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When we face a difficult problem in our lives, we are often advised to "sleep on it." A recent article in the Daily Mail (UK) describes scientific research that supports this advice. A number of studies have shown that sleep does a lot more than simply provide rest and recuperation. A great deal of mental processing happens during sleep. In the words of the article, "Sleep strengthens the memory and helps the brain extract themes and rules from the masses of information we soak up during the day." In short, sleep is a time of learning.
A Course in Miracles agrees that learning occurs during sleep (though strictly speaking, it would say that the nonphysical mind learns, not the physical brain). In fact, the Course goes much further with this idea. First, it claims that the learning that occurs during sleep is guided by one of two possible teachers: either our own confused ego or our all-knowing inner Teacher, the Holy Spirit. Second, it says that we can consciously choose, before we go to sleep, which teacher we will hire for the night. The ego teaches us fearful lessons of attack and separation; the Holy Spirit teaches us joyous lessons of love and joining. Therefore, which teacher we choose has a huge impact on how we feel when we awaken:
How you wake is the sign of how you have used sleep. To whom did you give it? Under which teacher did you place it? Whenever you wake dispiritedly, it was not given to the Holy Spirit. Only when you awaken joyously have you utilized sleep according to His purpose. (T-8.IX.4:1-5)
Finally, the Course claims that not only do we learn during sleep, but we also teach. It says that "teaching is a constant process; it goes on every moment of the day, and continues into sleeping thoughts as well" (M-In.1:6). The rationale behind this is that the nonphysical mind I referred to above is seamlessly joined with all other minds. Therefore, whatever we think, whether we are awake or asleep, radiates from our mind to all other minds.
This idea can be quite disturbing if you think about it. It says that all the mental activity that happens during sleep, even those weird dreams we'd rather not share with anyone, influences other minds. Since we're unconscious when we're sleeping, how can we ensure that the teaching we do during sleep is something we really want others to learn? The key is the second idea I mentioned: consciously giving our sleep to the Holy Spirit before retiring for the night. If we place our learning under His loving tutelage, our teaching will be an extension of His lessons of love.
So, why not give your sleep to the Holy Spirit, tonight and every night? Why not place all that mental processing that occurs during sleep under His loving care? Simply say, with as much willingness as you can muster, "Holy Spirit, I give my sleep to You tonight. Teach me Your loving lessons, and help me teach them to others." Use whatever words appeal to you. If you do this, you just may find that not only will you awaken with joy, but the difficult problems of your life may be seen in a whole new light when you "sleep on it" with the Holy Spirit.