First a confession, then a tried and proven method to get back to sleep after being woken up.
Let’s face it: we all mess up now and then. I know I do.
Just one example. If you wake me up in the middle of the night, chances are you’ll meet Mr Hyde. Do it 3 times and I nearly self-combust. My kids will tell you. That’s probably part of the fun for them.
Perhaps you wouldn’t expect this from a guy who sits in meditation for an hour a day since 2009, who writes about slowing down and says his core value is peace?
Apparently ideals and reality are two different things.
Luckily Mr Hyde stays out of the picture most of the time. More than ever really. And I do find meditation plays a big part in this, not as a quick fix (do those even exist?) but by showing me time and again that I’m not in control and I shouldn’t take life personally. It’s slowly sinking in.
Get back to sleep
After getting my kids back to bed, they’ll be in dreamland after a couple of minutes. But I don’t get there so fast. My thoughts won’t let me get back to sleep. They run in circles about how things should be different, how I should have handled the situation better, what I’m going to do next time, judging myself for not being able to let go, blah blah blah … Until I rediscover the truth: thinking is fatal. It only keeps me awake and tenses up my body.
So here is what to do:
1. Tense up and relax
Laying on your back, deliberately tense up all muscles, from the feet up to the face (grimacing). Hold all this tension for couple of breaths. Make sure it’s not too intense (or you’ll risk a cramp) or too soft (defeating the purpose). On an out-breath, relax from head to toes, notice how different everything feels, including the breath. Feel the afterglow of the released tension now the body is at ease. Enjoy. Do this tensing and relaxing 3 times.
2. Do a body scan
Focus on one part of your body at a time. Think “left foot” and then notice what you feel there for a couple of seconds. Then think “big toe”, notice what you feel there, then “2nd toe”, “3rd toe” (Can you locate that one? Really?) and so on, until you’ve scanned the entire body, bottom to top, left to right, or whatever order makes sense to you.
3. Count exhales
Usually I won’t make it past the body scan. I’ll be drifting off before I reach my shoulder. But sometimes a 3rd step is needed: counting exhales.
Notice the breath, count 1 on the next inhale, then 2 on the exhale, 3 on the inhale … up to 10. When you get there, go back to 1. If you lose track, go back to 1.
Remember: thinking is fatal. Sweet dreams!