That place between wakefulness and sleep
By Nancy B. Loughlin
Published in News Press on March 10, 2015
You may have experienced something like “that place” before.
Perhaps you were floating in a raft in the Gulf of Mexico. Or maybe you were staring at a fire pit, hypnotized by the flames. It often happens on the massage therapist’s table.
It’s that drift of deep relaxation just outside sleep’s boundaries.
According to Patanjali’s Eight Limbs, after we learn how to control our senses (the Desire Makers), we are able to focus. That focus will lead to a state of relaxation, “that place,” a peaceful mental neighborhood. It’s the place of healing.
If you want to get there on your own, what should be the object of your focus?
But Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has written, “Giving too much importance to sensory objects leads to greed; giving too much importance to the senses leads to lust; and giving too much importance to the mind and its desires leads to delusion.”
So what’s the focus? How can we begin to relax and to meditate?
Try a basic guided visualization and meditation to rest your awareness on the sensation of being aware of your own skin. If you practice, perhaps this will lead you into the deepest layers of the mind.
How to prepare for the guided meditation:
- Clear space. This is a corner (or even one room) in your home dedicated to spiritual practice. It’s quiet, clutter-free and there are no electronic devices.
- Stretch the body. You may choose to do rounds of sun breaths or salutations or even commit to the meditation after every workout.
- Lie down, and get comfortable. Your arms could be at your sides with palms up, ready to receive.
- Settle on an intention for your practice: “I am open to all possibility.” “I am health and vitality.” “My spirit is growing every day.” It’s your choice.
- Fall into the breath. Begin to settle all of your awareness on the breath entering your body, and follow the sensation to the lifting and lowering of your belly.
- Begin to send your awareness down your body starting with your crown. Hold your attention on your crown for a full breath and then lower your attention to your forehead, your eyes, your cheeks, your ears and so on…
It’s often easier to listen to a recorded guided meditation when you are a beginner. Click on the online edition to listen to a six-minute full body scan. Given how sleep deprived most people are, don’t be surprised or discouraged if you nod off during the meditation. It’s part of the journey.
In some traditions, this meditation, among others, can lead to yoga nidra, yogic deep sleep. It’s in yogic deep sleep that you can access the deepest of your unconscious. It’s a deeper “that place,” if you want to visit.