Recently I’ve been experimenting with sleep. We all have the experience of waking up feeling wonderful after a good sleep. If there is one change that will make us significantly happier, love myself and other people more, it is having better sleep. I hope we will all learn something from my experience.
Last night I went to bed feeling tired and frustrated because my suitemates were noisy at late time. I couldn’t sleep for an hour and had to come out several times to remind my friends to quiet down. In bed I was telling myself “Okay if I keep feeling frustrated this will do me no good anyway…how can I learn to appreciate this noise?” One answer popped up to me right away “It’s a challenge, a discomfort that will help me grow… there are so many more challenges in life and this is only one of them. Man uppp brah you can do it!”
This is one common way to reframe a difficult situation – let’s call it the “Can-do” attitude, a very prevalent mindset in the West. Optimism and achievement. Yes we can. Having that attitude helps in a lot of circumstances: when I need courage to dive into the unknown or tackling a new challenge. I can push hard for other pursuits in my life and have a lot of success. Not in this case, because one simply does not fall asleep by forcing oneself to fall asleep. I have to let myself sleep.
So I turned to my more natural way of dealing with adversity: embrace myself. I put my hands on my chest and belly and thought “Dear Khuyen, pity you, you are so tired and yet you can’t sleep… come here my dear boy come into my hands” In other words, I was being my own mom. It helped – I felt so good melting into my own love and into sleep. And boy that was a goooood sleep.
Have you ever been in a situation so stressful that made you cry? After that you felt so tired that you just felt asleep, and that was the best sleep you ever had? Yes? Exactly how I felt. And if it feels so good, why don’t we do it everyday before we sleep? That’s the real power of loving oneself. The next time you want to help someone going through a difficult time, ask this question: “How is your sleep?”. Having good sleep is The Solution for the thorniest personal problems I have ever faced, and I hope you agree.
A caveat before you apply this technique of embracing yourself before you sleep: There’s a difference between seeing it as a means to an end (“I’m going to embrace myself because it will help me fall asleep) and as an end in itself (“I’m going to embrace myself simply because it deserves to be embraced”) Only the latter is the path to overcoming of difficulty. And falling asleep.
Another lesson I learn from my experience with sleep (one can indeed learn anything from everything) is about acceptance. I can provide the optimum condition for a good sleep (dark, slightly chilly room, comfortable bed, relaxed body and mind, feeling full, silence etc..) yet I cannot guarantee a good sleep all the time. It is like growing a seed – I can provide the optimal condition of water, sunshine, temperature etc.. and yet I can only hope, not guarantee that the seed will grow. With that understanding comes an acceptance: every night is a new sleep, and I hope it’s a good one, but if I wake up feeling shitty then I just have to go with it. Such an obvious idea, right? Knowing the idea is not enough; we only truly learn it when we put it into our lives.
That’s it for today. Good sleep, my friends. Embrace thyself.
p.s: Isn’t sleep also like love? You don’t fall into love by wanting to be in love. You have to let it happen.
Yeah, true restful sleep is good for ya!
Very good analysis, and suggestions for those who toss&turn 🙂
Years ago when I was doing my graduate studies in San Francisco, I had a very large flat all to myself, 8th floor of a high riser with view to the ocean, gorgeous sunsets, golf courses — I thought, what a waste, I should have a housemate for company. So I posted an ad on the bulletin board at the university. Amazing how many responded! also since the price for the beautiful room I offered was less than half of what they would normally pay (I was more interested in a nice person and didn’t mind helping a deserving someone on a tight budget). I weeded out a lot of candidates and finally interviewed just a few — asian females I thought would be neat & considerate, also doing graduate studies so we would have things in common to talk about. Finally, I picked a japanese young lady in distress. Yukiko was not on a tight budget, the only child of a well known dentist in Osaka, but she came almost in tears, with dark circles under the eyes — she hadn’t been sleeping well for weeks! Reason: her roommate in the dorm had the boyfriend over almost every night, indulging in intimacies… Yukiko could hear everything, and she was too ashamed of the situation!! herself having promised the family to remain ‘as pure as a lily’ until a suitable husband back home is approved by her parents, that she should not even let any ‘unchaste’ thoughts or images enter her mind, much less…
We clicked and I immediately took her in. Yukiko moved in the next couple days, almost in haste. The place is ‘heaven’ for her, compared to the cramped quarters in a typical japanese household back home. We were both quiet, studious, considerate, intuitive & caring — and both ‘chaste’ 🙂
I was happy and she was happy! I was very busy, working at AT&T headquarters and doing graduate studies as well. In the evening we cook noodle soup together. Yukiko’s mom sent me the most delicate green teas only available in Japan, and the most rare incense for my meditation. The distilled essence of rare woods & herbs & flowers filled our peaceful lovely flat! On the weekends, we took walks around the golf courses, along lakes, then to the seashore, listening to the chirping of seabirds, contemplating the advancing and receding waves… Then we went for a Huuuge lunch buffet at an all-you-can-eat sushi place, all manners of seafood delicacies, noodles, veggies, pastries — impossible to do all that cooking & baking by ourselves! we even cheered with a bit wine, and walked home quite content & giggling 🙂
The schoolyears went by very fast, we both did extremely well, and both graduated top of the class in our respective disciplines. Yukiko’s parents came for her graduation, and brought me gifts. We all went out to celebrate. Father and mother thanked me profusely for ‘taking good care of her’… Then time for Yukiko to go back to Japan to meet Satoshi, the young dentist husband her parents already chose for her. Next, Yukiko got a post as teacher in Osaka. I received the wedding invitation, ‘we will be honored to cover all your airfare and expenses, please come J_, this will mean a lot for us’. Yukiko kept writing to me, joyfully announcing the birth of their child. Then, in a short few years, she was in tears again: Satoshi forgets to come home from work, frequently. They did not have much in common, except for the child. Absolutely impossible to divorce! that would be a complete disgrace for the family.
So again I’m sure Yukiko endures many a sleepless night! maybe in a quiet house, listening to the refrigerator humming, or the yawn of a neighbor’s dog. Her husband didn’t come home.
Such is life!