How to Meditate: Meditation 101 for Beginners
10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation
What is Meditation?
How to Meditate: Meditation 101 for Beginners
10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation
What is Meditation?
Benefits of Mindfulness: Mindful Living Can Change Your Life
Mindfulness 101: A Beginner's Guide
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
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.
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