This post is mostly about what actions to take to stay awake if you are sleepy during a meditation period and want to remain alert. It also briefly explores the question as to whether it is advisable to sleep during meditation periods, from both sides of the debate.
One question that sometimes comes up for people who are learning how to meditate is whether it is a good idea to meditate in the period between climbing into bed and actually drifting off to sleep.
In August 2005, I sat a ten day vipassana meditation intensive at the Tibetan Buddhist center Vajrapani, in the hills of Santa Cruz, with my teacher Gil Fronsdal. In the evening of the last of the ten days, all the meditators gathered by the center’s stupa (pictures above) for an acknowledgment ceremony that actually turned into something of a talent show. People sang songs and did some comedy, but mostly people recited impromtu poetry they had just composed about their days sitting in silence on the retreat. Today, I came across the poem I came up with that night, and wanted to share it here. For people who have been on sitting retreats, the experience may sound familiar.
So what is it to be a “true person”? One of the simplest definitions of what is “Truth” (and perhaps pointing to the “truth that will set you free”) is that we are being truthful when we do what we say and we say what we do. We can tell the truth at least to ourselves, and maybe even to others too. Living in truth, there is a harmony between our words and our actions. Buddhists would go one step further, and say that truth is expressed when there is a harmony between our “beingness”, what we really are, with what we say and what we do – in a sense, when they are the same.
Going to university in Santa Cruz, though, I got all into psychospiritual growth – Buddhist meditation, psychology and therapy, hatha yoga, twelve step programs, communication skills and processing, Joseph Campbell and Ram Dass, holotropic breathwork, sweat lodges, encounter groups, men’s circles – and workshops, endless workshops. Exploring, deepening, and expanding the psyche felt more real and more compelling to me than making art or music. In this world, where there’s politics people, travel people, money-making people, creative people, hipster people, sports people – I found that I am a psychospirtual growth person.
Over the years, people have often asked me for recommendations for Buddhist meditation resources for beginners. Here is what I have been suggesting:
The cost of Spirit Rock’s programs are calibrated towards successful new-Prius-driving professionals with incomes from investments, and there is financial aid for, I guess, the non-profit changing-the-world-but-penniless and urban food stamps sets.