I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and can’t go back to sleep. Sleep to me has always been a fleeting phenomenon, and it never takes much for it to vanish completely and leave me awake, even at times I think I should sleep.
Whether or not I pay attention to that thought decides what the hours ahead of me will be like.
“I should sleep” comes with a lot of baggage. Everything I’ve ever learnt about sleep comes tumbling forward. That it’s not enough with four hours, that I must sleep to make it through the day tomorrow, that there’s something wrong, that I must relax, that it’s not fair, I’m so tired, why can’t I just go back to sleep? Stress and frustration slithers through my mind, I feel abandoned, not just by sleep but by my body, by everone who sleep so soundly, by normal life.
Four in the morning can be a very lonely place.
The thought that I should sleep always appears, but more and more often I have enough clarity to see that it’s just a thought, and I don’t need to do anything about it. It will pass and I will be here, resting in my wakefulness.
The other night I woke up at two and did not fall asleep again. Five hours I spent alone before the others woke up, and I barely remember how those hours passed, only that they were dark, soft and special. I lit a fire in the stove. I read a few pages in a book. I curled up in the sofa, under a blanket, listening to my own breathing.
Night-time is a strange time. Another world. The ticking of the clock seems to slow down. Silence is tangible. The silvery cold light of the moon shines on a world that doesn’t just look different, it is different.
I’m different too. The left, rational side of my brain relaxes and returns to slumber as soon as I leave the passing thoughts alone, while the right side absorbs and incorporates everything, the strange, the shimmering, in a way I can not – and need not – explain. My skin perceive the slightest sense impression. My hearing is sharper than usual.
The night is a time of inner life. Of deep, intuitive processes.
Yes, we need sleep, we can’t do without it. But when rest does not come at the time or in the shape we think it should, we have the choice of stressing out or letting go. One is the very opposite of rest. The other is an invitation.
It’s not always in our hands, the workings of our bodies, the rhythms of our lives, all that’s going on around us. The ebb and flow of energy.
We are not the conductors, not like that. All we have is our attention, and the power to place it where we want it. On what we want our lives to consist of.
I want to sleep. I want deep, deep rest. But more than anything I want peace of mind.
If I’m awake when I should be sleeping, so be it. I’m open to the invitation.