The following Question and Answer was included in the September Study Group Reading. Feel free to comment with your own experiences and/or solutions to sleeplessness. (Read my Haiku at the end.)
QUESTION: “Difficulty with sleep, or insomnia, appears to be a common problem in our culture. Either people have trouble falling asleep, or, they wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep. Many rely on prescription medications or alcohol to help, and they are afraid to give up those things for fear that they won’t sleep. Many have tried the quiet darkened room approach, and other techniques, but when they fail, what is there to do? It’s clear that the explanation for this disruptive problem differs from person to person. I’m wondering what you can tell us about insomnia, its impact on our lives if we struggle with it-for example, not reaching the stage of ‘delta sleep,’ which is said to have important restorative properties. What can we look to as the best possible solution for the problem?”
THE GUIDES: When you have a thorn in your foot, then the explanation for pain in the foot is quite clear and you remove the thorn. When you have the challenge in releasing into sleep, there are invisible thorns-invisible causes that you usually cannot recognize clearly as the cause for sleeplessness, unless it is perhaps an over-infusion of strong substances that keep you awake, or unusual worry that clearly is the cause of sleeplessness.
For most of you who struggle with this challenge, the primary cause is a fear of badness of some type that you have been carrying along through the day, or through many days, or even through a lifetime. Some of it can even be fears from past lifetimes of earth. Some of it can be upset in the physiology. There are many different causes for the inability to release, self-confidently, trustingly, securely, into the sleep period to attain the normal sleep-many causes that would prevent that release from occurring.
So, the simplest way for all ones to think is: The thorn in the foot-the primary cause of sleeplessness-can be thought about as fear. Fear means anxiety, worry, anticipation of negativity, many different negative thoughts and feelings.
The primary method for healing this is: Before sleeping, you need to consciously acknowledge all that would be your fears of any types-recent, past, future, whatever is a negative sense of pressure, concern, worry, fussing, fretting. For five moments before sleep, you acknowledge the situation of being filled with many fears.
Then, you would gently think, “I am not my fears. I can detach from them. I can ignore them. Even if, as I turn my attention away from them they continue to pound upon my window of attention, I will keep ignoring them.”
Next, if you have had what you would call “chronic” sleeplessness, naturally you have developed a fear that sleeplessness will somehow bring a badness into your life. You have a fear that you will not receive the most benefit from the sleep period; or the fear that sleeplessness will cause you illness, or mental instability. You have a fear of sleeplessness itself.
Then, you would say, “I now experience these fears of sleeplessness. I notice them. I think about them for a few moments. Then, I turn my attention away from them. And, even if they continue to beat upon my window of attention, I continue to practice ignoring them.”
Then, you would decide, “What do I turn my attention to in order to create such a feeling of goodness, trust, safety, and love that I become the innocent child who fears nothing and who can gently slip into the sleep period.?”
Now, this is not easy for most humans, but, it is what is necessary to learn in order to gradually release the challenge of sleeplessness. Thus, it needs to be practiced again and again.
When you notice that this does not immediately send you into sleep, then acknowledge the troubling feeling about that, a feeling that might say, “Nothing will help. I will always have this challenge. It will ruin me. It will bring badness to my life.” Take a few moments to turn your attention to those fears. Acknowledge them as fears, not truths.
Then, turn your attention away from those fears, even if they continue to beat upon the window of your attention. Practice again turning your attention to whatever helps you feel safe, secure, innocent, childlike, relaxed.
There are many different kinds of positive feelings that automatically open the door of sleep. It might be that you turn your attention toward the Divine Love that is pouring into you from your soul and from other souls who love you. You might turn your attention toward a memory of great goodness that you have known in this lifetime.
This kind of practice develops the trust that is needed to counter the mistrust, which is the fear that has accumulated as tension-or “hyper-activity, or other words that you could use-that so captures the attention of your human self to the extent that your vigorous thinking, feeling, and fearing sends signals to the brain and the nervous system saying that there is a threat, that there is something to do about that. There is such pressure that the body cannot cooperate in initiating the physiological release and relaxation that needs to go along with the thoughts and feelings of release and relaxation in order to enter into the normal, healthy, rejuvenative sleeping period.
Then, beyond this, as you work with these areas and you still have some sleeplessness, you can remind yourself that you are a child of God living in a body that has such resources and vitality that it will not be damaged by sleeplessness. You will perhaps have periods of relaxation during the day that will compensate. So, most of you will not have health challenges from protracted sleeplessness if you take this particular attitude.
From Susan: The Guides’ answer inspired me to write a Haiku that reflects how I feel about insomnia (Haiku-an rhymed verse form of Japanese origin having three lines containing usually five, seven, and five syllables respectively):
Eyes shut, mind open
Invisible thorns stalking
My restless eyelids