Many people are daunted by the idea of meditation as they find it hard to stay awake, or clear the mind. Falling asleep during a meditation practice is one of the common "pitfalls" students were warned against during meditation.
Why is it so important for us to be conscious during meditation?
In response to a question about the difference between sleep and meditation, Deepak Chopra writes,"the real value of meditation goes far beyond rest; it is how we awaken to our true selves and attain our full human potential. Sleep does not give you that."
In other words, it is a state of "zoning in" rather than "zoning out".
In our sleep deprived society, the body drifts to sleep if necessary. This is why yoga nidra and its slower sister practices, like yin and restorative yoga, are the hardest yoga practices as we easily drift off into slumber. During gong and singing bowl sound meditation sessions, snores are commonly heard because the vibrations of these instruments eases the mind and body into a state of deep relaxation, hovering at the edge of deep sleep. It is easy to drop off that edge and zone out. Most people do.
Zoning out is easy. Zoning in takes practice. When you can zone in to a relaxed state of mind, that is when clarity and awareness grows.
"Practice and all is coming" has never rung truer than it ever did for meditation. Fall asleep if you need to, but consciously work towards progressively longer durations hovering in that state of relaxation without crossing the border to deep slumber. In keeping awareness, you might learn something about yourself.
Zoning in, rather than out, isn't the easiest thing to do, but the fruits of more self-awareness and mental clarity is worth the practice.