Sleeping Your Way to Nirvana

Michael P. Garofalo

June 5, 2010


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Sleeping Your Way to Nirvana

Meditation That Works: Sleep   May 27, 2010 

"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 awaked, and 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 Metempsychosis." 
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.  

Pleasant dreams. 

                     Zhuangzi meditating outdoors. 









Bibliography, Links, Resources
Sleeping Your Way to Nirvana



Meditation: Bibliography, Links, Quotes, Notes

Pathways in the Green Valley Blog

Quotations about Sleeping   The Quote Garden. 

Quotations about Sleeping   Finest Quotes

Quotations about Sleeping   Brainy Quote 

Relax into a Better Night's Sleep: Sleep and Meditation

Sleep Disorder Information and Resources 

Sleep in Animals: Average Hours of Sleep Each Day

Sleep in Animals - Wikipedia

Sleep - Wikipedia  





Sleeping Your Way to Nirvana



"Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care
The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath
Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course,
Chief nourisher in life's feast."
-   William Shakespeare, Macbeth  


"Sleep is the best meditation."
-  Dali Lama


"O bed! O bed! delicious bed!
That heaven upon earth to the weary head."
-   Thomas Hood, Miss Kilmansegg - Her Dream 


"It is better to sleep on things beforehand than lie awake about them afterward."
-   Baltasar Gracian


“There is only one thing people like that is good for them; a good night's sleep”
-   Edgar Watson Howe


"And if tonight my soul may find her peace
in sleep, and sink in good oblivion,
and in the morning wake like a new-opened flower
then I have been dipped again in God, and new-created."
-   D.H. Lawrence

"No day is so bad it can't be fixed with a nap."  
-  Carrie Snow  


“He who sleeps in continual noise is wakened by silence”
-   William Dean Howell


"Now, blessings light on him that first invented sleep!  It covers a man all over, thoughts and all, like a cloak; it is meat for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, heat for the cold, and cold for the hot.  It is the current coin that purchases all the pleasures of the world cheap, and the balance that sets the king and the shepherd, the fool and the wise man, even."
-   Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, 1605 


"Sleep, rest of things, O pleasing Deity,
Peace of the soul, which cares dost crucify,
Weary bodies refresh and mollify."
-   Ovid  


“Sleep is pain's easiest salve, and doth fulfill all the offices of death, except to kill”
-   John Donne  

"Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom." 
-  Sir Frances Bacon


"There will be sleeping enough in the grave."
-   Benjamin Franklin 


"O sleep, O gentle sleep,
Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down
And steep my sense in forgetfulness?"
~William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I  


“Sleeping is not time wasting.”
-   Mike Wilson



"The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night's sleep."
-  E. Joseph Cossman  


"Don't fight with the pillow, but lay down your head
And kick every worriment out of the bed."
-   Edmund Vance Cooke 


“Turn resolutely to work, to recreation, or in any case to physical exercise till you are so tired you can't help going to sleep, and when you wake up you won't want to worry.”  
-   B. C. Forbes  


"Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night."
-   William Blake


"There are two types of people in this world, good and bad. The good sleep better, but the bad seem to enjoy the waking hours much more."
-   Woody Allen


"The amount of sleep required by the average person is five minutes more."
-   Wilson Mizener  


"Fatigue is the best pillow."  
-   Benjamin Franklin


"Leisure time is that five or six hours when you sleep at night."
-   George Allen 


"Sleeping is no mean art:  for its sake one must stay awake all day."
-   Friedrich Nietzsche   


"To achieve the impossible dream, try going to sleep."
-   Joan Klempner


"For sleep, one needs endless depths of blackness to sink into; daylight is too shallow, it will not cover one."
-   Anne Morrow Lindbergh  


"Oh sleep! it is a gentle thing,
Beloved from pole to pole."
-   Samuel Taylor Coleridge  


"All men whilst they are awake are in one common world: but each of them, when he is asleep, is in a world of his own."
-   Plutarch  


“Sleep is when all the unsorted stuff comes flying out as from a dustbin upset in a high wind”
-   William G. Golding  


"Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two. This you cannot do without temperance."
-   Ralph Waldo Emerson


"Once Zhuangzi dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn't know he was Zhuangzi. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Zhuangzi. But he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi. Between Zhuangzi and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things."
-   Zhuangzi, Chapter 2, Translated by Burton Watson


"A well-spent day brings happy sleep."
-   Leonardo da Vinci


“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”
-   Ovid  


"Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise."
-   Benjamin Franklin


"Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep."
-   Fran Lebowitz  


“Sleep is just the interval of life rudely interrupted by the static of having to please the boss at home, or the one at the office. or is it the waking state of cosmic beings where consciousness is just a human invention?” 
-  Martin Dansky


“Anyone can escape into sleep, we are all geniuses when we dream, the butcher and the poet are equal there.”
-   Emile M. Cioran 


"Sleep is the most moronic fraternity in the world, with the heaviest dues and the crudest rituals."
-   Valdimar Nabokov


"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"
-   Ernest Hemingway


"Death's brother, Sleep."
-  Virgil 


"A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book."
-  An Irish Proverb

"Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together."
-   Thomas Dekker 


"When I woke up this morning my girlfriend asked me, 'Did you sleep good?' I said 'No, I made a few mistakes."
-   Steven Wright


“I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting.”
-   Mark Twain  


"There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep."
-  Homer 


"Sleep is a naturally recurring state of relatively suspended sensory and motor activity, characterized by total or partial unconsciousness and the inactivity of nearly all voluntary muscles.  It is distinguished from quiet wakefulness by a decreased ability to react to stimuli, and it is more easily reversible than hibernation or coma. Sleep is a heightened anabolic state, accentuating the growth and rejuvenation of the immune, nervous, skeletal and muscular systems. It is observed in all mammals, all birds, and many reptiles, amphibians, and fish."  
-   Sleep - Wikipedia  


"People who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one."
-  Leo J. Burke 


"The bed is a bundle of paradoxes: we go to it with reluctance, yet we quit it with regret; we make up our minds every night to leave it early, but we make up our bodies every morning to keep it late."
-   Charles Kaleb Colton


"Sleep - the most beautiful experience in life - except drink."
-   W. C. Fields


"Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth."
-   Walt Whitman


"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 awaked, and
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 Metempsychosis." 
-  Zhuangzi, Chapter 2, Translated by Herbert A. Giles 


"To sleep is an act of faith."
-   Barbara G. Harrison 









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Michael P. Garofalo, M.S., All Rights Reserved



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