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Switching to ‘Being Mode’ for Better Sleep

Melli O'Brien






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Switching to ‘Being Mode’ for Better Sleep

When experiencing a sleepless night, our mind’s often caught in ‘doing mode’, but we can choose to shift gears for optimal rest, relaxation and sleep.

Have you ever gone to bed feeling really

tired, but then found yourself wide awake

in the middle of the night tossing and

turning unable to get back to sleep.

You might've found yourself ruminating

on a problem or dwelling on something

that happened or might happen.

Maybe things are difficult with

a friend or a partner, and you're

worrying about what might happen next,

or perhaps you have a major deadline

at work and you just can't imagine

how you're going to meet that demand.

Perhaps someone said something

to you that stayed with you.

All kinds of thoughts can fill our minds

and haunt us in the nighttime quiet.

This kind of rumination and revved

up quality of the mind is strongly

associated with insomnia and ongoing

sleep problems for many people.

When the mind is racing, it really

just sends us round and round in

helpless mental circles, which is a

consequence of how our human minds work.

Our minds try hard to

protect and serve us.

They've evolved to identify

problems and find solutions.

Now, this is an amazing quality of the

mind, and it's really helpful sometimes.

Imagine an architect trying to figure

out the best way to design a staircase.

The architect needs the cool logic of our

problem solving mind to achieve this task.

But if that same architect is lying

awake in bed in the middle of the

night, worrying and ruminating about

all the different ways he could do

this staircase, then the chances are

that he'll arrive at work the next day

feeling tired and stressed with a limited

capacity for finding the real solution.

Sometimes you just need to let go until

it's the right time to solve the problem.

So how could this architect snap out of

those worrying thoughts in the middle of

the night and get a decent night's sleep?

The answer lies with understanding the

two different modes of the human mind.

You can think about these two

different modes of mind as analogous

to different gears in a car.

So the two gears are the two modes

are first of all, doing mode.

So doing mode is the mode of mind

that is its job to get things done.

So doing mode allows us to achieve our

goals, making, carry out our plans,

share our thoughts and ideas with

people and fix and change things.

It's the mind's problem

solving powerhouse.

This mode of mind involves what

is called a discrepancy monitor.

This is where we constantly evaluate

our current situation and then compare

it to where we would like to be.

So in doing mode, the discrepancy

monitor is switched on and the mind

will find mismatches between how things

are now, how we would like them to be

and how to fill the gap in between.

That's it's job, finding the gap between

where we are, where we want to be,

and figuring out how to close that gap

through solving problems and making plans.

Now, this is a wonderful capacity of

the mind, but the trouble is that we

can easily become locked into doing

mode a lot of, or even all the time.

And we can fall out of balance.

Many of us these days are just

doing, doing, doing all day.

And then we go to bed with a

really, really revved up mind

that's stuck in doing mode and

then we can't switch it off.

We can't let the body and mind rest.

Now, one of the biggest obstacles with

getting stuck in doing mode is that at

night, our mind will just keep desperately

trying to fix things and do to-do lists

and find problems and find solutions.

When the best thing to do at night

is just let everything go and rest.

In doing mode, instead of rest, what we

get is thoughts that just spin around and

around and around in our head in circles.

Now, the other mode of mind

is called the being mode.

The being mode is a mode that actually

unhooks us from our thoughts and connects

us to the present moment via our senses.

The aliveness and the richness of being

mode is not easily conveyed in words.

By contrast to doing mode,

being mode is not devoted to

achieving any particular goal.

In being mode the discrepancy

monitor is turned off and instead

the focus is accepting and allowing

and being fully alive to the

present moment, just as it is.

Being mode relaxes into the present moment

with no agenda, no need to evaluate.

Just the experience of the moment

can be processed in its full

depth, vividness and richness.

So how does any of this relate to sleep?

Well, when we're having a sleepless

night, because our mind is caught in

doing mode, we can choose to shift

gears into being mode, the optimum

mode for rest, relaxation and sleep.

Here's the trick to it.

All you need to do to switch gears is

change what you're paying attention to.

To engage being mode, all you need to do

is start paying more attention to your

sense perceptions in the present moment.

You see, this is because

our attention is finite.


So when we focus on our senses,

there's not much room left to focus

on our thoughts in doing mode.

Not that all thoughts will disappear,

they won't, but they won't dominate.

Being mode invites us to simply

acknowledge that the thoughts we're

having are the thoughts we're having

and we let them float by as we gently

keep them majority of our focus on

what we can see, hear, feel, smell,

and taste, just moment by moment.

There are now many published studies

that have shown a marked link

between meditation, which engages

that being mode and improved sleep.

Allow me to share with you an example

of doing and being mode in action.

This was a, a personal experience that

I had that sent me into a bit of a cycle

of worrying thoughts that kept me awake

one night, and quite a typical one.

I think we've all been there.

Took me a while to realize though that I

was stuck in doing mode, but when I did,

I was able to connect with being mode

again and let go of my worrying thoughts.

So here's what happened.

I was at a dinner party.

And someone said something at the table

about me and in front of everybody

that I found really embarrassing.

And they didn't think that I

would feel embarrassed, but I did.

And they had informed, sort of formed

rather, an impression of the kind of

person that I am and that they chose

to make very public in that moment.

It wasn't entirely true, but

there was a, there was a grain of

truth to it and I was embarrassed.

So I stumbled for the right words.

And then I said something clumsy,

which made it even more embarrassing.

So I was so conscious of

everybody looking at me while

this awkward exchange happened.

So what do you think happened to

me when I went to bed that night?

Of course, my brain started playing

the event over and over in my head.

I kept thinking about what I

should have said instead, or

what I could say to redeem myself

when I see those people again.

And I wondered, you know, what

this was going to mean for me, what

people's opinions of me would be now.

So while my mind, was running through

all these really unhelpful thoughts,

my body was tossing and turning.

I couldn't get just sleep.

My whole body was tense.

My jaw was tense.

There was no chance of

sleep in this state.

So fortunately, after a while, I

caught myself engaging in this cycle of

thoughts and I saw how unhelpful it was.

And I realized that I could help myself

out of this state and get some rest.

So the first thing I said to myself

mentally was, thanks mind, since I know

that my mind has evolved to try and

protect and serve me by always trying

to solve life's problems and challenges.

And then I fully accepted

that I wasn't asleep.

So I didn't fight the fact

that I was awake anymore.

I just allowed it to be.

And then I brought my focus.

Into the feeling of the breath in my body.

I took a couple of really deep breaths.

I put my hand on my tummy and I

just felt the way my hand moved up

and down on my tummy as I breathed.

Now, of course, all the unhelpful

thoughts didn't disappear.

They were still there.

And I took a moment to

acknowledge them and just let

them flow through my experience.

And I, I knew that I didn't really

have to solve this problem now.

I just accepted that.

And I just kept bringing my

attention and focus back to the

feeling of the breath moving.

And then I took some time to

listen to the sounds of the night.

The crickets were going, and there

was wind rustling in the trees.

I could hear some noises

of birds and bats.

And then I brought my focus to the

weight of my body against the bed.

The heaviness, the textures of

the bedsheets against my skin.

And as I did this, I felt my whole

being just settling back into the

present moment, out of problem-solving

mind and into the actuality of

what was happening around me.

I was warm.

I was safe.

I was comfortable and

everything was going to be okay.

In the end, I managed to get

a really good night's sleep.

And the next day, the problem

actually solved itself.

The lady who made the

comment actually commented.

She contacted me to apologize and,

and commented that she also had, had a

very sleepless night thinking about it.

And she also felt really

embarrassed about what she'd said.

So somehow everything sorted itself out.

If I hadn't found my way out of doing

mode and into being mode, my sleepless

night would have been for nothing.

So while doing mode has a very important

place in our lives, sometimes we just need

to shift gears out of doing mode and into

being mode, like that night that I had.

Cultivating this capacity to switch

gears over time will make it a

bit easier every time you do it.

It takes practice to keep

connecting with the present moment

and letting go of doing mode.

A couple of deep breaths

is a really good start.

Aim to switch into being mode just

before you go to sleep so that you

are really ready for a restful,

peaceful and nourishing sleep.

There's no right or wrong way to prepare

yourself for bedtime, but you might find

that if you can cultivate a routine that

works for you personally, where you can

switch off doing mode and then settle into

being mode, these little personal rituals

that you could create could help you

slow down a little bit, engage with being

mode and turn off those racing thoughts.

To get started with this, it really is

a good idea to just try and physically

slow down a bit before you go to bed.

And when you do lay down trying some

deep, slow breathing, perhaps with a

hand on the belly or the chest can be

really, really helpful way of settling in.

And if you ever find that the mind is

really busy and revved, you can also

use a mental mantra that can help

you to stay focused on the breath.

So something really simple, like mentally

saying to yourself, now I'm breathing in.

As you breathe in and now I'm

breathing out, as you breathe out.

It's really simple, just helps you to

stay focused on the present moment.

Another trick sometimes that can be used

to engage your senses is to tense and

release muscles of the body one by one,

from the bottom of your body all the way

to the top, just after you lay in bed.

Or another way to engage your

senses is to lay in bed and then

listen to the sounds of the night.

If all else fails, just try

deeply breathing, one hand on

your belly and feeling the rise

and the fall of each breath until

you feel ready to fall asleep.

But the main thing to remember is just

to bring your awareness to your senses.

Other tips for preparing for a

good night's sleep could include

much more practical things like not

drinking alcohol too close to bedtime

or eating too close to bedtime.

You want to really have a routine

around getting your mind and body

ready for rejuvenating sleep.

If you'd like to try a meditation to

guide you into being mode, you can use

the accompanying meditation to this talk.

This meditation aims to connect

you with your senses, untangle

you from racing thoughts.

So I hope you find this helpful

and find your way into a

more easeful night's sleep.

Similar to this

Letting Go Into SleepMeditation by Melli O'Brien
Melli O'Brien

Letting Go Into Sleep

Meditation · 25 mins4.5

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