<-- click for intro ramble
My life over the last couple of months has been increasingly stressful - for reasons some of you may be aware of - Increasing stress has a vicious circle effect from and on Quality and Quantity of sleep .
Sleep is an important brain state which has a lot of required beneficial effects for those of us whose brains have been scrambled whether newly scrambled or not.
There are lots of resources out there that suggest ways to improve sleep. They include things like establishing a bed-time routine, avoiding screens or at least blue light from screens, taking wakeful activities that use a lot of brain power out of the bedroom & and mindfulness techniques including meditation .
This last category is one that does not compute for me.
Somehow the sandals and joss sticks bit doesn’t relate to how my noodle operates - phrases like “find your inner happy place and feel the weight of your body as you float over the mountain” - Which is near as I can remember a direct quote from the app I was given by the neuro-something-or-other in the hospital Just jars - how can I float if Ive got weight? Why does my happy place have a mountain?.. What even is a happy place?
Over the last two months as an attempt to battle sleeplessness I started using a mechanism to block out those unwanted pesky obsessional thoughts about “surely they can’t think that when this and this given this and this and this and this are clear evidence to the to the contrary…” - I’ve needed to shut out that logic, that exasperation, that sense of injustice that is so strong it constantly whirls around denying sleep.
I think I remember the anxiety as the same in the year or so post stroke when sleep was also difficult
Of course it’s probably nothing newly found but it newly makes sense to me .
I have been subtracting 7 from 1,000 repeatedly. 993, 986, 979… Well actually I haven’t I’ve been subtracting 10 and adding 3 and tripping over when I get to a transition that goes into the teens or something like 888, 881 where it still works but requires carrying over one when you had three etc
And there in is my new found understanding.
It’s not the simple arithmetic like 867, 860… It’s lots of different elements for example: the recognition that 860 is a round number that ‘fits’ against 140 within my thousand and therefore the long chain of steps or decrements to get to this point was carried out without mistake or has been a mistake and I need to go back and start again .
learning to use
In one respect it’s a very simple train of thought and in another respect it requires surrender of all other thoughts to the theme of execution . The clamouring pressuring noise no longer has space to reverberate
I have been repeatedly confounded by the fact that I can’t get past a particular point without getting confused. A common point of confusion is 699, 692, 685,… Well somehow I lose ability to remember what the tens are so I know the next number is going to end in three and I think the start is a six but I don’t know what comes in the middle and I don’t know what the last number I was doing was so I have to go way back to a now familiar and comfortable place such as 1000 or 804.
It’s taken the 2 months of repeated usage of this strategy for it to grow into something that I’m hoping will be reliable. It’s not the strategy it’s the 2 months of using it that have created something with potential
to date I can’t recall having got to sub 500 although there have been nights where I’ve spent a considerable time (our luminous bedside clock has moved on by maybe 20mins?) trying to get the 700s or the 800s to work
So I offer you, if you’re struggling with sleep my observation.
It’s not the arithmetic it’s 2 months of learning to use the distraction and it is paying off.
I would imagine that your distraction could be anything you choose
If you’ve read this and thought “well obviously, it’s Just what meditation is” maybe you can find some more eloquent words to isolate what the essential quality is that I’ve stumbled around trying to describe