Author Topic: Sensation similar to sleeping.  (Read 4233 times)

whtrbt

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Sensation similar to sleeping.
« on: December 30, 2009, 12:17:14 AM »
The last few times I've meditated, I've had a similar experience. I focus on the breathing, and then after some time, I get a feeling like I'm dreaming or asleep. This is hard to describe, but it's like I've disappeared. I'm still awake (i think) because I am still focusing on the breath in this state. It is sort of like I am dreaming but there's no dream.

I meditated today and forgot to turn off my phone before I started. My phone rang while I was in this state, and it was like it woke me up. When I opened my eyes, I didn't know where I was for a couple seconds, similar to being awakened from a dream. After these meditations, I feel very refreshed, almost as though I've had a nice nap.

Is this normal? I don't want to be sleeping or fall into 'sinking mind' during my meditation, but I have a feeling that I'm not really sleeping or dreaming because I still keep my back straight and am still focusing on the breathing throughout this experience.

mik1e

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Re: Sensation similar to sleeping.
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2009, 06:33:08 AM »
whtrbt,

It is just activation of ether or vital body. Strange sensations may often happen at the beginning stages. Mainly  they correspond to processes of cleaning and relaxation of subtle bodies. Sooner or later they will disappear. Just prolong your practice.

Matthew

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Re: Sensation similar to sleeping.
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2009, 10:56:58 AM »
Dear whrtbt,

My answer is somewhat more prosaic than Mik1e on this issue. I agree regarding relaxation but I think the problem is relaxation of the physical body and mind - and not too much of it - as might seem the obvious answer but too little of it.

The last few times I've meditated, I've had a similar experience. I focus on the breathing, and then after some time, I get a feeling like I'm dreaming or asleep. This is hard to describe, but it's like I've disappeared. I'm still awake (i think) because I am still focusing on the breath in this state. It is sort of like I am dreaming but there's no dream.

First a question, then I will answer your issue assuming the answer is yes (though it's not so important it can play a part). Where are you focussing on the breath - at the nostrils?

Wherever your focus, though particularly at the nostrils, my answer will be the same and the same as advice I have often repeated. I think you may be trying too hard to concentrate without having first established a calm base of Shamatha meditation practice. Meditation begins as relaxing into your bodymind and reconnecting body and mind through total awareness of breath.

Awareness occurs throughout the body and mind through the distributed nervous system, though is of course centred in the brain - as the final organ of cognition of all perceptions.

There is a particular issue with Anapana at the nose. By focussing one's attention on the nose one is primarily using the 5th Cranial nerve, the Trigeminal nerve, as the  conduit of sensation to the brain. This means that most of the meditative activity is taking place entirely in your head because the Trigeminal nerve directly enters the brain stem and does not pass through the spinal cord.

The Buddha did not teach to focus breathing on the nose. For westerners who are often "head heavy" in their general way of living - and to some extent disembodied because of our cultural preference and conditioning towards rationality - this can be a particular and significant problem.

The Buddha taught:

Quote from: www.accesstoinsight.org
"There is the case where an aspirant -- having gone to the wilderness, to the shade of a tree, or to an empty building -- sits down cross-legged, holding the body erect and setting her (4) awareness before her. Always aware, one breathes in; aware one breathes out aware.

"Breathing in long, one discerns that one is breathing in long; or breathing out long, one discerns that one is breathing out long. Or breathing in short, one discerns that one is breathing in short; or breathing out short, one discerns that one is breathing out short. One trains himself to breathe in sensitive to the entire body and to breathe out sensitive to the entire body. One trains herself to breathe in calming the entire body and to breathe out calming the entire body.
"

So according to the Buddha the focus of meditation is the entire breathing experience and body, not the nostrils. And the prime first goals are awareness or sensitivity to the entire body and relaxation or calming.

This is important because when one is meditating in this way, as opposed to nostril-focussed Anapana, one is using/activating many other nerves and neurological systems - particularly the Vagus, or 10th Cranial nerve, "The Wanderer" - so called because it wanders down the neck, into the chest and abdomen and controls and senses the larynx, other parts of the speech and hearing apparatus and senses the visceral muscles of the chest, trunk and abdomen including the diaphragm and the organs including your heart (though control of the diaphragm is principally by the Phrenic nerve and the heart by the Cardiac nerve, you also want these fully activated).

The Vagus nerve amongst other things is responsible for:

Quote from: Yale School Of Medicine
Provides visceral sensory information from the larynx, esophagus, trachea, and abdominal and thoracic viscera, as well as the stretch receptors of the aortic arch and chemoreceptors of the aortic bodies .

 
Thus by focussing on the entire breathing process in the body one is activating many more nerves - particularly the Vagus, a very important nerve to have properly activated, and is actively reconnecting body (through the Vagus and other nerves) and mind (through awareness).

Anapana (focussing on the nostrils or area between lips and nostrils) or any other kind of breath meditation can be too forced, too aimed at achieving concentration and still mind. Anapana at the nostrils can heighten this imbalance due to the fact that most westerners live in their heads to a large degree.

Still mind can be quickly achieved by Anapana or any other over-forced breath meditation - but it becomes a form of self hypnosis and I believe this is what you are experiencing and describing.

I meditated today and forgot to turn off my phone before I started. My phone rang while I was in this state, and it was like it woke me up.


Probably did !

When I opened my eyes, I didn't know where I was for a couple seconds, similar to being awakened from a dream. After these meditations, I feel very refreshed, almost as though I've had a nice nap.


You probably have !

Is this normal? I don't want to be sleeping or fall into 'sinking mind' during my meditation, but I have a feeling that I'm not really sleeping or dreaming because I still keep my back straight and am still focusing on the breathing throughout this experience.

Please do not worry. It is a very, very common problem. Many meditators fall into this trap and either quickly fall out of practice or spend fruitless years not meditating on the cushion but basically hypnotising themselves into a semi-sleep state or sloth.

The solutions I propose for you:

1) If you are focussing on the nostrils, then stop doing so for the reasons I have outlined, namely: (i) It is not what the Buddha taught and (ii) it is physiologically more likely to lead to self-hypnosis.

2) Develop awareness of your whole body breathing. Relax more during your meditation and feel the breath entering your lungs, feel the abdomen stretching out to accommodate this.  "train (yourself) to breathe in sensitive to the entire body and to breathe out sensitive to the entire body. Train (yourself) to breathe in calming the entire body and to breathe out calming the entire body." Let thoughts, feelings and emotions arise, be aware of them but do not engage of them. If you do then when you realise return to awareness of whole body breathing, noting the deviation from practice without self criticism.

My strong sense is that you are self-hypnotising and that proper calming, breathing Shamatha meditation, as described above, will overcome this obstacle.

Don't believe or disbelieve me. Try it for yourself for some time and see what difference in your experience occurs. It may take some time to get over the way you have been doing it until now if Anapana on the nose has been your practice.

Also do not be afraid to have the eyes open a little, looking gently at the floor 1 - 2 metres in front of you. The eyes should be relaxed - as in when sleeping - but not forcefully closed, when meditating.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
« Last Edit: December 30, 2009, 04:19:12 PM by The Irreverent Buddhist »
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whtrbt

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Re: Sensation similar to sleeping.
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2009, 06:29:49 PM »
Thanks for your responses.

TIB:

Yes I've been focusing at the nostrils. I've been trying to follow Mindfulness in Plain English.  If the Buddha did not teach to focus on the nostrils, why is it suggested in the book? It's really the only guide to meditation that I've read. I just want to practice correctly.

Anyway, I will try your suggestion starting today. Thanks very much.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2009, 07:49:06 PM by whtrbt »

Matthew

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Re: Sensation similar to sleeping.
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2009, 10:55:54 PM »
If the Buddha did not teach to focus on the nostrils, why is it suggested in the book? It's really the only guide to meditation that I've read. I just want to practice correctly.

Dear whtrbt,

You are welcome. I think this way of practicing will help you much.

Why is it taught this way? This developed after the Buddha's death I believe though I am not sure where. But the science behind not doing it and the Buddha's teachings are in agreement.

In the Dhamma,

Matthew
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rogp99

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    • Theravada
Re: Sensation similar to sleeping.
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2016, 07:57:21 PM »
Thanks for your responses.

TIB:

Yes I've been focusing at the nostrils. I've been trying to follow Mindfulness in Plain English.  If the Buddha did not teach to focus on the nostrils, why is it suggested in the book? It's really the only guide to meditation that I've read. I just want to practice correctly.

Anyway, I will try your suggestion starting today. Thanks very much.
I heard there's something lost in translation: the word for "to the front" is the same word for "mouth".

Matthew

  • The Irreverent Buddhist
  • Staff
  • Meditation: It's a D.I.Y. project.
    • KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
    • Getting nowhere slowly and enjoying every moment.
Re: Sensation similar to sleeping.
« Reply #6 on: June 01, 2016, 12:12:40 AM »
Thanks for your responses.

TIB:

Yes I've been focusing at the nostrils. I've been trying to follow Mindfulness in Plain English.  If the Buddha did not teach to focus on the nostrils, why is it suggested in the book? It's really the only guide to meditation that I've read. I just want to practice correctly.

Anyway, I will try your suggestion starting today. Thanks very much.
I heard there's something lost in translation: the word for "to the front" is the same word for "mouth".

There is indeed, the word is Paramukham which could, and often is, translated as "at the front of the face", i.e. the nose. I believe a more coherent translation to be to bring yourself "face to face with" or to "fully face" (the object of meditation), i.e. to face the object of meditation fully and without distraction. It the Buddha meant the nose he would have used the word for it, nāsā.
~oOo~     Tat Tvam Asi     ~oOo~    How will you make the world a better place today?     ~oOo~    Fabricate Nothing     ~oOo~