Nearly everything we do affects our sleep. The way we spend our days will influence the quality of our night’s sleep. The brain needs sleep in order to function but sometimes seems determined to keep us awake. How do you turn off the constant activity of an active mind?
Unlike relaxation where the mind and body are encouraged to release and ‘let go’, meditation teaches you to be more aware and connected. By learning simple skills, the mind is coaxed into becoming more focused. Most of us spend a large part of the day with the mind buzzing from past to present – from memories of things that have happed to projections of what ‘might’ happen…we are rarely experiencing life as it really is and miss out on being truly connected with our inner selves.
Past events cannot be changed but we may find ourselves constantly revisiting events causing emotional reactions that affect our present life. The future is uncertain but we daydream and become emotionally connected with events that are yet to occur. All we have is the moment but we are rarely connected or fully present in the ‘here and now’.
We may have experienced meditation and felt connected to a moment such as a sunset, a beautiful picture or inspiring music. These moments can be recreated by learning how to meditate. The feeling of calm and enhanced awareness that meditation creates can help bring balance into a stressful life.
During the day we are rarely conscious of what is happening in the mind. It will flutter from the past into the future and will also process information and allow us to function in the present. All this activity means that there is rarely a moment of stillness or the need to control what is happening in the mind.
At the end of the day when we try to relax, the mind often finds it impossible to switch off. It continues to connect with thoughts and feelings and as hard as we try it will not allow us to ‘disconnect’.
Many people find ways to find heightened awareness. Dangerous sports, sex, drugs and alcohol will provide a high, which will be short lived. In the long term these will interfere with sleep and provide little more than an escape from reality. Meditation helps you experience the reality of your true self. It is not the reality of the day’s highs and lows, but the reality of being ‘alive.’
Meditation and Sleep
Meditation is active and requires practice and commitment to experience the long term benefits. Many people report improved peace of mind and enhanced awareness as soon as they start to practise.
There are many ways to meditate and different meditation traditions. Meditation may be taught separately or with other practices such as yoga. Books and CDs outline the various ways to meditate and give guidance on the different techniques. Retreats and other events offer an opportunity to learn from experienced teachers and many people gain from a course of study.