Not long ago, I woke in the middle of the night and had trouble falling back asleep. It doesn’t happen very often. When it does, I use one of the many techniques I’ve learned to help me drift off. As I began to feel myself sink deeper into my mattress, I wondered how I could better describe what I’m actually doing.
I often remind people to keep their thoughts in the same room as their bodies – in other words, don’t slip into tomorrow or yesterday – STAY HERE. But maybe this is too vague. Sure, people understand it, but they can’t seem to DO it. How could I explain this in a way that makes practical sense?
That night, as I melted into that wonderful, comfortable world that I enter just before unconsciousness, some words came to me:
“In this room”
“In this bed”
“In this body”
The next morning I sat up and jotted them down. It made sense. It’s difficult to redirect focus instantly to your breath or mentally scan your body from top to bottom, as is often suggested. Your nagging thoughts will keep pulling you back to concerns. But if you move your attention inward slowly, you give your head time to adjust.
Don’t ever try to stop your thoughts. Let them move around. But see if you can invite them into your room. Give yourself permission to think about anything you notice in that room. Stay there awhile. Let your senses take over – with things in that room. Then, when you’re able to do that, move to your bed. How do the sheets feel? Can you feel your skin on the surface below you? Are you warm or cool? Once again, stick to the things in your bed. Let thoughts swim around in your bed for awhile. Finally, take the last step and move attention into your body. You might actually hear your breathing, be aware that your eyebrows are suddenly softened and lower, feel a subtle numbness in your fingertips or toes. There’s no need to do anything but notice these things. You may begin to feel heavy. This is your entry point to a deep slumber.
Remember, the next time your eyes are wide open at 3am… This room. This bed. This body.