Dharma Center in Annapolis, Maryland
Sleeping meditation according to Yoga and Tantra instructions includes exercises on the subtle channels and energies, as well as meditation on deities. This practice is not open to the public. Yet there is a way we can achieve the crucial point of an ancient yogi's sleeping meditation. This way is far more effective than all other methods and is so simple that anybody can do it.
As mentioned before, maintain the awareness of mind itself. Be in this very moment during seated and walking meditation. We should do this same thing when we are going to sleep. Many people go to bed and read a book to fall asleep. Some are addicted to having fantasies soon after their head hits the pillow.
However, with sleeping meditation, we practice carrying the sense of self recognition and being aware of the nature of our mind into the sleeping period, instead of being just ignorant in our sleep. But by the time we are in deep sleep, there is nothing we can do to recognize self nature or the nature of our mind. Sleeping meditation is contingent on preliminaries to our sleep. It also relies on our daytime practice of being awareness and mindfulness.
The preliminary period to sleep starts when we retire to bed putting our head on the pillow, until we fall asleep or the moment before we fall asleep. For physical position, we can just sleep in our normal manner. There is a better way, though. This is to lay on the right side of your body using the right hand as a pillow under your cheek. This posture is called the "Manner of a Lion's Sleep."
After the preliminaries we simply maintain a sense of bare awareness without thinking about anything or forcing the mind into a concentrated state. We keep our mind aware of mind itself utterly relaxed and let the mind be itself with fully luminous awareness and clarity until the last wakeful moment. That sense of luminous awareness or the recognition of nature of mind itself continues into our sleep. We are in a state of deep sleep but we still have a sense of knowing ourselves (nature of our mind). That is what we call clear light.
That clear light is the insight wisdom which purifies our ignorance, obscurations and the bad karma we have accumulated in our past. We can find great benefits from this special practice when we are dying. The final phase of everyone’s death process reaches to fundamental innate mind of clear light, but because of ignorance we don't recognize it and we take our next rebirth due to our karma. If we are able to recognize the nature of mind, then the clear light of death transforms into a fully qualified spiritual consciousness and we become free of birth and death.
When we are awake, we possess eight forms of consciousness; there are five sense consciousnesses as well as a sixth consciousness, which is the seat of reflexive awareness, the center of our rational thought processes. Then we have a seventh, “egoistic” consciousness, which is the seat of our perception, for whatever we perceive here becomes incorporated into our self identity. Finally, there is the basic consciousness, which contains traces of all the memories, habitual tendencies, emotional reactions, self-perceptions, and apperceptions that have been processed by other levels of consciousness.
The five sense consciousnesses are the gross level, the sixth and seventh consciousness are the subtle level and the eighth one, the basic consciousness, is the very subtle level. When we are in deep sleep, (sleep without dreams) the first seven forms of consciousnesses are resting in our basic consciousness and we posses only one consciousness, which is normally in darkness and ignorant. But when our mind successfully recognizes its own face or its nature while we are in deep sleep; that is the clear light.
Recognizing or comprehending the clear light in our sleep is absolutely unpredictable. It depends on our meditation practice. Nevertheless, sleeping meditation makes our sleep smoother. It's beneficial for both our mental and physical health. Once we become well trained, it is not a practice anymore; it's just the way we sleep.