20 Feb Are Sleepiness, Physical Discomfort Or Noise Causing Distractions During Meditation?

At times during a meditation session the mind is very restless and our attention is continually distracted by other things. If you have been facing distractions, just know that it’s common and only daily practice will get rid of the following.

Sleepiness Or Dullness

The very opposite of excitement is sleepiness. This can vary from a dull,listless state of mind to near-unconsciousness. It is related to another of our habits: usually, when we close our eyes and relax our mind and body, it’s time to go to sleep!

First, make sure that your back is straight and your head is not bent forward too far. Open your eyes halfway and meditate with your gaze directed at the floor in front of you. Increasing the amount of light in the room should also help you to stay alert. Another solution is to visualize your mind enclosed within a tiny seed in the central channel at the level of your navel, as before. This time, imagine that the seed shoots up the central channel and out through the crown of your head. The seed opens and your mind merges with vast, empty space. Concentrate on this experience for a while, then return to the meditation.

Is it possible that sleepiness during meditation is symptomatic of underlying depression, in which case experimenting with some of these antidotes to depression, might help
If your mind is still dull and sleepy after having tried these remedies, it would be best to either take a break - you can splash cold water on your face, get some fresh air, or do some stretching - or stop the meditation altogether and start again later.

Physical Discomfort

Your meditation will flow smoothly if your body is relaxed and comfortable, but often it is difficult to get into that state. Much of our physical tension is mind-relaxed, arising from unresolved problems, fears, worries, or anger. The most effective solution is to recognize these problems and settle them in meditation. A short-term method for easing physical tension - to be used either at the beginning of a meditation session or during it -is to sweep the body with attention. Start at the top of the head and travel downward through the body. Concentrate briefly on each part and consciously let it relax. Imagine that the tension simply dissolves. Another method is to breathe deeply and slowly, and with much concentration imagine that the tension or pain leaves your body with each exhalation.
If neither of these methods works, you could try a more elaborate one; visualizing your body as hollow. Starting at the center of your chest, imagine that all the internal, solid parts of your body dissolve into light, and then into empty space. Everything within your chest, head, arms, and legs gradually dissolves and become empty.Your skin transforms into a very thin membrane, of light to enclose this empty space. Concentrate for a while on this experience of your body being hallow, like a balloon.

If sitting causes discomfort or pain - in the knees or back, for example - it is all right to change to a more comfortable position. As meditation is an activity of the mind, not the body, it is more important to keep the mind clear and comfortable. However, at times it is useful just to observe the pain, which is a conscious experience, a mental perception, and try to overcome the usual fear reaction to it. Instead of giving it the label “pain” see it as just a sensation, another type of energy. Doing such analysis should give you more insight into the working of your mind and help you develop more control over your physical reactions.
An extension of this method of dealing with physical pain is mentally to increase it as much as possible. Imagine it getting worse and worse. After a while, return to the original pain - which now appears much less painful than before!

Another method is to visualize the suffering of all the beings of the universe and then, with great compassion, being it mentally into the pain you are experiencing now. Think that you have taken on the pain of all beings, who are thus freed of all their suffering. Hold this thought and rejoice in it for as long as you can.

It is good to experiment with these methods for dealing with pain - but be careful not to overdo them and cause yourself an injury!


Although it is best to meditate in a quiet place, it’s not always possible to find one. In the city, we hear traffic, TV and music, kids playing, people talking and yelling, airplanes passing overhead.But even out in the country or high in the mountains there are sounds: birds and animals, the wind blowing, a stream or river. It’s unrealistic to think we can find a perfectly sound-free place to meditate, and it’s mistaken to think that we can only meditate when there is no noise, rather it’s a question of learning how to deal with it.

The problem is not so much the noise itself, but rather how our mind reacts to it. If the noise is pleasant, such as music we like, we feel attracted and want to pay attention to it rather than our object of meditation - that is attachment. If the noise is unpleasant, we feel irritation or aversion. Either way, we get stuck to the noise and it’s difficult to let go of it and carry on with the meditation. Our mind starts making commentary about the noise: what is it, who’s making it, recalling similar experiences in the past, thinking of trying to make it stop, and so on. It’s these thoughts and feelings that are the problem.
The best way to deal with this situation is to recognize what is happening to your mind and learn to just be aware of the noises without reacting and making commentary on it. Realize that you can’t stop the world from making noise just because you are meditating, but you can work on how your mind reacts to it. You might recall times when you were studying for an exam or engrossed in reading a really good book, and how you were oblivious to noise around you. You can learn to do the same while meditating.

One way to do this is to generate a strong, positive motivation at the beginning of your session, so that you feel joyous and enthusiastic about meditating.Being half-hearted about meditation or seeing it as a chore makes it difficult to stay focused on the object.
Another useful technique is to make mental notes such as “noise” or “music” or “bird”, then let go of them and bring awareness back to your object of meditation. You can also make mental notes of whatever reactions you notice in your mind: “feeling attracted” or “feeling aversion “, “thinking” or “remembering” then let go of these as well.

Working on your mind is the best solution, but it’s OK to try to stop or reduce the noise if that doesn’t cause problems for anyone. You can also arrange your schedule so that you meditate when things are more quiet, such as early in the morning, or wear earplugs!

References have been taken from: “How To Meditate by Kathleen McDonald”

Nehita Abraham

2016-11-15-19-46-35Nehita is a mindfulness expert who writes extensively on lifestyle management, wellness and ways to lead a healthier and a happier life. She is a part of Aware’s expert team on meditation. She is also an avid artist who spends most her time dribbling amazing stories through art.

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