Not Sleeping?

Mindfulness for Better Sleep

Posted May 28, 2015

Ever go to bed after a stressful day and started going over things your could have done differently during your day?  This often adds to our restlessness.  Some of us put on the television – to relax – and instead find our energy levels moving further into the anxiety zone when, instead, you want them to be calming down.  What you focus on before going to sleep can help.  Sometimes, for instance, a simple routine can turn down the tensions and send you into dreamland.

Calming, causal reading works for many and offers one possible and good first step toward dissolving tensions.  To this end, positive spiritual and/or philosophical material works well.  By spiritual I mean non-denominational although if you choose, you can certainly use denominational literature.  What’s important is that it addresses your wellbeing and nurtures your positive nature.  This is important because you feel you are doing something good for yourself, perhaps that you have strengthened your understanding of the dynamics that drive your life and this can leave you feeling more peaceful.  If you make this kind of reading part of your nightly routine, you begin to look forward to it, bringing your expectations into the loop of positivity you feel. 

There are so many genres, works and contexts to pick from, philosophical and spiritual texts can work wonders.  To find a good piece for yourself, just consider the safe and comforting feeling the piece engenders and which you feel provides inspiration for living deeper and better.

You can use mindfulness.  By relaxing your body and taking a few slow refreshing breaths, you can more easily listen to the messages of your body.  This helps you feel where tensions are welling up - your neck, shoulders, chest, abdomen, back, arms, and legs.  By slowing your breathing and saying or thinking a simple phrase like, “I am here.”  “Here is now,” you can readily stream some calming energy into your mind and body.  Each mindful breath will nurture this energy a bit more. 

If you locate where in your body you are already feeling sensations of the calmness, you can use mindful breathing to help guide some of that calm energy to those parts of your body that are affected by your tensions and help them loosen up too.  As you do this let yourself relax more deeply – your mind --- and body.

When we were in the womb we luxuriated in the safe comfort of our mother’s heartbeat and rhythmic sounds of blood whooshing through the umbilical cord. These beats are ingrained in you from the first cells that made you, you.  Slow your breathing and put your hand over your heart. By mindfully placing your attention on your own heartbeat, you can feel some of the safety and comfort of this primal musical memory and use it to help relax. 

Many traditions teach that you can relieve stress by mindfully broadening the lens of your consciousness.  Buddhist monk/Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, for example, has metaphorically likened this concept to an ocean wave realizing that it is, after all, the water.  You can also use mindfulness in this way to open up what you see as the perimeters of who you think you are and what you think your life is.   

Here is a visualization that helps you do this.  Over the years, there have been many descriptions provided across the sciences of the body being mostly empty space.  Deepak Chopra, for example, has referred to the body in several of his writings as 99.999 % empty space. 

Tapping the above details, if you visualize your body as mostly empty space, seeing the constellations of atoms aswirl and seeing everything in your environment that way – people, places, things, aglow, aswirl and intermingling, you can find in this imagery the endless ocean of empty space that extends through and beyond you and all else, joining you and everything together. This connectivity will help ease you back into a relaxed mode.  It works even when anxieties have awakened you in the middle of the night.

Creating bedtime patterns of nurturing yourself with positive philosophy and calming energy for your spirit can bring much comfort at the end of a hectic day and help get you a better night's sleep.