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How to Overcome Sleepiness in Meditation
Paramhansa Yogananda made this suggestion for overcoming drowsiness during meditation: “Squeeze your eyes shut several times, then open them wide and stare straight ahead. Repeat this practice once or twice more. If you do this, sleepiness will cease to bother you.”
Most people do everything only halfheartedly and use only one-tenth of their concentration. To be successful in meditation it is essential that we concentrate with our full attention, otherwise our efforts will be mechanical, diffused, and lack power. Spiritual awareness depends on two things: the amount of energy and how that energy is focused. You can increase your level of energy and focus by commanding your mind’s attention with such practices as chanting, prayer, yoga postures, breathing exercises, and the Energization Exercises. These practices generate a strong flow of energy, which then can be used for meditation.
Keeping the eyes uplifted during meditation helps you stay more alert. It also attunes you to higher states of consciousness. If you find yourself falling asleep, or drifting off in meditation, concentrate very deeply — but without strain — at the point between the eyebrows.
Swami Kriyananda wrote in The Art and Science of Raja Yoga, “The position of the eyes suggests the general portion of the brain in which the consciousness is centered. In particular, when the mind slips toward subconsciousness and the energy becomes centered in the lower brain, the eyes tend to look downward; when one is involved in the world, or otherwise active on the conscious level, the energy becomes centered more in the mid-brain, and the eyes tend more naturally to look straight ahead; and when one enters a state of superconsciousness, the eyes are drawn automatically to gaze upward.”
If sleepiness still is a problem, you might find it helpful to shorten your meditations and focus on making them as dynamic as possible. Then gradually lengthen your meditations. Try also to meditate during those times of day when you’re the most alert and energetic.
You may experience times where sleepiness is a recurring problem. If this is the case, don’t worry about it; it’s usually just a phase. Meditating with energy and calm intensity — plus a positive attitude — is the key to breaking through.