Welcome to practical meditation tips, an ongoing feature on this blog in which we discuss meditation practice and how to improve the results of your meditation.
This week we are going to deal with the specific problem of what to do when you suddenly become sleepy during practice.
Before gong further, we need to differentiate that there are two types of sleepiness in meditation practice. The first comes from actually being tired, which may be due to lack of sleep, or time of day, circadian rhythm and so on. Regarding this type of sleepiness, usually it is something that you will have brought in to the practice with you and usually it means that you ought to go to bed as soon as you have the chance.
The second type of sleepiness is the one I would like to deal with and it is a sudden unexpected tiredness that usually occurs within the first 15 to 45 minutes of a meditation session.
Generally, this feeling manifests as a desire to immediately lie down and go to sleep. If you lie down at this time, it will be very easy to sleep, but this is not the preferred mode of practice. Why is this?
In order to understand this problem, we need to know a bit about the effects of meditation on the body.
It is very common when meditating for the mind and nervous system to calm down to the point that the body is tricked into believing it is time for bed. Because of this, we can experience feelings of tiredness even when we are wide awake. This feeling is similar to the feeling that we might experience when we awake from bed a couple hours before normal wake up time. For instance, if you wake up to use the washroom and then go back to bed, you may find that it is very easy to doze back off to sleep, and much less trouble than setting your head down to rest at your normal bed time.
In meditation, what this usually indicates is that the body and mind are about to enter the invisible gate between regular consciousness and what Daoists call the “Pre Heaven” state. The pre heaven state is the time when the mind seems to disappear for an indefinite amount of time and then upon reappearing, usually creates a strong sensation of Qi energy in the body. This state is very important in meditation practice and represents the time when we cease to control the functioning of our bodies, but rather give over functioning to our subconscious mind and body. This is a time when the body and mind are at rest and when a great deal of healing occurs. It is also the time when we experience genuine nothingness and are thus able to undergo spiritual metamorphosis. This metamorphosis allows us to reemerge into the “Post Heaven” state with an intrinsic energetic connection from head to toe and all throughout the body. This feeling of energy is different from the Qi energy normally created during intentional Qi Gong and meditation practice and instead of being directed by our minds, simply directs itself. Although it is difficult to say what creates the energy sensation, it is possible that deep meditation elicits the release of certain types of hormones which make us feel comfortable and have a healing effect on body and psyche.
Because the sudden sleepy feeling is a precursor to this type of energetic catharsis, it is very important to practice through it to get the most benefit. The best way to do this is that as soon as you feel suddenly tired, recognize that this is a symptom of correct meditation and do not comply with your urge to lie down. instead, maintain your attention on meditation, relax your breathing, and empty you mind, staying like this for as long as possible. With enough perseverance, when the time is right, you will be able to use this method to great benefit and learn how to transverse the boundaries between conscious and unconscious/post heaven and pre heaven.
Thanks for reading this post,
if you have any questions, please feel free to comment below.