Falling Asleep

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Jon Messner, modified 7 Months ago at 7/12/23 7:36 AM
Created 7 Months ago at 7/12/23 7:36 AM

Falling Asleep

Posts: 19 Join Date: 9/20/20 Recent Posts
Hello Everyone!
I frequently sit more than 4 hours a day (broken up), and I usually get into pretty decent concentration somewhere after 2 hours. However, often times, there is very little awareness the first few hours, and often times I find myself "falling asleep" and dreaming!?
Does anyone have any tips for "resetting" (?) the brain?
​​​​​​​Thank you!
Robert Lydon, modified 7 Months ago at 7/29/23 2:11 PM
Created 7 Months ago at 7/29/23 2:11 PM

RE: Falling Asleep

Posts: 71 Join Date: 6/19/23 Recent Posts
Hi Jon,

If you can notice the early indicators of the oncoming of sleep, or becoming lucid within the dream, you can intervene. Goenka suggested a few deep breaths, if possible, to restimulate the object of focus in anapana (nose and upper lip). Another suggestion is to get out of sitting meditation and do walking meditation for 15 minutes. Then return.

Hope that helps.

​​​​​​​Metta
User 08, modified 6 Months ago at 8/6/23 3:01 PM
Created 6 Months ago at 8/6/23 2:34 PM

RE: Falling Asleep

Posts: 57 Join Date: 7/31/23 Recent Posts
Jon Messner Hello Everyone! I frequently sit more than 4 hours a day (broken up), and I usually get into pretty decent concentration somewhere after 2 hours. However, often times, there is very little awareness the first few hours, and often times I find myself "falling asleep" and dreaming!? Does anyone have any tips for "resetting" (?) the brain? ​​​​​​​Thank you!
Does this mean that you have no concentration at all prior to those 2 hours? This is rather concerning since entering concentration should basically be immediate at this point, or maybe, at the very worst, take ~20 mins for the mind to settle down sufficiently for at least some concentration. I would try a different technique to see if that helps more, or read Thanissaro Bhikkhu's writings on jhana: https://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/Writings/Ebooks/WithEachAndEveryBreath_210603.pdf.

Or actually, maybe what I should ask instead is: could you describe the state you're calling decent concentration?

I'm not sure what you mean by resetting the brain, but if you're falling asleep while meditating, it's best to go for some walking meditation when you start to feel drowsy. If you sense that you have "little awareness," you're really not getting much out of the meditation, and it's time to take some deep breaths or go for a walk.
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Jon Messner, modified 6 Months ago at 8/6/23 8:33 PM
Created 6 Months ago at 8/6/23 8:33 PM

RE: Falling Asleep

Posts: 19 Join Date: 9/20/20 Recent Posts
I should clarify…
  1. During most of this time I was counting my breaths (which I’ve stopped in the past 2 weeks, which I feel has helped with my practice.)
  2. The past 3 years, I was doing 48-hour food fasts 2x week (I recently cut it back to just 24 hours everyday)… I’m not sure this has something to do with things. I just know as a personal trainer, most people deal with their emotions by eating (or drinking, or exercising too much)
  3. Also during this time, I would notice several different “states of concentration”. Sometimes I was able to count with great focus, but my mind still wandered. Other times I would have trouble counting, but I noticed it. Sometimes it hurt. Sometimes it felt blissful. And mix all these things together and I probably had 10 different “states of concentration” that I could categorize.
My usual week for the past few years looked something like this...Sunday 7 to 10 hoursMonday 4 hoursTuesday 4 hoursWednesday 4 hoursThursday 4 hoursFriday 2 to 4 hoursSaturday 15 minutesWhat I would find is that on Sundays (after Saturday break) despite often times sitting more than 8 hours, I would have almost zero concentration outside of the first 30 minutes (or so). I would often doze off, dream, be in a very fuzzy state, or I would feel a pain that I’ve never felt before (like mental pain leading to physical pain?) Sometimes, towards the end of my Sunday I would "settle in" and start to notice my thoughts. But not always.However, during the week looked much different.Then on Monday, for the first 30 minutes, I would be pretty spot on, but it would be painful. Then just painful and not counting. And then, after about 2 hours, I was able to count and notice things a bit. And this continued in various forms (see above) for the remainder of the week.There would be times, later on in the week, that I would be able to get into very “concentrated” states, but of course, that ebbed and flowed also.
But recently, at the direction of a teacher, I have stopped counting (which is easier than I thought it would be) and also introduced more breaks into the long sits, which seems to “reset” things in my brain a bit.
I really appreciate you for reading this. Thank you!
User 08, modified 6 Months ago at 8/6/23 9:07 PM
Created 6 Months ago at 8/6/23 9:06 PM

RE: Falling Asleep

Posts: 57 Join Date: 7/31/23 Recent Posts
48-hour fasts twice a week sounds incredibly intense to me. That means you weren't eating for over half the week. I think it's good that you dialed it back to 24 hours, but even that, twice a week, sounds intense. Imo, this makes what you're experiencing make more sense. I get extremely grumpy if I haven't eaten for even 5 hours! Even hardcore Buddhist monks eat at least once a day. Fasting for longer periods is usually a temporary, maybe yearly thing.

You mention a teacher here, but in the other thread you said you're still looking. Did it not work out with that teacher? It sounded like their guidance was helping you.

What is driving you to this intensity? This is tons of meditation and fasting that seems to be only causing pain, with no progress. Remember that Buddha concluded that overly harsh asceticism didn't lead to the results he was looking for.
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Jon Messner, modified 6 Months ago at 8/8/23 5:57 AM
Created 6 Months ago at 8/8/23 5:49 AM

RE: Falling Asleep

Posts: 19 Join Date: 9/20/20 Recent Posts
I originally started fasting because of health issues, and it has helped quite a bit. I also think there is a strong correlation to eating and boredom.
Speaking with a teacher has helped me, and I probably should employ their guidance more often. And to that point, ever since I spoke to that teacher, the really painful sitting has subsided. So, to your point!

Meditation has always appealed to me. And it isn't just about not suffering. To me, the practice of sitting and noticing, speaks very much to what I do for a living - personal training. I've worked with a lot of people with low back pain, and what I've found if you can get their "glutes" to get really sore ("activation"), then their back stops hurting. But, it is no simple process, and there are always roadblocks along the way. I think the process with the mind might (?) be similar? Maybe?

I think its important for humans to stop and try to pay attention to things. I actually very much enjoy sitting on the cushion, and being a former college runner, I find sitting and listening to the breath 10x more exciting than my best college races.

I'm single, I (kind of) make my own work hours, and when I'm not working, I may as well sit on a cushion (or go for a walk)!?...
Martin, modified 6 Months ago at 8/8/23 11:42 AM
Created 6 Months ago at 8/8/23 11:42 AM

RE: Falling Asleep

Posts: 736 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
It is interesting that you say that your practice is not just about not suffering because I think that means you have a little leeway in terms of what you do. I'm the same way (or at least was: it gets complicated after a while). Some people have an urgent need to address intense suffering and I very much respect that. But if you are lucky enough to have some leeway in terms of what you want to achieve, practice can sometimes be more fun and less dangerous. Can I ask what your short/medium-term goals are with meditation? Do you place yourself on a map of some sort, such as the Progress of Insight, The Mind Illuminated, or Zen Ox-Herding stages? The style of mediation that you describe (especially the very long sits) seems unique to me, so I am curious about your practice. 
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Jon Messner, modified 6 Months ago at 8/9/23 5:42 AM
Created 6 Months ago at 8/9/23 5:42 AM

RE: Falling Asleep

Posts: 19 Join Date: 9/20/20 Recent Posts
Martin,
Thank you for taking such an interest in my practice! I am not on any particular path, which I understand might be problematic.
My patchwork understanding of things (listening to Daniel, Joseph Goldstein, Dan Harris, etc.) coupled with my lense of the world (personal training) has lead me to this: I think (a) the brain is to the soul as (b) the glutes are to the body. (Which is interesting because I've seen people actually talk themselves into musculoskeletal pain! But that is another thread!)
​​​​​​​If I can get my mind to "activate" (like getting the glutes to activate), then I'm hoping to be able to smell some flowers!?
Martin, modified 6 Months ago at 8/9/23 10:32 AM
Created 6 Months ago at 8/9/23 10:32 AM

RE: Falling Asleep

Posts: 736 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
That sounds interesting. It's great to explore in a way that makes sense to you. My understanding is that there are many different ways in which the mind can be activated. Some are mapped out. For these, the map says, do x, and y should happen. This can lead to faster results than working without a map and it makes it easier to work out what is going on when stuff comes up.  

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