Fighting the Somnolence

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Michael For me to know and you to find out Kich, modified 11 Years ago.

Fighting the Somnolence

Posts: 170 Join Date: 9/14/10 Recent Posts
Well I knew and you all probably know by now that not a terribly long time can pass before I have another question, so here's another: I keep starting to drift off to sleep lately whenever I've been meditating between 15 and 30 minutes, and I can't really answer why. I've read something before, I think on several occasions, that it's your mind trying to run away from something, and that it makes for great noting material along with the other hindrances, but noticing it as it's happening doesn't really seem to stop it from happening, and trying to imagine a bright light or looking at an actual light helps but isn't enough to let me get back to where I'm currently struggling to prolong uninterrupted concentration. Any ideas on what exactly this is and how to handle it?

Thanks
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tarin greco, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Fighting the Somnolence

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
both your focus being too tight or too loose can cause drowsiness, as can being very mentally busy or turmoiled right before practice (when wakefulness then goes into a sort of shock when it meets the monkey mind), as can not getting enough rest in general, as can being particularly prone to sleepiness in general.

some suggestions:
- do walking meditation before sitting (never mind that novices rarely get any noticeable effect from walking meditation - just do it whole-heartedly and then go sit).
- establish clear mindfulness well before sitting down (for maybe 5 or 10 minutes). do it with the kind of intent alertness that you would have while listening for the whistle at the start of a race, or that you would have if you heard an animal move nearby in the woods. walking meditation can serve this purpose very well for some.
- sit with your eyes open.
- stand instead.
- pay attention to whatever sensations of light or lightness are present (there may be some round about your eyes).
- make sure you're getting enough rest in general.

if you've tried all the above, as well as whatever things others may have recommended, as well as whatever other things you've thought up yourself, and still nothing is working out, and you really want to experience what it's like to not be drowsy at all, you could try not eating for a couple days (but keeping hydrated as usual), as doing so reduces the body's processing load a degree and frees up mental resources, thus naturally enhancing mindfulness. don't do that on days you expect to be physically active.

tarin
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Adam Van Frisoli, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Fighting the Somnolence

Posts: 48 Join Date: 9/9/10 Recent Posts
Hey Michael,

Here's what I do. If one doesn't work move to the next until you're good to go.

1. Open your eyes.
2. Tilt your head up/look upwards.
3. STAND (standing meditation is my personal favorite).
4. Walking meditation.

Hope that helps somewhat. Can't recommend standing mediation enough. I think it's especially useful just after waking in the morning.

Adam
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Ian And, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Fighting the Somnolence

Posts: 785 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Tarin has given some pretty solid advice. I would venture to say that most of us have had to deal with the "sloth and torpor" hindrance at one time or another in our practice. So, you're not alone.

That said, I am a particular advocate of the third suggestion on tarin's list. This is what the Buddha suggests in many a discourse:
"Here a bhikkhu, gone to the forest or to the root of a tree or to an empty hut, sits down; having folded his legs crosswise, set his body erect, and established mindfulness in front of him, ever mindful he breathes in, mindful he breathes out." (MN 10; Satipatthana Sutta) This entails ratcheting up viriya or energy and alertness, as in the examples in tarin's suggestion re: "listening for the whistle before a race" or "hearing an animal move nearby."

Also the seventh suggestion re: obtaining enough rest in general. One thing I found helpful was to give into the tendency for sleep and to take a brief nap before taking up the meditation session again. If you allow the body to obtain what it is seeking, you feel invigorated when taking up the meditation on the second try, and often the sleepiness tends to vanish. Combine that with the establishment of mindfulness, and you've got yourself a winning combination.

Best of luck to you.

tarin greco:
both your focus being too tight or too loose can cause drowsiness, as can being very mentally busy or turmoiled right before practice (when wakefulness then goes into a sort of shock when it meets the monkey mind), as can not getting enough rest in general, as can being particularly prone to sleepiness in general.

some suggestions:
- do walking meditation before sitting (never mind that novices rarely get any noticeable effect from walking meditation - just do it whole-heartedly and then go sit).
- establish clear mindfulness well before sitting down (for maybe 5 or 10 minutes). do it with the kind of intent alertness that you would have while listening for the whistle at the start of a race, or that you would have if you heard an animal move nearby in the woods. walking meditation can serve this purpose very well for some.
- sit with your eyes open.
- stand instead.
- pay attention to whatever sensations of light or lightness are present (there may be some round about your eyes).
- make sure you're getting enough rest in general.
J Adam G, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Fighting the Somnolence

Posts: 286 Join Date: 9/15/09 Recent Posts
One more tip: Do your meditation outside when it's bright, or turn lots of lights on in the room where you're meditating. Particularly helpful if the somnolence is due to actual sleep deprivation rather than to a technique error with the meditation. Of course it's better to get rested so you don't have sleep deprivation, but if you can't do that, the light and the standing will help.
Will S, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Fighting the Somnolence

Posts: 9 Join Date: 5/27/10 Recent Posts
I have had this problem and this is what i found of most help:

1. Get more sleep - just about everyone needs 7-8 hours if you are younger you may need more.

2. Get more exercise - you will have more energy over all.

3. If all else fails take a nap. and meditate later.


A cup of tea is always nice too emoticon
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Michael For me to know and you to find out Kich, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Fighting the Somnolence

Posts: 170 Join Date: 9/14/10 Recent Posts
Thanks all for your advice, it's all very much appreciated. emoticon What's strange and what makes me think it's psychological in nature is that it seems to be accompanied by a sort of all-pervasive restlessness that's become more pronounced, or perhaps my awareness of it has only become more pronounced, since I've been putting more and more time into meditation and tai-chi (I think karate has to do with it as well but to a lesser extent). Since I've read about this sort of phenomenon, the equivalent of basically dredging up psychological detritus, it isn't particularly surprising I suppose.

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