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.
Sometimes these states are so familiar that we don’t realize we are caught in them. Recently I told a friend I felt like I was treading water—fun to do for awhile, but not for long. Being able to verbalize it helped me get more active again and I do feel more alert. And, I intend to keep napping when appropriate!