You Snooze, You Lose
It could happen to anyone. We may wake up bright and early in the morning with a positive attitude, a clear and focused mind, reminding ourselves that our meditation is the most important task we shall accomplish today. But soon after a few rounds of simran, we doze off and are eventually lost in deep slumber. By the time we wake up, we realize that the majority of our time has already flown by and the time has come to prepare for the rest of the day. Sadly, many of us fall victim to falling asleep during meditation. What is worse is that it has become a habit for some – a habit seriously detrimental to our spiritual progress.
Some of us may take this situation lightly, perhaps even laugh or joke about the issue, thinking it to be a trivial matter. But we should keep in mind that sleep is an immensely vicious enemy – a challenging obstacle many initiates encounter during prayer. Maharaj Charan Singh has acknowledged sleep as a hindrance we must battle against.
Sleep and idleness are two big obstacles in the path of all initiates, but we have to overcome them in order to achieve our goal. This is all a trick of the mind.
Quest for Light
Though sleep is essential to rejuvenate the body, it is also a powerful and potent tool, employed by the mind to distract and dissuade us from devoting time to meditation. To further elaborate on the importance of active and alert meditation, Maharaj Charan Singh clearly explains:
Only the time you devote to meditation is to your credit, and not when you are snoring and sleeping.
Thus Saith the Master
During his days as a spiritual practitioner, Baba Jaimal Singh himself had to struggle and overcome this difficult challenge. Before attending to meditation, he would tie his hair around a nail hammered on the wall behind him. Therefore, if sleep would ever overcome him, he would immediately be woken up by a sharp and painful tug on his hair. He would then take proactive steps to wake up from his sleepy state before resuming meditation. This was his determination to succeed. This is how serious he was about staying alert. His example has always been a great source of motivation and inspiration.
There are several reasons why we fall asleep during meditation. We may have had a series of exhausting and strenuous days; or are facing insurmountable stress and tension over family issues or work. Our late night gatherings and the social events we partake in along with the heavy meals we consume throughout the day can be blamed as well. There are endless reasons; but regardless of our excuses, as true seekers on this path, we must take full responsibility for our weaknesses and strive harder to achieve alert and conscious sessions of meditation.
Do we ever fall asleep whilst interacting with our family and loved ones? What if our country’s president or our favourite celebrity were to meet us? Would we take a nap in their presence? Do we ever doze-off watching our favourite television show or movie? If a student sleeps throughout classes at school or while attempting homework, could he ever learn anything?
Sleeping during meditation reflects our lack of seriousness on the path. Our actions essentially show that our worldly pursuits take priority over our spiritual quest; that we care more about a television show, or a coffee meeting with friends, than our daily promise of being in the presence of our divine Father. Instead of reducing our worldly pursuits, we try to meditate at the cost of insufficient rest, and thus fall asleep at the most critical time of our day.
I do not know why, but in this modern society, we have so many types of engagements. We do not try to compromise with them, but we do compromise with our sleep and our health in order to fulfil those engagements. We would like to work all day and enjoy sleep all night, and from the sleep time we take our meditation time, disregarding what the body needs.
Maharaj Charan Singh, The Master Answers
As Maharaj Charan Singh accurately points out, our priorities are at the crux of the matter. If we are truly serious about the path, our actions must reflect our intentions. We can try to go to sleep early, avoid heavy meals, avoid late nights and manage our social calendar better. There is a lot of practical advice that we can implement in our daily life. We also know that we should sit upright – a straight spine helps us stay active and alert, compared with when we slouch. Maharaj Charan Singh has further advised:
If we sit when we are still half dozing, then sleep overpowers us when we try to meditate. So if you wash your face with cool water, stretch yourself a little or move about in the room and thus refresh yourself, you may be able to avoid that sleepiness.
Thus Saith the Master
We should do whatever it takes to overcome sleepiness. Meditation is our one and only channel to show our appreciation for the love, guidance, and support we endlessly receive from our Master. He has blessed us with his mercy and grace, and will tirelessly continue to do so. As his disciples, we should aim to uphold the teachings.
If you get proper rest, you generally don’t sleep during meditation; but the difficulty is, we don’t take proper rest. We always try to sit in meditation at the cost of sleep. We don’t give proper time or rest to the body. When the body gets proper sleep, then of course you won’t easily fall asleep. It also depends upon your diet. If the diet is wholesome and healthy and light, then you won’t feel sleepy at all. If you tire yourself and eat too much and sleep too little, then naturally you’ll always be sleepy.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Thus Saith the Master