When I hit menopause, I lost my excellent ability to nap—gone, gone, gone. I’d lie there totally alert, practicing breathing and relaxing to no avail. Recently I’ve had the luxury of more down time. Those who know me will know my Inner Slug has been delighted—she’s discovered that I am sometimes able to sleep again when I nap, which has led to more napping, but a concomitant feeling of lethargy, drifting, and purposelessness.
Too alert, too relaxed—my napping behavior perfectly embodies two extremes the Buddha talked about 2600 years ago as hindrances to meditation (and, I would say, a balanced life).
When we are too alert, it’s like we have some feeling of danger, and we’re trying to pounce on every little thing that pulls our attention: an itch, a task, a worry. When we’re too relaxed, we’re prone to sloth and torpor.
It’s not like we’re trying to maintain some impossible middle ground all the time, more noticing if we’re stuck in one pole or another and having ways to come back into balance. Kitties can be excellent teachers!