One of the most basic ideas of the Sufis is that man is asleep in this world. He experiences only illusion instead of reality, because is caught up in a vast waking dream. His whole life is a dream.
In order to approach the Sufi Way, the Seeker must realize that he is a bundle of what are nowadays called conditionings,- associative thinking, which is a completely automative process fed by outside stimuli. This realization can be arrived at by the use of those disciplines which have been tradtionally used in the West, and which are called Introspection and Retrospection. If these disciplines are followed long enough one reaches the point where one has strengthened the retrospective memory sufficiently that one can be aware of and follow the inner stream of thought. One can then arrive at a realization of the completely automatic process at its basis. For example, you are riding along on a bus and think of someone you have not thought of for years. You trace the stream of your thought backwards and see that you passed a billboard which had something on it that started the stream of thought which eventually led you to think of that particular person.
Let me give an example so this will be clearer. Some years ago I was driving home from where I worked in Washington, D.C. I was listening to the radio as I drove. Every few minutes the music would be interrupted to give an advertisement for a sports supply store near Baltimore. In this advertisement the phrase "Backrack Raissonne on the Beltway" was frequently repeated.
I drove home, and when I got there I sit down to read a book. After I read for awhile I got up to get a glass of milk. Just as I reached in the refrigerator to get the carton of milk the phrase "Backrack Raissonne on the Beltway" flashed into my mind. I didn't give it any thought. I poured my milk and sit down to read again. After awhile I decided I wanted another glass of milk. I went to the refrigerator, and reached in again for the carton of milk. The phrase "Backrack Raisonne on the Beltway" flashed into my mind again. That this had happened twice just as I reached into the refrigerator for the milk carton was too curious to ignore. I stopped to analyze the situation, and I saw immediately what had happened.
The carton of milk was sitting on the BACK of the RACK in the refrigerator. The mechanical associative functioning of the conscious mind, plus its pre-programming by the repeated hearing of the phrase on the radio advertisement, added to the act of seeing the carton of milk on the back of the rack in the refrigerator had been sufficient to trigger the phrase twice almost as if it had been a post hypnotic suggestion. The automatic, associative functioning of our mind works in this fashion all the time. We are machines, although normally the light of our consciousness is so dim we are not aware of this automatic associative process which takes place hundreds of times each day.
The letters on this page are another example. Try to look at them and see merely the characters without being aware of the associated letters and the words. From years of reading, the automatic associative process has been programmed into your mind. It is now extremely difficult for you to penetrate behind this screen of conditioning to the state of pure perception. Your mind during all of your daily life is trapped in an analogous associative thinking web like a fly caught in flypaper. This prevents your mind from operating in what should be its natural state, the state of pure perception. The mind of children normally operate in the state of pure perceptions until they are six or seven. At this point a number of pernicious factors kick in (the main one being our education system) which operate to degrade the consciousness into the travesty found in adults.
from the website - http://www.sirbacon.org/mshrew.htm, about the use of Sufi-ism and the layers of awakening in the play, The Taming Of The Shrew by Sir Francis Bacon