Do you sometimes find sleep eluding you, especially on those occasions when you need it most? You may have done everything right according to the usual advice from books: no coffee before bed, a quiet environment and so on, and still no sleep.
Here is a little trick from Buddha’s Book of Sleep that can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep: do not close your eyes in anticipation of sleep, let sleep close them for you! Babies stare at a mobile sailing lazily on top of their crib until their eyes glaze over and close.
They also often go to sleep with their ears open: they may listen to a lullaby or when they are a bit older, to a bedtime story, as sleep slowly edges closer. Having your eyes and your ears open is no impediment to sleep: people fall asleep while driving, while listening to a lecture, at the symphony hall, while watching TV, or reading a book. And people also stay awake lying in a comfortable bed in a dark, quiet room.
The real issue is the busy mind that will not quit. When your focus is on your thoughts, they can keep you awake: the body does not know the difference between a real argument with your teenage daughter and just an imaginary argument in your head. In both cases, your heart begins to pump faster, your blood pressure goes up, and soon, you are more ready for shadow boxing than for sleep!
Mindfulness practice begins with bringing our attention from our thoughts to our senses. Closing the eyes in anticipation of sleep may sabotage this process, and may actually help keep our focus on our thinking by taking away one of our primary sources of sensory input: the eyes. Keeping the eyes open, even when there is just a hint of a glimmer from the window, may help.
While the usual advice from self-help books deals with preparing the body, the practice of mindfulness helps us prepare the mind for sleep. In Buddha’s Book of Sleep, Joseph Emet brings the power of mindfulness practice to bear on the issue of sleep while also providing insights into the way the mind works in general.
- by Joseph Emet, author of Buddha's Book of Sleep