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Thread: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

  1. #1

    I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    Almost every day I wake up before my family and make a cup of tea and sit. Inevitably, I have these moments where I start to sleep, and I just catch myself and come back to the present. Some mornings my zazen is just a process of doing this over and over.

    Hypothesis: I am just not an early morning meditator.

    Experiment: sit midday and see what happens.

    Results: now I am crazy sleepy zazen man at Noon!!!

    !!!???

    Anybody else encounter this problem?

  2. #2

    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    ahaha ...did a lot myself when i started sitting but it went without noticing it

  3. #3
    Senior Member Shawn's Avatar
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    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    Perhaps adjust your posture? I have had periods where I felt as if I was waking up early and just going through the motions with my meditation. I usually make sure that I am fully woken up, before sitting. Also, an overly darkened room may contribute to the sleepiness in the morning, maybe light a few extra candles.

  4. #4
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    This could mean you need more sleep at night?

    Before sitting check if your position es too comfortable. Sometimes this has happened to me and it's very easy to fall asleep. Also, check your posture because when your back gets too relaxed, sleep will come and get cha!

    Also taking a shower helps a lot.

    I am an early sitter and I sometimes get very sleepy while on zazen. What I do is just gently go back to meditation. I know it could be hard at first, but in time you'll get comfortable doing that.

    Hope this helps

  5. #5

    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    I sit in the afternoon / evenings. I know morning sitting is often touted and has its benefit but sitting is sitting. Run with your experiment and see how it goes - if you're still falling asleep then perhaps another issue is there. Regardless of falling asleep or not, I have to repeatedly check my posture as I am a life long sloucher.

    Best wishes... _/_

  6. #6
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    I always tend to get sleepy after or during my sit, no matter what time of day. I just sit with that. 8)

  7. #7
    Senior Member Shujin's Avatar
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    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    I'm in the same boat as Amelia. I find that mid-day is the best time to sit for me, with the least drowsiness. Unfortunately, it's not the best time for everyone else in my life. So, I do what I can with evening sits.

    gassho,
    Shujin

  8. #8
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    I know it doesn't make much sense, but sometimes when I am feeling sleepy and have that urge to close my eyes, closing my eyes actually makes me less sleepy and puts me in a deeper state.

    Not always, though. Every sit is truly different.

  9. #9

    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    I'm always busy in the morning and I'd hate to set the alarm to earlier than 6 am, so I sit in the afternoon or evening. If I sit late in the evening, I can get really sleepy sometimes. Other times, more alert and awake than I could ever be off the Zafu! I often go through phases during Zazen, starting with restlessness and many thoughts and ideas popping up (sympathetic nervous system), proceeding to a kind of middle ground (balanced autonomic nervous system), often progressing into a slightly drowsy half-trance in which I sometimes have to correct my posture (parasympathetic nervous system). This is about 10-15 minutes into sitting. After that, anything can happen! On rare occations, I sort of wake up from drowsiness into being completely awake and calm, aware, not thinking. Most times I get back into the middle ground of thoughts coming and going, sometimes restlessness again and sometimes I just get sleepier and sleeper until I have to get up or fall asleep...

    /Pontus

  10. #10

    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    Quote Originally Posted by Madrone
    Almost every day I wake up before my family and make a cup of tea and sit. Inevitably, I have these moments where I start to sleep, and I just catch myself and come back to the present. Some mornings my zazen is just a process of doing this over and over.

    Hypothesis: I am just not an early morning meditator.

    Experiment: sit midday and see what happens.

    Results: now I am crazy sleepy zazen man at Noon!!!

    !!!???

    Anybody else encounter this problem?
    I will throw a spanner in the works: So what? You fall asleep - then sleep. You will wake up eventually. We are not going anywhere. It is not a journey. What’s the concern? I never control my eyes, except for their target which I keep to very rigidly, along with posture. I believe the posture to be of prime importance. If the posture is correct we can fall asleep without losing it. Sometimes my eyes close, at others they open. Some sits will be 50% closed and others 0% . They decide. Well, that’s the way I’m do’n it and see no reason to change. Yet.

    Cheers

    m

  11. #11

    I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    Yes, but if you sleep, it's not Zazen. If you aim to sit for 20 minutes and instead doze off or even sleep for 20 minutes, continuing for 20 minutes more may be difficult. But if you can keep the posture for 40 minutes without much difficulty and feel 20 minutes of Zazen after the sleeping part is over is enough, no problem! But in that case I'd rather take a 20 minute power nap before sitting!

  12. #12
    Senior Member Marek's Avatar
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    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    I share point of view of Amelia and Shujin.

    I think It 's impossible to fall asleep if You' re not exhausted by job, lack of slip, annoying neighbourhood or... saving the World.

    Maybe durring Zazen You keep Yours eyes lower than You should - I had that problem often sometime before. If so try, while feeling sleepy, to risem them. But not to much to not look like : :shock:



    Gassho

  13. #13

    I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    He he, that's what I must have looked like when I had this really vivid visual hallucination a few weeks ago!

  14. #14
    Senior Member Marek's Avatar
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    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    Yea...I had once vivid visions :roll: when I' ve started meditation in vipassana style some years ago. That was a moment when realised that I' m more interested in reality and that zazen with open eyes (or half open, half close, I should probably say) is more proper for me ( with do all respect for Vipassana guys of course )

  15. #15

    I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    Yes, nothing wrong with reality!
    I have myself to blame for sitting in darkness... I had just put the kid to bed and was too lazy to take the Zafu with me to another room.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Marek's Avatar
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    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    Exactly. Low light is not a good friend for practice either.

    Gassho

  17. #17
    Senior Member Nindo's Avatar
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    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    Madrone, maybe try counting the breath with determination and diligence. You may have to build up some energy (joriki) and mental stability before you are ready for shikantaza.
    Nothing wrong or "less advanced" with counting the breath zen. If you give your all to it, it's still the same zazen.

  18. #18

    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    Hi Madrone!
    I do my zazen at lunch or evening or so, and regardless of rest I found the first few minutes drowsy as my mind/bodies way of trying to get out of it, like the wild fire itch that MUST be scratched only to have it jump and move. I do not brace my feet against it I just notice it and move on...lo and behold! its gone!!
    That all said the suggestions above are all very useful, give them a try too. I personally found, lights on, a big help, sometimes a window cracked helps, yeah even in the winter I do that one, and if at all tolerable a bit of coffee/tea if your already yawning.

    Gassho

    Shohei

  19. #19

    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    Hi,

    This is such a perennial question that I will post a couple of older threads with more good advice.

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4037

    viewtopic.php?p=41954#p41954

    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.

    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=smNM4E ... en&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/common_ ... 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! :shock:

    Also, brain wave studies have shown that Zazen may have some of the benefits of sleep, and may be a "sleep substitute" to some degree. 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.

    Gassho, and Good Night, Jundo

  20. #20
    Senior Member KellyRok's Avatar
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    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    Hi all,

    I sit early morning every day from 6 -6:30. It helps that I get up, shower and get ready for my day first. But I've also found what really helps is if I do some stretching right before I sit. It is very important for me to stretch my leg muscles because they get very tight and tend to put strain on my spine. So I stretch my hamstrings and quads to get them awake and limber before I put strain on them from sitting. I also do a few sun salutations (yoga stretches) to lenghten my whole spine and neck area. It releases any tension that may have built up in sleep and helps me to stay awake during zazen.

    I've also used kinhin during my morning sits, sometimes it helps me to better focus my breathing and prevents the eyes from closing (and also keeps me from tripping and falling on my face.

    The best way for me may not be the best way for you, but I hope you find your way through experimenting.

    take care,
    Kelly/Jinmei

  21. #21

    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    Wow! Thanks for all of your helpful responses! Keeping with the scientific method approach, I will try each of these suggestions on a separate sit and let you know how things go. If something does not work, I will just experience sleepy zazen when it comes. Maybe I just needed a bit of reassurance that this is normal.

    If all else fails I'll pull out the needle (just kidding).

    Thank you once again!

  22. #22

    Re: I am crazy sleepy zazen man!

    Hey all,

    Just wanted to follow through on this and let you know that raising my eyes helped, and so did going to bed one hour earlier.

    Unfortunately I can't sleep right now, so maybe I'll sit through this insomnia as well.

    Have a lovely day.

    Madrone.

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