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Remaining Conscious During the Sleep Cycle

March 7, 2004

By the contemplative recluse monk Sotapanna Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)

(copyright 2004 all rights reserved)

I was recently asked to articulate a method or practice by which one could achieve consciousness during the sleep cycle, a skill I developed during my spiritual journey.  I can of course teach the skill of not losing consciousness during sleep.  I know this "trick" is a rather simple skill that anyone can develop easily it just takes practice.

Remaining conscious during the sleep cycle is really a product of a regular meditation practice.  What I mean by a regular meditation practice is beginning each day and ending each day with meditation.  At first one need not meditate for more than 15 or 20 minutes, but one should sit as if it was the last act in life, and to sit with no time constraints, so that if one meditated for an hour or so, it would not be a hardship.

Developing the necessary skills to support remaining conscious during the sleep cycle can take years, and really should be entered into with the intention of it being a lifelong practice.  However I developed the skill within about 6 months of beginning the practice of meditation 3 decades ago, so I know others can develop it rather quickly, no doubt quicker than I did.

The next level of skill development is to practice meditation while lying down.  Meditating while lying down and not falling asleep takes quite a bit of practice.  One doesn't develop that skill without a great deal of practice.  I recommend practicing lying down meditation at two times of the day.  It is best to take some time out for lying down meditation during the middle of the day.  Any time between 1 PM and 6 PM will do.  The second and best time to practice lying down meditation is at bedtime when one is ready for sleep.

Lying down meditation is nothing other than engaging in a meditation practice while lying down.  There are a few other additions, however.  In lying down meditation one practices complete letting go, and deep relaxation, what I believe the historic Buddha meant by relinquishment.  Therefore one's focus is depth and relaxation, while of course remaining conscious.

The position for lying down is somewhat important.  I do not believe lying on the belly will be very effective.  I have found lying on the back in what is commonly called, Shivasanna or corpse pose, worked best for me.  Some prefer lying on the right side.  Lying on the left is acceptable, however I found it places some pressure on the spleen that reduces the duration one can remain in that pose.

I have found developing this skill one can learn out-of-body travel, past life recollection, visit heavenly planes and numerous other skills.  The best aspect of this skill is to remain conscious when one's death comes.  If on can remain conscious during death, then one can conquer death and rebirth and decide where and when to be reborn, if ever.

I found sleeping with a pillow made it more difficult to remain conscious during the sleep cycle.  It seemed that by elevating my head at night I was draining blood from the head, and thus depriving the brain of nutrition, so I removed the pillow and in a fairly short time I began to have a more continuously lucid sleep cycle.

More than 30 years ago I gave up all mind-altering drugs that included aspirin and caffeine.  I have found caffeine stimulates the cerebral cortex such that it makes it very difficult to calm the mind.  I also found it disrupts the sleep cycle. Therefore those seeking to be conscious during the sleep cycle should avoid all mind-altering drugs.

My meditation "technique" during the sleep cycle is simply to remain consciousness and to observe all of the phenomena of sleep as this body moves through it.  This technique is actually very useful for overcoming sleepiness during meditation as well.

There is also something else to keep in mind sleepiness during meditation can be an indicator that one is descending to a deeper domain of awareness than one is accustomed to.  If this is true, then one simply lets go of having to remain externally aware.  Just observe the process of sleep as it arises, and do it seamlessly and with great detail. 

May you become enlightened in this very lifetime,

Jhanananda (Jeffrey S. Brooks)


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