Most people who know me well know that I have a propensity for narcolepsy. I love my beauty sleep and generally I fall asleep pretty easily...a little too easily sometimes. (There may or may not be a photo of me asleep on a fork while eating poutine late at night in my teenage years.) Somewhat sad, but true, and kind of hilarious.
Nevertheless, it turns out that falling asleep while meditating is a common problem (not just mine). While one of the objectives of meditation is to calm and focus the mind, it is not to fall asleep. Meditation should happen when we are awake.
Wendy from thecalmmonkey.com says that falling asleep in meditation can happen for a few reasons: being tired or actually resisting meditation (an unconscious psychological reaction). Here are four tips from Wendy on how to prevent falling asleep while meditating:
1) Try keeping your eyes very slightly open and keeping a soft gaze.
2) Sit tall, with a nice long neutral spine.
3) Use a guided meditation to stay focused (a recording).
4) Try moving meditations like a walking meditation, yoga or tai chi.
Tips and tricks for other common meditation problems
For many of us who have busy brains, meditation is a great too help calm the mind, especially before bed. By the same token, a busy mind can also keep us from focusing and experiencing good meditations.
For those of us with a busy brain, she suggests beginning each meditation by imagining that there is an empty box next to you, placing all thoughts in the box next to you; ready for you when you finish your meditation practice.
Similarly, thinking of thoughts that come through your mind as visitors, just noticing them, and then allowing the to leave, can be a useful tool a well.
Noise can also be a hindrance to meditation. Wendy suggests using earplugs, which can allow you to experience a whole different meditation experience. If the noise is unavoidable or you don't want to wear earplugs, simply acknowledge it is there, and then let it go away.
Lastly, feeling uncomfortable in a seated position can be a challenge to new meditation practitioners, but Wendy ensures us that it is ok to move and re-adjust while meditating.
In the meantime, here is a great mantra for those of us with busy brains and busy bodies (myself included). It comes from a fellow yogi, who says you have to slow down to find that childlike joy in just being and playing:
"Slow down, kids at play."
Nikki Johnston Beaudoin is an outdoorsy Mountain Mermaid, and the Owner and Operator of Sea to Sky Paddle Fit, based on Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver.