Do you have a doubt if you are sleeping while you are meditating? Find out the distinction between sleep and meditation from this talk I gave at the Morse Institute Library.

Video Transcript and Relevant Links

When you are beginning to meditate it’s hard to tell the difference between sleep and meditation. They’re very close. But if you were completely sleeping throughout the whole guided meditation, you wouldn’t have heard any of the instructions because there’s no consciousness in sleep. The fact that you’re generally aware of the guided instructions you are meditating for sure.

In the waking state, all our attention is outward. Our attention goes outward through our senses. We are seeing things. We’re hearing things through our senses. Attention is outward.

When you go to sleep all the senses starts shutting down and the mind goes inward, and then it goes into an unconscious state. Meditation is very similar. All the senses start shutting down. You may not even be very aware of the instructions. They are very feeble. You’re not intently listening to the guided instruction like you are listening to a lecture. It’s (instructions) just there in the background and then slowly the mind goes back and then pulls inward. And then it goes into a state where it’s aware, it’s conscious, but it’s not going outward. The mind going inward is meditation. The mind going outward through the senses is the waking state.

There are four states of consciousness. One is a waking state where we are awake just like all of us are awake now. We are hearing things. That’s the waking state.

Then there is the sleeping state where the mind is inward but it’s unconscious there’s no awareness of what’s happening. That’s sleep.

The third state is the dreaming state. In the dreaming state, though you’re not aware there is stuff happening in the mind. You’re seeing things and you are hearing things. You’re in some unreal world that’s happening in the mind. The mind is still active in dreaming state. Just like the waking state, the mind is active in the dreaming state but your body is not moving … it’s on the bed. That’s a dreaming state.

The fourth state of consciousness is the meditative state. You can also call it transcendental state. In this state, we have transcended the world as we know it, but we are not unconscious. It’s very similar to sleep but there is awareness. So, that’s the transcendental state.

These are the four states. You’re familiar with the three states but the fourth one (transcendental state) we’re not very familiar with. So, when we go into that state we’re not sure if that is meditation, but that’s what it really is. You’re just starting to get used to that state where it’s really stillness so you can’t even really tell what it is. The mind is still in that state, so it’s hard to tell what it is. Only when you come out of it, you notice, “Oh I feel relaxed.” That’s the experience people have, but it’s really stillness in the mind. It’s alert stillness. You’re not asleep. So initially it’s hard to differentiate between sleep and that state (meditative state).