Struggling to Sleep

1386 Relax and Succeed - It is our thinking that creates our resistance to sleep

When I first begin working with people to help them realize how flexible reality can be by merely changing our perspective, people routinely suggest that changing their consciousness is a difficult thing. But how can that be true when both children and adults do it every night, (without even noticing), when we fall asleep?

Insomnia is wanting to sleep. Wants are desires, and as the Buddha noted, desires are at the route of all suffering. Wanting is pretty consistently unpleasant to whichever degree we want. Yet the act of falling asleep is ultimately so easy that none of us can even remember doing it, or how we did it.

Sleep is not an achievement created by succeeding in fulfilling our wants; it’s more like falling into a hole created by the silence of our psyche –by the ‘ceasing of wanting.’

Thoughts create our reality. If we say to ourselves, “I want to fall asleep,” we are creating a reality in which we are separate from sleep. Our sheer desire is what moves us out of a state of sleep and into a state of wanting.

If we were what we want to be, then the want would not exist. Therefore, if the want exists, then we have used our thoughts to create distance between us and what we want: the state of sleep.

Our desires are literally the barrier to us becoming sleep. This makes ‘wanting to sleep’ into a bizarre irony. Babies do not want to sleep. Children do not want to go to bed, as every parent knows. And yet babies and children alike all, without exception, eventually fall asleep. Can we see why it is called ‘falling?’

Babies surrender the unpleasantness of being awake and uncomfortable for the gentle peace of sleep. Youngsters eventually lose their footing on their desires to stay up and have more experiences and, as their mind loses the momentum created by those desires, they naturally and inevitably slip down into a state of sleep. And indeed, adults can learn to surrender the state of their adult thoughts and do likewise. We cannot be in two states at once.

To find sleep or any other state, we must disengage with the idea that it is something difficult to achieve. We must surrender our idea that we and it are separated when we go there every night.

We will achieve sleep with less difficulty and in less time if we make it familiar, if we return it to what it is –an entirely natural state demanded by our physical selves. All else is resistance.

Rather than chase sleep, embrace it. Rather than want it, we are better to lose our mental grip on everything that is not it, and in doing so we will flow toward it like water coursing toward ever-lower ground.

Sleep is a state our minds enjoy, so rather than see it in the distance like some much-need oasis; as some aching desire, we should instead approach it more as we would a holiday; with joy and appreciation.

If we want to practice the act of using our consciousness wisely, insomnia is like a gift. It will present us with the unpleasantness of our inaction as a motivation. So let us not waste that opportunity. We can use it each evening to search for the state of sleep.

We can surrender idea after idea of what our nighttime thoughts should be. And we should do so until such time as we simply run out of the desire to find sleep. For once we have exhausted all of our wants, sleep will flow toward us by nature. That is ultimately what happens anyway. We may as well make it conscious and enact it sooner, because that control of our consciousness is a skill that will also pay off when we’re awake.

peace. s

MoK: Tender Mercies

Dear Readers,

May this find you well. I have a strange entry for today’s March of Kindness assignment. Today we will unexpectedly focus on kindness toward ourselves. Valuing ourselves is a form of self-respect and it is distinct from the unhealthy selfishness that causes us to feel guilty, or that requires us to distract ourselves from facing our relevant responsibilities.

For the first time in the many years that I’ve have blogged here and elsewhere, I simply cannot create the time or the very specific meditative headspace I require to write the sort of blog post I feel you all deserve. The needs of my family and friends have been tremendous over the last many weeks and there comes a time when we must face that if we have almost no time to even sleep or eat, then those things must take priority lest we risk the health of the body our consciousness resides in.

This being the case, let’s alter today’s planned March of Kindness post into this: find the area of your life where you personally are overwhelmed and surrender. If the only overwhelming thing you truly have in your life is your own anxious thoughts, then slow those down and open your awareness and then reach out to someone who is truly overwhelmed. Either way, the world is made better.

Kindness toward yourself or kindness toward another, it’s all kindness and it’s worthwhile. I’d like to thank you for your kindness in understanding my situation, and I wish you every good-fortune with your own self-kindness today.

Regards, s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Decision Fatigue

You sense it’s happening to you more and more; a worn-out, bad-decision, I’m exhausted and don’t care attitude that increasingly invades your day and often leaves you collapsed and feeling unproductive at night. This in turn leaves you feeling guilty the next day that didn’t get enough done even though you got a lot done.

1021-relax-and-succeed-good-people-sometimes-make-bad-decisionsI remember experiencing decision-exhaustion from being both a writer and as a film and television executive. All day long you make decisions and they are fundamentally what you’re paid for, so to get too many of them wrong means to wrong yourself right out of your mortgage payment. That helped make each choice feel bigger and therefore more taxing, and because there were a lot of them all day, by the time I got home I was worn out in a way that left me more tired than any physical job I’d ever had.

If my wife or girlfriend wanted me to pick a restaurant for dinner on a decision-filled day we would argue because she really couldn’t relate to how intense my avoidance of another decision was. I told her I was burned out, which to say that deciding is an action and it takes energy and I had put too much energy through the decisions circuits already and they were now worn down to the point of no longer being precise channels but more like general directions.

A common example of this is that in many tests a poorer person will actually be better at financial decision-making than a wealthier person because their decisions are often around a budget with no room for error. That means you have to make real calculations and decisions even just to buy a quick lunch if you’re late, whereas a wealthier person is just hungry and they only make the decision of where to stop and what to have. By the end of an average day the poorer person has made so many more critical choices that they get worn out and they start giving big, broad answers that are more likely to be easy rather than helpful.

1021-relax-and-succeed-if-you-want-to-have-more-creative-flowYou likely know this feeling too: you’ve spent all day trying to stay on your diet and eat all the right foods, you got all of your work done and you figured out how to manage the kids, but by the time the day’s done you’re exhausted and end up blowing everything you saved all day by stopping on the way home at some fast food place, or by wasting money buying junk at the grocery store which ruins your diet and it’s all just so defeating. But take heart; it’s not just you being defeated, it’s all of us. (That entire link is definitely worth the read.)

What’s important to note is that the decisions that were wearing me out were primarily taken in the 80’s, 90’s and 2000’s, prior to the smartphone. By then I had accepted that the brain was just like any part of your body and that it would become increasingly less efficient the more it was used. When smartphones came out I saw two unhealthy things: the diversion of my attention away from the present moment and the constant connectivity, which I did not feel would be healthy long term because it would also mean that there would soon be many more ways to reach me.

This is why I still just use a flip phone; I avoid thinking about all of the decisions that the phone has added to your day. Not just which platforms should you join, but all the notifications and privacy set-ups, the decision to answer a call or text or not, then the decision of what to answer, then a chime telling you to do this or a warning telling you not to do that. Calendars, emails, voicemails, instant messengers, check-ins and measurements of every kind. And that leaves out all of the stuff your computer at work has added.

1021-relax-and-succeed-respect-yourself-enough-to-walk-awayAll day long you’re bombarded with choice. Stores even sell it like it’ll make you feel good when science shows it’s the route to feeling bad. Decisions are taxes to your mind. It’s why tons of top-level business executives and entrepreneurs wish they could go be a barista in a coffee shop–what they’re pining for is fewer decisions. The customer just tells you what they want and you make it. No choices. Simple. Ahhh.

Many decisions in the modern world cannot be avoided but many can. Look at your life and ask which parts of your life require the most decision-making and then value your loss of mental peace almost like money. Do you really want to spend all of your energies where they’ve been going? For most people the answer is no, they just never take the time to reassess. Do that today.

Simplification is not you failing, nor are you becoming irrelevant or even less capable. In fact you’ll be increasing the strength of the quality of your choices if you make fewer every day. The science is very clear: busy-ness and choice are the enemies of peace. The only thing left for you to do is to become more conscious of all of your daily choices and then only make the ones that actually improve your life and stop making the ones that don’t.

Here’s a peaceful, stressless day for all of us.

peace. s

PS This piece is a companion to the post, Real Peace Is Not What You Think.

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.