(That is not to say that the two things are identical)
Lying awake at three o'clock in the morning, my mind was agitated - a state with no particular mental content but not relaxed – I was "trying" to sleep. I tried to use my meditation techniques, focusing on my breath and letting everything else go, without success.
The next thing I knew, I awakened from a deep, dreamless sleep. It was two or three hours later. What happened? Obviously, I dropped off—I fell asleep—without knowing it.
That isn’t unusual for me, to “fall” asleep. Usually, I do that only moments after my head hits the pillow. But then often I wake up an hour or so later, in a repetitive cycle that seems my fate these days.
On the other hand, napping on the couch in the afternoon, my mind usually drifts slowly off, accompanied by vague, random (I presume) images, sounds, and thoughts that float by. I'm conscious, but not "awake." I'm resting, not thinking in any deliberate way. I know that I’m lying there on the couch, and there may be sounds from the household that I’m not paying any attention to. Then twenty minutes later I awaken as my phone alarm goes off. I awaken from that deep, dreamless state without any intermediate experience (other than, perhaps, annoyance at the alarm).
It occurred to me that these two ways of going to sleep differ in the control I have over the process. One moment I’m here, and the next moment I’m gone. Or, I float along a river of consciousness on which things just gradually disappear.
I think that perhaps it’s similar to falling in love, versus becoming in love.
I’ve been there in my life more than a few times. I know the feeling of being hit over the head with the discovery that “that person” is suddenly the most important person in my life. Maybe I had a glimmer of something happening to me (and maybe other people around me had more than a glimmer), but I was suddenly out of control. My hormones had taken over. (And don’t assume that I’m talking here about lust. It’s bigger than that. Lust I recognize from its faintest beginnings.)
Just as there’s an experience of drifting off to sleep, there’s an experience of drifting into love, gradually, tenderly, like watching the dawn on a spring morning. I have control over the experience, such as knowing when the object of my growing affection isn’t appropriate for me at that time. I can say, “feels good, but it isn’t right for me—or her—and I’ll stay “friends.”
Or, more profoundly, it’s when I’m already inside that relationship, having gotten there by either path, and the love just grows and deepens over time, every moment appreciated like another sunrise.