You might have heard of the popular practice known as walking meditation. As the name suggests, it’s walking done with intent and purpose. But have you ever heard of sleeping meditation? This is a useful tool for spiritual aspirants. We’re always looking for ways to boost our practice.
Many years ago, a young disciple asked our Guru, “How can I meditate when I’m away from home?” He was serving in the Army Reserves. His service included one long weekend per month. Army discipline and barracks living made private time for meditation very difficult.
I’ll never forget that conversation or my Guru’s response. “You should meditate every single day, no matter the conditions.” He continued, “Meditate when you go to bed at night and then again before rising. You have at least those two moments to yourself.”
My Guru’s advice has come in handy over the years. Although I didn’t serve in the army, there have been situations that challenged my practice. For example, traveling always disrupts my normal routine. Holidays and other special events hinder my best intentions. Emergencies happen. I’m sure you understand—it’s called life.
No matter the situation, you still need to sleep. Without fail, you go to bed each night. This gives you one last chance to meditate. Here’s how to make the best of this opportunity.
Exercise: Sleeping Meditation
Setting your intention: There will be a moment when you realize that your day has passed. You’ve missed your meditation practice. At that point set your intention to pass into sleep through meditation. I often do this during my evening hygiene routine. While brushing my teeth or washing my face, I affirm, “Tonight I’m going to meditate while going to sleep.”
Quieting the mind: If your mind is still busy with the day’s events, you’ll want to help it slow down. You might listen to some gentle music, like the Peace Mantra. Or sit down and breathe slowly for five minutes. Focus on your breath and let only its rhythm occupy your thoughts.
Going to bed: This can be done whether you’re sleeping in barracks, or with your partner, or alone. Lie on your bed in a position that you don’t normally take for falling asleep. This will keep you alert for a few minutes as you begin. The preferred position for beginning sleeping meditation is on your back. Hatha yogis call this the corpse pose. Close your eyes and relax from head to toe. For just a few minutes, regulate your breathing. Inhale and exhale for approximately the same length of time.
Once relaxed, focus your mind on your mantra if you have one. Otherwise, select a positive affirmation of your choice. If you don’t drift off to sleep immediately, keep your body relaxed and your mind in meditation. At some point, you’ll want to shift your position and drift off. Go ahead. Enjoy a good night’s sleep.
Sleeping meditation isn’t meant to replace your daily practice, where consistency gives you the best results. But when other opportunities have passed, know that you still have one more chance to medidate at the end of each day.
Chityānanda has been a disciple of Svāmī Gurupremānanda Sarasvatī since 1975. She teaches meditation and yoga as a spiritual path in Santa Cruz, California.
My goodness, you have hit on a subject that has been part of my life for the last few years! There were many times, while taking care of my parents, that I ran out of time. But, I didn’t forget my Gurudev and I always felt he was in my company. So, as I would go to sleep, I would think of Him and how much I wanted to be with Him. This must have been from where my reserve of strength came. Even now, I find myself having to reach for the reserve, it hasn’t failed me, and my love for my Guru has not diminished.
Thank you for commenting, John. There are indeed times during our lives where it’s just impossible to sustain a regular practice. If we must resort to “sleeping meditation” during those times, we’re at least returning to our core faith once a day. I always try to remember that if a day goes by without meditation, it’s lost forever. That’s a long time! Namaste.
Here’s where having memorized a short chant that you like is helpful. Mine has 20 verses. I usually chant it in bed before I fall asleep.