Every meditative practice utilizes something that the mind can grasp, on which it can take hold. It can be the breath, it can be a mantra. In nada yoga both gross and subtle sound is the object of awareness. In kriya yoga the object of awareness is a combination of breath, psychic passages, chakras, sound and so forth. In ajapa japa it is breath and mantra. Always one’s awareness is fixed on an object or process. This is done for a good reason, namely that the mind naturally and automatically moulds itself around objects of perception. In day to day life it does this continuously with various external objects and thoughts. It is the nature of the mind to form itself, pattern itself around something. Without an object of perception, one lapses into a state of unconsciousness. This also applies to meditative practices: the mind must be patterned into some form, whether it is breath, sound or whatever. If you do not do this then you will only fall asleep, gaining little from your practice.
Many people sit for meditation without fixing their attention on a specific object. They merely close their eyes and allow their mind to wander here and there like a wild monkey. They either brood about their problems or eventually fall asleep. Each of these states is far away from a meaningful meditative experience. One can practise like this for the next hundred years and gain absolutely nothing. There is a man who goes to the park every morning to practise meditation. He sits in perfect padmasana and begins to practise. Within five minutes his head slowly drops, his chin rests against his chest and he falls into a deep sleep. He stays in this ‘state of meditation’ for the next hour. Then at exactly six o’clock some sixth sense tells him that it is time to return home. He wakes up, yawns, unfolds his legs and finishes his practice. He is sincere, but because he does not fix his attention on an object during his practice, he falls asleep every day without fail and gains nothing.
Do not make this same mistake. Try to maintain continuous awareness of an object, breath or whatever in your meditative practice. Do not lose contact or you will fall asleep.
As one progresses along the path of yoga, this tendency to sleep seems to intensify. As your grosser problems are exhausted so you become more relaxed. The natural thing is to sleep. This is the barrier of unawareness, the hurdle that seems to be impassable. This barrier of laya is that which prevents people diving deep into their being. It can be crossed only when you are ready and the method is to adopt and start using a psychic symbol. This is emphasized in many yogic scriptures and we are also emphasizing it here.