Buddhist Book on Insomnia Sparks Controversy

Khalsa News Network, April 4, 2005

San Francisco, USA -- A newly released book, Zen Sleep: Enlightenment for a Good Night's Rest, has sparked controversy by encouraging insomniacs to give up their efforts to sleep. When such efforts subside then it will happen, according to the Buddhist author Eric Chiles, who claims that Western thinking makes sleep problematic.

"Our habit of mind in the West is to see everything in terms of control," he says. "Sleep gets put on the 'to do' list with everything else, as one more thing to make happen at a certain time and in a certain way." This sets up a conceptual battleground that keeps many people awake at night, according to the author. Frequent news coverage on insomnia only adds to the pressure people feel.

Lost in the national discussion on insomnia is how average people are rendered unqualified to understand their own sleep by the medical profession. When sleep is made out to be a mysterious biological process that only experts can understand, where does that leave average people? In trouble, according to Zen Sleep. Much of the book explores how the medical emphasis on physiology overrides the instinctive understanding that awareness comes and goes on its own. Because academics have taken over, that animal-like understanding is gone.

The book outlines an unusual way back. "Zen Sleep doesn't show you how to sleep" the author explains, "it helps you escape from the dominant way of thinking about sleep." This approach lies outside Western academic understanding. The experience we label as "sleep" is not something to explain or control, according to Buddhist thought. Instead, it is just part of the ebb and flow of consciousness. Therein lies the true nature of rest. Quiet reflection on the experience of falling asleep reveals that each moment, whether awake, asleep, or somewhere in-between, is not so different from any other moment. Each melts into the next. So the night can unfold naturally because neither effort nor understanding is required. Insomnia is a manufactured problem, fueled by too much modern-day thinking, according to Zen Sleep.

"The medical profession is quick to characterize this book as quackery" the author states. "What they don't realize is that this approach is not a method to sleep. It simply offers a way back to that state of mind that existed before sleep was turned into a problem. Zen provides a framework to get there. It genuinely helps." A growing number of readers apparently agree, despite the advice from their doctors.

For more information on the book visit www.ZenSleep.com where the first chapter "Why Zen?" can be downloaded for free.