhaps more powerful than your own to imbue your physical and spiritual bodies.
Below is a mainstream article regarding the potential benefits of daydreaming. Taking “daydreaming” to the next level of intentional surrender will be the ultimate test for the potential of humanity: