Feel Like Jumping Off the Cushion?

As part of our #MeditationHacks series, we share what to do when you feel like jumping off the cushion.

Lion’s Roar
19 September 2018
Illustration by Nolan Pelletier.

When I meditate, I often get drowsy after awhile. At other times, I’m agitated and feel like jumping off my cushion. In neither case do I feel like I’m meditating correctly. What do I do?

As long as there have been meditators, people have been encountering the extremes of drowsiness and agitation. This isn’t surprising, since in our daily lives we go through cycles of high and low energy. So why not when we’re meditating?

Drowsiness and agitation are two of the classic “obstacles” in meditation, and there are a couple of recommended “antidotes” you can try. When your mind is drowsy and dull, try straightening your posture and raising your gaze, bringing more space and energy into your meditation. Conversely, when your mind is agitated and full of wild energy, lower and shorten your gaze and concentrate more narrowly on your breath.

In either case, consistent, light-handed effort is recommended. You don’t have to condemn yourself for doing it “right,” and you can listen to the signals your drowsiness and agitation are sending you. Perhaps you just haven’t been getting enough rest, or there’s a crisis in your life you aren’t acknowledging. You can use the drowsiness or the agitation as a simple reminder to return to the breath, the body, the room, and so on. As you keep returning, these obstacles simply become reminders of why you sat down to meditate in the first place: to be fully here with whatever is going on.

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Lion's Roar

Lion’s Roar

Lion’s Roar is the website of Lion’s Roar magazine (formerly the Shambhala Sun) and Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, with exclusive Buddhist news, teachings, art, and commentary. Sign up for the Lion’s Roar weekly newsletter and follow Lion’s Roar on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.