As I laid in bed awake, watching the hours go by, tossing and turning, I wondered what was keeping me awake, and if there was something I could do to relax and sleep. I knew there was nothing significant going on in my life that I should be loosing sleep over, so it had to be something deep, hiding in my subconscience. I thought back on my day, and remembered standing in line to purchase some clothes at a local department store, watching a woman at the check out counter. She was middle-aged, unnaturally tan, with a hair style that was overly teased, and she had a stack of no less than ten pairs of the same shorts, all in different colors. I imagined her wearing the shorts, a different color each day, secure and happy with her summer attire, carefully planned to look the same, yet refreshed each day.
I realized that I had been thinking about my new purchases as I lay in bed, planning how I would incorporate them into my wardrobe with jewelry and shoes to match, it was daunting. Was I like the woman with shorts, taking my appearance so seriously, and why was I doing it?
Next I remembered an episode of the recent remake of ‘The Odd Couple’ on TV. Perfectionist Felix was driving a car for the first time, and Oscar was in the passenger seat, coaching and encouraging him. Felix was gripping the steering wheel in a panic, and screaming as he drove down the road, while Oscar kept telling him to relax.
Could I be a Felix, screaming with panic inside as I steered my life with a death grip, unable to relax and enjoy the ride?
I then remembered words of Life Coach Martha Beck, in her book, ‘Finding Your Way In This Wild New World,’ where she explains that we come up with our best ideas when we aren’t focused on solving them. That a relaxed state of mind is the quickest and easiest was to connect with your true purpose in life, and create a life where your wildest dreams come true. Relax, she was saying, as we steer our way through life, even though we may feel like screaming as we hold on for dear life.
Could it be true, I wondered? Was it really OK to not worry about being ready for my day tomorrow? Was it OK not to worry about sleeping well and being sharp and ready for the day? I knew I had the ability to sleep, but I wondered how to let go of the pressure to sleep and relax. I asked myself what I would be like if I didn’t sleep, and I realized I would be tired, not caring so much about my outfit or appearance, not caring so much about following my routine or pleasing others, and open to new ideas and ways. Interesting.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. If we aren’t relaxed enough to sleep, the fatigue that comes the next day is nature’s way of forcing us to relax and be open to feelings and thoughts we wouldn’t have in a well-rested mind set. Our cloudy minds are open and more able to come up with solutions to the very problems that are keeping us awake. Eureka! Once I realized it was not only OK, but beneficial to be tired the next day, the pressure was released, and I was able to relax enough to actually sleep.
I realized easy it is to be like the woman in the store with the shorts, living in a society that puts a high value on fashion and appearance. We feel if we look a certain way, we are safe and in control. How scary it seems to go out in the world with little preparation, without an image to convey that makes us feel confident. How freeing it would be to prepare less, and observe more, to worry less and be as we are, however tired or imperfect that may be.
Will this work every night? I’m not sure. I may just lay awake tonight worrying about it, and that’s OK with me.
I have been going to the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center’s (MARC) website to practice mindfulness as I go to sleep. http://marc.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=107
Actually, you aren’t supposed to use it for sleep…you are supposed to learn how to let go and live in the present moment; to train your mind to relax. Anyway, it makes me fall asleep!
The meditation isn’t wooo-wooo Buddhism or anything. (I’m a Christian.) But it does take the useful aspect of what Buddhists practice and make it, well…practical.
Thanks for the link Stephanie! It looks great, and I will try it! I started taking a yoga class a year ago, and it helps with calming the mind and spirit as well. I’m all for woo-woo, and like you said, it all goes together.
I have trouble going to sleep and i can clear my mind still have trouble going to sleep.
Yes, Cheyenne, sometimes there is nothing I can do to fall asleep quickly, and I just assure myself that I will fall asleep eventually. Trying to just be calm and tell myself reassuring things seems to help me fall asleep eventually. I tell myself that the next night I know I will sleep well because I will be so tired, and that helps. I always sleep like a rock the night after one where I didn’t sleep so well.