"Nearly every night of my 64 years of living I have slept soundly. I sleep peacefully for 6 to 8 hours every day. I am not conscious of thinking much while sleeping, except when I remember having a dream (which I seldom do). I am calm and still while I sleep. My experience of sleeping is one of a quiet, peaceful, pleasant, restful, and satisfying experience. I seem to be in a state of relaxed unconsciousness, but can wake up fairly easily if the need arises. Generally, I am untroubled while sleeping, don't worry, don't seem unhappy, and don't harm others. I don't mull over problems, philosophize, plan, or fret while sleeping. When I awaken from a sound sleep I feel refreshed, restored, rejuvenated, and good all over.
The reason I bring up my sleeping habits is to point out that many of the meditation techniques I have studied for the last 50 years assign a purpose to meditation that I have already achieved while sleeping: not thinking, no preferences, non-dualistic, blissful, peaceful, re-energizing, in a void, pleasurable, etc. Or, meditation experts describe a method or procedure for meditating that has many of the features that I already embody while sleeping: remaining still, being calm, breathing regularly, closing one's eyes, relaxing, etc..
Since I already spend up to eight hours a day in my blissful sleeping meditation, maybe this is why I have little interest in spending many more hours in seated meditation during the day like I did a few weeks ago at a Taoist Retreat of the American Dragon Gate Taoist Lineage. Enough is enough!
Let me think on this a bit more and I will write later."
Sleep is the Best Meditation? May 28, 2010
"Over the past few decades, I've been to many classes and retreats were participants meditated together. When I look around the room, what do I see? Most people have their eyes closed, they are motionless, they appear calm and relaxed, and their breathing is slow and regular. I have seen people fall asleep while meditating when seated or lying down. Outwardly, sleeping and meditation often have a similar appearance. Inwardly, they are close enough to be interchanged by many.
On the Internet, I have seen a quotation circulated to the effect that the Dalai Lama once said, "Sleep is the best meditation." The best? I wonder if the honored Dalai Lama actually did say this? Anyone have a source reference?
At Zen retreats they have one fellow assigned the task of walking around the room, watching those meditating, and waking up any fellows that have fallen asleep with a tap or knock on the shoulders. Wake Up those slackers! Obviously, the master of that temple does not agree with the Dalai Lama.
Daoists of the Song Dynasty provided some instructions on cultivating proper sleep habits. I'll look up the references for this inner alchemy of sleep methods."
How Long Should I Meditate While Sleeping? May 30, 2010
"Studies have shown that the average amount of sleep per day varies by age. Newborns sleep up to 18 hours a day; infants from 1-12 months of age sleep from 14 to18 hours a day; toddlers from 1-3 years of age sleep from 12 to 15 hours a day; young children from 3-5 years of age sleep from 11 to 13 hours a day; children from 5-12 years of age sleep from 9 to 11 hours a day; adolescents sleep from 9 to 11 hours a day; and, adults sleep from 7 to 8 hours a day.
A University of California, San Diego, psychiatry study of more than one million adults found that people who live the longest self-report sleeping for six to seven hours each night. Assuming you live to be 70 years of age, you will have slept about 23 years.
Mature cats and dogs sleep from 12-14 hours per day, but they wake up more frequently than people do. A brown bat sleeps an average of 20 hours a day, a squirrel 15 hours, a lion 13 hours, a mouse 12 hours, a chimpanzee 10 hours, a seal 6 hours, a cow 4 hours, a horse 3 hours, and a giraffe 2 hours. Some animals are diurnal (humans, bears, bees) and some are nocturnal (opossums, toads, owls).
How long do people meditate for? The vast majority of adult human beings meditate while sleeping 7 to 8 hours a day. Most people don't do any additional meditation in seated or supine positions because they are just two darn busy with earning a living and maintaining a household. Most meditation teachers recommend we spend a minimum of 30 minutes a day in silent seated meditation; but, most people ignore this advice.
I like to sit on a bench in my garden for short while each day and "meditate," i.e., smile and look at the beautiful plants, and slip into mystical reveries. I also enjoy sitting and reading and writing, and some call this kind of scholarly activity a form of mediation or spiritual practice (Taoist Literati). We old retired Druid scholars, country gentlemen, have more time for this sort of activity. I think I am awake while doing these "meditations," but sometimes I'm not so sure.
Eckhart Tolle, in his book The Power of Now, said, "Later I also learned to go into that inner timeless and deathless realm that I had originally perceived as a void and remain fully conscious. I dwelt in states of such indescribable bliss and sacredness that even the original experience I just described pales in comparison. A time came when, for a while, I was left with nothing on the physical plane. I had no relationships, no job, no home, no socially defined identity. I spent almost two years sitting on park benches in a state of the most intense joy." (p.5) Two years sitting on park benches in bliss! Talk about living a dream, Wow!! Was he "fully conscious" in a world of blissful dreaming for two years, or daydreaming for two years? Some rich drug addicts have spent 5 years sitting on park benches in bliss. In our sleep, everyone experiences an inner timelessness, no job, no socially defined identity, nothing, a void .... and nearly all of us want to, need to, and crave entering that universe of consciousness every night; and, we keep our day jobs to pay the way for ourselves, our families, and for charity for the hobos who sit on park benches in bliss.
I know that some people will be annoyed by my comparison of sleeping
and meditating. Doesn't that fool Mike know the obvious difference
between the two?
Why is he playing this game?
Well, I will get back to you after I sleep on it."
Life is a Dream? June 4, 2010
A third of our lives is used for sleep, and a little of that time for dreaming. Some philosophers think that we live our lives in state of endless illusion, Maya or dualistic illusion, a dream, unreality, estranged from our “true” selves, veiled off from Reality. Some consider it a spiritual breakthrough to shatter these illusions, step out of the dream, live authentically as “Not Two,” open up to the One True Reality, and brush aside the veil of Maya.
When I read Plato’s Republic decades ago, I remember his story about the ignorant and unwise bound in a shadowy cave, unaware of their illusions, without a concept of the Light of the True World of the Eternal Forms. They were stuck in a dreamlike state, sunk in reflections, wandering in the dim world of mundane experience and fleeting illusions.
Considering the harshness and tragedy that many people have faced in living and dying, it is no surprise to me that they seek the solace of dreams, illusions, and fantasies to cope and find a little happiness. Maybe they are living in a dream, with completely false ideas about “Reality,” slogging in illusions, and living with a smile on their faces and joy in their hearts.
Montaigne wrote that “those who compared our lives to a dream have more reason that they thought.” As a comparison or metaphor, “life is a dream,” is worthy of intellectual chewing and swallowing. However, for me, it just doesn’t digest well. Life ain’t a dream; but let’s be thankful for the sweet dreams in our lives.
For most of us, sleeping does have some of the benefits of opiates: reduced pain, relaxation, dreaming and euphoric states, and slipping into unconsciousness. Karl Marx said, “Religion is the opiate of the people,” and atheists are fond of noticing the stupor of the superstitious. Unfortunately, some of his crueler disciples, like Stalin and Pol Pot, offered the alienated workers and peasants a new communist opiate, a bullet in the head. Some communist dreams are just nightmares.
“Life is a dream from which only death awakens us,” says the Spanish playwright Pedro Calderón de la Barca in his play “La Vida es Sueño.” For those of us that believe that death is more like a dreamless sleep, Calderon’s idea is a bit perplexing and scary, but a great line.
"Once upon a time, I, Chuang Tzu, dreamt I was
a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to
all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of following my
fancies as a
butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly, I
there I lay, myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man
dreaming I was a
butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a
man and a
butterfly there is necessarily a barrier. The transition is called
- Zhuangzi, Chapter 2, Translated by Herbert A. Giles
I was dreaming last night about making love to a beautiful young woman, and I am pleased that I did not wake up. If suddenly, I would have awakened, I would have quickly known that no beautiful young woman would be dreaming of making love to a homely old man like me. The transition is called Reality Check.
Zhuangzi meditating outdoors.