Sunday 10 November 2013

Meditation and Sleep

I've been away from blogging for a while working on some writing and other projects, also I ran out of things I wanted to rant about, but they've started to build up again so I'm back!

Let's re-kick off with this Conscious TV interview from 2010 with philosopher Timothy Freke.   Tim is discussing the exploration of consciousness through the practice of meditation and for me it's one of the most enlightening discourses I've comes across on the subject.

Tim describes meditation as the act of becoming 'conscious that you are conscious', turning awareness away from the world and back in on itself to become aware of the thing that is aware.   He then compares this to entering the relaxed and peaceful state of deep sleep, but doing so consciously.  And this is what the whole thing about watching the breath is for, by keeping some of our attention anchored in the world we don't fall off the cliff entirely into unconscious sleep.   

The relationship between the meditative state and the sleep state is one that I feel there's great value in expanding upon.   Everyone is already an expert at falling asleep and therefore it's a great starting point to explain meditation. There is also a paradox that I wrestled with for years regarding meditation, in that it seemed to me to be inherently contradictory that by sitting and doing something I could enter a state of non-doing.   But I encounter this same contradiction every night when I say 'I am going to sleep'.   Who is going to do this?   The 'me' that is carrying this task out disappears at some point into the darkness of unconsciousness.   And yet, this is a contradiction that I and everybody else is completely comfortable with!   It's only when we encounter the same contradiction in meditation that we trip ourselves up.

What I do now in my own practice is sit and spend a minute or so 'anchoring' myself in my breath or bodily sensations, essentially moving my awareness out into the world.   I then just allow myself to fall asleep, allow my awareness to sink back into that deep conscious place that feels like it exists in the back of my head.  When I feel myself sinking into that, I start to moment by moment alternate my awareness between extending forwards into the world and falling backwards into deep consciousness.   Between the dream and the dreamer.  I quite often do this by extending outwards on the in breath and falling backwards on the out breath.  It really does feel quite amazing, like being deep asleep and wide awake at the same time, having that relaxation but also an alertness.

This is distinct from the 'self enquiry' practices where one contemplates a question such as 'who am I?' in order to peel back the layers and reveal our still conscious centre.   I'm not against this practice, I think it really does shake up our concepts of self as being identified with thought, I find that I am not that!  But I find that by doing this I become aware of a deeper field of consciousness without really sinking into it, I still experience myself in the centre of my head look into this deep field.   What I'm talking about is letting go of the sense of self and falling into the deep conscious field where by identification with it rather than the cognitive mind automatically arises.   That could sound rather esoteric and difficult but not if I think of it as being just the same as falling asleep!

Note - I'm aware that this is probably not the clearest piece of blogging I've ever done, you'll probably need to know something of the subject matter already to have a clue what I'm going on about.  I'm hoping to write more in the future in a way that makes these kind of concepts more accessible

You can find out more about Tim Freke, his books and seminars at -
Many more such excellent interviews are available at the Conscious TV homepage -

Artwork courtesy of Kazuyo Yamada, her gallery is at -

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  1. Hi! I've just come to your site via a link from Tim to watch the 'meditation' video. I read your blog first so havent watched it yet. I totally resonate with you - but(!!!)(there always seems to be one, but dont panic, it's tiny) when trying to Express in 'words' what 'IT' is or how 'it' should be labelled the AAhhhrrr! sets in. Let me explain. I too am seeking a way to Express these ideas about that part of us which unites us all, that aspect which is whole and not separate, within which we can all join if we re.cognise 'IT'. It's about LANGUAGE for me the biggest paradox & divine conundrum. You see my problem is how I refer to 'IT'. I use the word 'Self' in its largest, most infinite sense, because at the core we ARE at one with 'it' - the EXPERIENCE OF ONENESS is within this experience of being alive so it must be a part of the larger 'Self'. - In my website (which should be a blog really!) I attempt to talk about this aspect of our whole selves & my passion is to encourage folk to feel this 'connection' more & more in their daily lives (through listening actually, so I'm off on a tangent - I think you understand this dilema!)' - So my point is, when I (for example) use the word 'self' I am not necessarily including the ego or personality which makes us unique, but the larger part which unites.
    hey ho! - Do let me know your thoughts - we all need reflection I think. in appreciation - now for the video!

  2. I enjoyed this blog post. Thanks for sharing!
    Meditation for Sleep