Yesterday a lady, an esoteric practitioner told me a story about a client who hadn’t been able to sleep for several nights after one session with her. As if some part of the person had become awake and didn’t want to fall asleep again. It felt like a horror story to me.
How can one function without sleep?
In my case, barely and with lots of coffee and carbs.
Her words had resonance in me. I carried my own magazine of sob-stories of attempts to mix standard ideas of sleep with the rollercoaster of spiritual awakening. I too have lost sleep whenever something big shifted in my life. Woke up at 3 am for no clear reason with not being able to fall sleep again. Or went to bed like a good girl at 10 pm, but kept being chased by my thoughts until that many-times-cursed hour of 3 again when exhaustion finally swiped me off to peace.
Naturally, all my trashing and turning was usually accompanied by the foreboding doom of what will await me when the new day dawns. Responsibilities, appointments, to-do lists.
As the woman finished the story of her client, I had a flash of insight.
‘We need to learn to sleep differently,’ I said. ‘Sleep is important. We’re not doing it right.’
‘Oh tell us how!’ The woman exclaimed, but I shook my head, surprised at my own words.
‘I don’t know how,’ I replied. ‘Not yet. But I’ll figure it out.’
I’ll figure it out. What did I just promise? I wondered at that while walking home through the falling snow. I thought about sleep and how might one change it.
There is so much we ‘know’ about the right way to sleep. Lose consciousness for 8 hours in the darkness. Make sure to keep your feet warm. Pick a bedmate who does not snore.
Out of all things that we need to do for our bodies to survive on this planet, sleep is one that’s hard to control. Sleep has to happen for us to function, but it can only happen if we feel safe enough or tired enough to no longer care. Sleep is the ultimate surrender to the dark unknown. We have to let go and cross our fingers and warm toes that we wake up again in the morning for our daytime adventures or daily grind.
Is it any wonder that, if we’re stressed out in a fight-or-flight mode, we find it hard to fall asleep? To surrender and let go? When we war inside ourselves or hold negotiations between parts of our psyche, do we feel safe enough?
All kinds of spiritual awakenings and growth processes are kind of negotiations too. How much room is our old identity going to grant to the fresh perspectives that want to become alive in us?
As I arrived home and brushed off the snow, I began preparing myself for bed. This time noticing what I was doing in the process. It felt so automatic. Turn on the heating, brush teeth, wash face, get a glass of water. Go through the motions, prepare to surrender like a good girl.
Wait, I thought to myself as I turned off the lights in the house. There has to be a new way to sleep. If there is, can I do it now?
I took a breath and turned inwards-outwards to the powers-that-be. This is how I call the beings or guides or whoever there is that sometimes help me learn things that no-one taught me in school. Things like what fear is for and how real love works. And now, how to sleep.
After a moment of acknowledgement of the question, which came to me as a feeling of joyousness, the first answer brushed into my head. ‘Sleep with love, Helen.’
The message was accompanied with images from my own childhood. An anxious mother telling me to go to bed because I have to wake up early next morning and she was afraid I wouldn’t get enough sleep. And my own fear that I might not fall asleep fast enough and have to stay awake alone in the darkness waiting for the dreams to come.
Almost instantly I realised that going to sleep had been a source of fear for me, a scary thing. A surrender into nothingness with a timer that was perpetually set to ‘too soon.’
Throughout my life, I have dearly loved to sleep in, but had rarely gone to sleep with love.
‘How does it work?’ I asked the powers-that-be. ‘How do I sleep with love?’
First, my knees went soft and I had to ease myself to the floor next to my bed, kneeling. My spine straightened and my chest got warm. I got a sensation of soft gratitude moving through me towards all I had touched and experienced throughout the day. It was a cleansing experience, a release of sorts. The day was done and I had lived it, filled it with moments and meetings. Hot coffee, nice food and hugs.
I wondered at the images of children praying at their bedsides for a better life. What I did felt like a prayer too, but not the kind that asked for something. It was one that appreciated everything. My body filled to the brim with loving gratitude and at one point I felt done. My day was done. I got up and climbed under my large double-thick blanket. It’s still winter in Estonia and I like to keep my feet warm.
‘Feel love for yourself,’ the powers-that-be whispered in my mind. ’Breathe in love, breathe out love. That is all.’
Now I might say I placed a hand on my heart, but it wouldn’t be accurate. It was more like my hand had always belonged to my heart and it simply took its rightful place. My belly relaxed and I felt it move with the breath of love. Sleep with love indeed.
I don’t remember when I let go of the conscious breath, but I woke up at 3 am and was still giddily in love in my body. I smiled at the ceiling, got up and walked around the quiet house, doing some semi-random chores before returning to bed.
All this time I was marvelling at the difference this little practise made. Usually when anything wakes me up at 3 am, I greet myself with mild shock, worry and confusion. Like something must have gone terribly wrong with ‘how things are supposed to be’. Last night was the first night in my life when nothing was wrong with sleeping or not sleeping. Quite the opposite.
When I opened my eyes to the morning winter sun, I couldn’t say it was the absolute best rest I’ve ever had (it was my first time), but I felt complete and deeply loved. What else could a woman want?
If you read this, give it a try, I dare you. Sleep with love. Offer gratitude for the day you have experienced. Connect with the love you carry inside with your own body and breath. Sleep with love. Wake with love.
If we switch this part of our daily being from fear-of-failure to love-of-this, what else could change in our lives?
I don’t know yet. I’m curious to find out.