Friday, January 20, 2006

Sleepless nights? Use the time.

Many years ago when living in LA, I struggled through a time of sleepless nights.

Something stressful was going on—I was disappointed in love or worried about money or something like that. And every night I would go to sleep only to wake in the wee hours with my mind racing, like there was a full dose of adrenalin pumping through me. I’d lay there, energized but also exhausted, ruminating on all my woes, until finally just before dawn I’d drift off only to be jolted up again by my alarm.

I was frustrated not only about not sleeping, but about how irrational my exhaustion made me during the day. And, waking up in the middle of the night became increasingly stressful in and of itself. I’d think, Oh, no, not again, and wallow in all kinds of discouragement. In the dark of night like that, your mind wanders to all your problems, real or imagined, present day or deep in the past. The wakefulness began to take on a life of its own.

What changed the situation for me was acceptance. I’ve been thinking lately about the Bible phrases, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him,” and “Resist not evil” (both from the Sermon on the Mount). Those phrases have often puzzled me. What did Jesus mean? Then I remembered that time of sleeplessness—maybe that was an example of not resisting, of accepting.

Because what I did was take a passive-proactive approach. Eventually, I hit on the idea of, Well, I’m clearly going to be awake anyway. I won’t fight being awake anymore. I will, however, decide for myself what I’m going to focus on while awake. Instead of ruminating on my woes, I’m going to use the time for spiritual contemplation.

The beauty of this was of course, it was the middle of the night. The kids were asleep, I wasn’t at work, I wasn’t watching TV. In the quiet of my bed at 3am, I had nothing to distract me but my own mind. And now I was going to focus that God-ward.

So the next time I woke up, I thought, I’m awake anyway. What does God want me to know right now? And I let my mind wander through spiritual truths and embraced gratitude for the day that was past and the day to come. The stress that had woken me up evaporated as I relaxed into not fighting error but instead imbibing Truth.

I think for a few nights the wakefulness still lasted several hours, but what a different time it was. I actually began to smile when I woke up, looking forward to this private time with God. The time became infused with peace and assurance, comfort and gentleness.

This passive-proactive approach eased the stress on all levels of my life. Although I wasn’t sleeping, I was resting—resting in God’s love and goodness. Eventually my life evened out and I began to sleep normally again. But the skill I’d learned of turning to God with my whole heart carried right over into my prayer times after that. The peace of prayer became more readily available to me no matter what the circumstances.

Resist not evil—let God do the fighting for you. Train your thought on Him, and He will comfort you.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

--Matthew 11:28

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At 1/20/2006 08:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mrs Eddy says in Science and Health : "The consciousness of Truth rests us more than hours of repose in unconsciousness" (p218), which is more or less what you found out!
Love Amanda

At 1/21/2006 06:57:00 AM, Blogger Laura said...

thanks for that Amanda! I'm doing a version of this entry for The Christian Science Monitor, and I think I'll include that quote!

At 1/21/2006 04:14:00 PM, Anonymous rev. Veronika Birken said...

Dear Laura,
You have expressed so well what I am experiencing!
My greatest opportunity for inner lessons have been during the night.
Love, Veronika


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