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Thread: Zazen while sleep deprived

  1. #1

    Zazen while sleep deprived

    Do any of you do zazen if you haven't slept well? I'm sometimes told that it's not ideal to do zazen if you're most likely going to fall asleep. However I have had insomnia all my life, and if I followed that advice then I'd hardly ever do zazen. I feel a need to do it even though I know I'm going to fall asleep. This is partly one of the reasons I joined Treeleaf, because I do have a soto sangha near me, but I often don't go cos I'm so self conscious of falling asleep and snoring while everyone else to trying to "concentrate" on their zazen.

  2. #2

    Zazen while sleep deprived



    Don't know. You tell me.

    Some would say sleep when sleepy and don't sleep when not sleepy.

    There's a story about a monk that learned to stay awake during meditation by putting a rock on his head. Every time he would nod off the rock would fall and wake him up.

    There is story about a monk that could not do Zazen and so he practiced by making Rakusus for others.

    Some people do a lot of Kinhin and less Zazen.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  3. #3
    Hi Greg,

    Would you mind to sign "satToday" before posting? Thank you.

    If you have a physical condition or illness that causes one unavoidably to fall asleep in Zazen ... then we just sit with that, sit with what is. If it is unavoidable on a particular day, just sit with that.

    It is very easy to fall asleep during Zazen. 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.

    Below is something I post when the subject of sleep comes up, so forgive me to cut and paste it here. It is long, so you may fall asleep just reading it!

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

    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

    SatToday
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    Mp
    Guest
    Hello Greg,

    For me I try and not sit when I am tired, but I have had moments when I am sitting, that I become tired. When this happens, as others have said, sit with that. If you can't keep your eyes open, then go to bed. Also maybe shorten your sits and incorporate more kinhin and this might help condition the body to sitting.

    If you suffer from insomnia maybe see someone about that, as getting good sleep is important for one's health. Also I feel you should try the local sangha too, speak with the teacher in private and let him or her know the issue you are having and I am sure they will work with you. Just some thoughts. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen

    #sattoday

  5. #5
    Kyotai
    Guest
    Greg,

    I'm a shift worker. Lack of Sleep effects people differently. If you are regularly up 18 - 24 hrs or more, Zazen is nearly impossible in my experience. Some people get extremely irritable, or behave as if impaired by alcohol.

    I recommend sitting first thing when you do wake, even if it was not a high quality sleep as that will be your most rested time of the day.

    If you have not slept, sit when the sun has just come up, when the added light offers a temporary boost in alertness and energy.

    Sit shorter periods. Take longer breaks between. Better to sit 5 minutes of good Zazen then 25 minutes of staring at a wall trying to keep your eyes open.

    Open a window and sit near it. The fresh air wakes one up a bit. Sometimes driving home from work at 7am, and not having slept for a day or more, I open the window, even in winter, to wake me up and stay alert.

    Hope that helps. Do what you can.

    Gassho, Kyotai
    Sat today
    Last edited by Kyotai; 01-20-2016 at 06:54 PM.

  6. #6
    Joyo
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Greggorious View Post
    Do any of you do zazen if you haven't slept well? I'm sometimes told that it's not ideal to do zazen if you're most likely going to fall asleep. However I have had insomnia all my life, and if I followed that advice then I'd hardly ever do zazen. I feel a need to do it even though I know I'm going to fall asleep. This is partly one of the reasons I joined Treeleaf, because I do have a soto sangha near me, but I often don't go cos I'm so self conscious of falling asleep and snoring while everyone else to trying to "concentrate" on their zazen.

    Hi Greg, I am sorry to hear you suffer from insomnia. I have also, for most of my life. In the last year or so it has pretty much disappeared, and I would credit zazen for that. I sit when I am tired and/or not sleeping well. I've found the best cure for insomnia is to go along with life, paying as little attention to it as possible. I know how hard that is when you are exhausted and not sleeping well, but it works. So I would suggest making zazen a part of your day no matter what. View the sleep deprivation as another thing to accept, no hole to fill, wholesome in the moment zazen right through the insomnia.

    All the best to you.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    sat today

  7. #7
    I agree Joyo, as someone who often takes a pill to fall asleep at night, sometimes when sleep calls during Zazen in the evening I view it as a minor miracle--that my brain can even quiet itself to that extent at that time of day! Other times of day I am fighting sleep to do Zazen. It's just part of What Is in this particular body. I am pretty sure that if I do Sunday morning Zazen with Shugen enough times I will eventually fall asleep during it, thank goodness the microphones are muted, hope you all have a good laugh at the end since you can't physically poke me and wake me up....

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday
    清 道 寂田
    SEIDO JAKUDEN
    She/her.
    I am a novice priest. Any resemblance my posts may have to actual teachings about the Dharma, living or dead, is purely coincidental (and just my attempt to be helpful).

  8. #8
    Hi Greg,

    Like Jundo says, if you need some kind of treatment for your insomnia, get it.

    If that's how life is, I'd sit with what is.

    In my case, I avoid sitting when too tired. Sometimes I take a 10 or 15 minutes powernap before zazen and it works like a charm. A powernap will reboot your brain and keep you fresh while sitting even for long periods of time.

    This link has helped me with power napping. http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-science-b...mne-1401366016

    Hope you find it helpful.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    #SatToday
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post


    Don't know. You tell me.

    Some would say sleep when sleepy and don't sleep when not sleepy.

    There's a story about a monk that learned to stay awake during meditation by putting a rock on his head. Every time he would nod off the rock would fall and wake him up.

    There is story about a monk that could not do Zazen and so he practiced by making Rakusus for others.

    Some people do a lot of Kinhin and less Zazen.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_
    Jishin,

    *Jumps up and down* You're brilliant with the stone idea! It's too easy to just start dozing instead of sitting even when not tired for me.

    Metta,
    Greg2 (I guess I'll be greg2 in multigreg threads, slightly less obvious which one I am on a forum)

    SatToday



    Sent from my SCH-R530M using Tapatalk
    A fine line separates the weary recluse from the fearful hermit. Finer still is the line between hermit and bitter misanthrope. - Dean Koontz

  10. #10
    I go through frequent periods where I don't sleep well.

    For me, sitting has become something beyond my habits, so I sit whether I want to or not, even if it's just for a very short time. And so for me feeling tired and sitting is not so bad, whilst simultaneously trying to forget any thoughts of whether my zazen is going well or badly. It doesn't stop my mind from drifting off though!

    Gassho,

    Jakugan

    Sat today

  11. #11
    The Dalai Lama is purported to have said, "Sleep is the best meditation."

    Gassho,
    Chiko (Matt/Zuhair)
    SatToday

  12. #12
    I have had periods of insomnia in the past, but it hasn't been a significant issue for me during recent years. However, many people have the occasional bad night. When that does happen to me, I either do not sit or will only sit for a very brief time (maybe 5 or 10 minutes max).

    Gassho,
    Rick
    Sat Today

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Rick View Post
    ...When that does happen to me, I either do not sit or will only sit for a very brief time (maybe 5 or 10 minutes max).
    Hi Rick,

    The latter is the better way, if you ask me. Also, good chance it might help you sleep!

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  14. #14
    Hi guys,

    I just had a rough night and woke up after less than 3 hours of sleep, but woke up at the same time as usual. Had some coffee and sat zazen for my usual 40 minutes.

    It was a little hard because I wanted to go back to bed, but I focused on this and how the mind works when sleepy. Also I was aware of my posture because if you relax the spine too much, sleep takes control of you. It was a rather interesting experience because awareness was unusually focused.

    Still, I think it's a good idea to sit for just a shorter period when sleep deprived.

    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    #SatToday
    Hondō Kyōnin
    奔道 協忍

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hi Rick,

    The latter is the better way, if you ask me. Also, good chance it might help you sleep!

    Gassho, J

    SatToday
    True!
    Gassho,
    Rick
    Sat Today

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Kyonin View Post
    . Allso I was aware of my posture because if you relax the spine too much, sleep takes control of you.
    Gassho,

    Kyonin
    #SatToday
    Sleep takes over when the spine is too relaxed?????

    I think you have resolved a persistent problem I've had for months when studying and writing assignments

    Gassho
    Kim
    #sattoday

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