I can’t sleep. Pretty often. After the shift to daylight savings, my life becomes a slow torture because I can’t adjust. I sleep less than ever these days.
Mostly, I don’t fall asleep. From time to time, when I’ve very stressed, I wake up very early in the morning and can’t sleep again. Or I wake repeatedly in the night. But mainly I can’t fall asleep.
I have decided I don’t know how. I spent so many years trying to stay awake, watching the door, trying to be prepared for what might happen after the lights went out and the house went quiet that I’m good at keeping myself up.
Other people talk about their minds racing. Or turning worries over and over in their minds. I try to give myself interesting problems to work on while I lay in bed, not sleeping. I used to do math in my head, but nowadays math is a little more stressful. Math problems keep me up. They don’t put me to sleep. The thinking is just to give myself something to do while I go on not sleeping. It isn’t keeping me up.
My body is keeping me up, not my mind. I’ve tried relaxing visualizations. It doesn’t really help. I imagine lying in an island paradise, the birds calling, wind rustling, the distant sound of the sea. It’s gorgeous, but my legs still want to move. They want to stand up. My eyes want to open.
Falling asleep is physiological. Your respiration slows, your heart slows. Everything begins to slow. And then you sleep. I am thinking about island paradises while my heart goes thumping away at the usual pace. Nothing is slowing down. My mind might be relaxed, but my body isn’t.
It reminds me of when I used to meditate many years ago. I stopped doing it because all I did was fall asleep. Usually for hours. Meditation made my heart slow down, my respiration slow. Everything began to slow and I fell asleep.
I’m thinking I’ll look into Zen meditation again. Little did I know—those 25 years ago—that it was exactly what I needed. Just for something other than I wanted to use it for.
If you’re anything like me, your mind can slow down. It can come to a complete standstill. No thoughts at all. But getting the body to unclench and let go of the day’s tension is another matter entirely. Sometimes we need to start with the mind to heal, and sometimes we need to start with the body. Trauma (and other difficulties, I suppose) are not just in the mind or just in the body. They are in both.