How To Stay Awake, Alert, And Pay Attention
- This was one of the first articles that we ever
published in our newsletter, The Inner Traveler.
This subject came up at work today due to a
60 Minute story yesterday about lack of sleep
being a great factor in mistakes in the workplace,
while driving, etc. I hope it can be beneficial
to you. Enjoy!
How To Stay Awake, Alert, And Pay Attention Even
If You're Feeling The Urge To Sleep
There is an ancient story about a man who
was very holy, humble, selfless, and charitable.
He had only one shortcoming and that was his
fondness for sleep. As a matter of fact, every
time he sat down he got himself so comfortable
that he dozed off. This was a problem because
while he slept, he wasn't able to increase his
wisdom or do good deeds. He was quite sure though
that all the good deeds he did would offset the
squandered opportunities that his sleepyheadedness
cost him and that he would still get to spend
eternity in heaven. As happens to all, one day
he died. Sure enough, he ascended to heaven and
soon found himself before the pearly gates. The
gatekeeper told him that he must be ready to enter
because the gates to heaven only open once every
one hundred years. The man said he was ready and
sat down to await his entry into eternal bliss.
But as was his habit, he soon got himself so
comfortable that he started to doze off. The very
instant he fell asleep, the gates opened and then
snapped close. He had missed his heavenly opportunity.
It is unquestionable that we too make ourselves
so nice and comfy that we are prone to missing our
own golden opportunity moments.
There is an alternative. We can wake up. And if
we start dozing off, due to our too-comfortable
habitual postures, 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 after.
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 analogies 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 our mattress.
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. So now
you can 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.
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.