Good old jet lag, huh? Sitting up wide awake in my kitchen at 4.00am, not yet having slept, wishing for sleep to wash over me I became agitated. My mind racing a million miles an hour…
Radio Non-stop Thinking as Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh so aptly calls it.
“Why can’t I sleep?” I ask myself over and over in my mind’s eye. Inevitably, this chain of thinking moving into a cold and dark place of self-told criticism, judgement and resentment. An unravelling that is for many of us all too familiar. #becausehuman.
“Why didn’t I go to bed earlier? Why did I check Instagram?” “Why did I watch that final West Wing re-run?” ARGH! I felt I was lost in the downward spiral of my mind and it seemed like there was no way out.
Desperately trying to fend off the negative biases of my brain, the monotonous ticking of our kitchen clock - while usually an inoffensive soundtrack - was on this particular evening irritating me like it never had before. It’s ticking drilling into the very depths of my mind.
My senses were heightened, driving me was the sympathetic side of my nervous system making me feel agitated and stressed.
Having already tried reading and counting sheep, like a good yogi I resorted to a pranayama (breathing) technique to help calm my system. This helped me a little.
Eventually though I realised that sitting with the voice in my head it was my only real option. I played with shifting my approach so that instead of hearing it as a distraction, the ticking of the clock became the focus of my mind.
I started to anticipate each tick. Then the next. Then the next. Then the next.
I choose instead to surrender and accept the ticking sound as something that could in fact help me rather than hinder. And after some minutes, without even realising it, my monkey mind had started to quieten.
Suddenly I was controlling my mind and it wasn’t controlling me and eventually I was able to sleep.
Later I got thinking about yielding.
How we more often than not we move through life pushing up against it, wishing for something more, something better. Something else than what you already have. A bigger house, a better car, a phone with a larger screen…It’s within this constant struggle of wanting more that we forget to be present.
We forget to live in THIS moment.
The kicker is, when we find ourselves more readily in a present state of awareness we start to feel more at ease. This is why I think self-care in our yang society is so important.
We hit our yang rev limiter and then spend time and money trying to find more yin in order to console and heal ourselves.
The trick is to strike a balance between the two. Yin and Yang. It’s here in the equilibrium of both that we find wellness.
And so while doing something for yourself like taking your self off to a yoga retreat might feel indulgent, it truly is one of the best things you could do for yourself.
With these types of self-care activities you are inviting more yin into your life and working to balance out the go, go, go undertones of our society.
Living with the prolonged impacts of stress and anxiety on your body and mind, inevitably you will fall ill. This has happened to me many times and in hindsight I have realised that along the way I had ignored many signs and messages from my body…warning me to slow down and take stock.
So when did we stop listening? Or did we ever really start? As yogis we tend to flex to our awareness muscle a little more than those who are sleep walking through life… and while this has its advantages it can also make those nights of insomnia all the more unbearable.
But it is this same very conscious awareness that reminds us that we are not our thoughts, we are not our stories, nor are we our delusions.
We can’t be because as Michael Singer so brilliantly puts it: “We are the one hearing them.”
Whether its yoga, meditation, kirtan or the sound of a ticking clock - you just need to find what it is that brings you back to conscious awareness and then keep coming back, every single day.