Monday, April 17, 2006

The Sleepy, Wandering Mind

There are two times that I'm most frustrated by my mind:

When I go to sleep, and when I wake up.

Early on in my spiritual practice, I discovered that the hardest times to keep guard over my mind were when I was tired. When my thoughts are blurry and every third muscle in my body aches, it's simple to let my attention drift away into whatever thoughts and fantasies manage to worm their way into my mindstream. Hell, it seems downright natural.

As a result, I usually end up in the morning spending a half-hour in bed letting these thoughts tease and torment me before I have the smarts to yank my ass out. In the evening, I'm beset by strange ideas well into my dreams (which would explain last night's ditty in which Japanese schoolgirls had taken over the local police force, and were laser-frying everybody in sight).

How do I get past this? The only solution I see is "practice, practice, practice". I've defined night-time and rising rituals to counteract mindlessness. When I wake up, I recite the Bodhisattva Vow from Shantideva three times:
Just as the Buddhas of the past
Embraced the awakened attitude of mind,
And in the precepts of the Bodhisattvas,
Step by step, abode and trained;

Just so, and for the benefits of beings,
I also will have this attitude of mind,
And in those precepts, step by step,
I will abide and train myself.
If I find I need to stay in bed a little longer (I sleep with my two-year-old son, and sometimes he wants to get up a bit too early), I'll recite the Eight Verses of Thought Transformation, or various Goddess prayers and devotions I've composed. At night, I'll recite the phrase, "I will enter lucid dreaming tonight, and my dreams will bring forth deep wisdom" over and over until I fall asleep. I also may perform a trick I picked up from Stephen Laberge's Lucid Dreaming, and do reality tests to ensure I'm not already asleep.

This has all, somewhat effective. My mind tends to race less in the early mornings. More specifically, it races, but I snap to attention much more quickly, and can get a handle on it before I'm far off into the nether-reaches of Waking Dreamland.

I haven't noticed much appreciable difference at night yet. I've managed to lull myself into a deep dream sleep a few times, and have had some amazing dreams as a result. But this is inconsistent, and none of the dreams have been lucid. This may be due to a certain fear. The last few times I've been on the verge of lucid dreaming, it was brought about by the realization that time was moving irrationally in my dreams. For example, I'll be on the first floor of a house, where light is pouring through the windows, and then move up to the second floor, where the only light is a few scant moon rays. Both times, I was so terrified by the disparities that I bolted out of sleep. I have no idea how to counter this yet.

What else is there for me to do but to keep practicing? I've gotten discouraged by setbacks and plateaus in the past, but I feel like I'm past that point now. I've had enough success now that I know even the wildest mind can be reined in by daily meditation and bhakti. And I have faith - a faith bordering on scientific consensus - in the realizations of the great mystical teachers and practitioners who have gone before me. I know there will come a day when there is never a second that I feel myself detached from the embrace of the Goddess, and from the direct perception of my true, unborn nature.

I have a lot of troubles with those same two moments.

Thanks for the advice.
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