Our mind remains a mystery to us; our awareness of consciousness is superficial. The further we move away from our inner life, the more unbalanced, troubled and disharmonious we become. Modern society, with its extreme one-sided focus on material success, has created many conflicts, anxieties and splits in our psyche. As the pressure increases, with no release valve, a time comes when we cannot face the splits we have created within ourselves and we become ill, neurotic or psychotic.
The current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-IV, published in 1994, is nearly 900 pages and contains more than 300 mental disorders. Mental disease occurs when the personality becomes fragmented, when there is no internal harmony or integration and when the internal energies have become antagonistic towards each other. In psychological terms the problem at a deeper level can be said to be due to the huge gulf between the conscious and unconscious mind. In order to keep the mind integrated we must attempt to harmonize the different layers of mind and extend our awareness to deeper mental processes.
Two therapeutic techniques: dream analysis and antar mouna (inner silence), will be discussed in this article, as they specifically aim at exploring the inner springs of one's behaviour in order to gain a more authentic concept of the self.
At the turn of the 20th century, the early pioneers in depth psychology did not discover the importance of dreams - they rediscovered it. If we journey further back in time we can see that many ancient civilizations took their dreams very seriously. Ironically, today many people who dismiss dreams as meaningless, unknowingly accept and follow the spiritual values, beliefs and traditions which stem directly from the dreams of those who lived thousands of years ago.
Dreams are often shown in an indirect symbolic language. Trying to decipher this language is an intuitive art and science that has intrigued all cultures throughout the world. Dreams can be diagnostic, therapeutic, inspiring, telepathic or prophetic. This is why so many cultures through the ages have revered and explored the dream world.
When you close your eyes and fall asleep, is everything about you a mystery? Or perhaps it is the other way round - the mystery unfolds itself - the deepest wishes, desires, conflicts, anxieties and other little details that your conscious mind failed to recognize or sort out express themselves, organize themselves and relieve themselves when you dream. Suppressed secrets reveal themselves in a powerful and psychically charged symbolic language - the archetypal language of the unconscious mind. Dreams provide a vent for mental tension and are also an invaluable source of information about our deeper mind. The subconscious and unconscious layers of mind have an intellect of their own; in fact, psychoanalysts believe that the unconscious mind has a rational and problem solving ability superior to the conscious mind.
Towards the end of the 19th century the eminent Austrian-born psychologist Sigmund Freud pronounced to the western world the existence and tremendous significance of the unconscious mind. He highlighted the point that dreams indicate sure proof that there are certain mental processes of which we remain totally ignorant. He stated that dreams are the 'royal road' to the unconscious mind; through dreams one could access the deepest layers of the mind in search of self-knowledge.
Freud believed the analysis of dreams to be the most vital source of information in the uncovering of unconscious conflicts. He observed that as his patients talked freely- a technique known as free association - they often recalled a dream which proved to be the starting point of a new and fruitful chain of memories and ideas. Many of their dreams led right back to repressed urges and wishes which were discovered to be the cause of their neurotic symptoms.
The Swiss-born psychologist Carl Gustav Jung wrote in the opening lines of his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections: "My life is a story of the self-realization of the unconscious." The primary goal of his life was to understand the meaning and significance of dreams and he believed that one must strive to bring the unconscious mind up into the conscious mind in order to free it from its rigidity.
Jung advocated that the most direct way of investigating the mechanisms and contents of the unconscious mind was through dreams; that they should be interpreted in whatever way the dreamer found most useful. He formed no theory for interpreting dreams except that the analysis should ring a bell within the psyche of the dreamer. He saw dreams as enigmatic messages from the nocturnal realm of the psyche; the meeting point between all that an individual has been in the past and might become in the future. Jung elaborated on the fact that the dreaming mind shows a creativity, intelligence, and a desire for integration far superior to the conscious mind.
Knowledge of dreams and the dream state, swapna avastha, has played a vital role in both yogic philosophy and application. In fact the discoveries of the psychoanalysts - Freud and Jung - were already established concepts in yoga. In the ancient treatise on raja yoga, the Yoga Sutras (1:38), Patanjali refers to dream therapy, which we can relate to as the foundation of modern psychoanalytical theory:
Swapnanidrajnanalambana - "Or else, (the mind can be made steady) by giving it the knowledge of dream and sleep for support."
Swami Satyananda elucidates this verse in his book Four Chapters on Freedom: "The mind can be controlled by developing the method of conscious dreaming and conscious sleeping. Conscious sleeping is the last state in antar mouna. There is a method of seeing dreams consciously, but it is dangerous and only a few can practise it."
Psychoanalytical theory advocates dream interpretation as a means of discovering and releasing suppressed unconscious material. The yogic answer to this can be found in the practice of antar mouna (inner silence). Both techniques - dream interpretation and antar mouna - are the most ancient and universal techniques used to access the subconscious and unconscious realms of mind.
Dream analysis: The essential technique in psychoanalysis is dream analysis, where the practitioner introspects on the subconscious and unconscious messages that are being received by the dreaming mind.
Antar mouna: This practice is a type of self-psychoanalysis. It can be described as a meditation technique related to thought awareness. The stages are:
During both dream analysis and antar mouna, subconscious and unconscious material is released from deeper layers of the mind. The major difference is that in the dream state you are unconscious of the thoughts whereas during antar mouna you aim to remain fully conscious. For most people the contents of the dream state are glimpsed only in a vague, distorted way by the conscious mind through recall upon waking. The fragments recalled are usually highly symbolic and archetypal; they are often not understood by the conscious mind and therefore remain un-integrated.
In psychoanalysis the first stage is free association. In this stage the patient is asked to freely express whatever thoughts and feelings spontaneously arise. Later on, specific cues are given, the psychoanalyst probes deeper into certain issues and a chain of thoughts follows. This practice is very similar to stages 2, 3 and 4 of antar mouna, i.e. the awareness of spontaneous thoughts, the creation of thoughts and the awareness and disposal of spontaneous thoughts.
The aim of antar mouna at one level is to allow the practitioner to become his own psychiatrist as it helps a person to release and resolve mental problems. The mind is full of charged thoughts (samskaras). Many of these are negative. Antar mouna stage 2 helps to release many of these mental tensions by allowing them to erupt without inhibition. However, many of these subconscious thoughts are deeply embedded in the normally inaccessible regions of the mind. They have been firmly fixed and rooted in the mind through habitual suppression. Therefore, they do not arise spontaneously. Their hold needs to be loosened by another method.
One method for loosening these deeply embedded thoughts is antar mouna stage 3, where one chooses specific thoughts at will. These posed thoughts stir up a train of other associated thoughts, some of which may be deeply embedded complexes of the mind. Consciously created thoughts tend to arouse and excite deeper thoughts and memories. This helps to induce a spontaneous flow of subconscious thoughts that can then be exhausted.
Swami Satyananda (1981) has said that human beings are always dreaming, even while awake. This is because our senses are extroverted and our consciousness is so underdeveloped that we are not aware of the ongoing mental processes at deeper realms of the mind.
Through the practice of antar mouna one can learn to become more aware of the finer, subtle mental processes. The practitioner is also trained in the yogic art of witnessing - the ability to adopt drashta bhava. Swami Satyananda (1981) explains the significance of developing the attitude of a witness: "When a thought comes into your mind your approach to it is of the utmost importance. If you are completely neutral towards it then it will quickly cease, but when you become involved with a thought, or are emotionally affected by it, either positively or negatively, then it goes back into the mind to be recycled." Analysis can become a vicious circle, but through witnessing you can jump right out of the conflict.
In psychoanalysis the therapist is the witness. In antar mouna the practitioner is the witness. Hence, in a sense, you can become your own therapist. The effect is similar - with the release of the suppressed material there is a corresponding release of the accompanying anxiety or neurotic symptoms.
During pratyahara the external senses are turned inwards and this leads to a natural introversion of the mind. In the dream state the process of pratyahara is involuntary and unconscious. During meditation practices such as antar mouna, the state of pratyahara is consciously and voluntarily induced.
Swami Niranjanananda (2002) states, "We bring forth to the level of our conscious mind the experiences which are dormant in our subconscious, or which we have blocked, because we do not want to identify with them. When the experiences are blocked they become pratyaya (seeds) and when the experiences are released they become pratyahara, which means realizing the mind as it is right now."
During stage 5 of antar mouna the practitioner practises thoughtlessness and this completes the process of pratyahara. Working through stages 1-4, the mind should have exhausted most of its subconscious distractions. Thoughts will still arise, but they will not be very strong or cause any great emotional upheaval; it is at this stage that an attempt to maintain thoughtlessness is practised. This stage of thoughtlessness completes the process of pratyahara where the mind is not only cut off from sense perceptions but also from mental processes. So, at the start of antar mouna tensions of the manifest mind are first dealt with and gradually the subtle mind is uncovered.
Thoughts can exist either manifested or un-manifested. The un-manifested thoughts of the subtle mind lie in a 'seed' form in the depths of our unconscious. In yoga these 'seeds' are called samskaras and in psychology they are called archetypes. When these archetypes first bubble to the conscious level of mind during sleep or meditation, they appear in a symbolic language. This symbolic language is the language of the unconscious mind and the language often experienced in dreams.
Swami Satyananda (1982) has described the formation of samskaras or archetypes: "Every action has a momentum and at the end of the momentum a seed drops. First the seed is in the form of a memory, then the memory is transformed into a samskara, or let us say an archetype. When memories become archetypes you can't recognize them because they are in a symbolic form. They manifest in dreams and meditation, and in our thinking processes, even if we don't know it."
Every experience is in a seed form in the unconscious mind. Swami Satyananda (1982) states: "There is no experience that is not there, but the peculiarity of nature is that they are in a symbolic state. Their explosion is the aim of the science of tantra." Yantra is a powerful tool of tantra to communicate with the deep-seated non-verbal archetypes embedded in our unconscious mind.
Yantras are special geometrical figures that evoke a response from deep in the unconscious mind. Swami Satyananda (1984) states: "Just as various energies and chemicals interact and produce a third effect, internal resonance and external yantras interact with each other. Yantra is a vehicle which explodes the rigid and inflexible unconscious in our personality."
The mind is formless and the verbalizing mind finds it impossible to comprehend something formless. Therefore, in tantra, yantras are used to represent the forces of the formless mind. Yantras act as the bridge between the un-manifest and manifest mind. The ocean is the mind and the psychic symbol or yantra is the raft on which the conscious mind sails into the depths of the unconscious.
In stage 6, the last stage of antar mouna, the practice of dharana (concentration) begins. The aim of this stage is to awaken the subtle inner faculties. Here the linguistic, rational mind is transcended and the subtle mind is awakened. In order to explode the inner psychic energy a symbol or yantra is used. Concentration on the yantra prevents the practitioner from slipping into the state of sleep. The mind is then focused on a chosen psychic symbol or yantra. This symbol acts as a trigger for evoking deep-seated samskaras or archetypes. The process is non-verbal and vibrational. The patterns that emerge from the unconscious mind resemble dream imagery. Therefore, this stage is also known as conscious dreaming. This is a very advanced and powerful state of meditation and requires considerable preparation. Deep-seated archetypes are exploded and a realization of the deeper personality dawns.
Once one has the ability to consciously view dreams in the waking state, one can gradually train the mind to be a conscious witness of dreams even in the sleeping state. In this manner one can learn much about the psyche through the practice of antar mouna and by trying to alert the witnessing consciousness at night while dreaming. This will be helpful in achieving a better recall and understanding of the dream.
As Swami Sivananda (1997) has said: "Learn to be the witness of your thoughts in the waking state so that you can be conscious in the dream state that you are dreaming." The aim of yoga is to attain uniform awareness of consciousness. Through the practice of antar mouna we can learn to communicate with the psychic level of our awareness, which is the bedrock of all dreams and visions.