— Raj Narayan
At a recent workshop for the employees of a global consulting company, we had a senior staffer ask a specific question about her life and how to change something that was making things tougher for her.
The moment she asked the question I sensed a collective sigh from the rest of the group. I took the liberty of asking if anyone else faced the same challenge. Several others nodded their heads and one anxious looking gent said, “That’s an integral part of corporate life”.
I and my fellow facilitator weren’t surprised as this topic has risen again and again during our workshops. For, we have heard this one several times before. It is afflicting more and more people, each passing day and you too wouldn’t be an exception.
In case you are, thank your unconscious mind.
The lady was passing through some challenges on the professional and personal front.
“When I go to bed, I just can’t fall asleep. I’ve tried counting sheep. I’ve tried a glass of warm milk. I’ve tried prayer. I’ve tried vigorous exercise. They simply don’t work for me. I get lots of dreams and when I wake up I start the day feeling tired.”
Well! We are all aware that humans require a specific amount of sleep. In fact, all living beings require that. It’s just that humans sleep at night while the animals sleep, whenever they can. So, we need ‘adequate’ sleep for good health and a sound mind. The question is how much is ‘adequate’? As a benchmark, let’s fix it at seven hours.
Do we sleep seven hours though?
How many times do we label those who can fall asleep immediately upon hitting the sack as “lucky ones”? Most of us toss and turn and fall into a disturbed sleep (defined as rapid-eye-movement or REM sleep by doctors). We have dreams and some nightmares. We wake up bleary-eyed and tired. The prospect of the day ahead is daunting and we go through it with the help of caffeine (coffee and cola), food or even mindless shopping.
The reason is simple – Mental Chatter. That continuous stream of insistent thought which stays with us, often painting scary scenarios of the future or recalling scarier instances from the past, always forcing us to dwell there.
We spend enormous amounts of our emotional energy contemplating the two or three things that are wrong in our lives. Or, should I say, the two or three things that ‘we arbitrarily decided are wrong with our lives.’ We make up situations and worry about our responses to these imaginary situations.
While making up these stories, we completely ignore the fifty to five hundred things that are pretty good about our lives. Trust me! The mind recalls painful experiences of the past at ten times the speed that it brings forth pleasurable ones.
We often bring this aspect to the awareness of the participants that they are incredibly privileged. They don’t have to wonder where their next meal will come from. They have beds to sleep in and roofs over their head. And people around them who love them unconditionally.
When we make this observation, they become aware of it and readily acknowledge that they are privileged.
WE are privileged. In saner moments we also recognize this.
But we do not feel so. We feel forced and we feel stressed out. The cause for this is our mental chatter that repeatedly takes us back to those painful events of our life and makes us dwell on possible repeats in the future. We spend emotional energy.
Mind you! This happens only we are alone and contemplative. Which means we are not performing any task with or without others.
So, try out this experiment tonight:
Before going to bed, take five minutes to think continuously of all the things that make you feel truly blessed and fortunate.
Experience that feeling of gratitude swell up within you. Persist with it till you feel your eyes swell up with tears or you get goosebumps. Take my word… it does happen!
Do remember that this is not a mere thinking exercise. You mustn’t make a checklist mechanically like ‘I have food’, ‘I have a job’, ‘I have a family’, ‘I have good health’ etc.
One has to actually feel the gratitude, not just think it.
In case you miss out on the feeling on day one, persist with it. The fact is that gratitude is something we seldom acknowledge, let alone attempt to feel it. So, do persist till you actually experience those goosebumps or feel close to tears.
Then off you go to bed!
You can bid adieu to your sleepless nights or disturbed sleep. Many of our participants report that they began the exercise but never finished it because they fell asleep.
I trust that this will also be your outcome.
Peace be with you!
Healthy Mind; Joyful Living