Introducing Buddhist Abhidhamma

Meditation and Concentration

by Kyaw Min, U | 1899 | 43,258 words

Abhidhamma is the 3rd and last part of the Buddhist Pāli Canon. This book is meant as an introduction to the various concepts presented in the seven books of the Abhidhamma....

Chapter 18 - Sleep And Insomnia

We are all brought up with the idea that both the body and the mind require some rest during the 24 hour cycle period. Many doctors recommend 8 hours’ sleep.

However, for those whose minds are over-activated for some reason or other, sleep does not come easily. The mental over activity may be due to fear or worry or anxiety or even to excitement caused by extreme joy, mostly unexpected joy. Some keep awake for hours, tossing right and left in bed. The more they worry about their inability to sleep, the more awake they become. Eventually when their minds have become somewhat weary and deadened, they pass into sleep.

Actually 8 hours of sleep are not necessary every night. Many people have stayed awake for days without loss of efficiency in either mental or physical work. Insufficient sleep for one night does not impair one’s efficiency in any way. Professional golfers have been known to be able to woo sleep for just a few hours and go on to play well the next day. What is worrisome is your worry that if you don’t get a good night’s rest you will suffer some inefficiency the next day. It has been proved over and over again that the mere fact of staying in bed with your eyes fully closed though tossing about from side to side for hours on end recuperates the body and also recuperates the mind to a very great extent.

When you really want to sleep, you must be able by a conscious effort to prepare your mind for sleep. After your mind has wandered here and there for minutes, and may be for hours, on end, you must make a deliberate effort to go to sleep. From that moment of decision, it will not be difficult to fall off to sleep.

"Make a big yawn by opening your mouth as wide as you can, and say to yourself a few hundred times, "Want to sleep", "Want to sleep". This is on a par with the gimmick of "counting sheep" followed by certain people.

The time is now ripe to make a suggestion to your subconscious that you are feeling sleepy, that you are feeling drowsy. Make your mind weary by the following rhythmic repetition:

I am feeling drowsier and drowsier,

With the following kind of rhythm: Lar, la-lar, la-lar, la-lar.

Keep on and on, uttering the words mentally with the above rhythm. And you will find yourself dozing off.

Some people find that they want something longer than the above, and find the following more suitable.

Moment by moment

And hour by hour,

And I am feeling,

Drowsier and drowsier

With the rhythm somewhat as follows:

Lar, la-lar

la-lar, la-lar

la-lar, la-lar

la-lar, la-lar

You will soon be asleep. Keep it up, keep it up, till you are no more conscious.

In your own mind the above mentioned words may not suggest the above rhythm. Establish your own rhythm, your own lilt.

Possibly at some time before or during the rhythmic repetition, you wish to change the position of your body. Do so; turn over to your right or to your left and assume a comfortable sleeping posture. You will soon find out what posture is good for you, what posture you like. Keep up your rhythmic repetition, and you will soon be asleep.

Block conceptual thought, block verbal thinking, and then you mentally utter the rhythmic repetition with concentration, it will not be difficult to go off to sleep.

The above is for those not suffering from acute insomnia. If you suffer from insomnia, you will not be able to get yourself to the stage of making the suggestion to your subconscious, as stated above. You will have to be more drastic and begin by preparing your body for sleep.

After making your decision to go to sleep, you must prepare your body for sleep by relaxing. After your body has been relaxed, you prepare your emotions for sleep.

You are now in bed. The best position for a start is lying flat on your back with your face facing the ceiling and your eyes closed. Let your hands be on either side of your body and your legs uncrossed and stretched straight out.

Firstly do some deep breathing as explained in a previous chapter.

Now relax your body. Relaxing your body means to relax your muscles as much as possible. This requires conscious effort. Relax each part of your body. Relaxation is done first by stretching a muscle and then letting it go limp.

Start with your legs. Arch your feet upwards and let go into the limp position. Then arch your feet downwards and let go into the limp position.

Proceed immediately thereafter with the relaxation of the next part of your body. For example, after you have relaxed your feet, forget about it immediately and go on to the next part of your body.

Relax your hands. You can relax one hand at a time or relax both simultaneously. Stretch your hand upwards and let go. Then stretch your hand downwards and let go. Then clench your hands and let go. Then go quickly to the next part of the body.

Relax your back by arching it upward and letting go and allowing it to fall back on the bed.

Then relax your neck by moving it sideways from left to right, and right to left, and then up and down, finally letting it fall back on the pillow.

Then relax your facial muscles, especially your eyebrows. Contract them and relax. Frown and then relax.

Then relax your jaw. Open your mouth wide in a yawn, exhale the breath with a yawning sound and snap it into a relaxation. Then clench your teeth and let go.

Finally relax your eyes. Close your eyes and visualise black; visualising black is the best way to relax your eyes.

By this time, you may be ready to make your suggestion to your subconscious that you are feeling sleepy, feeling drowsy, and to make the rhythmic repetitions as mentioned above.

However, you may still be in an emotional state. If so, you must relax your emotions. The big emotions that affect a person are mostly worry, fear, lust, hate and the kindred ones.

You must now talk and argue to yourself quietly and silently so that you can lay aside; the emotions that are assailing you at that moment. Any excitement must be allayed. You may be overjoyed at some sudden burst of good fortune. You must argue to yourself that you must go to sleep and that it is time that the excitement be allayed. You may be up against a second moment of decision to go to sleep.

Once you have reached your final moment of decision, it will not be difficult to go to sleep.

Now begin to make your suggestions to your subconscious that you are feeling sleepy and drowsy.

Repeat the rhythmic repetitions as mentioned above and you should soon be asleep.

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