By coincidence the other day, I encountered two friends at work who shared with me how they each got less than two hours of sleep last night. On person has all kinds of changes thrust upon them including long-term relationship upset, moving out of a house of 30 years and into a small room. Another has work woes and dealing with lawyers for an estate from a deceased mother. Both said they had too much on their mind. What does that mean, too much on the mind?
I get the whole stress thing. I do it myself. How we deal with our stress and more importantly, how we deal with our thoughts can lead to sleepless nights or a good nights rest. Even if our world is filled with chaos and unbidden upset, our thoughts or rather our attachment to our thoughts can lead us down a path of zombie-like adherence to unrealistic expectations or simple acceptance of the ups and down of daily life. I can hear the defenses and justifications of why losing sleep is okay given tumultuous changes in life, death and our relationships there between. I even justify bad behaviors leading to poor health in the guise of doing what’s “needed.” However, I try to be an example of the leadership I give to my kids. My wife and I tell our kids who wake up in the middle of the night that it’s not about sleep but simply resting. Whether we sleep or not is less important than simply closing our eyes, not moving and allowing the body to rest. We say this knowing that focusing on rest allows the mind to wander and not worry about sleep. We set up conditions conducive to sleep when we undermine our worry not allowing it to put a stranglehold on our restlessness.
Don’t get me wrong. I agree with what one of the zombies said today. Getting to REM sleep is important as it helps our brains in a multitude of ways. The thing is we sabotage ourselves when we contort our thoughts into worry about whatever may ail us. Our thoughts are like clouds passing through the sky. They come and go effortlessly. We lose site of the horizon when we focus on one, two or a few clouds. We lose the ground of our being when we focus our attention on this or that interpretation of the cloud forms. Thoughts like all things in life are impermanent. A bad thought is followed by good but we don’t “see” it as we’re too attached to what we don’t want in our lives. We have strange and unruly images of how things are supposed and lose sight of how things are. We miss the point of what’s right in front of us because we are so consumed with how we think or feel things ought to be, should or could be.
The things on our minds are what we put there with our focus and intent. Resistance of what’s happening creates so much weight to bear, we can hardly carry it. We lie to ourselves and call it reality. The thing with a lie is that it take immense energy to remember what we tell ourselves and ensure others believe the same lie. In return for our investment of time and energy of our thoughts, our bodies become hardened and tighten from the burdens we create for ourselves. Health deteriorates in the myriad ways that it can. We find our necks are stiff or headaches that Advil just can’t quit take care of. We drink to relax and forget the problems we created for ourselves while creating more problems. Worse yet, some folks take up more addictive substances or behaviors all in lieu of nurturing the connection with what really matters, our continual connection to the present and the realization it’s up to us to manage ourselves and adapt to what’s unfolding in our lives. Instead of managing the biz of ourselves, we resist change and the world around us starts managing us.
So the next time you have too much on your mind, ask yourself who put it there. You have a choice about what to carry around on your head or in your soul. Instead of perpetuating the burden, perhaps you can review how you brought about the situation and your particular responsibility for the burdens you carry. Life is what it is. Things will change and it’s our choice moment to moment to be aware of our involvement in the unfolding of the situation.