Wednesday, March 26, 2014


So, you know I have bouts of insomnia. At one stage I was getting so little sleep that I was beginning to imagine myself as the bride of Insomnia - Queen Insomnia. My wedding dress was deep dark bloodshot red, with huge black flowers of the night on the skirt. I wore a black veil and had the most insanely gorgeous blood red stilettos. I was going to live with King Insomnia and assist in his job of poking people awake and keeping them awake, for which purpose I was given a sparkling deep red poker. I was seriously sleep deprived.

At that time I tried meditation to slow the frantic circling of words and thoughts that kept my mind active in the wee small hours of the night. Only I never thought to try it in the wee small hours of the night. I tried it when I went to bed so I could actually go to sleep (some nights I was still awake at 4am at which point it seemed a waste of time to even try to sleep). This worked - and I admit I was surprised - like a charm. I would go to bed, focus intently on my navel and start deep and rhythmic breathing (but not too deep so as not to hyperventilate - a most unpleasant feeling). This I found actually did calm me, and slowed the circling words, and loosened the tense muscles and even stopped the panic attacks which plagued me at that time also. And I was always asleep in less than five minutes. But I would usually wake at 3am and be unable to go back to sleep. And I never once thought to try the meditation at those times.

So the other night, when I realised that waking at 2.30am and not going back to sleep for the rest of the night was becoming a most unhappy pattern, I had a light bulb moment and decided to try meditation. What a trippy time I had then! When I wake at 2.30am I've had a few hours sleep so I'm not so exhausted. Meditation, I found, does not conclude with sleep in five minutes, I'm still awake. So what happened was rather different. I think that I have not exactly mastered this particular activity, or maybe it's an art.

I breathed out, slowly, focusing on my navel, and I felt my body start to relax. I breathed in, and my mind leapt into action, multiple thoughts fighting for dominance and my body tensed up again as I tried to push all the thoughts away. I breathed out, slowly, focusing again on my navel and my body started to relax. I breathed in and my mind again started spinning. I became a little frustrated - I know, only two breaths in and out, not enough time and all that but it was 2.35am and I really wanted to go back to sleep.

So I decided to try the classic Ommmmm sound but inside my head because out loud at 2.30am would have sounded really silly and pretty loud. So I did this on the out breath, but on the in breath my mind jumped into action again. So I tried the Ommmmm sound in my head again breathing in, but my mind insisted it should be Mmmmmmoo because I'm breathing in not out and it should be backwards. It made sense at the time and anyway I couldn't change how my mind insisted it should be.

So I was Ommmmmming out and Mmmmmooing in and it started to work. My body relaxed and I felt at peace. I even began to feel like I was at one with the universe and as soon as I thought that my brain started imagining me dissolving into particles and I jolted back into myself. And had to start again. And it started to work at which precise point my bladder reminded me it was definitely not at one with the universe. So a quick nocturnal journey and back to bed and back to the beginning. And it started to work, and I started to feel that dissolving sensation again and my mind presented me with a picture of a body shattering into a starburst and I was jolted awake and had to start again.

This time, just to mix things up a bit, at that point between breathing out and breathing in, my mind felt it was ok to frantically think of as many things as possible before it was silenced by the in breath. I found this very disturbing because it was like the words and thoughts in my head slowed their spinning and then sped up really really fast, and then slowed again. That was when I gave up. It was now 4am. I pulled a pillow over my head, rolled onto my side and decided I wasn't going to sleep so I may as well plan the current chapter in the book. I scared myself silly, because my heroine has her first encounter with the werewolf and I imagined the scene a little too well. I fell asleep with visions of yellow eyes in my head and that was my attempt at meditation. I woke feeling like I had been run over by a truck.

Tonight, I'm going to try something different, something I have done before but had forgotten about until now. When I was a child I also had periods of insomnia - actually I had many more sleepless nights than restful ones and that is why I always woke so slowly and so grumpily in the morning. Anyway, at some point I was told about/read about/came up with on my own/can't remember now an effective relaxation technique. It worked then so I'm sure it will work now.

It's kind of a style of meditation, in that the idea is to quiet the mind. But not by emptying the mind; by instead giving it something to focus on. So you start with your toes, and you relax them as much as you possibly can. You focus on your toes and you make sure each one is comfortable and relaxed. Then move onto the feet, ankles, calf muscles, knees - well you get the idea. If you lose focus you assume the entire body has tensed up again and you start from the toes once more. By the time you get to the neck the whole body feels like a dead weight and probably you won't get to the neck before you sleep.

If nothing else, it will slow the words and the thoughts, and give my overactive brain and imagination a rest. I am writing again, and that always help to centre me and it empties my mind of some of these words which is a relief. Not so much at 4am of course when I almost conjure the creature into existence, but still, it feels good to be writing again. When I write, I feel like I am doing what I was meant to do and there is nothing quite like that feeling.

So, to bed, perchance to sleep - with apologies to Shakespeare.

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