Have you ever noticed that as soon as you sit or lay down to relax, to take a nap, to go to sleep, or to meditate, that all of a sudden your brain comes up with a thousand things that you need to know about RIGHT NOW. All of a sudden you need to evaluate that conversation that you had with your client play by play. Or you need to review every ingredient that you plan on putting in your salad later. Or you need to plan that document that you need to write tomorrow.
As soon as you try to relax and clear your mind, your brain has other plans. How do you deal with this, other than to be annoyed and angry that you can’t fall asleep or relax?
Well, I like to think of my brain like an adorable puppy dog. All day long it is busy with the work that I am doing. It is occupied and therefore you don’t really notice it. I imagine that it’s got an interesting toy, or maybe it’s found a wonderful patch of smelly grass to roll around in. It is active and busy.
Unlike you, a puppy dog is not tired out by all of this activity. You and your body are tired, but the puppy dog wants to continue to play. (If you’ve ever owned a puppy dog, you will know this is true. They are never tired.) So when you put your head down to close your eyes and shut your brain down for a minute, it will oblige for a moment, but then, like an adorable puppy dog, it will find something interesting that you should see. A dirty shoe, a sock, some underwear, a toilet paper roll, take away it’s usual activity and it will find anything and everything to bring you. Every time you tell it to go away and drop that piece of trash it will come back with something new. Oh, that work task you have due tomorrow isn’t interesting? What about that argument you had with your mom 10 years ago? That weird guy you saw on the corner the other day? The table in your living room that is still a mess from Christmas? Your stomach is bothering you? Stephen Colbert is no longer your news source? Or how about cookies? Would you like to think about cookies? Your puppy dog brain will go away for a moment and come back with some more interesting news.The reason I like to think of it as a puppy dog (you can picture it as a kitty or an adorable little child) is that it is much easier to forgive a puppy dog and move on. If I blame my wandering thoughts on my stupid brain that won’t let me relax and is annoying me, I continue to fall deeper into a black hole of NOT-RELAXED. If I think of it like an adorable puppy dog I can do something different.
To some of you this might seem a little strange, but it is totally effective, so even if you think I’m weird, if you find yourself not able to fall asleep some night, willing to try anything, give this a go. Once I find myself falling into the black hole of anger, frustration and NOT-RELAXED, I think the words, “I am having trouble falling asleep (or meditating).” Slowly form the words in your brain and focus on them for a second. Then, I picture this adorable puppy dog, often a chocolate lab in my mind, I picture it bounding over with another thought. How cute! You can’t be angry about that, he just wants to play! So I mentally give it a pat on the head, say “Thank you” and focus on my breath. I mentally say the words “Breathe in” and “Breathe out” as I breathe. When another thought comes up (and it will) I pat the doggy on the head and thank him again. Over and over until I am focused on this adorable puppy dog and my breathing instead of all that other crap. The more time you spend creating a mental picture of this adorable puppy with his long floppy ears and long tongue and shiny fur, the less time you spend worrying about tomorrow. Before you know it, it will be tomorrow morning.
What do you think? Do you have a similar technique that you use? What tricks do you have to help fall asleep at night?