Don't sweat your shortcomings. Even the Pope sleeps on the job.

Spiritual meditations make you sleepy and that’s okay.

Spiritual meditations make you sleepy and that’s okay.

(Credit: Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty Images)

Pontifex. It means "bridge-builder", and true to its etymology, it's proper work. It leaves a holy man tired.  

Up by the crack at 4 AM (before the crack actually), energetic and charismatic high-profile meet-and-greets all day, hitting the papal pillow by 9 PM - Vatican sources say Pope Francis' day is long. And he makes no apologies for occasionally sleeping during office hours.   

Earlier this week, Catholic TV2000 television published a YouTube video where the Pope made a refreshing confession: "When I pray, sometimes I fall asleep." The Supreme Pontiff was quick to align himself with a notable saint who also tended to nod off while communing with her creator. "Saint Therese did it too," he added. The 19th-century French nun, was the patron saint of little flowers.

The Pope explained the tendency to drift off in prayer as being perfectly normal - ultimately implying that napping while nestled in your "father's arms" is an understandable foible to which he, like all Christians, is prone. Besides, God doesn't mind, he told media.

But even if your day isn't as jam packed with bridge-building as the Pope's is, falling asleep in prayer - or during what many recognize today as something akin to divine communion, meditation - is all par for the course. The recent rise of meditation across faiths and culture can be attributed to some of the relief it provides more secular struggles with anxiety and depression. Ironically, one common problem is the anxiety caused by the worry of doing it wrong.   

Life coach Rebecca Hass, who maintains that meditation is a universal wellness game changer, says you'd do well to throw perfection out the window. "You can't do it wrong. There's no perfect. You're meeting yourself. Be kind to yourself. This is actually a practice of being with yourself," she says. "The whole point," she asserts, "is just to sit." With, one presumes, your imperfect self. Spiritual quests, no matter how pious the seeker, aren't perfect and aren't meant to be. That includes nodding off on the journey.

It's useful to state here that Big Mindfulness has joined 'Big Pharma' in the wellness market, so do proceed with caution and a solid grasp on your wallet as you seek peace, enlightenment and health. But Andy Puddicombe, the founder of the massively popular Headspace meditation app, says that slipping into sleep while quieting the mind and focusing the breath is bound to happen. So common is the occurrence that Zen Buddhist monks have their lapses into sleepiness remedied by a "Keisaku" (aka "warning stick" or "awakening stick"). It's wielded by the meditation hall master who administers firm smacks on the shoulders of any monk tempted by the call of Morpheus. Far from a punishment, it's more of a helpful aid to reinvigorate the practitioner. It's also known as the "stick of encouragement" or "compassion". But you don't need to keep a compassionate stick man in your employ to stay focused. You just need to accept your humanity. And re-focus.

Still, the best ways to guard against dozing off when tending to your spiritual to-do list  is to meditate first thing in the morning when you're well rested. Also, always meditate sitting up - never reclined or anywhere near your bed to avoid associations of slumber. Lastly, and maybe most crucially, be sure you're getting enough sleep to begin with. If stress is challenging your ability to rest soundly there are actually specific meditation techniques that can help.    

Whether you're the 80-year-old Argentinian Head of the Roman Catholic Church or a busy Canadian parent who's just hoping to sit quietly with her breath for a bit, you've officially been given divine authority to go easy on yourself should you falter and wind up having a snooze. Secular reasoning would echo that.    


Marc Beaulieu is a writer, producer and host of the live Q&A show guyQ LIVE @AskMen