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Mindful : December 2015
I start to fall asleep sometimes. Fighting it drives me crazy. What should I do? Brace yourself for the following truth-bomb: If you find yourself consistently falling asleep during meditation, you may not be getting enough sleep. Meditation is important. Sleep is also important. In fact, meditation can help you notice when you’re skimping on sleep or exercise or not eating well. Maybe it can spur you to check into whether there’s something in your life you can cut back on. (Spoiler: There’s a good chance it involves the Internet or your so-called smartphone.) And that fighting you’re doing? Take the opportunity to bring that right into the practice. Allow the experience of resistance to be seen through the lens of mindfulness: be curious, receptive, open. What’s behind your feistiness? Why are you fighting with such vigor? Trying hard to win the prize for best meditator? Sleepiness is a common experience for med- itators, and it can happen even when you’re pretty adequately rested. It may not be merely a warning sign that you’re spending too much time on YouTube watching cat acrobatics; sometimes it is a pouty response to the very act of meditating. Let’s not mince words: Relative to the experience of reality typically demanded of us, meditating is boring. Have you ever felt sleepy when you were bored? Exactly. But on an encouraging note—when you forced yourself to pay attention to something you thought was going to be boring, did you ever find yourself getting something unexpected out of it? So, let’s say you’re sitting in meditation and your head starts nodding and bobbing. The moment you become aware of it you can begin to work with it. What’s actually happening? What sensations are you aware of? You can also try widening your lens of attention from say breath sensation to whole body aware- ness. Widen even more to include sound—in the room and outside of the room. You can try standing meditation (if it won’t distract oth- ers) and opening your eyes if closed. If none of this works, stop practicing altogether and take a mini-nap. If you acknowledge the sleep and give into it for awhile, you’ll be surprised at how much rest you can get from that. Fighting it saps your energy; giving in can be replenishing. Then, you can pick up where you left off: just sitting there doing nothing! And while getting your butt onto a cushion or a chair to meditate is a notable achievement in and of itself, it’s highly likely you’ll find even greater satisfaction if you’re sitting there when you’re already feeling alert. Right before bed may not be the right time for you to meditate, unless you’re using the practice as a way to wind down and slide into sleepiness. 5 54 mindful December 2015 meditation