Many of us struggling sadhakas know that overcoming laya, sleepiness, during chanting, hearing and meditating is not always an easy thing. Some devotees struggle year after year, regularly wandering in a realms of tamo-guna and sleep while Srimad Bhagavatam-class, japa and gayatri.
Surrendering to Krsna and guru and having their mercy, developing service attitude are the essence for increasing our taste and first appreciation to the process of chanting, but there are several commonsense external things which are also very helpfull for developing the mode of goodness, sattva-guna. Then we can at least stay awake.
There are no hard and fast rules for chanting the holy name, but many rules and regulations are very helpfull for attentive chanting.
Krsna instructs that one should not sleep too much or too little. Young and enthousiastic devotees sometimes artificially sleep too little, and elders sometimes think that since they went for mangalarati for many years, it is not that important to wake up early anymore.
Srila Prabhupada however instructed devotees to wake up latest 04.00 am, and said that if one cannot wake up early in the morning one is not serious about spiritual life.
According to ayurveda hours before midnight are double time effective for recharging our mind and body during the sleep. From 8pm to 2am is better than from 10pm to 4am.
I recall hearing one time mentioning that by avoiding eating at night time, going to bed one hour earlier and waking up one hour earlier than normally one can easily make revolutaniory change in one`s state of mind.
When one wakes up one should wake up determinedly, not moving one`s alarmclock 6 times, shifting back and forth between sleep and semi-sleep for 45 minutes.
Sleeping during the three sandhyas, namely sunrise, midday and sunset is not recommended since they are powerfull times for spiritual practises and one should take advantage of them. Srimad-Bhagavatam also mentions that Lord Siva along with his ghostly associates is wandering around on a time of sunrise and sunset and one may get influenced by sleeping that time.
Since we spend a good percentage of our lives sitting in Bhagavatam class and with japa, there is no loss to spend some time for finding an ideal sitting posture. There is a famous statement from Srila Prabhupada: “Sit properly!” Keeping your spine straight and long is very helpful for staying alert. When your spine is straight, pranas flow naturally. In yoga classes it is often stressed to keep shoulders a little back. Then your bearing is good and spine straight. You can do exercise, look your shadow while you sit either with shoulders front or a little back, see the difference in the posture of your back. But shoulders too much back is not good either. Yoga-experts maybe consulted for more details.
Backing up our lower back to the wall while sitting maybe helpful for someone, but leaning to the wall in a lazy way usually increases sleepiness.
One should sit on an asana, it is stated in sastras that if one chants without asana energies flow out from the body. Sastras especially mention wool, silk and kusa-grass as good material for asanas. Pillows or bedsheets are not recommended.
Keeping a little dais below your sitting bones maybe helpful for good posture also.
And of course if you anyway feel sleepy while sitting, then just walk peacefully.
First of all, don`t eat anything cooked by non-devotees. I recently heard how person had lamented to his guru, how his mind was so difficult to control even after years of chanting. His spiritual master simply said: “Stop eating grains cooked by non-devotees!”. Person followed the instruction and there was great difference in his abitility to concentrate after that.
Prasadam is transcendental, but if we honor large quantities of prasadam in the evening time it usually means difficulties for morning program. Large quantities of waste products or undigested foodstuffs in our body also effect our state of mind, and may increase sleepiness and make us dull and morose.
Too much sugar or grains in our daily diet, especially white flour can also increase sleepiness.
CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS
Chant in a clean, nicely ventilated room. Wear tilaka on 12 places of your body and chant the tilaka mantras aloud (not whispering or in your mind). Srila Prabhupada mentioned that if we don`t chant them aloud, our bodies continue under karma. Have clean devotional clothing while chanting. It is also stated that beadbag is place for Krishna’s lila`s, it is polite towards Krishna to have a clean beadbag, one should wash it minimum once a week, no loss to wash it daily.
In general developing cleanliness is very conducive for sattva-guna. Unfortunately during kali-yuga all good qualities are reducing day by day. Especially in western countries where people don`t have any idea of basic points of cleanliness it is sometimes challenge to teach them to devotees also. Devotees who have never lived in community of other Vaisnavas maybe unaware of many basic points, and elder devotees who move out from close association of other bhakti-yogis may little by little become loose in their standards.
When you anyway feel sleepy during your japa or in Bhagavatam class you may try some of following points:
-drink some water
-wash your face with cold water
-take a walk outside
-stand on your head for two minutes(in temple it may cause some confusion…)
-during class one may stand up
Your servant Muniraja dasa