12:00am. 2:00am. 4:00am.
I’m still awake, watching the clock hours march toward morning. At this point, there’s no hope of catching some z’s. More anxiety builds as I think about the miserable, drowsy fog I will be dragging myself through to complete the to-do-lists of the day.
Now, I am a sleeper. I usually experience no problem with drifting off into la-la land. My head hits the pillow, my body melts into the glorious oblivion of sleep and I’m off counting the sheep. Usually. So where did this bout of insomnia come from? There can only be one answer: the mind.
Hardwired to Spin
Sometimes my thoughts seem like they’re on an eternal wash and rinse cycle. There’s endless spinning, along with repeat suffering. I diligently practice meditation and yoga asanas. I eat fairly cleanly (I could splurge less on sugar), and yet… Monkeys are having a party in my mind!
Pure and simple, I’m dealing with monkey mind. Chimpanzees, orangutans and apes are jumping around up there, partying like there’s no tomorrow. These mischievous party animals are blowing noisemakers and flinging confetti, having a good ol’ time at my expense. I feel like the uninvited neighbor who’s annoyed by the late-night revelry.
I try quelling the mental whoop-de-do with a serene, reasoning voice. “If you are going to go on like this, can we please find a better subject to incessantly obsess about?” There’s a slight pause in the roar, then the rowdy party picks up where it left off.
We can’t fight the mind with the mind. If I tell my mind to shut up it only laughs at me like a rebellious teenager (I’m raising two teens, and I know haughtiness when I see it). But if I feed it nurturing, positive thoughts… It cozies right up to me again.
So rather than continuing to toss and turn in frustration, I make a peace offering. “Dearest mind,” I start, “I know I’ve fed you a lot of worry and stress lately. Why don’t we think about that magical novel we were reading right before I turned the light off? We loved the part when…”
Ah. Peace at last. My mind has a fun, dreamy adventure to think about and my body is able to find relaxation and calm. The next thing I know, I’m awake with at least a few restful hours of sleep to begin my day. Success in a small way winning this mental battle.
Your meditation and yoga practices can lessen the chances of monkeys throwing parties in your mind. But when they crash your calm or make a mess of your sleep, nourish your mind with more soothing thoughts. Tell it a story. Or get out of bed to write one.