As I decided to cut my hour-long sit to 30 minutes (when you realize that you feel sleepiness because you are actually sleepy, you should stop meditating unless you just want to play around with it), I asked myself mid-sit, “who am I trying to impress, anyway?”… This question quickly splintered to be “who am I?… trying to impress” as in, “who is the ‘I’ that is trying anything?”
Watching the play of “empty phenomena rolling along” can be captivating. At one moment, there is the gap between thoughts; the space within which feelings color perception; the blank background of discursive experience… during the next moment: “I” am having the time of my life imagining a fantasy of a clown face tell me a story and singing a song to myself while planning whether to get a medium or large coffee…
… a crucial time to decide to use the distraction to launch back to the object of attention, let the distraction dissolve into the vastness of Awareness (my preferred contemplative “method” at the present moment), or… to get up.
The half-hour before this moment of self-compassion and forgiveness (i.e. The gifts of mercy and grace) had been filled with watching thoughts dissipate into the empty space of consciousness – sort of like following the thought to the rabbit hole and stopping there to watch the thought go down by itself.
Whoever I was trying to impress for a few minutes by fighting genuine tiredness was obviously not real. The “I” that was trying to impress the un-real someone hasn’t proven itself to be all that real either.
So, yeah: you should practice with diligence and determination even when it’s hard and you’re sleepy. But do it for the right reason. Impressing someone (especially the fleeting appearances of “Me in the presence of No-one”) is not a good reason.
Practice because it’s right; because you are growing; because you can; because it is. If you are not doing that, get up.
And also, emptiness is not nothingness. Remembering that will save a lot of depression and anxiety in the life of practice.