A Case of Sleep Paralysis

3 Aug

I was thinking to tell another ghost story really but I realize that the rest of my stories of that of sleep paralysis that some say that it is a medical condition. I remember the first time I experience sleep paralysis was back in my old house in Taman Mayang, where it was a single storey house. I woke up in the middle of the night and immediately, I could hear buzzing sound and I could not move despite my struggles. However, I could open my eyes and somehow, my gaze fell on an empty chair that faced my bed. There was nothing in the chair but the fact that it was facing me creeped me out. I struggled and struggled till I was free of the paralysis. I was around 10 years old.

I didn’t even know what to call the experience and never told anyone. I would not experience sleep paralysis again till I was in my 20s. For some reason, around the time when I first met Tsem Rinpoche, the ‘spirit’ of sleep paralysis was reawakened and this time it came back with a vengeance. It happened so frequently that I  begin to notice differences in the way the spirit attacked. It was always just when I was drifting off into deep sleep and somehow that transition seemed to be a window in which it attacked me.

Many cases of people experiencing sleep paralysis see a tall dark figure above them and within the room. However, I did not see this man in my case.

Also, the buzzing sound that accompanies each paralysis was different. Most of the time, it sounded like a buzzing sound and there was once, it sounded like growling  pack of dogs. Most of the time, I felt nothing aside from the paralysis but there was once of twice, I felt phantom hands pinning me down. I usually do not see anything before me during my paralysis except on one occasion. I had returned home from work early and it was around 3pm in the afternoon when I decided to take a nap. As I drifted off to sleep, paralysis gripped me and I opened my eyes widely. I was lying on the sofa in the living room and it was still bright. I cannot believe I was being attacked in broad daylight! As I struggled to be free, I saw a faint outline of a human face began to appear! Unfortunately, I could not make out the face properly. When I broke free, the face disappeared.

At the height of it, I was getting 2-3 attacks a night. As I got to know Rinpoche, I finally revealed to Rinpoche my problem and he gave me a simple solution. Recite the mantra of White Umbrella (Sitatapatra) daily and in time, the attacks would initially get worse and then stop. Now, medically it is said that sleep paralysis is due to sleep deprivation, psychological stress, or abnormal sleep cycles. The underlying mechanism is believed to involve a dysfunction in REM sleep. In other words, the body wakes up before the mind does. Furthermore, the experience of an attacking spirit is considered a hallucination due to disfunction of brain activity during the period of paralysis.  Medically, there is no medically proven solution except regulating one’s sleeping habits. The doctors shrug it off as something mild and harmless.Somehow, I feel the medical explanation of sleep paralysis does not hold water for me simply because of what I experienced. I am glad in this case, Buddhism has something to offer as it recognizes it to be brought on by an interfering spirit and tapping into the protective energies of a Buddha can shield one from such problems.

White Umbrella mantra – OM SITA TAPA TREY HUM PHET  (If you are having this problem, recite 3 malas or more daily)


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