Are you a good sleeper?
Oh man. I usually sleep like a baby. But lately, my eyes pop open at 3 a.m. way more often than I’d like.
What is it about 3 a.m. that turns normal thoughts into a band of wild horses galloping through my mind? I mean, is there really nothing I can do to stop that from happening? Well… making sure I’m not missing my daily meditation practice is a must, obviously.
But then what do I do if it still happens now and then?
Here’s what works for me:
Allow it all.
The more I fight the thoughts and try to push them away, the more they advance and swarm, and the whole scene turns into an epic Western shootout.
Two words: neurological junk.
I consider these thoughts are coming from the lower brain (limbic system) and are most likely a habitual response to stress. Instead of engaging the thoughts, I wait them out; giving them little or no attention until they move on outa there. This is easier said than done. Having a breath-awareness or body-scan practice is essential to help me to redirect my attention to the present moment instead of wandering around aimlessly while lugging around heavy baggage in the dust storm of my mind.
It’s amazing how much this helps. I take some paper and a pen (it’s best done freehand) and write quickly and freely whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t make sense and it doesn’t have to. I just follow the train of thought wherever it leads. Sometimes it’s weird stuff that I don’t understand and my writing is hardly legible. No matter, I just let it flow onto the paper and it becomes a channel for all those rowdy thoughts to clear out so my mind can rest (it feels like taking a big exhale in my brain). This also is a great exercise to do at work when you want to spark creativity because it shifts you out of the left brain (analysis) into the right brain (creativity). And indeed, after you do this free-writing exercise at 3am, you may have sparks of insight that you can jot down. But then, go back to sleep if you can! 🙂
Go a little woo.
I ask the Universe, “What do you want me to know?” Many times I’ve been guided to a very specific idea, or solution to a problem, or a peaceful resolution to a worry when I assume I’m awake for a reason. Once I allow whatever wants to come, to come, I fall asleep instantly. Again, not fighting it is the key.
Do you struggle with horses galloping through you head at 3am, too? If so, what works for you? I’d love to hear. Feel free to try any of the above – I’d love to know how it goes.
Wishing you peaceful rest and sweet dreams that carry you all the way through the night. Or at least a good binge-worthy series on Netflix (kidding!)
(image credit on cover Dave West)