Friday, February 04, 2005

Using the Mantram to Sleep and Feel Better

One of the interlocking elements of Easwaran’s spiritual path is to silently repeat a well-chosen mantram as often as one can, and especially when one is feeling agitated or stressed. He also suggests doing it when you go to bed. This can have two beneficial effects. First, it can help clear your mind of thoughts and attendant emotions that might otherwise keep you awake. Second, he says that there’s a fleeting moment between wakefulness and sleep when the trapdoor to the deepest recesses of consciousness swings open and you can send the mantram through that door to echo in your consciousness and work its transformative magic even while you sleep.

I often have trouble getting enough sleep. I tend to wake up very early in the morning and can’t go back to sleep, except when I’m able to use my mantram to crowd out distracting thoughts. I suppose I could count sheep instead, but saying my mantram seems more satisfying.

I recently read about how scientists have discovered a link between obesity and sleep deprivation. It seems that not getting enough sleep causes the body to release too much of a hormone that stimulates hunger and too little of its counterpart hormone that produces a feeling of fullness. At 6’4” and 200 lbs, I probably don’t qualify as obese. But I have other problems such as poor short-term memory that have also been linked to sleep deprivation. My sleep deprivation is chronic. But it has also been less severe since I’ve taken to reciting my mantram when I go to bed and when I wake up early in the morning.

This illustrates how a practice aimed at one’s spiritual being can also help one’s physical being which, in turn, can help one’s spiritual being in the sense that a well-rested and healthy body (and mind) is likely to benefit more from spiritual practices than is a tired and sleepy one. Just try meditating or contemplating when you’re struggling to stay awake.

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