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sitting. sleeping.

when I have the time I will do 70 minutes of zen meditation in the morning, consisting of 40 minutes of zazen--sitting--then 10 minutes of kinhin--walking--followed by 20 more minutes of zazen.

now that I have a cushion that does not put my legs to sleep I can pay more attention to the phenomenon of sitting itself, and it is beginning to be a puzzle as to how to sit without falling asleep. they teach beginners to count your breath and not to block any thought that occurs to you, but to let it go as quickly as it comes, without dwelling on it or losing yourself in it. at all times you should try to remember to come back to counting your breath.

counting breath is a way of focusing on it as a physical action in which you bring the exterior to meet the interior, which is the way of biology, and although focusing on my breath does not put me to sleep, counting it does. I might as well be counting sheep: I tend to focus on the procession of numbers rather than the procession of breath, letting all my other thoughts become fragmented and momentary as I automatically count off the numbers from one to ten and then start over, and before you know it I'm slipping off into alpha stage. in fact letting my thoughts become fragmented and momentary is a technique I've used for years to put myself to sleep at night.

well it works really well at putting me to sleep while sitting, too. so I'm trying something a little different now with the breath: instead of counting it I'm just Paying Attention to it, feeling it come in, feeling it go out, and this tends to spread my conscious thought across my body until I am more or less composed of an outline in space exposed on all sides and this doesn't put me to sleep--unless, at the same time, I am consciously cuttting my thoughts off from narratively completing themselves. I think in words more than pictures when I am wide awake, so cutting thoughts short puts me right back into alpha stage sleep even though I am not counting my breath anymore. so my question now is should I allow my thoughts to complete themselves when they arise, and then dismiss them without dwelling on them?

I tend to spend about half my time in this state not really thinking but just feeling my body in space, but the other half of the time the inner monologue is going, and if I try to break it up, I fall asleep. that's really the crux of the problem. I don't know how to 'not think' without losing consciousness, or rather I don't know how best to deal with the inner monologue once it starts up, since cutting thoughts short results in sleep.

anyway. I suppose I should find a zen forum to ask about this.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 23rd, 2006 07:26 pm (UTC)
I fall asleep or very very near it during meditations in yoga classes. I once even started snoring. I guess that it shows that you are going very deeply. I wonder if part of the trick is to hover there. ...Maybe more walking and less sitting?
Apr. 23rd, 2006 08:29 pm (UTC)
yeah I don't know. falling asleep is generally discouraged, but I don't know if most seasoned meditators are good at staying on the brink of alpha sleep or what. I'm much better at it in the morning than at night, but I'd like to spend more time with feeling my body in space and being aware of every little tick and quiver than trying to stay awake. it's weird how close the two states are physiologically--at least I guess this is the problem--but not experientially.
Jun. 25th, 2006 09:02 pm (UTC)
Label the thought don't try to not think
Don't try to cut off the thoughts, just label them and then return to the breath. The ideal isn't to not have thoughts but to be aware of what your consciousness is doing. Rocks have no thoughts.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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