Daydreaming can be defined as a kind of mind wandering, indulging in make-believe fantasies that usually just glorify ourselves. Many studies have been conducted on daydreaming, and the results have been quite similar. According to one study, nearly 47% of people spend a considerable amount of time daydreaming.
Studies have also shown that the costs of daydreaming are high. We lose or weaken our capacity to be able to hold directed or sustained attention. Daydreaming directly affects our capacity to read and absorb what we have read as well as the capacity of the mind to build models or visualize. As we keep escaping from the harsh realities of the present moment, we develop a ready capacity to reject reality and live in a dream.
Our aim is to go deeper into self-observation and self-remembering, though it requires a great deal of force. In fact, every psychic act requires force. Daydreaming absorbs force and drains us. All attempts, then, at self-observation and self–remembering become useless.
Imagination can be divided into two categories: Mechanical (or undirected imagination) and Directed (or controlled imagination). In mechanical imagination, there is absolutely no control (i.e. zero application of will). Our level of attention is very low—we are in a state of zero attention. As we saw last week, this is the state of sleep or nidra.
In controlled or directed imagination, our attention is directed and sustained by the application of will. For example, when we design a house, we use directed attention and controlled imagination. All the great discoveries are thanks to directed imagination.
In daydreaming, imagination works by itself. There is no effort to hold attention and direct it towards an aim. This sets in very early in childhood. For example, a particular student, good at chemistry, daydreams that when he grows up, he will become the best scientist in the world and win the Nobel Prize. As life unfolds, he ends up becoming a chemistry teacher—never fulfilling his daydream. Such a person will always remain frustrated in life, carrying a grievance that life did not give him what he deserves.
Can we see how daydreaming destroys our lives? Let’s take another example: A child who is a very good artist is praised by everyone around him. He begins to dream about becoming a famous painter and how his paintings will sell at grand auctions to bring him a great deal of money. However, in reality, his paintings do not sell, and he ends up painting movie billboards to make ends meet. Such a person will always remain in a state of dissatisfaction, making him touchy and negative. My personal observation of people who bite their nails and chew their fingers is that they are frustrated people whose daydreams remain unfulfilled. Some of them may be very famous and leaders in their field, yet they are not free of daydreaming.
A key aspect of daydreaming is that we do not imagine any obstacles, leaving us able to achieve the very impossible without opposition. There is no passive force (i.e. no obstacles) in our way. In real life, we face obstacles in whatever we endeavor to do. To earn a little money in life requires so much effort and application of one’s mind. In daydreaming, you are the richest man in the world without you putting in any effort. People who allow their minds to wander like this can often become useless for life. When life brings them problems, they always look for an easy way out. They consult an astrologer or perform magic spells and ceremonies to get rid of the obstacle. They do not realize that the more they daydream, the more they are faced with obstacles in life.
We must look at this from the aspect of karma. In daydreaming, we enjoy something for which we have neither worked nor paid. We happily indulge in something that life has not brought to us, something we do not deserve. Imagine now what karma we accumulate by daydreaming. Every action or force has an equal and opposite action or force.
Therefore, in daydreaming, we are desiring all the time. This is perpetual active force. And this invites obstacles or passive force in our daily lives. We may fail in an interview and blame circumstances, how someone with influence got the job, etc. But we will never look inwards to see that we were already creating obstacles to our progress in life by daydreaming.
All students of spirituality must work against daydreaming. And the only way is through self-observation and application of will. There are several I’s in us which want to indulge in daydreaming - it is so sweet and comfortable. Through self-observation, however, we throw light on these I’s and understand the way they work, thereby allowing us to be free of them. It requires a long period of steady and responsible observation.
All daydreaming negates the present moment. By shifting to our private world of fantasy, we label the present moment as boring and do not accept the facts before us. If we can understand and recognize when this is happening, we can begin working against it, and the energy and force we save can be better used for our spiritual growth and awakening.