Falling asleep

Falling asleep

Postby Greg_the_poet » Fri Dec 14, 2012 4:39 pm

I keep falling asleep during Zazen and not sure what I can do to prevent it. I know the medication I'm on for my anxiety is probably contributing to it, but it's helping so I don't wanna come off it. I have my eyes cast downwards like instructed but do you think it would make a difference if I had my eyes fully wide, or would that just give me eye strain?
I've tried washing my face with cold water beforehand, tried having coffee. What about standing up doing it? Obviously I can't do this at the dojo but at home.

Any thoughts would be welcome.
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Re: Falling asleep

Postby Astus » Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:13 pm

You should check your surroundings if they are optimal. You should also consider what kind of meditation you are actually doing. There are traditional methods used against drowsiness in meditation.

From the Zazen-yojinki:

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 patriarchs lift this darkness and misery."


From the Aggi Sutta:

"Now, monks, on any occasion when the mind is sluggish, that is the wrong time to develop calm as a factor for awakening, concentration as a factor for awakening, equanimity as a factor for awakening. Why is that? The sluggish mind is hard to raise up by those mental qualities. Just as if a man, wanting to make a small fire blaze up, were to place wet grass in it, wet cow dung, & wet sticks; were to give it a spray of water and smother it with dust. Is it possible that he would make the small fire blaze up?"

"No, lord."

"In the same way, monks, on any occasion the mind is sluggish, that is the wrong time to develop calm as a factor for awakening, concentration as a factor for awakening, equanimity as a factor for awakening. Why is that? The sluggish mind is hard to raise up by those mental qualities.


From the Capala Sutta:

"Well then, Moggallana, whatever perception you have in mind when drowsiness descends on you, don't attend to that perception, don't pursue it. It's possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

"But if by doing this you don't shake off your drowsiness, then recall to your awareness the Dhamma as you have heard & memorized it, re-examine it & ponder it over in your mind. It's possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

"But if by doing this you don't shake off your drowsiness, then repeat aloud in detail the Dhamma as you have heard & memorized it. It's possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

"But if by doing this you don't shake off your drowsiness, then pull both your earlobes and rub your limbs with your hands. It's possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

"But if by doing this you don't shake off your drowsiness, then get up from your seat and, after washing your eyes out with water, look around in all directions and upward to the major stars & constellations. It's possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

"But if by doing this you don't shake off your drowsiness, then attend to the perception of light, resolve on the perception of daytime, [dwelling] by night as by day, and by day as by night. By means of an awareness thus open & unhampered, develop a brightened mind. It's possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

"But if by doing this you don't shake off your drowsiness, then — percipient of what lies in front & behind — set a distance to meditate walking back & forth, your senses inwardly immersed, your mind not straying outwards. It's possible that by doing this you will shake off your drowsiness.

"But if by doing this you don't shake off your drowsiness, then — reclining on your right side — take up the lion's posture, one foot placed on top of the other, mindful, alert, with your mind set on getting up. As soon as you wake up, get up quickly, with the thought, 'I won't stay indulging in the pleasure of lying down, the pleasure of reclining, the pleasure of drowsiness.' That is how you should train yourself.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Falling asleep

Postby Sara H » Fri Dec 21, 2012 8:34 am

Greg_the_poet wrote:I keep falling asleep during Zazen and not sure what I can do to prevent it. I know the medication I'm on for my anxiety is probably contributing to it, but it's helping so I don't wanna come off it. I have my eyes cast downwards like instructed but do you think it would make a difference if I had my eyes fully wide, or would that just give me eye strain?
I've tried washing my face with cold water beforehand, tried having coffee. What about standing up doing it? Obviously I can't do this at the dojo but at home.

Any thoughts would be welcome.


You might check the temperature you are sitting in.

It can happen if you are too warm, and actually if you are too cold as well.

Just something to check

Also, when I get that come up for me personally, (which I do, sometimes) I find it is helpful to concentrate on my feet, and keep concentrating on them and bringing my mind back to them until the tiredness passes which it eventually will.

In Gassho,

Sara H
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Falling asleep

Postby Shii » Sat Jan 05, 2013 9:49 am

Are you getting to bed at a reasonable time? How about going to bed a bit early? Sometimes our bodies are stressed, and it is a good idea to make sure your body is getting the rest it needs.

Also take a look at what you put into your body. How you eat directly relates to it's performance including how your brain functions. Sugar in all it's forms (high fructose corn syrup, white bread, white rice, ect.) has an effect that makes your body sort of hyper active for a brief period of time and then abruptly the energy source is burned out and this results in a crash.

If you have eliminated stress, lack of sleep and too much sugar then I would look at the medication, especially if you did not have this problem before in your sitting. Anxiety is another word for fear. Fear is a powerful and basic instinct, so it is a natural and sometimes helpful thing to have. However you must not let it take over your life. Hard as it is, we must all face our fears and leap beyond them; Only when we have, do we see that the fear was a lot less scary than perhaps we thought it was.

When we sit we are asking to see not only the best, but also the worst and most frightening parts of ourselves. Fear, Anger, Greed and Delusion. All of them are a part of us and all of them can be worked through. With time, patience, compassion, generosity and All Acceptance, you will find peace.
“It is easy to believe we are each waves and forget we are also the ocean.”
― Jon J. Muth
“Consider your own place in the universal oneness of which we are all a part, from which we all arise, and to which we all return.”
― David Fontana
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Re: Falling asleep

Postby icylake » Sat Jan 05, 2013 10:34 am

it would be different according to what kind of meditation you doing. if you are doing koan zen, from my experience, placing your koan on your nose would be helpful. just gazing 2 meters ahead of your eyes, sometimes could make you feel pointless, dozzy. palcing concentration spot on near your body can help you to raise concentration. i've heard someone placing his koan on top of tongue.
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Re: Falling asleep

Postby Megha » Sat Jan 05, 2013 10:11 pm

Greg_the_poet wrote:I keep falling asleep during Zazen and not sure what I can do to prevent it. I know the medication I'm on for my anxiety is probably contributing to it, but it's helping so I don't wanna come off it. I have my eyes cast downwards like instructed but do you think it would make a difference if I had my eyes fully wide, or would that just give me eye strain?
I've tried washing my face with cold water beforehand, tried having coffee. What about standing up doing it? Obviously I can't do this at the dojo but at home.

Any thoughts would be welcome.


Work on your Shugyo practice and lay off Zazen until that has been properly established for a couple of weeks at least.
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