Last time I was really struggling to get to sleep, I felt like I’d tried everything: I’d gone to bed at a decent time, followed my usual routine to tell my body that it should get ready for shut down, not looked at my phone before bed… but I was wide awake. I did a forty minute meditation in bed, and was felt no closer to the land of nod by the end of it.
One thing to look at in this situation, is what is your mind doing. Is it chewing over something incessantly? Is it trying to make sure you remember all the things you need to do tomorrow? Would it be helpful to write some things down?
In my case there didn’t seem to be many troublesome thoughts. So what was going on?
I realized that I was feeling tense in my belly area, so I thought I’d try to listen to what this sensation wanted to tell me.
I gave it a voice. I said “I am the tension in Andy’s belly, and I am…” And almost immediately, it became clear. “…I am fear about Andy’s relationship. I fear he will change how he feels. I fear she will change how she feels. I fear hurting her. I fear it’s all going to go wrong.”
Most of us when we feel uncomfortable sensations in our body and messages that we don’t want to hear, we try to suppress or get rid of them. The mindful approach, however, is to welcome whatever comes, so I said to this feeling inside me, “I know you’re trying to protect me and her. I hear you. Thank you.” Fear doesn’t want people to get hurt, you see.
I then decided to hear from the opposite perspective, ‘Andy’s love for this girlfriend’.
“As Andy’s love for his girlfriend, I know this relationship feels right, it feels great in fact. I know that doubts and fears are all part of the experience. I feel good about the future with her.”
And with that, I almost immediately conked out.
I had listened to and accepted the different parts of myself that wanted to be heard, and that meant I could be at peace.
Tension resulting from fear can get in the way not only of sleeping, but of your libido, of concentration at work, of connection with another person and generally of being able to enjoy yourself. To release the tension, you have to listen to it.
Your mind is very much as it is depicted in the Pixar film Inside Out, in which Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness all jostle for the controls inside the little girls head. None of them are bad or good, they all serve different roles in the common purpose of serving the whole.
So remember that all the feelings you experience are there to serve you. Instead of ignoring or fighting them, see what they’re trying to tell you. Personifying the feeling and giving it a voice can really help.
Speak it out loud or write it down, and listen to what it has to say with kindness and openness, just as you would a good friend.
It is a practice for befriending yourself. Of making peace with yourself. And it will improve your ability to relate to others too.
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