My wife and I have a running joke about falling asleep. We’ll sometimes go to bed real late, and I’ll mention that I’ll probably fall asleep right away. She laughs a little, because I fall asleep very quickly every night. It’s funny now, but it wasn’t always like that for me. I’d like to share my method and the story of how I learned to sleep.
Falling asleep seems so easy, but millions of people have trouble doing it. It’s easy to see how big a problem it is in the US, with advertisements for sleep aids plastering TV and radio. I learned my method when I was in the ninth grade. This was a big year for me, as it’s also the same year I learned to stop worrying. This realization that worry serves no purpose helped with my sleeplessness. But it wasn’t the only factor.
Quiet the Mind
The main factor was to quiet the mind. To stop all those random thoughts from popping in my head as I was trying to fall asleep. I thought about all kinds of things, from school, to boy scouts, to family, to friends. The mind just kept going and going.
A few years ago, I read a book called The Accidental Buddhist, and they referred to this as Monkey Mind. Basically the mind is jumping from tree to tree rather than sitting still. I’ve come to find out this is a fairly common term in Buddhism and Yoga.
So, back to my quest for sleep. I didn’t know anything about monkey mind or how to quiet it back then. But, I did come across a page in a book that discussed meditation and the quieting of the mind. I believe the book was Dianetics, but it was so long ago, I can’t be sure. It’s rather interesting how I came across it. I didn’t read much back then, and, in fact, I rather disliked reading. But, I saw a book on the coffee table, and read one single page. That single page happened to discuss meditation and quieting the mind. It discussed focusing your mind by repeating a single phrase over and over again in your head.
The phrase they recommended was “I Am One.” This is actually a rather powerful phrase if you think about it. It encompasses our oneness with the world around us. We are each a part of the whole; a part of humanity, a part of earth, a part of the universe, and a part of God. We are one with everything around us. In a physical sense, we are all made up of molecules and atoms. These same atoms make up everything around us, so even in the physical sense, we are one, all built from the same basic building blocks of nature.
The phrase “I Am One,” really worked for me. Of course you are free to choose your own phrase or mantra. Any short phrase that holds some importance to you would work. Perhaps “I am happy” or “I am that I am” (a phrase that my dad likes,) or “Life is beautiful.”
Once you have your phrase picked out, you will repeat that phrase over and over in your head as you are falling asleep. If your mind wanders from the phrase, that’s ok. Just recognize that it wandered and get it back on track repeating the phrase again. Minds do tend to wander, and part of what we are doing is training our mind. Thus you just accept that it wandered and get right back to business.
Now that you have your phrase picked out, and you are repeating it over and over, let’s synchronize it with your breathing. For me, I would think “I Am” and breathe in, then think “One” and breathe out. You could also use the entire phrase on the breath in and the breath out, or just on the in, or just on the out. Do whatever feels right to you. The important thing is that you synchronize your phrase with your breathing. This will steady your breathing.
Here’s the quick list of the steps:
- Choose a phrase or mantra, such as “I Am One.”
- Repeat that phrase over and over again, and synchronize it with your breathing. “I Am” as you breathe in, “One” as you breathe out.
Pretty simple huh. Now a couple more questions may come up. Why does it work, and how long does it take? It works for two reasons. Repeating the phrase or mantra focuses your mind, and keeps your monkey mind from jumping tree to tree. In a way, your mind becomes bored and you get sleepy. Also, the steady breathing helps to relax your body, making it easier to fall asleep.
How long does it take? Well, the first few times you do it, it may still take you a while to fall asleep. If you practice this every night, you will gradually learn to fall asleep faster and faster. The key is to keep practicing every night for an extended period of time. It really does take practice, I can’t stress that enough. I began seeing results in a few weeks, but it took about a year before I could drift off as soon as my head hit the pillow.
After practicing for a long time, you won’t even need the mantra and breathing anymore, you will have learned to fall asleep.
I’d like to hear from you. Do you have trouble falling asleep? Do you have another technique that worked for you? Let me hear from you in the comments section!
Photo by kaibara87