I like listening to talks by Ajahn Brahm. He is a Buddhist monk who gives talks about how to live with a more peaceful mind. His talks are about anxiety, depression and other mental health focused issues. The talks are on YouTube and can be searched by his name.
There is one talk I remember in particular that had a section about insomnia and worrying at bed time. He gave an interesting technique that I would like to share with you.
At bedtime you take off your shoes. Nearly everyone removes their shoes at bedtime so this technique can be used by almost everyone.
You take off your left shoe and call that one The Past. Then you take off your right shoe and you call that one The Future. You set down each shoe and leave them on the floor, outside of the bed. Take off the left shoe and set the Past on the floor. Take off the right shoe and set the Future on the floor.
You never take your shoes to bed, so this way, you remember to leave the past and the future outside the bed. Do not take them to bed with you. They will be there in the morning.
I like this technique because if you associate it with your shoes, then you will always remember it. You can remember not to take the pain of the past, or the anxiety over the future to bed with you. Set them on the floor and they will be there tomorrow.
Not that I have been able to do this every night, but it is something to work on. It is true that your problems are not going anywhere. They will still be with you tomorrow.
Just as your shoes can wait until tomorrow for you to put pick them back up again, so can the past and the future.
There is nothing that you can do to change the past, recover from past trauma, or to ensure the future, while you are trying to get rest. Those things just keep you awake. If you could actually just take them off, as easily as your shoes, then you could relax and get to sleep.
Insomnia is caused by worrying about the past and the future.Memories of the past torment you. There are things that should have been …..and things that should not have been….
The future is an unknown and your mind tends to experience obsessive thoughts about what is going to happen in the future. We have fears of certain things happening.
Sometimes we do not easily identify our thoughts as being past oriented. We think of the past as something that happened years ago. But in reality, anything that happened prior to this moment is in the past. Things that happened at work today and the conversation we just had an hour ago, is in the past.
I am sure it would take a high level of mindfulness (perhaps enlightenment) to be able to remove the most recent thoughts from our heads, but it is fascinating to me that some people can do that. Perhaps we could simply allow those thoughts to occur but not feed into them.
I spend hours each night feeling bad about things in the recent past. Then I spend precious sleep time worrying about what events are going to trigger me into post traumatic stress tomorrow.
I am so fearful of being in mental trauma that I fear the triggers of the next day. It is like impending doom. Tonight I am fearful of taking my daughter to therapy tomorrow. I do not like going to therapist offices. I do not like the video camera filming me when I get called in to discuss how I feel about her progress or lack thereof.
The entire situation surrounding her having to go there, is traumatizing to me. Every time I have to go to the office, I a forced to relive trauma . So every week, the night before the appointment, I lay in bed and picture how they will traumatize me in the office tomorrow.
But the truth is that the lack of sleep makes it worse. The more sleep deprived I am tomorrow, the worse the trauma will be. There is nothing productive I can do tonight other than to sleep.
So tonight I will try to take off my shoes and leave them beside the bed, on the floor. The left shoe is my past trauma and the right shoe is tomorrow’s post traumatic stress. Neither one of them belongs in the bed with me tonight.
The theory of mindfulness says that we should care for our thoughts. Even if we cannot dismiss them as easily as taking off our shoes, then we can at least be kind to them. Our thoughts and feelings do not require judgement from us. They are just our thoughts. it is what our mind is choosing to do.
We can be kind to our thoughts by allowing them to exist without judging them or shaming them. If we just let them exist as they are, then maybe we can not attach so much energy to them. The less energy we give them, the less powerful they will become.
If we can lesson the severity and the energy of the thoughts of the past and the future, at bed time, then it is a good step. It may be easier for us to sleep, than if we fight with our own thoughts like they are our enemy. If they are part of us then so be it.
Let them exist and then let them rest until tomorrow. We must get sleep for the sake of our mental and physical health. Perhaps bedtime is the time to focus on our spiritual strength, rather than our mental weaknesses.
I have been pondering these things and cannot do them any better than you can, but I would like to learn. The more we consider mind / body / spiritual connection, in my opinion, the more accepting of ourselves we can become.