An attention exercise on the theme of rest barely disguised as a poem.
It's not the lost lover that brings us to ruin, or the barroom brawl,
or the con game gone bad, or the beating
Taken in the alleyway. But the lost car keys,
The broken shoelace,
The overcharge at the gas pump
Which we broach without comment — these are the things that
eat away at life, these constant vibrations
In the web of the unremarkable.
The death of a father — the death of the mother —
The sudden loss shocks the living flesh alive! But the broken
pair of glasses,
The tear in the trousers,
These begin an ache behind the eyes.
And it's this ache to which we will ourselves
Oblivious. We are oblivious. Then, one morning—there's a
crack in the water glass —we wake to find ourselves undone.
Excerpt from "Help for Insomnia: Yet Another use for Mindfulness," by Shinzen Young, August, 8, 2013:
Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep is a very common complaint. Mindfulness can help but one must first radically revision the nature of the problem.
People tend to get into a negative feedback loop with insomnia: Not getting to sleep leads to worry, leads to further difficulty sleeping, leads to more worry, leads to...
What to do?
One possibility is to start thinking about the night in a different way. This is a conceptual reframing, a profoundly different paradigm regarding the issue of sleep.
The normal paradigm is:
"I have to get a good night's sleep or I'll be a mess tomorrow."
The new paradigm is:
"If I get a good night's rest, I'll be fine tomorrow."
Amazingly, it's possible to get a good night's rest without necessarily sleeping much or at all.
How many nights have I lain here like this, feverish with plans,
with fears, with the last sentence someone spoke, still trying to finish
a conversation already over? How many nights were wasted
in not sleeping, how many in sleep — I don’t know
how many hungers there are, how much radiance or salt, how many times
the world breaks apart, disintegrates to nothing and starts up again
in the course of an ordinary hour. I don’t know how God can bear
seeing everything at once: the falling bodies, the monuments and burnings,
the lovers pacing the floors of how many locked hearts. I want to close
my eyes and find a quiet field in fog, a few sheep moving toward a fence.
I want to count them, I want them to end. I don’t want to wonder
how many people are sitting in restaurants about to close down,
which of them will wander the sidewalks all night
while the pies revolve in the refrigerated dark. How many days
are left of my life, how much does it matter if I manage to say
one true thing about it—how often have I tried, how often
failed and fallen into depression? The field is wet, each grassblade
gleaming with its own particularity, even here, so that I can’t help
asking again, the white sky filling with footprints, bricks,
with mutterings over rosaries, with hands that pass over flames
before covering the eyes. I’m tired, I want to rest now.
I want to kiss the body of my lover, the one mouth, the simple name
without a shadow. Let me go. How many prayers
are there tonight, how many of us must stay awake and listen?
"For me, the main thing that I found after my three-year quest was meditation. Meditation was a real major revelation for me, not only for my life but for my sleep. It really helped calm me down. So I think if you can do any type of relaxation exercises, if you can practice breathing, I think that if you can do it, it's far more beneficial than going the pharmaceutical route.”
Photo by Donna Forgey used with permission.
Not sheep coming down the hills,
not cracks on the ceiling—
count the ones you loved,
the former tenants of dreams
who would keep you awake,
once meant the world to you,
rocked you in their arms,
those who loved you . . .
You will fall asleep, by dawn, in tears.
“The only thing I hope for is that, regardless of what the outward world is for different people, different nations, I hope their internal world is similar. And if I, hopefully, have managed to somehow describe my inner world in this book, all I count on is that it will have some resonance among the American readers, or, at the very least, the American readers will treat this book as a kind of a guidebook for my inner world, strange as it may appear.”
~ Vera Pavlova
In sleep we leave behind the sensory stimulation of the outside world. A part of the brain called the thalamus, involved in the regulation of sleeping and waking, plays a crucial role in shutting out somatosensory stimuli and allowing the cortex to enter sleep.
One theory offered to explain hypnogogic hallucinations is that the thalamus deactivates before the cortex in human beings, so the still active cortex manufactures images, but this is just a hypothesis.
What is clear is that going to sleep involves making a psychobiological transition. Anxiety, guilt, excitement, a racing bedtime imagination, fear of dying, pain or illness can keep us from toppling into the arms of Morpheus. Depression often involves sleep disturbances, especially waking up early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep. Weirdly enough, keeping a depressed patient awake for a couple of nights in the hospital can alleviate his symptoms temporarily. They return as soon as he begins to sleep normally again.