When I did a nine-day vipassana meditation retreat a few years ago, as you might guess, we pretty much meditated all day. We either sat on cushions, all 60 of us in a hall, or we sat in our rooms -- on our beds or floors, observing our breath, thoughts, and sensations. About 13 hours of meditation a day: at turns grueling, boring, enlightening stuff.
The rest of the time, we watched a video or listened to audio of vipassana's main disseminator, the late SN Goenka, intoning instructions in his gravely, funny, sweet voice. One of these was: no lying down during formal meditation -- definitely not in the hall, and hopefully not in your room or meditation cell. I paraphrase him: "If you meditate lying down, pretty soon the whole place will be filled with the sounds of snoring." Of course, I had to test his theory; this experiment resulted in some lovely, guilt-laced naps.
Accordingly, Goenka also recommended meditating while drifting off to sleep -- or, as some people on the Internet call it: beditation.
Though scientific studies are undecided on whether meditation actually improves sleep (some researchers say it does by easing depression; some say it makes you need less sleep; some reveal increased alertness), I find it the spiritual equivalent of counting sheep.
Here's what I do.
- Snuggle into going-to-sleep position. For me this is on my belly with one leg up and bent in Frog pose. It's surprisingly comfy.
I know it's not that simple for everyone -- certainly chronic insomnia isn't usually cured with a breath meditation. So if that's not doing it for you, there are many guided audio meditations with suggestions and visualizations.
This is a lovely, free, guided meditation from the amazing (and mellow-inducing) Belleruth Naparstek.
You can also pick up her CD of the guided meditations, Healthful Sleep.
For the more musically inclined, I also really like Jeffrey Thompson's instrumentals that are supposed to induce the deep delta brainwaves required for restful sleep. I have his Brainwaves variety pack, but his Delta Sleep System sounds really nice, too.
Do you meditate as you drift off to sleep? How does it work for you?
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