Do you wake up in the middle of the night and lie awake for too long? I do. Often.
I have fallen into an (annoying) habit of awakening in the middle of the night, usually between 2 and 4 am, and staying awake for 1.5-2 hours. I know I’m not alone. Many of my friends are complaining about this same pattern. Google informs me that it could be either alcohol or spiritual awakening. I have come to accept these hours as mental detox.
Rather than get up and read or write, I have opted to lay quietly and attempt to return to sleep, employing many different methods – counting backwards, repeating a mantra, reciting the gongyo of Nichiren Shoshu, deep breathing, but my energetic monkey mind most often wins. Last night I landed on something much better. Alphabetical gratitude.
I fell into bed very early, 9:30, exhausted by my longest swim ever, compounded by a tremendous sadness at the state of our world, the worst of my entire life. I had tried to stay awake longer with the thought that I was inevitably headed for a mid-sleep onslaught. Sure enough, at 2:09 am, I awoke thinking about the holocaust in Syria for which the world minus Russia seems to be standing idly by, my 95-year old mother who is dying with half of her mind fighting both me and the idea of death, and my 11-year old grandson in Indonesia learning about community. That’s just for starters. There’s lots to consider at 2am. And then I landed on the only thing that could save me – the incredible beauty and generosity of this life.
Starting with A, I began evoking everything of that letter that I am grateful for – apples, artichokes, ancestors, Amnesty International… you get the picture. I made it to C before I was snoring again (Cristian gave me the ‘turn over and close your mouth’ nudge). I awoke again around 3:30 and my first thought was, “I forgot to be grateful for chocolate,” and continued on through D and E, never made it to F, and slept soundly until 6:40.
My consideration now is: the next time I wake up in the middle of the night should I start with F or go back to A. I invite you, my insomniac friends, to try it. And please let me know if/how it works for you.
I am wishing you the sweetest of dreams.