I was talking to a friend the other day, who is having trouble sleeping at night worrying about how she is going to pay her bills, or will she ever get a much needed break to get away. As she was walking away, she said, "So Rick, if you ever figure out how I can stop my mind from thinking at 3 o'clock in the morning, let me know."
Well, my mind gets in these ruts, chewing on the future, obsessively worrying about problems as much as anyone. But I don't have too much trouble sleeping. I attribute this to a simple meditation that I do whenever necessary, which is frequently, trust me.
First of all, rather than stop my mind, I lead it to focus on things that are true. You know things I know for sure. Worrying about the future is always speculation and/or assumption. So what do I know for sure right at this moment. Well, if I'm worrying about anything, I know that I have discomfort in my gut, my chest, or in my throat. I usually get a tightness in my throat and chest which after awhile settles in my gut. These are areas which respond to my worrying and sort of reinforce my minds "reasons" for worrying. These feelings are real and I am truly feeling them at that moment. The other thought to let my mind know is that there is probably nothing I can do about the problems at 3 AM.
But there is something I can do about the feelings in my throat and gut: absolutely nothing. This is really important because most of us spend a lot of time and energy trying to get rid of negative thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I've been exploring spiritual solutions to my problems for years, and I have never successfully removed negative feeling with intentional effort. However, accepting whatever I'm feeling at the moment, is a completely different direction. It's sort of like an anchor to keep my mind focused. Acceptance, saying yes to whatever I am feeling just as it is, without thinking about it, or judging it as good or bad, is a form of love. I don't have to like the feelings, but when I'm not trying to change or resist them in this moment, love has a transformative power. And there is only one place that love is active, and that is in this present moment. Sometimes it feels like my negative emotions are built into the system as a reminder to be present, where love can do it's work. If you believe in God, than you probably also believe that God is Love, and you have, just by accepting the emotional life that you're experiencing, opened yourself up to Divine energy.
I think it's also important to always do what you need to do in that moment, and sometimes at 3 AM that's getting up and writing a few things down, so you don't forget. Then back to bed. I find it truly amazing that every singe day we find a warm comfortable place to crawl into and go into a veritable coma for hours. Doesn't that ever seem odd to you? Sleep must be very important to our health and well being. By the way I find this little exercise useful during the day when I'm obsessing on something. I just take a moment and ask myself if there is anything I could be doing right now. If not, I take a moment to close my eyes and say YES to everything going on inside my body. It almost always brings me to a more peaceful place. Thanks!