I’m curious to hear the experiences of jhana meditators on this, whether your personal experience or what you’ve observed of jhana meditators you know.
Historically, Chan/zen monks have used green tea for caffeine to good effect to counter sloth and torpor in meditation.
I’ve gone the caffeine-less route all these years, but at times have wondered if I was missing out on benefits.
Here are my reasons:
There are enough addictions, I don’t need another. Not just a mental addiction, but a physical addiction with withdrawal symptoms like strong headaches, jittery, shaking, etc.
coffee kept me awake when I did experiment with it, mostly as a college student staying up late to study. While it did keep me awake, my mind was only operating at less than 70% of its capability, sometimes less than 50%, and it physically felt uncomfortable to horrible. Like when parts of your body are cold and parts are hot. The hot and cold don’t balance out, you feel the problems of both afflictions. So a high dosage of caffeine makes me super energized and alert, but mind can’t think straight, or as straight as I’m used to when having adequate sleep.
Now for jhana meditation, it’s much more like the hot and cold thing I’m talking about. It’s like part of you is super hyped up and alert, prone to restlessness, and the other part is not sleepy, but feeling fatigued and broken.
So most of the times I experiented with coffee and meditation (not too many times actually), it never got the desired benefit. It did keep me awake, but it didn’t get me any closer to jhana, just farther away from it in fact. It’s like it makes you more prone to restlessness, but the sloth and torpor is just replaced with a feeling of discomfort. And then payback is a problem. You get super hyped up from caffeine, but when it wears off, the crash is exhausting and painful. So the highs are higher, and the lows are lower, I didn’t see this contributing to a sustainable long term practice.
I know in buddhist circles, people swear by coffee and caffeine, calling it the eighth factor of enlightenment, etc. But I have grave doubts about that. I suspect people who do high dosage regularly only have the illusion of gaining energy, but probably are just borrowing against your lifespan and quality of health in the later years of your life.
My natural caffeine-less solution involves switching to standing meditation, walking meditation (brisk pace to bring up heartrate), or even a relaxed jog for 10-15 min. If I’m still sleepy after that, I sleep. Or at least set an alarm to take a 15 min. nap.