Ayurveda on Napping, Vedanta on Sleep

Ayurveda, the ancient Indian study of medicine, suggests that taking a nap during the day (“daysleep”), is best done under certain conditions.

 

Ayurveda recommends that napping should not happen on a full stomach.  Better to nap on an empty or semi-empty stomach, and then one wakes up light and fresh.

 

Ayurveda generally holds that napping is not a problem in the hot summer months or hot weather.  However, it warns against napping during cold seasons, for people of certain constitutions.

Specifically, “Kapha” people should avoid napping during winter months (and frankly, Kapha should avoid napping during summer months as well, unless completely necessary).  As Kapha already has a tendency to slowness, docility, and the risk of lethargy, a nap may exacerbate these traits.

 

That said, for Vata and Pitta types, naps can be extremely beneficial.

 

Advaita Vedanta on Sleep 

The Indian non-dualist philosophy of Advaita Vedanta actually holds up “deep sleep” as a particularly important state, in some ways privileging it over the other two states — the waking state and the dreaming state.

 

This is because, in deep sleep we are “reconnected with our source,” and no longer subject to the illusions of the ego and the external world.

 

That said, the ideal of Advaita Vedanta, is that one can become cognizant of one’s identity as source, not simply in Deep Sleep (when one is not really cognizant, frankly), but also in the waking state.

That is true liberation, when one can be one with one’s source, and not deluded by the apparent ego or individuality, while awake and alive.

 

Sages such as Ramana Maharshi are said to have achieved this state — of constant awareness of the True Self.

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Sleep as a form of Meditation?

In a “Zen” Facebook group I am in, someone recently asked a question to the effect, whether sleep can be considered a form of meditation.

I felt a pull to give a bit of a response, which began to expand and expand, and which I feel could be expanded indefinitely. I want to reprint a bit of my response, with more points added, for all who may also have interest in this fascinating topic. I am also interested to hear points from others.

Sleep has long been a fascinating and important topic for many of us. Sleep is quite mysterious — we spend, as is often said, nearly one-third of our hours in this incarnation, in the state of Sleep (or maybe better to say in the states (plural) of Sleep — as there are so many stages and phases of sleep). But it is something that remains a bit of an enigma. How intriguing, for our waking awareness to experience being awake, and seemingly a short time later, to re-emerge feeling refreshed….

Emerson, in Nature, listed sleep as one of the phenomena that was “thought [to be] not only unexplained but inexplicable” and thus still in need of explanation and theory (“language, sleep, madness, dreams, beasts, and sex”).

Now many [phenomena] are thought not only unexplained but inexplicable; as language, sleep, madness, dreams, beasts, sex….

Sleep as Meditation?

A few points maybe one could make in response:

There is indeed the quote by His Holiness the Dalai Lama — “Sleep is the Best Form of Meditation”

I often feel that quote is directed towards this busy world, where many of us are often sleep-deprived. I feel like HH Dalai Lama is suggesting — if you need more sleep — then get it! That is a great form of mediation for people who need the sleep!

That said — too much sleep, can be negative for spiritual practice, I feel and many others do.

This may be more of a pitfall though, for some particular people than others.

Ayurveda

Ayurveda (the ancient Vedic (Indian) system of medicine) would say those with many “kapha” characteristics, may be more likely to sleep too much or oversleep (can look up “kapha” online, to see if you think it pertains to you)

For Kapha types particularly, Ayurveda recommends not sleeping too much, and actually in particular, being sure to rise quite early in the morning. It is recommended for everybody, actually, to try and rise before 6 AM; this means it is best to try and get to bed by around 10 or 10:30 PM or so.

For otherwise, too much sleep can lead to lethargy, dullness, and inertia — factors which are not conducive to meditation and which meditation specifically seeks to avoid.

(I want to write much, much, more in this direction soon — there is a lot you can read online about Ayurveda’s fascinating teachings on sleep).

Buddha

There is also this well-known Buddhist story:

(Thanks to the blog Junkyard Paradox for the precise quote — I knew this one but had to look it up, and found it nicely reprinted there. Thank you dear friend):

Yuan once asked: Do you make efforts in your practice of the Way, Master?
Hui Hai: Yes, I do.
Yuan: How?
Hui Hai: When hungry, I eat; when tired, I sleep.
Yuan: And does everybody make the same efforts as you do, Master?
Hui Hai: Not in the same way.
Yuan: Why not?
Hui Hai: When they are eating, they think of a hundred kinds of necessities, and when they are going to sleep, they ponder over affairs of a thousand different kinds. That is how they differ from me.

From The Little Book of Buddhist Wisdom compiled by Richard and Diana St Ruth

This is very important I feel: sleep becomes practically a form of meditation, particularly if we slowly “ease” our way into sleep, doing so with mindfulness and peace.  Myself, and many many others, recommend (what may seem obvious, but so many of us do not do it regularly, in today’s “busy world”), that one unwind and have peaceful time prior to going to sleep.  Do something relaxing, read spiritual books, sit in quietness, (or even meditate), just prior to sleep — and you should find that your sleep is deeper, far more nourishing, fulfilling, and refreshing, and indeed — virtually a form of meditation in itself.

Avoid stimulating activities before sleep! Sit quietly, read from a book, preferably one of which you would not mind the content of which to merge into your subconscious (what you do or take in just before sleep, is quite likely to be imprinted more thoroughly on the subconscious mind).

Enjoy your sleep, enjoy your life. When you eat, eat. When you sleep, sleep. 😉

I welcome any comments any other seekers or sleepers might have…. Thanks!

Green Supplements — Spirulina and others

I have become a bit of a Green Supplements fanatic over the past several months.

It has always been difficult for me to find sufficient green food while living in India. Leafy greens in particular, which are my lifeblood, and make me feel alive and wonderful. When I eat greens, I feel alive and fresh; when I miss my greens, I tend to feel slow, uncomfortable, “tamasic”, and heavy.

So, that will be my activity today. It is a bit silly, actually. But I am running out of my green supplements, and so will be returning, by bus, from Mahabilupuram, the roughly 2 hours to Auroville (from where I just said my goodbyes days ago), to pick up my Green needs (and some other goods – maybe Tulsi Tea); and then, after this short visit, to perhaps eat lunch, and get on the bus back to dear ancient Mamallapuram.

So that is my project for the day.

I would like to share my own current green supplement regimen, for others who may be interested in learning more:

1. Spirulina

This is perhaps my mainstay green supplement. It is a bit different from most of the other green plant supplements, insofar as it is very protein richSpirulina

I take spirulina primarily for the Protein, and for the Iron, of which it is also supposed to be a good source. Also it is extremely rich in Vitamin A (Beta-carotene), and in a wide assortment of other Vitamins and Minerals.

Sometimes, in addition to Spirulina, I take a combination capsule produced by Aurospirul, Simplicity Farm (The Spirulina farm in Auroville, which manufactures all of these supplements). This is:

  1. Spirulina with Amla  

For proper absorption of Iron and also protein, it is necessary for the body to have Vitamin C. The Spirulina with Amla capsule is excellent for this purpose.

Amla (Indian Gooseberry; also known as Amalaki) is one of the richest sources of Vitamin C on earth. It has a Vitamin C content about 20 times that of Oranges(!) It is also a powerful anti-oxidant and body coolant.

I highly recommend this combination of Spirulina and Amla, conveniently encapsulated by Simplicity Farm, for a good dose of Protein, Vitamin A, Iron, and Vitamin C, among others.

Aurospirul's Spirulina and Amla!

  1. Wheatgrass

Wheatgrass is a great source of energy, as well as all sorts of vitamins. Like most of these other green supplements, wheatgrass contains very high amounts of Chlorophyll, which has manifold health benefits.

This may sound a bit strange, but I personally only take wheatgrass at certain moments and situations, for the reason that I find it to be stimulating and potentially (a bit like caffeine but in a different way), causing of anxiety.

Wheatgrass
Beautiful Wheatgrass

Wheatgrass is best taken, for me, on an empty stomach. It seems to have something of a bodily purifying effect. So that if I take too much wheatgrass, it may lead to a bit of headache or dizziness/weakness. It is like the body is cleaning itself.

So Wheatgrass, as good for health as it is, is something that I actually have learned, for my own physiology, to take more judiciously. I have heard of some others having similar experiences, so I would advise, if you are new to Wheatgrass, to not over-do it, and to “start slow”!

(Actually, the onset of headache and weakness, the first time it happened to me, resembled the very onset I experienced of Dengue fever, in Delhi in 2013. This was two months after I had gotten over my Dengue — but I thought I had it again!  My local Tibetan friend assured me he thought it was not Dengue, but I had us go to the hospital and check — and thankfully, he was correct: the tests came back negative; I later realized this feeling was just a result of too much wheatgrass!)

4. Moringa Moringa benefits

This is a green supplement native to South India. It is extremely high in a wide range of Vitamins, as well as Chlorophyll. I have found this to have many of the same benefits as Wheatgrass, but without the stimulation, and without the attendant sometimes unwanted feelings and side-effects. It has quickly become one of my staple supplements.

For anyone with access to Moringa, either in its unprocessed pure leaf form or dried into powder or tablets/capsules, I highly highly recommend this wonderful plant.

5. Alfalfa

I take Alfalfa primarily to control my blood sugar. It stabilizes blood sugar (I actually notice the effect quite physiologically and quickly), and also is said to reduce cholesterol. It is something that is actually quite helpful for me, in instances of a blood sugar spike.

I try to carry a small container of Alfalfa capsules with me in my backpack at all times, as an emergency measure for spikes in blood sugar. It has been a great boon to me quite often.

Alfalfa
Alfalfa

Alfalfa