12 Mar Does Meditation Affect Dreams?
We all know that you can meditate to sleep better, but what if it does something to us beyond sleep?
Firstly, let’s look at what dreams are.
Dreams are experiences that you already had which reflect again in your consciousness and mind. It’s kind of like how Facebook shares pictures of old memories that happened 5 years ago, except for asking you to re-share, it gets posted involuntarily! Although some people think that dreams have a got deep hidden meanings and future implications, they are not entirely wrong! Dreams are actually a good measure of personality! This is because they reflect basic or inner conflicts and how we cope with stuff which tends to remain consistent over long periods of time!
Here’s a story about a psychologist called Calvin Hall, who collected dream journals from ONE man, over a period of 55 years (from early adulthood to death)! Hall found out that the content of dreams the man had, remained unchanged for 55 years. Hall also studied other subjects and concluded that any significant change in dreams generally represented a profound change in an individual’s behaviors and personality.
Now that we know dreams are a part of our personality, can it change because of meditation?
There was a study conducted at Princeton University to investigate if a group of people who meditated regularly vs students who were introduced to regularly engage in progressive relaxation, could lead to a change in the content of their dreams! So those that practiced meditation were compared with those that never did it. The one’s that never did were educated about progressive relaxation! So now the question is, can any style of relaxation (either meditation or progressive relaxation) influence people’s underlying personality which would then lead to a change in dreams?
The investigators gave all the subjects, a two- week diary dream before they practiced these 2 styles, and another diary after they had been practicing their respective methods! A daily mood checklist was also given to the subjects! The investors also dug deeper by scoring dreams under 48 different variables! These variables ranged from simple things like number of characters in the dream, bizarre imagery, anxiety, amount of physical or verbal regression, self-reflection and so on.
After a period of 3 months, the results were surprising! The overwhelming majority of dreams did not change in either group! So does this mean that relaxation doesn’t help to change one’s personality? Did nothing happen to the subjects post relaxing daily for 3 entire months??
Well, one important change the researchers found, during this investigation, was through a questionnaire that revealed how the subjects who has practiced regularly, were less anxious and more happy! Long-term meditators showed that they had become more tranquil, energetic, insightful and more emotionally responsive after this experiment. These changes occur despite the fact that deeper, underlying personality showed no change at all! This is because who you are deep down won’t change in just 3 months. You didn’t learn to read or write or analyze in just 3 months, you didn’t form ideals,beliefs,perspective and ways of thinking in just 3 months, no one’s personality can be formed or even re-written within 3 months either, everything in your life has accumulated to form who you are right now. A personality can be changed, don’t get me wrong, but inner dynamics would require some serious incidents leading up to that (like death, or moving to another country, marriage, divorce etc).
Conclusion: Meditation doesn’t alter basic personality characteristics. Hence, a change in dreams won’t occur unless deeper levels of personality actually go through change. It could be something drastic that made you bend your views or opinions to battle inside your mind, leaving you to emerge as a new man or woman. According to this study, regular meditation over a period of 3 months did bring out significantly higher levels of enjoyment of life, energy, restfulness of sleep, happiness, sexual adjustment and creativity (which in itself is a lot) but found that deeper levels of personality, what makes you- YOU, would often resist change unless you vigorously train the mind to do so, patiently.
Nehita is a mindfulness expert who writes extensively on lifestyle management, wellness and ways to lead a healthier and a happier life. She is a part of Aware’s expert team on meditation. She is also an avid artist who spends most her time dribbling amazing stories through art.