A Different Solution to Insomnia
“I really must try to get some sleep tonight”. How many times have we been haunted by this thought? So often the dread of something is far worse than the thing itself. This anticipation projects our thoughts towards an imaginary future that may never happen, or that may turn out to be completely different. Worrying about sleeplessness, and about how we’ll feel the next day, uses up far more energy than simply accepting it; relaxing and focusing on letting go.
Whenever we lack sleep and feel fragile; whenever we feel vulnerable and over stretched, we try to control our lives by mapping out our future. In attempting to “sort things out”, we can fall prey to obsessive “planning” in the small hours of the morning – a time when we can’t do anything and when realities are often distorted. We may also resort to running post mortems – the awful “if only I had ….”
When we obsess about what we could or should have done, we burn up lots of energy, adding fuel to our wakefulness.
One Simple Technique for Sleep
If we just stop trying – stop yearning for sleep, stop resisting wakefulness and especially stop making it wrong, we can then relax into much needed rest. We can’t make ourselves sleep, but we can focus on just relaxing. An excellent way to do this is to lie on your back and place your hands on your stomach; then focus your mind on taking relaxed natural breaths by feeling the rising and falling of the stomach in time with your breathing. The stomach rises with the in breath and falls with the out breath. Combine this with listening to the peaceful, almost inaudible sound of your breathing.
I’ve recently heard about a wonderful breathing technique that appears to go against all the advice there is out there about oxygenating the body. This is called “Buteyko Breathing”. The function of our respiratory system is not just to push air in and out but to maintain a very specific ratio of oxygen to carbon dioxide. This very simple technique involves exhaling and holding the breath out for as long as is comfortable. Simply repeat this over and over – gently holding the breath out (it’s very important not to have any strain whatsoever). Check out Buteyko Breathing on the web to get more detailed information about this.
This is a wonderful way of slowing down the busy, frantic thoughts and bringing awareness deeper into the body. In this way every time tensions and fears try to creep back, we can keep returning to this simple exercise; bringing awareness right here into the present moment rather than journeying off into the future or the past in our thoughts.
Of course this is easier said than done, because every time we become lost in “what if ….” thoughts, we need persistently to bring our attention back to what is right now. But practice really does pay off and, let‘s face it; lying awake for hours provides us with lots and lots of time. However gaining a gradual mastery over this process of present moment awareness, can with practice, not only completely dissolve the underlying fear of insomnia, but will serve us in countless other ways also – see my article on Present Moment Awareness.
Many teachers describe this process in a profoundly inspiring way.
“Being present to what is now” is beautifully explained in Eckhart Tolle‘s teachings – especially his wonderful book “The Power of Now“. The healing techniques of Stephen Levine are also very inspiring as described in his book “Healing into Life and Death“.
Carl Jung once said “Whatever is the area of your greatest trauma, can become the area of your greatest initiation”. In being willing to keep on traveling down this long dark tunnel, we can find profound light and healing at the end of it. It can then become our greatest initiation. Life force energy is a universal principal that enables embryos to turn into babies, seeds to blossom into trees and flowers, and galaxies to revolve around one another. This same life force, is present within the cells of our own bodies! When we create present moment awareness by stilling our thoughts, we empower this blessed intelligence to activate within us with no resistance. By consciously receiving life force energy in this way, we receive the rich and wonderful benefits that are our birthright.