Dr. Charles T. Tart, Mindfulness, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology,
Lecture 3, Part 4 of 13 parts. To start class from beginning, click here.
Student: I have a question.
CTT: Yes. Good. Ask a question.
Student: Well not a question, I guess an observation about the relaxing. I find it really difficult not to fall asleep when I’m doing this meditation because my body starts relaxing so quickly. And then I find my attention on keeping myself awake.
CTT: Do you get enough sleep at night?
Student: I think I do. I’m like an 8, 10 hours sleeper.
CTT: Oh. That’s pretty good. Do you sit up when you meditate so you have to put a little attention into keeping your body upright?
Student: Yeah. I sit in a chair and upright.
CTT: And then what happens as you fall asleep? Does your head start to fall?
Student: I start to fall forward.
CTT: Okay. Now see, this is your very own biofeedback mechanism, right? You have a little “meter” here and as it starts to point in this direction it indicates you’re falling deeper asleep and then you just wake yourself back up. Try it with your eyes open too. I assume you’re meditating with eyes closed?
CTT: Yeah. Park them somewhere, but keep your eyes open. That’ll probably keep you more awake. And, if worse comes to worse, as happened to me some years ago when I began to get very sleepy when I meditated, you can eventually take the sensation of sleepiness as the focus of your meditation and bring to explore precisely what that’s like. And you will get to amaze your friends by telling them – I always get a kick when I tell people this – that you’re meditation is an exploration of the bhavanga! Doesn’t that sound exotic?
That’s a Sanskrit word for that state where you’re going into sleep. It actually has a theoretical or philosophical meaning of a kind of state of continuous mental flux out of which reality coalesces and arises. It’s possible to learn to sort of hover in that and watch a continuous flow of stuff that’s never quite anything, except it starts concretizing once in awhile, but you can let it go and watch it flow. But meanwhile you might want to keep your eyes open and try to stay awake. Master that part first, okay?