Into the Mystic: A Sleepless Night
Bring God into the room with you. Ease your mind and eventually sleep.
One of the questions I ask people living in and through grief is this: how are you sleeping?
Grief and anxiety have a way of exercising our brains at the very moment we want and need the respite of a good night’s sleep.
A head can rest on a pillow for a long while as regrets and fears and griefs parade through our consciousness, delaying the moment when the brain shuts down for the night and peaceful slumber comes.
Or one can awaken with a start from a dream that, while confusing and hard to understand, nonetheless finds you wide awake with a quickened heartbeat, some sweat on the brow, and little hope of rolling over and getting back to sleep.
I think this combination of a global pandemic, of racial unrest in a nation trying to exercise its demons of hate, and the precipice of an election we all kind of know is threatening to tear apart the unity we need to thrive is all conspiring to leave us collectively anxious. I doubt I’m the only one whose sleep patterns are being affected by this.
What do you do when this happens?
One thing I do is find a familiar prayer. For me it’s the Lord’s prayer. As the mind races with wild thoughts, I begin the prayer uttering to myself only the first word: “Our.” I pause for two or three beats and muse about its meaning and what it is trying to suggest. Then I focus on the first two words together: “Our Mother,” pausing again for two or three beats to see if some new insight emerges from that combination of words. If it does, then I let it linger. Then three words, “Our Mother who….” If I doze off briefly and jump back awake and can’t remember what word I was on, I start over. I rarely ever complete the first sentence. Try it. I don’t think there is anything magic about it – just a trick of the brain to focus on something other than fear and anxiety and a centering down on the sacred.
If I awaken in the middle of the night, I often turn on a soft light and read myself back to sleep; or pull out my iPad and watch some mindless documentary or short film – just long enough to shift my brains attention away from what it was trying to process in some fanciful or weird dream schema that made no sense but that clearly was borne of some internal fear, grief, or frustration. The first time I nod off and bounce back awake, I shut off the light, close the book, or turn off the iPad and settle back in to sleep.
There are hard times, people. We need a good night’s sleep, of that there is no doubt. But we all are living with and through challenges that unsettle the soul and the sanctuary of our bedroom can become the place where all of that begins to surface.
Know that God is with you in the midst of that. Know that She is accessible to all that you are experiencing. Know that bringing into the room with you can be a pathway to quieting the noise.
I pray for you all, and wish for you the comfort of a good night’s rest. We are all in need of respite on what can be a wild ride through this, our journey Into the Mystic.