The last couple days, I’ve been getting sleepy by the end of my morning sit. I don’t know what to do about it other than examine it, so I have been, and I am starting to learn some things about sleepy mind.
When it’s starting to kick in, the thought patterns seem like ordinary, distracted trains of thought about whatever, so if I catch them quickly, I can snap back into concentration. But if the thoughts get a long enough leash, they suddenly become much more vivid and absurd, more like night dreams than daydreams. Those are also more captivating, so it’s hard to get out of the spiral once that happens.
Before I know it, my head nods, or my hands slip from my knees, and I’ve entered a dozing cycle that I might not be able to break without standing up. There’s a common instruction, short of standing up, to open the eyes slightly to let some light in to wake you up, but by the time I’m nodding out, that never works for me; my eyes just close on their own.
On retreats — at least the friendly, Western ones I’ve been on — the teachers often give permission to stand up in front of your cushion if you can’t stay awake sitting down, but that’s an extreme intervention that seems more called for on an intense retreat. At home, I’d rather push through and experience sleepiness, which is, of course, one of the Five Hindrances, and so needs to be fully understood.
Sleepiness is a real obstacle in life, and it seems worthwhile to work with it. Clearly, though, it′s also a sign with plain meaning: Get more sleep!