Here's how it goes: I get to sleep just fine. Occasionally, worrying about the lack of sleep the night before, I will take half an Ambien to help me drop off. But then, even with the Ambien, Nature will insist on calling in the middle of the night--at 2:30, say, or 3:00. I stagger off sleepily to the bathroom but by the time I get back to bed my brain is wide awake and going furiously to work. It wants to write the blog entry for the next morning, or plan to the next speaking gig, or take care of some other business in advance.
(This past week, that business has entailed the search for a new part-time assistant: the trusty Daniel is leaving us after several years for more profitable full-time employment with a company that markets "ethical merchandise." Here's his blog, Ethix Merch. It's in fact an interesting--and I have to say somewhat sad--reflection on the state of the current job market. Once he decided that it was time for him to move on, we placed an ad on Craig's list and were immediately flooded with applications for this low-paying, 10 hour per week job. Most of them came from highly qualified applicants, all deserving of attention to their resumes and a good number deserving of interviews. This task has kept me busy.)
Back to this sleeping problem, then. Once my brain is in gear, it is proving difficult, if not impossible, to shut it down. I drive a Prius. It's like those errant vehicles that get stuck in acceleration mode. The damn thing (the brain) gets stuck in forward and keeps going faster and faster, no matter how hard I apply the brakes. A friend asked me yesterday if the skills I have learned in years of meditation are of help, and I realized, no, what meditation teaches is not how to go to sleep, but how to stay more awake. I'm just a bit more alert to what the brain is doing. I try to use the breath to slow it down, but my success has proven limited. In fact, the same problem has been showing up at those times when I actually sit down to meditate. The brain thinks this is a wonderful opportunity to go to work. This morning, I considered myself lucky to get just a few breaths at the end, after half an hour of busy thinking.
I did come to the realization, though, in this morning's sit, that this is all about planning. It's the delusion that, with sufficient forethought, I can control the outcome of future events. What I need is to relax into the understanding that no matter how much I plan, things will turn out different. The old joke is that a plan is what you make when you want to see God laugh. I don't believe in God, but the point is good.
So what to do? Understanding the cause of the problem is one thing; getting past it is something else again. Maybe it's a first step. I'll remind myself before I go to sleep tonight. (Another plan!) I've thought about counting sheep--which is a little like watching the breath, when you think about it. In the meantime, I'm just grateful when a good night comes along. Any suggestions, anyone?