What Happens if I Fall Asleep?
Whilst to the new practitioner, meditation may resemble the act of sleeping in many ways, it is important that it is not treated as such. The level of awareness that one aspires to reach during meditation cannot be attained during sleep, whilst dreams that occur as a result of falling asleep whilst meditating may lead to confusion, being mistaken for visions and further interrupting your ability to take stock and properly resume your meditation practice upon awaking.
Meditation is often practiced by spiritual groups with the eyes semi closed in order to block outside world without ‘shutting off’ completely and falling asleep. However, many people prefer to meditate with their eyes closed, and this can be helpful if you are practicing a form of ‘visualisation’. The main thing is to develop your meditation practice in such a way as to make falling asleep unlikely. If you do find yourself falling asleep it is worth changing the time you meditate at and, perhaps, the environment you meditate in - stuffy, poorly aired rooms, for example, will make you tired and prone to nodding off.
Resuming MeditationIf you do fall asleep for just a few moments it is possible to resume meditating upon waking. Simply take stock, spend a few moments clearing your mind, and then continue with whatever exercise you were engaged with.
If the problem becomes persistent, be careful not to let it agitate you. Just accept it as it is and move on, stopping if you feel that you are simply too tired to meditate. If it does get to the point when you choose to stop meditating be sure to make a not of this in your ‘meditation journal’ (see related article). This need not be a failing as the time you have set aside daily for meditation is your time for reflection and growth. If it so happens that you fall asleep during this period, that is merely reflective of your wider situation. How you choose to deal subsequently with this is perhaps more reflective of your spiritual understanding than the fact that you have fallen asleep! To let the moment pass and to simply resume your meditation routine the next day, without undue reflection upon the previous day's practice demonstrates good ‘mindfulness’.
Staying Awake!It is possible to take simple measures to stay awake such as meditating in slight discomfort (seated upon a hard chair, for example), not meditating laying down and avoiding meditating in your place of sleep. Additionally, it is possible to meditate seated, with arms slightly raised: if you nod off, your arms will fall, thus waking you!
Using these methods, and remaining attentive it is possible to minimise the risk of falling asleep, whilst accepting sleepiness as it occurs. Meditation, whilst being a form of relaxation, requires an attentiveness to the moment. By accepting sleep during meditation, yet minimising it, it is possible to gain powerful insights into the nature of meditation - as opposed to simple restfulness - itself.