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Thread: Zazen when tired

  1. #1

    Zazen when tired

    How do you guys stay awake for zazen when you're tired? This morning, when I got home, I sat, but it was impossible to stay alert as I was so tired. If I'm active, I can stay awake, but when I try to sit zazen, it's like pushing water uphill.


  2. #2

    Re: Zazen when tired

    I get up well before sunrise and drive into work 2 hours, and then I can practise zazen. So, I'm tired every morning. The most important little note for me is to occasionally check the little things--like keep chin tucked in. As soon as my chin rises, head goes back, eyes close, zzzzz. Also, Jundo once said 'droopy fingers, droopy mind'--I love that, but it really is true, so I check my mudra to be sure my thumbs haven't collapsed, yet again, like they did a few minutes ago :wink: . I know we aren't supposed to be always checking, thinking, etc during zazen, but I find an occasional 'check in' to this or that point is better than finding I've dozed off for 10 minutes. Gassho, Ann

  3. #3

    Re: Zazen when tired

    I have experienced sleepiness in a couple of ways.

    When I started to sit regularly, despite when I chose to sit, I would inevitably become drowsy and start to drift. I read (or heard) that this was another of the mind's strategies to resist zazen; in addition to its attempts to distract with chattering and babbling, the mind sometimes just tries to shut down. I found this to be a pretty compelling explanation, and just continued to sit through it until it went away.

    When I first tried to establish a routine for zazen, I sat in the early evening after getting home from work - and I often found myself falling asleep, because (surprise!) I was tired after spending all day at work . . . So, I shifted my schedule to sitting in the morning. This means I have to get up a little earlier than I'd like, and drink just enough coffee to wake up, but I rarely have a problem with sleepiness these days. I guess that picking times to sit when you're not exhausted makes sense!

  4. #4

    Re: Zazen when tired

    For me the most reasonable time is like 11pm or so. So when I sit I usually keep tabs on my posture etc like Chessie suggested. Also if its been an long day, I down a coffee a couple of hours before hand. I tried early AM sitting and that will not work for me since I get up early as it is *(and I am not a morning person.. I'm a night owl). I think it comes down to hitting the time that suits you best and take a bit of the sleepy zazen when it happens, if its too sleepy got get some sleep try different times of the day if you can.
    Gassho, Dirk

  5. #5

    Re: Zazen when tired

    Quote Originally Posted by krid
    I think it comes down to hitting the time that suits you best and take a bit of the sleepy zazen when it happens, if its too sleepy go get some sleep try different times of the day if you can.

    Gassho, Dirk
    I second this. Homeless Kodo Sawaki Roshi said ...

    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) in order to sustain our Practice properly. Get rest.

    Of course ... that is if we can. 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. If in a Sesshin or other intense retreat, 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? 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. ” ... 02-25.html
    In bed by 11, up for Zazen at 2:30! Hard drill sargent, that Nyojo!!

    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 its too sleepy go get some sleep and sit on awaking. 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, 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.

    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.

    Gassho, and Good Night, Jundo

  6. #6

    Re: Zazen when tired

    I read (or heard) that this was another of the mind's strategies to resist zazen
    Interesting. I have had experience with this. At times I've actually gotten up from Zazen to take a nap, and I've blacked out after sitting for prolonged periods. I understood this concept at the time, but that didn't help much. I just slept and did Zazen after. I think the best remedy is to just keep practicing and sitting.

    Everything I heard about Antaiji sounded like the "real Zen" I was still dreaming about: Self-sufficiency, cooking without gas, no heat in winter except from a wood stove, two monthly sesshins. And above all, only Japanese monks! I had enough of all these Western fake practioners, I needed to practice with some real Japanese guys. Finally, I would get some real instruction in "Zen"!
    Thinking about it now, I can not understand how come that I never woke up to all the fake in my own mind?

    Anyway, I got my introduction to Antaiji, and I decided to stop my studies at Kyoto University to practice for six months at Antaiji. I arrived on September 30th of 1990, two weeks after a typhoon had washed away the four kilometer long road that led up to the temple. Some of the monks seemed to be still in a kind of shock, but I couldn't see why: Isn't it a matter of course that a "real Zen monastery" lies remotely in the mountains, unaccesible for normal people, even without mail? I was rather surprised that they had electricity and a telephone there - shouldn't real Zen monks be able to do without?
    You can imagine how much more surprised I was when the sesshin started the following day: I had heard that Antaiji practiced "pure Zen" in the tradition of Dogen Zenji, shikantaza without any mixtures, sesshins without toys. What did I find? The meditation hall revibrating with monks snoring, some dropping backwards off their cushion, others banging their heads in the wall!


  7. #7

    Re: Zazen when tired

    Thanks Jundo.

    I've never fallen asleep sitting - it's just that being so tired after work, sometimes I try to put the time in because getting up ahead of time just never works for me - my snooze alarm always wins that argument.


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