I’ve been struggling with sleep issues for years. I have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Sometimes my husband would tell me to clear my mind to fall asleep. I would ask how do you clear your mind? Where is the off button for your mind? He wouldn’t be able to answer.
So I got on prescription sleep pills which treat the condition but just like the authors in the book No More Sleepless Nights say: even after decades of sleeping center clinical experience, there is simply no magic sleeping pill that will work long term. I was on Lunesta for over a year and one day it just quit working. Then I tried Ambien. That pill associated with many other stresses made my depression and anxiety so bad that I was hospitalized twice in December 2012 and January 2013.
Ultimately depression is what I have to admit that I have and yet it’s an incredibly mysterious illness. First, it’s extremely hard to understand it if you don’t have it. If you do have it, you probably are or were in great battles against it.
The regular hospitalization did not help me. What helped was the partial hospitalization (group therapy) program. It gave me a support network. I met other great people who struggle with depression and I keep in touch with them so we can check on each other. I started buying into various CBT concepts such as vicious cycle, challenging automatic thoughts, opposite action etc.
I made the connection earlier on how everything connect back to mindfulness.
From the book the power of now:
The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive. To put it more accurately, it is not so much that you use your mind wrongly — you usually don’t use it at all. It uses you. This is the disease. You believe that you are your mind. This is the delusion. The instrument has taken your over.
I don’t quite agree. It is true that I do a lot of aimless thinking, like most people, but I can still choose to use my mind to get and accomplish things, and I do that all the time.
Just because you can solve a crossword puzzle or build an atom bomb doesn’t mean that you use your mind. Just as dogs love to chew bones, the mind loves to get its teeth into problems. That’s why it does crossword puzzles and builds atom bombs. You have no interest in either. Let me ask you this: can you be free of your mind whenever you want to? Have you found the “off” button?
This sounds like a simple concept but it remains just a concept if I don’t actually try to practice mindfulness. There are tons of guided meditation videos on youtube, the one I’m practicing is by concentrating on my breath. This is often taught in the yoga classes I attend. Concentrate and imagine when you inhale, your breath the energy source is dispersed all over your body. When you exhale, feel the breath leaving your body and your lungs empty. I recently found it very easy to practice this technique when I’m swimming. You generally breath in and out when you swim. When I exhale, I feel bubbles touching my face and I focus on the bubbles. After I focus on the breathing for a while, I will be more in touch with my observing mind.
Then when a thought arises, I can identify it. “Oh that’s a thought” I’d say to myself and then return my focus back to my breathing. I do this repeatedly when I swim laps. Pretty soon I’d forget about my swimming all together, I become very relaxed even when I still move my arms and legs going through the motion of swimming.
I think from a few practices, I am able to identify thoughts. When I try this in my daily life, it’s harder but I find myself stop and get connected with the observing mind more often.
The next baby step for me in my mindfulness practice will be learning to be non-judgmental and non-attaching toward any thought.
My ultimate goal is to find my “off” button for my mind so I can sleep without much struggle. I’m not sure if I will ever reach the goal but without practicing, I will never get there.
Practice makes perfect. Learning to concentrate on ones breath is not too dissimilar to going to the gym to exercise your muscles. You don’t get ripped in one day or even a week of exercising. Instead you are exercising the “muscle” of your very essence. Consciousness. Keep practicing paying attention to your breath, COMPLETELY, 100%, and you WILL improve.
But you have to want it, and you have to keep practicing.
Practice makes perfect.