July 16, 2015

How to Make the Most of the Time When we Can’t Sleep.

lillie kate/Flickr

“Without giving up hope that there’s somewhere better to be, that there’s someone better to be, we will never relax with where we are or who we are.” ~ Pema Chödrön

Everyone thinks they’re too busy—too busy to meditate, too busy to squeeze in a yoga practice, too busy to just relax and come home to themselves.

But there is a time of the day, or should I say night, when no one is too busy and that is when we’re lying in bed awake all too aware that sleep is refusing to hold us in its embrace.

I have always been a bit of an insomniac. For as long as I can remember, the time at night when I was meant to be falling asleep was a time of discomfort for me because it meant being immersed in a massive amount of angst and worry and therefore it was a time to be avoided.

And the middle of the night when I woke up and couldn’t go back to sleep? This was a time of disaster. A time of dread where I was sure by not sleeping my whole next day would be ruined and then probably the day after that as well and then of course my entire life was going to unravel and go down the drain and then what was I going to do?

My whole life was about to be destroyed all because I couldn’t sleep.

But about six years ago all  of this changed when I attended my first meditation retreat and really immersed myself in the reality of sitting in silence.

Before attending the meditation retreat this place of silence was something I purposely avoided. Just being in silence was a place of laziness and not being good enough. But at the meditation retreat we entered the silence fully with loving intention and a compassionate willingness and in that silence I discovered a richness of experience which included colors, sounds, textures, feelings and insight.

I discovered that sitting in silence is a richly rewarding and productive experience. This changed everything for me. It especially changed my relationship with sleep.

Once I learned to meditate, not being able to sleep at night shifted from time where I was consumed with thinking I should be asleep to an opportunity to meditate and connect with myself and the wealth inside the silence that was now available to me middle of the night.

So, here is what I am suggesting if you’re having trouble sleeping: the first thing to do is to drop the struggle.

At the meditation retreat I was introduced to the concept that our suffering comes from wanting things to be different then they are.

When we believe we should be asleep when we’re actually awake we’re creating our own suffering. By wanting things to be different when we can’t sleep we are missing out on experiencing the moment just as it is.

Once we drop the story that we should be asleep we can make a choice to show up with our entire selves for the actual experience we’re having. Instead of beating ourselves up for not being asleep, we can start to experience what there is to experience.

Like how does our body feel against the mattress? We don’t need to answer this question in words. Instead we just bring all of our awareness to the concrete experience of noticing our body against the bed, our head against the pillow and the coziness of the blanket wrapping our bodies.

Next we just let ourselves be in the dreamy place of the subconscious.

We live in a culture that values getting things done and knowing what is right and wrong but we all know that there are so many experiences that are outside of the doing realm of everyday life—there are dreams and visions, there are images and sound.

In the middle of the night when sleep alludes us, we can choose to just drift into this subconscious space that exists in between awake and asleep and see what it has to offer us.

This drifting is time well spent because our personal transformation is waiting for us in the relaxation. Intentional relaxation can even be better for us then sleep sometimes.

Be awake. Be relaxed. Be right where you are and show up for the entire experience.

These are amazing options available to us when we think we need to sleep but in actual fact we just need to be awake to the exact experience we’re having.


Author: Ruth Lera

Editor: Katarina Tavčar

Photo: lillie kate/Flickr


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