Author Topic: Meditation and sleep patterns  (Read 4565 times)

Paul

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Meditation and sleep patterns
« on: October 09, 2007, 04:24:58 PM »
I often meditate quite late at night after I've got the kids to bed.  I notice that after a late meditation session, my sleep patterns are different to the normal ones.   There is less difference between thoughts and dreams, and I find myself regularily waking up after going through some kind of mental processes, but not being sure if I was asleep and dreaming or awake and thinking.  Does anyone else get anything like that?  It doesn't seem to be a problem, the next morning I feel rested as if I've slept well all night although my memory tells me that I've spent all night thinking....   

Juan

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Re: Meditation and sleep patterns
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2007, 06:02:17 PM »
i've recently picked up my meditation pace and discipline, so now i'm meditating at least two hours every day.
Last night I had a very strange and intense lucid dream, and have been having them since i started meditating more.
According to Castaneda (a mexican shaman with a very illustrated much alike buddhist philosophy) Lucid dreams are a ways to know oneself and they start appearing when self mind control is exercised through one pointedness concentration.
I don't know if what you are talking about are lucid dreams paul, but in tibetan buddhism, sleeping hours  are as valuable as waking ones, because the practice continues through lucid dreams... So the subject comes up again...   
Another thing is that meditating and samadhi are deep states in which the body recovers itself much like sleep, only better, experienced meditators find out that they need less sleep when meditating thoroughly.
A doubt that surfaced is: Is having intentional lucid dreams mixing techniques?


mettajoey

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Re: Meditation and sleep patterns
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2007, 07:20:04 PM »
I believe intentional lucid dreaming is mixing techniques, so to speak.  The essence of Vipassana is to simply observe what is with equanimity.  I got caught up in the sensory part during my ten-day and lost valuable time with visualizations and creating that buzz.  I checked with the assistant instruction and he informed me that doing doing those things sends the technique off into a different direction entirely.  It starts bordering more on fantasies and creating a sensory experience then what is actually happening.  Goenka warns against this in his discourses.  I heard that, but still got lost at that step.  After that convo and while I was still there and so dialed in, I scanned slowly and deeply just noticing sensations and came away with an experience that was very significant and tangible.  It drove that message home.
If a lucid dream occurs, cool.  But it's just like anything else, desire or craving of an some kind of experience sends you off in another direction.  Not that that's bad, it's just not Vipassana.
The best type of meditation is the one that you'll do

Matthew

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Re: Meditation and sleep patterns
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2007, 10:47:01 PM »
I often meditate quite late at night after I've got the kids to bed.  I notice that after a late meditation session, my sleep patterns are different to the normal ones.   There is less difference between thoughts and dreams, and I find myself regularily waking up after going through some kind of mental processes, but not being sure if I was asleep and dreaming or awake and thinking.  Does anyone else get anything like that?  It doesn't seem to be a problem, the next morning I feel rested as if I've slept well all night although my memory tells me that I've spent all night thinking....   

I think this  kind of experience is quite common as a meditator - and especially so in the early stages of being a practitioner. Let's face it your mind is unwinding from X number of years of living a life based on what society and schooling have taught you (as a westener): that rationality and supression of emotions is "the way to go".

Dreaming is like a computer de-fragmenting the disk and putting the files in order so the system can function. Yet the way we live as westerners, suppressing so much vital emotional content, means that dreaming is as messed up as most things in our lives.

When we tame our minds and quiet them through basic calming (shamatha) meditation and wake up to reality and our own being through insight/awareness (vipassana) meditation we are quickly rolling back many years of a badly kept, untidy and unruly mind full of habits, preconceptions and beliefs - which can often be seen as mildly insane when looked at in the clear light of a clear mind. What's more is that many of these attributes we have picked up along the way unconsciously from those around us - they are not even our own unhelpful/false beliefs, habits, etc.

The ramifications and outcrops and effects of becoming a meditator are manyfold and unpredictable. That is why in my main tradition, the Tibetain, EVERY meditation activity is founded in Shamatha/Calm-abiding practice. Without the solid ground of quiet-mind that results from Shamatha, meditation can literally drive some people insane.

What I would say about your situation, Paul, is the fact that you are waking up feeling rested and not disturbed is a very good sign that you are taking right steps along the path: If you were waking unrested and troubled I would want to enquire with you more deeply into the nature of your practice right now, but that is not the case.

If you are becoming more aware of your dreams and they are not troubling to you all is well. I would say this is a very positive sign that your practice is grounded and sane and is leading to an opening of your mind - even during sleep.

Some highly practiced meditators report remaining fully conscious during sleep. In some ways this should not be a surprise to us: If the day is lived in mindfulness and without leaving unconscious karmic traces of guilt, anger, desire and other negative states, well ... there probably is not much de-fragmenting/dreaming for the mind to do, and hence no need to be unconscious for the mind to busily work out where to hide all that stuff we don't want to/can't deal with!

When I first did a lot of meditation - I jumped in head first by living in a Dhamma centre and sitting for four hours a day (when I wasn't on retreat) - I had the weirdest and most outlandish lucid dreams for a long while. Some of the most difficult experiences of my life that had been buried for decades resurfaced in my dreams. That stage has settled now. When I have deeply lucid dreams now I know it is a sign I am not being mindful enough in my day to day life. They invariably relate to a situation I am getting myself into where I have not been aware enough of what is motivating me or others. They are clear warning signs and appear as such where I see the outcome of the path I am following - so they lead me to greater awareness and change.

The one thing you don't mention Paul is if you also meditate first thing in the morning. If not I would suggest that you make time for this if you do not do so now. Ten minutes is all it takes. Get up, shower, sit, take the wife a cuppa in bed. If all your meditation is at the end of long days it will not be the most effective and may be contributing to this fusion/confusion state you seem to be in during your sleep.

Meditation in my experience works best like book-ends - which generally need to be in pairs, one each end of the shelf. Even ten minutes in the morning will make a vast difference to the quality of your day, your evening meditation - and your sleep.

I appear to have just written an essay on the subject so I shall sign off - it's bedtime ;)

In the Dhamma, and sweet dreams,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Matthew

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Re: Meditation and sleep patterns
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2007, 10:52:01 PM »
...  I got caught up in the sensory part during my ten-day and lost valuable time with visualizations and creating that buzz.  ...

It's easily done. I had a similar experience during a thirty day retreat. I managed to waste most of the last ten days getting lost in the sensory delights of a German woman called Silke.

Oh well lol ... at least the first twenty days were mostly about meditation.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Fritz-the-Cat

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Re: Meditation and sleep patterns
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2007, 03:00:48 AM »
I found that I didn't sleep well at all when meditating at night.  I too used to wait until the kids were in bed and would then meditate.  Let's say that was at 9:30.  I'd be in bed by 10:45 - 11:00 but wouldn't be able to sleep at all until at least after midnight.  For some reason, my sitting gave me energy.  So much energy that I couldn't "slow down" enough to fall asleep. 

So now I meditate in the morning.  I have to admit I liked the evening better.  I could reflect on my day to start off with and then become aware of the feelings and emotions that would arise upon that reflection.  Meditating in the morning is more difficult for me because I constantly have to bring my mind back to simple awareness rather than having it wonder off trying to plan my day.   :D

I have struggled with my meditation.  I have read and heard and read again that meditating shouldn't be a chore but something to look forward to.  I don't get that feeling.  Some mornings I actually dread going to the cushion.  I keep going though. 

I'm thinking of shortening the morning meditation and adding the time shaved off to evenings.  Perhaps with a shorter sitting period, I can fall asleep?  As you can tell, I'm still tweaking my practice. 

I used to do 10 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night.  When I found night meditation non-conducive to sleeping, I cut night meditations out and do 30 minutes in the morning.  Maybe if I go back to 15/15, I can work on some issues and lengthen the sitting periods gradually. 

Blessings!
Fred

Matthew

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Re: Meditation and sleep patterns
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2007, 05:08:37 AM »
Fred,

How about doing the second sitting earlier? Lunch time; stop the car on the way home; earlier in the evening; or, first thing when you return from work?

Meditation is probably nearer to a real marriage for most of us than the romance movies in the cinema: sometimes there is real sparkle, much of the time it is frankly dull and at the worst moments we never want to see the husband/wife again.

I often wonder if the people who make such statements are really meditating at all or perhaps are merely either hypnotising themselves or are stuck in one of the bliss states through habitual clinging. The statement itself implies "guilt" if you do not find it to be so great all the time.

I bet some mornings the most practiced people in the world skip meditation because their bed is sooo warm and toasty ... and, well, they can sit later ;)

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~

Paul

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Re: Meditation and sleep patterns
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2007, 09:27:19 AM »
Wow, thank you all for your responses, its so reassuring to be able to talk like that!  You also answered my next questions which was going to be about some freaky effects I've been having while meditating too, that its not vipassana to go into them further.  For the sleeping bit what you say makes sense.  As you suggest Matthew, I'm going to try to find other times to practice, maybe in the morning or at lunchtime.  Like you Fred, I do like the evenings though, 40 minutes of meditation is such a great way to finish the day, and it fits in well with family life.  I'm less inclined to get up early, my bed is really too warm, and my bedroom freezing in winter! What you said about mindfulness/lucid dreaming is interesting, I guess that's interesting for you as well Juan?  And Juan, I take it that our paths in life have been similar - first Castenada and the lucid dreaming before moving onto vipassana, and the (at least in my case) conditioned craving for lucid dreams.  I completely understand why you want to have them I feel the same way too, although since a while back I've really had the feeling that they're not going to come, at least not the ones where you realise you're dreaming, look at your hand, then focus your attention etc.  But the other way of falling asleep and dreaming while remaining conscious does seem to be possible, and that fits in with what Matthew said.  What do you think?  I sometimes wonder if those states where you're somewhere between thinking and dreaming is not the precursor of fully conscious dreaming. I guess time will tell!   I'm doing a lot of metta meditation at the moment, and I note that I have more thought/dream confusion after metta than I do after vipassana. 

What a great site and sangha this is!

Ben

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Re: Meditation and sleep patterns
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2007, 12:59:43 PM »
Hi Paul

I haven't had time to read all the great posts in your thread.
My own experience has been that from time to time I have full awareness during sleep.  It occurs mainly on retreat and sometimes outside of retreat periods.  My teacher talks about it during one of the evening discourses and his advice to meditators is not to worry about it.  Its just an artefact of bhavana - practice.
I read TIB's post and I agree.  Vipassana is usually coupled with samatha (shamatha) and also practicing twice a day is a good routine to try to get into.  My own routine is to sit very early in the morning before my wife and kids get up and then again in the evening after everyone's in bed.  I go for longer sits that what TIB recommended, but one hour in the morning and again in the evening isn't a big deal.
I hope that helps.
Kind regards

Ben

Fritz-the-Cat

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Re: Meditation and sleep patterns
« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2007, 02:27:31 AM »
TIB,

Thanks for the advice!  It's soooo funny how sometimes the simplest answer eludes me!  Must be the Virgo in my trying to over analyze everything.   ;)

I think doing my evening meditations earlier is brilliant!  Duh!  I don't know why I didn't think of that.  For some reason, I got locked into morning or evening *only*.  Not sure how that happened but it created box thinking for me without me even knowing it! 

I'll have to do some schedule adjusting but it certainly is do-able.

I also agree that meditation isn't always enlightening and sometimes or most of the time, it's rather dull.  However, there are those few times when in meditation I feel like I'm rockin' and rollin' !   8)  Totally awesome feelings sweep over me and it is so easy to get caught up in them and want to stay there.  Or worse, try to get back there everytime I sit only to be disappointed.  Attachment can be a real pain!!!

I'm going to start my evening sessions earlier starting tomorrow night!  Thanks again!

Blessings!
Fred 

Matthew

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  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Meditation and sleep patterns
« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2007, 07:08:47 AM »
Fred,

It is often the very simplest answers that evade us like this. If you hit resistance from the family ask them to run with it for a month and try.

What they lose in quantity of time with you during that period will be more than returned to them in the quality of the remaining hours.

Oh the joy of helping someone find a simple solution!

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: October 11, 2007, 07:20:38 AM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
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Flipasso

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Re: Meditation and sleep patterns
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2007, 06:00:14 PM »
I started trying to Lucid Dream before trying meditation. I think I've always had a passion for dreams, and when I heard about controlling them I was very into it.
My theory on the subject is this.
Meditation is a way to become more aware of you and your surroundings, i. e. life. Once you become more aware of the experience of living you will easily recognize that you are dreaming. In a very extreme spot in the spiritual evolution a meditator (or a lucid dreamer) would be absolutely aware both in waking and in dreaming life. I kind of think that meditating and lucid dreaming are oposite ways to the same objective, self-knowledge.
I kind of agree that mixing meditation with lucid dreaming is mixing techniques, but I see no harm in doing so. I think it's beneficial because both aim at beeing aware you need mindfulness to practice Vipassana and you need mindfulness to realize that you're dreaming. The problem with lucid dreaming, for some, might be that they get lost in controlling the dream and having sex with dream characters and flying instead of experiencing pure awareness in the dream. But for me that depends on how evolved you are spiritually. A buddha, IMO, would probably spend the entire dream observing the dream instead of trying to change it. And even if he would change the dream he would observe both the dream, the Him changing the dream and whatever else there would be to observe and experience.
For me lucid dreaming could be both a way to get lost and a way to progress spiritually.


peace@you.all

Paul

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Re: Meditation and sleep patterns
« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2007, 08:10:09 AM »
After spending the weekend alone, without the family and practicing mindfulness as much as I could, I found myself being mindful during a dream last night and therefore becoming completely lucid.  That was the first time that I've had that type of lucid dream since I started meditating.  I noted how people react to you in relation to your mind state (there was a young guy swinging a baseball bat in front of me threatingly, but as soon as I watched him mindfully and without aversion he turned and hit a ball that his friend threw to him), also I a feeling like the whole scene was charged with a metta-like energy, and the beautiful, vivid colours.  As long as I stuck to pure observation I stayed with the dream, then I made an ego-based decision and woke up immediately.  The dream in itself didn't seem to have any learning consequence, but the observation of the dream really did.  I'd be interested to hear from other lucid dreamers, have you noticed similar things?