drowsiness in meditation

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

drowsiness in meditation

Postby seahorse » Sun Dec 23, 2012 10:11 pm

The main hindrance which crops up for me time and again is dullness and drowsiness in meditation.

I'm a full time worker in a very intense job, helping people in crisis and managing emergency situations.
Much of my time is spent either at work, traveling to and from work, recovering from work, and getting my preparation done for work. In addition to this I run a household on my own, and support my parents (who live nearby) and my elderly neighbours who are in the late stages of their lives. I carry out voluntary work too. I love all of this and am grateful for the opportunity to serve.

However, it often means that when I come to meditate, within 20 or 30 minutes I'm totally knackered and starting to nod off. It's been like this for years now. I've tried caffeine, which wigs me out. I've tried altering my meditation schedule, but I still seem to be tired all the time. I've tried sleeping more at night and simply getting more rest, but I don't have that luxury of time very often. I'm in my early 30s and am caught in a fast paced environment of technology and heavy adrenal demands.

I guess I need to accept that this is just how life is for me at the moment. My question is, is is really possible to make any genuine progress in meditation when more often than not, it's just 20-30 minutes a day, normally ending in a snooze? I don't feel like I've developed much ability to concentrate the mind in Samadhi.

I've booked a short weekend retreat for in a few weeks time but I just wonder whether any good (in terms of concentration) which comes from that may be lost when I get straight back into my regular life. I could really do with some practical tips if anyone has them.

Whaddya reckon? How do you deal with drowsiness or heavy lifestyle demands as a layperson?

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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Dec 23, 2012 10:27 pm

seahorse wrote:The main hindrance which crops up for me time and again is dullness and drowsiness in meditation.

I'm a full time worker in a very intense job, helping people in crisis and managing emergency situations.
Much of my time is spent either at work, traveling to and from work, recovering from work, and getting my preparation done for work. In addition to this I run a household on my own, and support my parents (who live nearby) and my elderly neighbours who are in the late stages of their lives. I carry out voluntary work too. I love all of this and am grateful for the opportunity to serve.

However, it often means that when I come to meditate, within 20 or 30 minutes I'm totally knackered and starting to nod off. It's been like this for years now. I've tried caffeine, which wigs me out. I've tried altering my meditation schedule, but I still seem to be tired all the time. I've tried sleeping more at night and simply getting more rest, but I don't have that luxury of time very often. I'm in my early 30s and am caught in a fast paced environment of technology and heavy adrenal demands.

I guess I need to accept that this is just how life is for me at the moment. My question is, is is really possible to make any genuine progress in meditation when more often than not, it's just 20-30 minutes a day, normally ending in a snooze? I don't feel like I've developed much ability to concentrate the mind in Samadhi.

I've booked a short weekend retreat for in a few weeks time but I just wonder whether any good (in terms of concentration) which comes from that may be lost when I get straight back into my regular life. I could really do with some practical tips if anyone has them.

Whaddya reckon? How do you deal with drowsiness or heavy lifestyle demands as a layperson?

Metta...

so how much time do you actually have to yourself? I mean so you can just laze away, doing nothing being completely non-constructive.
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby seahorse » Sun Dec 23, 2012 10:37 pm

Fastest response ever! Hello Cittasanto.
After all the jobs and whatnot are done, I'd say between 30 and 45 minutes a day, which I try to spend reading Suttas and meditating. But I keep accidentally wasting the opportunity by crashing!
Death sweeps away those who spend their lives gathering flowers
- Dhammapada 47

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And the only true happiness this way lies...
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby Ben » Sun Dec 23, 2012 10:48 pm

Greetings seahorse

Many here have in the past or currently experience drowsiness in meditation. In my experience, there is no correlation between drowsiness and physical tiredness.
Just a couple of recommendations:-
- Reschedule your activities so that you can free some time for yourself.
- Drop an activity or two before you burn out. Remember the adage "less is more".
- And have a look at this document: The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest - Selected Texts from the Pali Canon and the Commentaries, compiled and translated by Nyanaponika Thera
kind regards,

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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Dec 23, 2012 10:51 pm

seahorse wrote:Fastest response ever! Hello Cittasanto.
After all the jobs and whatnot are done, I'd say between 30 and 45 minutes a day, which I try to spend reading Suttas and meditating. But I keep accidentally wasting the opportunity by crashing!

Crash!
The only time you are not doing anything you are trying to do something.

I be you are not sleeping enough for your level of activity, try cutting back on the activity.
Your OP screamed to me of over activity, and I would bet you more often than not eat on the run.
For your own well-being in the long run take a step back relax some more and take 10 mins per day to meditate.
meditation doesn't need to be 45 mins or an hour something fit in, but something enjoyed, and most importenly something with allows us to deal with life better at the least.
prioritise yourself first. and make relaxation time.
guess how much time I have to relax and do nothing or meditate!
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby marc108 » Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:06 pm

you could try walking or standing meditation, its unlikely you'll nod off doing that. nodding off after 30 mins of meditation is a good indicator, imo, that you're deeply fatigued. i think if your busy work schedule is interfering with your meditation theres no shame in putting off whatever volunteer work you are able to and having a little more free time, especially if you plan to use it doing skillful things like sitting or studying the Suttas.

if you have health insurance it would be wise for you to go to the doctor. get a checkup and some basic bloodwork. also vitamin D, iron, methylmalonic acid.

you could try taking a multivitamin & 1-2g of fishoil every day as well.
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby seahorse » Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:15 pm

Thanks chaps, much obliged,

Ben that link is just what I needed.
You're both right, some schedule re-adjustment needs to take place, I'm just not sure how or what will get the chop. There are lots of demands upon my time. Most people I know seem the same - the pace of life in the Western world really seems to be ramping up for many folk in wake of economic anxieties etc.


Cittasanto, a shrewd observation...even when I'm in 'down time' I'm doing something. I suppose my mind is well established in seeking and engaging in endless activity. the monkey is swinging on the branches! Ok, this has been helpful, thanks again.
Death sweeps away those who spend their lives gathering flowers
- Dhammapada 47

The only true freedom is freedom from the heart's desires;
And the only true happiness this way lies...
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby seahorse » Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:17 pm

guess how much time I have to relax and do nothing or meditate![/quote]


Do tell?
Death sweeps away those who spend their lives gathering flowers
- Dhammapada 47

The only true freedom is freedom from the heart's desires;
And the only true happiness this way lies...
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby seahorse » Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:26 pm

Hi Marc, some great suggestions there, thank you.
Had the bloods done....all came back fine thankfully. I'm a vegetarian so can't do the fish supplement thing, but walking meditation is a fantastic idea and I am going to trial that from tomorrow - brilliant! :anjali:
Death sweeps away those who spend their lives gathering flowers
- Dhammapada 47

The only true freedom is freedom from the heart's desires;
And the only true happiness this way lies...
- Matt Johnson, The The
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:32 pm

seahorse wrote:guess how much time I have to relax and do nothing or meditate!



Do tell?[/quote]
varies day to day, but I can have anything upto 6 hours. some of which is spent meditating.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby seahorse » Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:35 pm

Do tell?[/quote]
varies day to day, but I can have anything upto 6 hours. some of which is spent meditating.[/quote]

That's cool. I'm happy for you that you have that, it sounds great.
Death sweeps away those who spend their lives gathering flowers
- Dhammapada 47

The only true freedom is freedom from the heart's desires;
And the only true happiness this way lies...
- Matt Johnson, The The
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Dec 23, 2012 11:39 pm

making & spending time for ones own benefit is the most important thing you can do. you should be a friend to yourself first.
don't be your own enemy others will try to fill that gap.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby Dallas » Mon Dec 24, 2012 7:19 am

I would concur with everyone. Spending all of your time in worldly pursuits will still get you to the same place in the end: dead. Probably even faster actually. You have this great gift of not only having been born in this realm, but born human. Don't waste it by spending all your time on the rat race. Sure, enjoy working and "getting ahead," but bring some balance to your life.

Also, there are many ways to meditate without sitting too, so don't forget them. For example, you could practice mindfulness while you are eating.
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby manas » Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:28 pm

Cittasanto wrote:making & spending time for ones own benefit is the most important thing you can do. you should be a friend to yourself first...
Completely agree with you there, cittasanto.
As time passes, I'm increasingly regarding the dhamma as our number one priority, above all else. Imho, every person who sees the dhamma, preserves the sasana and, in their own modest way helps keep it going (such that it is at this late stage). Giving up other engagements to sincerely practice meditation with the aim of seeing the dhamma truly, is imho the highest welfare work we can do, not just for ourselves but for all of humankind.

So yes we should make time for sitting, if we are busy. Every breath could be our last. I wish it were not so urgent, but I'm starting to realize that, this is how it is.
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby seahorse » Mon Dec 24, 2012 8:07 pm

:goodpost:
Death sweeps away those who spend their lives gathering flowers
- Dhammapada 47

The only true freedom is freedom from the heart's desires;
And the only true happiness this way lies...
- Matt Johnson, The The
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby alan... » Tue Dec 25, 2012 12:35 am

marc108 wrote:you could try walking or standing meditation, its unlikely you'll nod off doing that. nodding off after 30 mins of meditation is a good indicator, imo, that you're deeply fatigued. i think if your busy work schedule is interfering with your meditation theres no shame in putting off whatever volunteer work you are able to and having a little more free time, especially if you plan to use it doing skillful things like sitting or studying the Suttas.

if you have health insurance it would be wise for you to go to the doctor. get a checkup and some basic bloodwork. also vitamin D, iron, methylmalonic acid.

you could try taking a multivitamin & 1-2g of fishoil every day as well.

:goodpost:

i'll also add that getting lots of sleep helps. as does meditating when you are very much refreshed. not after work or when you feel sleepy or worn out. by all means give it a shot whenever you get a chance as any meditation is good meditation. there's nothing wrong with sitting after work and getting up when you feel you can't stay awake any more, don't get frustrated. i have the exact same problem. being very rested works for me as does meditating outside in the fresh air.

you may sleep seven hours a night and feel rested but still doze during meditation when you really need 8 or 9 hours of sleep since your body is worn out. try different combinations but know there is such a thing as to much sleep.

also the words of the man himself on the subject may help you, this is a sutta where the buddha gives some suggestions to a sleepy maha moggallana:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an07/an07.058.than.html
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby khlawng » Tue Dec 25, 2012 3:19 am

alan... wrote: i'll also add that getting lots of sleep helps. as does meditating when you are very much refreshed. not after work or when you feel sleepy or worn out. ...


I will agree with alan here. Often, lack of sleep is confused with one of the hinderance of sloth and topor. Until you have taken the lack of sleep issue out of the equation, generally, it is almost always the cause of drowsiness during meditation.

Also, I might add that there are other activities that is often overlooked to affirm faith in the Buddha's teaching and reinforce energy required to practise good samadhi e.g. chanting, giving dana and metta meditation. All these does not require too much effort but the results of which may contribute to a more balance work and spiritual life.
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby Yana » Wed Dec 26, 2012 12:35 pm

Hi Seahorse,

When you feel fresh meditate.
When you feel tired meditate.
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby alan... » Sun Dec 30, 2012 8:08 am

Yana wrote:Hi Seahorse,

When you feel fresh meditate.
When you feel tired meditate.


good call. when fresh you will likely have a long and productive session. when you feel tired it can go either way: you may doze off, in which case it's still good practice, or you may have the same results as when you feel fresh.

and: meditate a lot! every day at least one session. on busy work days i meditate on my lunch break sometimes. on my days off i meditate three times a day for thirty to forty minutes per session if i have a lot of spare time.

practice helps the drowsiness as well. your body gets used to it more and you can gain more mindfulness to see through your sloth and torpor.

the buddha has many exhortations similar to this:"there are these roots of trees, these empty huts. meditate, ananda [or insert name here, in this case: YOU], do not delay, or else you will regret it later."
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Re: drowsiness in meditation

Postby Kay Bee » Wed Jan 09, 2013 7:30 pm

I would suggest sitting with the padma asana. Not only the pains will keep you awake, it also energizes.
The bad news is that every time I start it my knees still hurt even if I have done it for more than a month.
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