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Thread: Seated sleep?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    Seated sleep?

    Hi all,

    Anyone experienced sitting then suddenly the alarm sounds as if no time had passed and you have no recollection of what just happened in your sit? As if I took a nap, but I swear my eyes were open. I remember feeling really sleepy though, and feeling very refreshed after sitting. This also happened once or twice during the rohatsu retreat.

    I'm primarily concerned if the Soto tradition has any warnings against dead sitting or similar stuff, as this seated nap thing could be it? What's dead sitting anyway (not asked in a koan sense)?

    Gassho, Ben
    Gassho
    Ben

  2. #2
    Hi Ben,

    Brain waves during Zazen are often in state otherwise found during sleep, or which are similar to brain waves in that peaceful place we encounter right before falling asleep while in bed ...

    http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=3457896

    ... which is also another reason that we can easily slip over the line into ZZZZZZZZzzzzzz. I bet you just fell asleep or into some half-sleep state.

    Below is something I post when the subject of sleep comes up, so forgive me to cut and paste it here.

    "Dead sitting" has a wider meaning. It is not only just falling asleep or into some trancelike state. It is also sitting (if I may use some Americal slang) like "a bump on a long", just twiddling one's thumbs killing time. As I wrote to you recently on another thread ...

    Some of the descriptions like "there is nothing to do, just sit there" can easily be misunderstood as some advise to just sit there twiddling one's thumbs like a numb headed bump on a log" (what is traditionally described as sitting "like one is lost in the ghost cave"). ... (I know about these misunderstandings, because I get asked about them all the time by people confused by the meaning of "just sitting" and "nothing to change" and "goallessness"). It is for this reason that Dogen really hyper-amped up this "sacred, only place to be in all time and space in this moment ... a moment of Zazen is a moment of Buddha sitting Buddha" aspect of Shikantaza. One must really sit with the attitude that it something sacred with nothing lacking, a whole and complete action perfect in that moment. It is anything but being a "numb bump on a log".
    Anyway, back to "sleep" below.

    Gassho, Jundo

    ================================================== ======================

    In my case, I usually combine sitting when not too exhausted from a strenuous day, sitting after a bit of tea/coffee (in moderation ... Zen monks discovered tea and have never been far from a cup), adjusting my posture and slightly straightening the spine, taking some deep breaths, massaging the face and limbs.

    If you do fall asleep, just sleep ... although if it happens too often, or most of the time, it is not good Zazen. Once in awhile is okay.

    Here is also something I often post on sleeping. It is important to remember that a monastic setting is like marine "boot camp" quite often, with teachers pushing pushing pushing ... all to realize "nothing to attain". So, some attitudes on Zazen and sleep in the past have been quite extreme.

    ... there are reports from China in the "old days" (and even now) of monks [especially during Sesshin] meditating with just about 3 hours of sleep (or pulling an "all nighter" or two or more). In Dogen's day (sometimes still now), they used a special wooden support called a "Zenpan" to hold the chin up (true), and were actually just sleeping in the Lotus Posture (I have done that too, although it is discouraged these days most times).

    "Zenpan" description here:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=smN...0zazen&f=false
    Here is one:



    ...

    I have posted this from time to time on Zazen and sleep (and becoming sleepy during Zazen) ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    The great teacher "Homeless Kodo" Sawaki Roshi said about sleep and Zazen ...

    Eat in order to do zazen, sleep in order to do zazen. This means that eating and sleeping are also part of zazen.


    In other words, we must be properly fed and rested (not too much, not too little ... ours is the Middle Way) in order to sustain our Practice properly. Get rest.

    Of course ... that is if we can. Sometimes, more easily said than done these days. If you do find yourself unavoidably tired (because of your 3 jobs), but also feel your Zazen unavoidable (which it should be most days), follow the words of Uchiyama Roshi ...

    Another time you might be tired. Then you have to remind yourself that you are practicing zazen right now, and it is not the time for sleeping. This is correcting your attitude, correcting your posture, really opening the eyes and returning to zazen. This is called “Awakening from dullness and fatigue.”
    That is for day to day practice. Find the time which suits you best, morning or evening maybe afternoon, and sit consistently then. Sit with a bit of sleepy Zazen when it happens. If too sleepy, and literally falling of the Zafu, go get some sleep.

    If in a Sesshin or other intense retreat, it may be a somewhat different story, and we may wish to push ourselves a bit harder (pushing hard with nothing to attain ... but non-attainng!), Remember the words and actions of Master Dogen's teacher, Master Nyojo (Ryujing)

    When staying at Tendo Monastery in China, while the old master Nyojo was abbot there, we sat zazen until about eleven o’clock at night and got up at about half-past two to sit zazen. The abbot sat with the assembly in the sodo, never taking even one night off.

    While sitting, many monks fell asleep. The abbot walked around hitting them with his fist or his slipper, scolding them and encouraging them to wake up. If they continued to sleep, he went to the shodo1, rang the bell, and called his attendants to light the candles. On the spur of the moment he would say such things as; “What is the use of sleeping? Why do you gather in a sodo [monk's hall]? Why did you become a monk and enter this monastery?”

    One time, his immediate attendant said, “The monks in the sodo are tired and sleepy. They may fall ill or lose their aspiration because of the long hours of sitting. Please shorten the time of zazen.”

    Angrily the abbot replied, “We must never do that. People without bodhi-mind who temporarily stay in the sodo would sleep even if we sat for only half an hour or less. Practitioners with bodhi-mind who aspire to practice are happier the longer they are able to sit and therefore, practice much harder. ”
    http://global.sotozen-net.or.jp/comm...nki/02-25.html
    In bed by 11, up for Zazen at 2:30! Rujing seems like a heck of a drill sargent at the Dharma boot camp!

    But on most days ... the advise is to get sleep sufficient to allow Zazen. It is best to sit in the mornings upon awakening, or at night just before bed. But you can pick another time when not so tired too. Then, take a bit of the sleepy zazen when it happens. If it's too sleepy go get some sleep and sit on waking. If falling asleep during Zazen (although discouraged), just do that ... I promise not to beat you with my slipper (and hopefully it will not happen most days ... even Jundo falls asleep on the "sit-a-long" now and then, if you look closely! ops: ) .

    If you sit Zazen and it is ZZZZzzzzz, just perfectly ZZZZzzzz!

    By the way, just adjusting the posture, opening the eyes a bit more and taking some breaths can help. I stretch my neck just a bit when tired during Zazen, and it seems to help ... as if a tiny string running from the top of my head to the ceiling were given a light tug. Or, one can return to following the breath for awhile. Monks in China and Japan have always had a close relationship to tea and caffeine (in moderation!). At more Sesshin I have attended in Japan or the West, tea and coffee (in moderation!) are always somewhere around.

    Master Keizan wrote (in his Zazen Yojinki about the year 1400) ...

    Although we shouldn’t be too anxious about bodily comforts, inadequate clothing, food and sleep are known as the "three insufficiencies" and will cause our practice to suffer. ...

    ... If dullness or sleepiness overcome your sitting, move to the body and open the eyes wider, or place attention above the hairline or between your eyebrows. If you are still not fresh, rub the eyes or the body. If that still doesn’t wake you, stand up and walk, always clockwise. Once you’ve gone about a hundred steps you probably won’t be sleepy any longer. The way to walk is to take a half step with each breath. Walk without walking, silent and unmoving.

    If you still don’t feel fresh after doing kinhin, wash your eyes and forehead with cold water. Or chant the Three Pure Precepts of the Bodhisattvas. Do something; don’t just fall asleep. You should be aware of the Great Matter of birth and death and the swiftness of impermanence. What are you doing sleeping when your eye of the Way is still clouded? If dullness and sinking arise repeatedly you should chant, "Habituality is deeply rooted and so I am wrapped in dullness. When will dullness disperse? May the compassion of the Buddhas and Ancestors lift this darkness and misery."
    A bit of Kinhin, for a few minutes, can be good when very tired.

    There was a master who sat with a heavy object on his head, which would fall with a crash whenever he started to doze ... and another who kept jabbing himself with a needle ... but I don't recommend that!

    Gassho, and Good Night, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    Senior Member Clark's Avatar
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    I confess that I have fallen asleep during 11pm sit-a-longs. ( and I'm not the only one ) This is probably not the BEST time for me to sit, but I want to participate with others sometimes. When I find this happening I just wake myself up and return to sitting. No need fro drama, just get back to work. Once I found myself actually awake right at the spot between falling asleep and being awake. It was really weird and the whole room had a golden glow. I woke myself up and went back to sitting.

    Gassho
    C

  4. #4
    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hi Ben,

    Brain waves during Zazen are often in state otherwise found during sleep, or which are similar to brain waves in that peaceful place we encounter right before falling asleep while in bed ...

    http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=3457896

    ... which is also another reason that we can easily slip over the line into ZZZZZZZZzzzzzz. I bet you just fell asleep or into some half-sleep state.

    Below is something I post when the subject of sleep comes up, so forgive me to cut and paste it here.

    "Dead sitting" has a wider meaning. It is not only just falling asleep or into some trancelike state. It is also sitting (if I may use some Americal slang) like "a bump on a long", just twiddling one's thumbs killing time. As I wrote to you recently on another thread ...



    Anyway, back to "sleep" below.

    Gassho, Jundo

    ================================================== ======================

    In my case, I usually combine sitting when not too exhausted from a strenuous day, sitting after a bit of tea/coffee (in moderation ... Zen monks discovered tea and have never been far from a cup), adjusting my posture and slightly straightening the spine, taking some deep breaths, massaging the face and limbs.

    If you do fall asleep, just sleep ... although if it happens too often, or most of the time, it is not good Zazen. Once in awhile is okay.

    Here is also something I often post on sleeping. It is important to remember that a monastic setting is like marine "boot camp" quite often, with teachers pushing pushing pushing ... all to realize "nothing to attain". So, some attitudes on Zazen and sleep in the past have been quite extreme.

    ... there are reports from China in the "old days" (and even now) of monks [especially during Sesshin] meditating with just about 3 hours of sleep (or pulling an "all nighter" or two or more). In Dogen's day (sometimes still now), they used a special wooden support called a "Zenpan" to hold the chin up (true), and were actually just sleeping in the Lotus Posture (I have done that too, although it is discouraged these days most times).

    "Zenpan" description here:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=smN...0zazen&f=false
    Here is one:



    ...

    I have posted this from time to time on Zazen and sleep (and becoming sleepy during Zazen) ...
    Thanks Jundo.
    That clears things up

    Gassho, Ben
    Gassho
    Ben

  5. #5
    Hello Ben,

    Hmmm, I have felt sleepy during Zazen before, but never to the point of falling asleep. I have however had that strange feeling where time is not a factor. I have sat down on the zafu and after the passing of 30mins, it felt like 10, not sure how that works ... but I know this is just my mind playing tricks on me. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Shingen View Post
    I have sat down on the zafu and after the passing of 30mins, it felt like 10, not sure how that works ... but I know this is just my mind playing tricks on me. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen
    Well, the mind always is playing "tricks" in judging time. So, feeling "thirty minutes" is a trick too! Of course, the minutes hand goes round the clock 30 times ... and 30 minutes is 30 minutes. Yet, at the same time, all is a state of mind. There is just now ... and now ... and now .... and ....

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Well, the mind always is playing "tricks" in judging time. So, feeling "thirty minutes" is a trick too! Of course, the minutes hand goes round the clock 30 times ... and 30 minutes is 30 minutes. Yet, at the same time, all is a state of mind. There is just now ... and now ... and now .... and ....

    Gassho, J
    ... and now ...

    Thank you Jundo. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  8. #8
    We've all had the experience too in which, doing something pleasant, an hour seems like a few minutes ... while in encountering something unpleasant, minutes seem like hours. So much is just one's state of mind.

    Gassho, J
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  9. #9
    In fact, we sit as all time, as the past present future, as just this moment, as beyond time ... (that's the kind of sentence that makes this sound like Zen! )

    Future flows into present flows into past, and this moment holds all time ... every moment is all time.

    Dogen said that the mountain is fully mountain-being-time, the toaster is its own toasty-being-time, you are right now your own being-time.

    We sit as such all time-everytime-timeless as each moment of Zazen in time(s).

    If you are interested in a bit more of Dogen's expression of time, have a peak here. This is not just some dry philosophy, but actually a sense of time(s) to be lived and felt in the bones. Zazen is so much more than just killing time.

    http://www.treeleaf.org/forums/showt...ll=1#post97196

    Gassho, J
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-06-2014 at 01:42 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  10. #10
    I've never slept while sitting. Some Tibetan teachers might commend you for that though. XD

    Gassho

    Javier

  11. #11
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Wouldn't you fall over or at least collapse in your posture when falling (falling!) asleep?
    People in my (live) Thursday group are often tired (me included!) and there is all sorts of head nodding and getting lopsided going on.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by Nindo View Post
    Wouldn't you fall over or at least collapse in your posture when falling (falling!) asleep?
    People in my (live) Thursday group are often tired (me included!) and there is all sorts of head nodding and getting lopsided going on.
    Yeah, I've done the head nod thing before. Usually what happens, I feel, is that if I can push through sleepiness (a bunch of head nodding, bobbing and weaving, the occasional bit of drool from a wide open mouth) then I'll be in, sort of unexpectedly, a rather wide awake place. So, for me, it's just a matter of pushing through that initial sleepy spell, which can last for me for about fifteen minutes.

    Anyway, I think we've all experienced these things were minutes seem like hours and hours like minutes; the thing is in what Jundo says, when we go into that great and ordinary now, where it's not so much that time has dropped away or anything magical, but that it simply doesn't hold so much sway over our life, though there are sometimes those big whoa timeless in the moment unendingness zazens, which are pretty cool, but are also things that pass, timelessly, like everything.

    Gassho
    Shōmon

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