I previously described how to deal with distraction in meditation but I would like to take this discussion a bit further into the direction of two more challenges we face when meditating. Everyone who has ever meditated has struggled with drowsiness and hyperactivity at one time or another. I am sure even the Buddha did as well. So what does one do to alleviate and overcome these difficult challenges?
Although it would seem obvious we will begin with the easy solutions, get proper rest before you meditate, seven hours of rest per night on average. If you don’t the chances of falling asleep in the meditation is greatly increased. The same is true if you meditate at three in the afternoon or after a big meal. You are simply way more likely to be tired. Drinking a glass of tepid water before and during your session is also very helpful.
Prostrations work wonders for hyperactivity and for tiredness. Not only is the body calmer afterwards but the one-pointedness of the practice really keeps you mindful and directed during your next practice. When one is tired and he or she does some prostrations you really get the blood pumping and moving. One Mala is often enough with a short break in between to have a glass of water and freshen up. Jumping directly from one meditation session into the next is not recommended, please take a small break.
On a more traditional level, we do have some more possibilities to calm or to raise one’s energy level. These methods are called binding the mind above or below. First binding above, we picture a shiny four-petalled silver lotus flower in our heart centre. In the centre of the flower, there is a radiant white sphere the size of a pea. We inhale and hold for a second and then eject the lotus and the sphere high up through the top of your head. It stays in the sky. We guard our body posture and keep our gaze slightly higher than normal. On a less traditional level, one could call to mind the image of bubbling water rising from our heart centre like a freshly opened bottle of sparkling mineral water.
Binding below is similar but used to ground yourself when hyperactivity is an issue. Once again in the heart centre, we see a black four-petaled lotus flower facing or opening downwards. A shiny black ball the size of a pea sits in the centre of the flower. We lower the flower down through our tailbone like a spider on a web slowly down many many meters below us. It acts as an anchor holding a ship in a bay during a storm. We guard our body posture and lower our gaze slightly lower than normal. If this is too involved try imagining a black drop of tar or molasses in your heart and lower down it in a similar fashion.
One may even alternate between both of these exercises to achieve perfect one-pointedness.
The use of a Mala during meditation also has a function to help keep us awake. I have been awakened several times as it hit the floor the moment it fell from my hands as I fell asleep.
Meditation can sometimes be hard work but like any other practice, one must train for the results before they come. We must remember to not bring our bad habits of distraction, laziness, or hyperactivity into the practice, we must develop new healthy meditation habits. A good meditator has many of the same qualities as a competitive athlete, all of which involve hard work. These qualities will be covered in my pages on the 6 Paramitas.