How To Stay Awake While Meditating
- This article, story and meditation technique
first appeared in issue #2 of our newsletter,
The Inner Traveler. Enjoy!
How To Stay Awake, Alert, And Pay Attention Even If You're Feeling The
Urge To Sleep
So you're sitting in a business meeting and you're bored to tears.
Your eyelids are like lead and you seem to be dreaming. You know you
have to at least appear to be interested in what's being discussed,
but you feel an irresistible urge to sleep. Sound familiar? If it
wasn't at work, it was at school, at church, or at your in laws, but
somewhere at sometime you've been there and done that. Its cause is
that we get way too comfortable and when we're all nice and comfy, we
fall asleep. So how did we get so sleepyheaded? It all goes back to
our childhood and continues to this day. We have been encouraged to be
numb and dumb since we were babies. As kids, we were excited and
energetic, but because we were active at inappropriate times, like in
a classroom or at a movie or visiting Grandmom, we were trained, much
like a dog is house-broken, to "behave" and "calm down". As we got
older, we found ways to be very comfortable sitting and doing nothing.
So comfortable, in fact, that we can even sleep with our eyes open.
And walk and talk and generally live our lives in a dream-like daze.
Virtually as brain dead as a marionette. And just like a dummy, we
have no life of our own and have other people pull our strings.
There is an alternative. We can wake up. And if we start dozing off,
into our too-comfortable zombie state, we can flick an inner switch
and energize. To understand the methodology, let's study that
spiritual instruction titled "The Princess and the Pea".
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there was a beautiful young
girl who had become lost while traveling. As the sun set and the moon
rose, she happened upon a splendid castle. After knocking on the
massive doors and being brought inside, she found out that this was
the castle of the king of the country she had been passing through.
The king came to see the visitor. After exchanging greetings, the girl
claimed to be a princess of a neighboring country and asked for royal
treatment. The king sought the advice of his trusted counselors, who
suggested putting her to a test. As it was very late at night and the
girl was tired, they prepared a bedroom for the girl that would reveal
the validity of her claim to royalty. Unbeknownst to the girl, they
placed a pea under a mattress and then put more mattresses on top. The
young girl was then helped to the top of the mattresses and wished
pleasant dreams. When the sun came up, the counselors came to the room
and asked her how she slept. The girl said that she hadn't slept at
all and that she had felt an annoying irritation that kept her awake
all through the night. This was the proof the counselors had been
looking for, because only a royal being could be sensitive enough to
be aware of a pea under ten mattresses. The king was elated and
offered the princess his son's hand in marriage and thus the kingdom.
The princess found the prince the most wonderful, handsome, wise man
in the world and quickly accepted. They married and lived happily ever
This story can probably be told much more eloquently, but now is the
time for understanding, not merely for storytelling. There is a great
amount of spiritual knowledge that we can learn from this story. In
fact, it has the potential to change our lives for the better so that
we too will live happily ever after
The princess represents anyone who is lost and out of touch with their
spiritual nature. Her journey is her quest for Enlightenment. The
castle and the country are the kingdom of heaven within. It is
necessary to stay awake to pass the test that will cause you to gain
the Kings approval, marry into the royal family and share in control
of the infinite, eternal kingdom. The night represents the time of
ignorance of knowing our true royal idenity. There are many more
analagies to be drawn from the tale but the one to now focus in on is
the one that will help us stay awake. It was a minor annoyance that
kept the princess awake all through the night, until the sun,
representing the truth, came up. For us, it is right now even if the
physical sun is out. We are in darkness, unaware of our true nature
and must find a way to stay awake. The clue is the pea. It wasn't
necessary to use a bed of nails, or any other severe austerity to make
the princess stay awake. So all we must do is find a pea to put under
Let's go back to our original contention that we are much too
comfortable. This is due to our habitually adopting physical postures
that are condusive to falling asleep and much too relaxing to keep up
a state of alertness. The antidote and key to being awake is simply to
recognize your sleep inducing habits and then reverse them.
The Unnatural Positions Meditation
A sure way to relax your body is to have your arms and legs relaxed.
If your extremities are tension-free, so will be your mind and
emotions, and you will tend to become drowsy and sleepy. So, for
example, when we are in a business meeting, we habitually sit in a way
that we have become used to, and invariably soon have to fight the
urge to fall asleep. Let's do a demonstration. Right now, cross your
legs the way you always do. You will have either your right leg over
your left or vice versa. Or, you will have your right ankle over your
left, or vice versa. Feels good, right? Now, interlace your fingers.
Your right thumb will be over your left thumb, your right index finger
over your left, and so on, or vice versa. Now just sit there for about
108 seconds and enjoy how relaxing your habitual posture is, and how
comfortable it makes you feel.
Now, cross your legs and interlace your fingers the opposite way. So,
if you usually have your right foot crossed over your left and have
your left thumb over your right, now put your left foot over your
right and interlace all your fingers starting with your right thumb
over your left. Now sit there for about 108 seconds.
O.K. Fine, now you see. It is only a small change, just as a pea under
a mattress is, but it is annoying enough to keep you awake. Now you
can pay attention. You will not be able to fall asleep even if you
want to. We are so habituated to our comfy conditioning manner of
sitting that anything that is different makes a huge impression on us,
overly annoying us and thus waking us up. You will be able to pay
attention to the boss, the teacher, the priest, or your mother-in-law,
or whomever. But most importantly you can now pay attention to the
present moment, and it is only in the present that your merging with
the universe will take place. Upon understanding the value of being
awake and aware of your life as it takes place, you will start looking
at the moments of your life that you would normally judge to be
"uncomfortable" and "bad", and start considering them to be
opportunities for enlightenment. You must be present to receive this
divine, truly royal present. This little change in physical discomfort
can lead to your eternal spiritual comfort. Try it, be annoyed, wake
up, and live happily ever after.