In MIDL Mindfulness Training 26/52 you learn the skill of using points of touch to develop momentary concentration and as an antidote for the third hindrance to meditation sloth & torpor. Where as the previous training of expanding awareness lowers energy levels to settle restlessness, touch points increase energy levels disolving the energy imbalance of mental sluggishness. By slowly cycling awareness through different points of touch within your body and mentally experiencing each point you will experience an increase of energy, steadiness of mindfulness and increased clarity of awareness. Submit Your Question
Your Question: I experience sleepiness and become mentally dull when I am meditating, what can I do?
Stephen Procter: Lets first identify the sleepiness. Are you feeling tired when you are not meditating? If you are feeling tired when not meditating then the sleepiness will be coming from living an over-stimulated life and you need to get more rest. Even if that rest is falling asleep during meditation, if that is the only rest time you get then that is what you need to do. Just fully commit to it, do not fight it.
If however your sleepiness and mental dullness is only happening when you are meditating then this is not due to tiredness but rather from over-calming of the knowing factor of awareness. Meditation is a balance between over-calming the knowing factor of awareness and overstimulating it taking us from mental sluggishness to restlessness. Until you develop the skill in energy balance during meditation both of these will be regular visitors.
Overcoming Meditation Sleepiness
1. Increased Mindfulness
To train continuity of mindfulness to lower meditation sleepiness (mental sluggishness), sit down in meditation and hold one hand in the other. Put effort into 'remembering to remember' the touch of your hands for 1 minute. The emphasis is on 'remembering to remember' not on the touch of the hands. Notice every time you forget the touch of your hands, come back and re-establish the effort to 'remember to remember'. Be aware of any restlessness arising as this is a sign you are putting in too much effort.
Each time you do this exercise gradually increase the time. When 'remembering to remember' the touch of your hands becomes easier for you, move on to remembering your whole body as it sits and then your breath as it naturally draws in and out.
2. Using Touch Points
Whenever you feel meditation sleepiness (mental sluggishness) coming on during mindfulness meditation you can cycle through some points of touch as in MIDL Mindfulness Training 26/52. To do this bring awareness first to your whole body as it sits in meditation and silently say “sitting, sitting” while mentally 'feeling' your whole body. Then bring your awareness to a point of touch, such as your buttocks on the floor and silently say “touching, touching” while mentally 'feeling' that point of touch. Cycle gently between these two points of touch: "sitting, sitting" (feel the body), "touching, touching" (feel your buttocks touch).
If you want to create more energy or interest you can add points of touch to this cycle. Example: "sitting, sitting" (whole body), "touching, touching" (left buttock), "touching, touching" (right buttock), "touching, touching" (left ankle), "touching, touching" (right ankle), "touching, touching" (hands), "touching, touching" (lips), "sitting, sitting" (whole body) and so on cycling through.
In this way you will generate alertness and the sleepiness will start to fade. Once faded you can then go back to your original meditation object or continue with your touch point meditation practice depending on the outcome you are after.
Your Question: I am moving between different parts of my body touching but am not developing any concentration. What am I doing wrong?
Stephen Procter: In this meditation slowly cycle your awareness through different points of touch within your body, being aware of one point at a time. The important part is to take your time being aware of the experience of each point of touch and mentally 'feeling' the sensate quality within it. This may be pressure, hardness, softness, warmth etc.
As you experience the sensate quality within a touch point, silently say "touching, touching" to direct your attention to it. The first label brings your awareness to the point of touch, the second label brings your awareness to the experience of the point of touch. In this way you apply your attention and sustain it by rubbing awareness within the experience before moving onto the next touch point. This cultivates the momentum of mindfulness and develops momentary concentration.
Your Question: Moving among the touchpoints did help with alertness. I experience a lot of "sloth and torpor", not unhappiness more boredom during meditation.
Stephen Procter: Sloth & torpor is a mental sinking that occurs when the effort to clearly experience the object of meditation is too low to provide enough energy to sustain the concentration, leading to an over-calming of the knowing factor of awareness. The precision and effort used with touch points counters this imbalance and is a good practice for you to use when needed.
Boredom can be a causal factor for sloth & torpor as boredom is a combination of lack of attention and delusion - inability to see clearly. The opposite to boredom is investigation & mindfulness towards what is being experienced now, when these are applied boredom is not possible. Your effort should be directed towards clearly 'remembering to remember the experience of the object of meditation' and investigating the tendency of the mind to withdraw into boredom through a lapse of mindfulness or 'to sink' through the over-calming of the knowing factor of awareness.
In this way these changing states of mind will not be a hindrance to your mindfulness meditation practice but rather they will be the content that will allow your practice to deepen.