Advice on sleepiness for a 15 day Bodhgaya retreat?

Aditya J, modified 8 Years ago at 9/19/13 1:23 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/19/13 1:23 PM

Advice on sleepiness for a 15 day Bodhgaya retreat?

Posts: 4 Join Date: 9/19/13 Recent Posts
Hello,

I'm newly practicing the mahasi method and will go on a 15day retreat to IMC bodhgaya in about ten days. I'm trying to sit at home before that so that i can hit the ground running. I really want to note everything all day long and i see some progress in the past one week that i've been sitting.

My problem is feeling sleepy. I note it as sleepiness, i feel the sleepiness in the body, i note it, i see seductive mental images of a good nap, i note them, but still somehow the resolve weakens. Any tips that you guys use to overcome sleepiness?
Jigme Sengye, modified 8 Years ago at 9/19/13 2:00 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/19/13 2:00 PM

RE: Advice on sleepiness for a 15 day Bodhgaya retreat? (Answer)

Posts: 188 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
The obvious solution is to get more sleep, but that's frequently easier said than done.

Are you normally sleep-deprived? I am. I tend to need about one to two hours more sleep than I normally get. I tend to meditate an hour or two before going to sleep, so drowsiness is typically an issue. There's nothing wrong with it. When I sit, my mind relaxes enough that I might doze off a bit a few times during the first half of an hour of meditation. This doesn't always happen, but the more sleep-deprived I am, the higher the odds. I don't really let this interfere with my practice. I'll just keep on noting as I'm about to fall asleep and then again when I wake up again. After about half an hour, I tend to get enough rest from either the periods of dozing off, or the meditative states that I feel energized enough that I don't doze off.

A typical Mahasi-style retreat only includes 6 hours of sleep per night and involves waking up really early, so this can exacerbate sleep issues. I recommend making your peace with dozing off during the first practice after lunch.

One thing that can cause more alertness is exercise. If you're feeling dull or drowsy and would like to feel more alert, you may want to do 10 or more pushups. Leg raises and plank exercises are also good.

Another thing to look at might be diet. Starchy food, big meals and meditating right after eating, tend to make me drowsy.

When I meditate during the day on weekends, I tend to take a nap before sitting.
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Fitter Stoke, modified 8 Years ago at 9/19/13 2:19 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/19/13 2:19 PM

RE: Advice on sleepiness for a 15 day Bodhgaya retreat? (Answer)

Posts: 487 Join Date: 1/23/12 Recent Posts
If you're too tired to meditate with your eyes closed, meditate with your eyes open a crack. If opening them a crack doesn't help, open them all the way. If opening them all the way doesn't help, do walking meditation. If walking meditation doesn't help, do walking meditation faster. If walking faster doesn't help, remind yourself that you could die at any moment, and wouldn't it have been better to meditate than to sleep? If that doesn't work, have a cup of coffee or tea or take a nap.
Jigme Sengye, modified 8 Years ago at 9/20/13 3:31 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/19/13 2:57 PM

RE: Advice on sleepiness for a 15 day Bodhgaya retreat? (Answer)

Posts: 188 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
On the topic of meditating with your eyes open, before and after the retreat, you may want to supplement your noting practice with staring at a kasina. This can be done as a vipassana exercise where you stare and note or you can just do this as a jhana practice (see MCTB and other places for instructions). I find that doing this gets me into a more alert state and helps to keep from dozing off. If you don't have an object to stare at, you can pick a featureless point on a wall at eye level and stare at it and either try to become absorbed on the point or do that while you note mental and physical sensations.

That isn't something to do on retreat since the teachers will probably tell you to meditate with eyes closed, but at some point you might notice visual imagery with your eyes closed. You can do the same exercise with that closed-eye imagery while noting on retreat. One thing that you might find on retreat is that it's useful to invent specialized noting exercises for the different kinds of physical and mental sensations that can come up. This will add to your meditative toolbox and keep you interested. Interest and curiosity keep you from getting bored, which will tend to keep you more alert.

One thing I like doing to stay alert while doing that exercise is to note alertness and eye posture. As my gaze drops, I tend to be less alert.

You can also train yourself to continue noting as you pass in and out of sleep. If you're falling asleep a lot while meditating, you can try to note the process (and initially fail, which is fine) of getting drowsier and the process of falling asleep and try to notice when you wake up again. Eventually, you might be able to maintain some basic level meditative awareness during brief periods of sleep despite not noting. By meditative awareness, I mean the habit of noticing that underlies noting.
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Fitter Stoke, modified 8 Years ago at 9/19/13 6:51 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/19/13 6:51 PM

RE: Advice on sleepiness for a 15 day Bodhgaya retreat? (Answer)

Posts: 487 Join Date: 1/23/12 Recent Posts
Or tug on your earlobes. Forgot that one.
M N, modified 8 Years ago at 9/19/13 8:08 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/19/13 8:07 PM

RE: Advice on sleepiness for a 15 day Bodhgaya retreat? (Answer)

Posts: 210 Join Date: 3/3/12 Recent Posts
Shinzen Young on insomnia and on sleepiness
Aditya J, modified 8 Years ago at 9/20/13 2:55 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/20/13 2:55 PM

RE: Advice on sleepiness for a 15 day Bodhgaya retreat?

Posts: 4 Join Date: 9/19/13 Recent Posts
Thanks a lot, good sir! I'll try all your pointers on sleep, food and exercise. Don't wanna take any chances.
Aditya J, modified 8 Years ago at 9/20/13 2:56 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/20/13 2:56 PM

RE: Advice on sleepiness for a 15 day Bodhgaya retreat?

Posts: 4 Join Date: 9/19/13 Recent Posts
Fitter Stoke:
If walking faster doesn't help, remind yourself that you could die at any moment, and wouldn't it have been better to meditate than to sleep?


That made my day. Thanks a lot! Will try to remember it throughout the day.
Aditya J, modified 8 Years ago at 9/20/13 2:59 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 9/20/13 2:59 PM

RE: Advice on sleepiness for a 15 day Bodhgaya retreat?

Posts: 4 Join Date: 9/19/13 Recent Posts
Thank you! I always enjoy Shinzen's clarity, structure and precision. I'm going to use all the tips I got on this thread emoticon

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