All of us at some point in time have had trouble sleeping. No matter what we do, the body wants to sleep, but the mind says, “No way!” Why does this happen? Sleep is our birthright!
Sleep doesn’t just happen (or not happen) during the night. How you sleep is affected by what goes on during the day. If your day involves constant thinking, jumping from one thing to another without any rest, then guess what? That’s going to continue into the night.
We need to understand that life has no upper and lower limits. We can work ourselves to death, we can think ourselves to death and we don’t realize it. We think that, “Oh, it’s just thinking; it’s wonderful, it’s nice,” but you can go crazy, you can go mad just by thinking. There’s really no upper limit since the mind is not a limited phenomenon. It’s only the body that is limited; the mind is totally free to imagine whatever it wants to imagine. It can go deeper and deeper into layers and layers of thinking where you can get totally trapped.
Our minds are like the engine of a car that we never shut off. We leave it running continuously, day after day, year after year, letting it just go crazy with thoughts. We need to learn how to shut the engine off when we’re not using it so we can get some rest! The way to do this is to incorporate “conscious rest” into our daily routines. Conscious rest is simply to sit quietly and watch your breath. Each hour, if possible, sit for 10 minutes and just watch your breath. When a thought comes into your mind, just let it go; don’t entertain it. The monotony of watching the breath can magically keep thoughts at bay because your mind can only handle one thing at a time; if you’ve got it tied up watching the breath, then there’s no room for any imaginary trips of horror into the future or depressing dramas from the past.
This is going to seem impossible at first, because the mind has never been approached like this–it’s had free rein to think whatever it wants, whenever it wants. To gain control, you’ve got to be persistent. Just think: If you work for 8 hours per day and are able to sit 5 or 6 times during the day (and a little after work as well) and practice watching the breath, after a week or so you’ll start getting the hang of it. Then, the next time you lay down to sleep and your mind says, “I’m going off on a tangent now,” you can say, “No way–I’m watching the breath. You be still.”
And sleep will come.
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