“Sleep is the best meditation.” – Dalai Lama
I’ve been a lifelong insomniac. The act of getting to sleep torments me the most. My brain is always racing, conjuring up new ideas, revisiting past memories, and fretting over tomorrow’s uncertainties. This process, painful at times, finally leads to exhaustion, which finally leads to sleep.
There are some methods that seem to help me relax my mind. First, I’ve spent time learning how to meditate, which is surprisingly harder than you think for someone whose brain is constantly racing. I’ve also learned to stop thinking about the past because these can be the most jarring memories. The sad memories hurt, the happy memories get framed in a wistful sort of remembrance, and both are things you can’t control.
While the past can indeed sometimes hijack the mind with its bittersweet blend of nostalgia and regret, it’s essential to remember that it’s nothing more than a phantom. Mindfulness, focusing on the present moment, the rhythm of my breath, the sensations of my body, and the subtle sounds around me, has allowed me to unchain myself from the anchor of the past and the kite string of the future.
Mindfulness can also help you let go of the immediate present. Recognizing how soft the pillow feels, how cool the sheets are, and how the muscles of your body are relaxing in a position other than that office chair you’ve been sitting on all day is the secret to a restful night.
As I settle into bed at night, I make a conscious effort to tune into these sensations. My thoughts, once as frenzied as a city at rush hour, start to slow down. They become like a lazy river, meandering and unhurried. As tension drains from my body, and my mind finally stops running the relay race of thoughts, sleep comes creeping in, quiet and welcome as a long-lost friend.
Improved sleep has also helped me with my bouts of “tired depression.” Now, when I’m tired, and I get irritated, I know that it is just because I’m tired. Knowing this fact tends to weaken the signs of depression. Additionally, when I am fully rested, I find that my day goes better, I’m more productive, and my interpersonal relationships improve. I’m more patient, less likely to be aggressive, and less disappointed by simple failures.
In the end, I’ve learned that sleep isn’t an adversary to be wrestled with, but a partner to dance with. It’s not about forcing yourself to fall unconscious, but about creating a peaceful, inviting space for sleep to come naturally. Sleep isn’t just a state of inactivity, but an active, transformative process that nourishes the mind, body, and soul. As it turns out, sleep is indeed the best meditation.