5 Mindful Ways to Prepare Your Body and Soul for SleepNone None
If your nighttime ritual involves pushing aside your laptop on the bed before rolling over, or scrolling through your social media feed through heavy-lidded eyes, you may find that it takes awhile before your mind can settle into a peaceful state for restful sleep. Sometimes, a simple reflection or meditation is the best way to achieve a lasting calm that will carry you through the night. In his new book, A Mindful Evening, Dr. David Dillard-Wright shares over 200 mindful exercises to help you end the day with clarity and tranquility. We chose five to share with you below—you can focus on a different one each night.
Winding Down Worry
"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength." —Corrie ten Boom, Holocaust resister
As if the burdens of life were not enough, the mind makes them heavier and more difficult by dwelling on them excessively. Temporary problems come to seem like permanent features of reality. The fleeting difficulty becomes insurmountable. The mind is skilled at detecting threats, but this feature of the mind is not easily unwound or put on pause. The human mind, a product of our hunter-gatherer ancestry, is geared toward survival, but most of us would like more out of life than just survival. We want to thrive, to grow into new challenges and experiences.
Halve your burdens by concentrating on the breath. Breathing deeply and steadily, with a tranquil mind, develops equipoise and calm. This evening, as you draw closer to your rest, let each passing moment draw you deeper into peace. Know that whatever has captured your mind will not last. Everything changes; everything passes away. By the time you close your eyes to sleep, you will have complete contentment. The morning will bring a fresh mindset and creative solutions to all of your difficulties.
You Are More Free Than You Think
"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." —Theodore Roosevelt, twenty-sixth president of the United States
Most of the time our dissatisfaction comes from shortchanging ourselves. We give lots of effort to the things we don’t really care about but little effort to the things we care about the most. Some would say that where we spend our time and money reflects our true values, but I don’t believe that to be the case. We can live in such a way as to quash our dreams, push them so deep inside, but they don’t really go away. The good news is that any moment we can get back to the things we care about, whether it is practicing meditation or playing a musical instrument or collecting postage stamps.
This evening, can you carve out a few minutes for the things you care about, for the activities that feed your soul? Are you having internal resistance to the idea that you deserve a few quiet minutes to yourself? If so, observe that feeling of guilt or whatever it is that is holding you back. Know that you deserve to be whole and well; you deserve to be centered and alive. Know that some of the pressures you feel have been magnified by your own internal dialogue. You are more free than you think, right now.
From Division Into Community
"We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community." —Dorothy Day, journalist and activist
Our media and politics continually draw our minds into false dichotomies, of left and right, civilized and savage, conservative and progressive, east and west, and so forth. Things would be different if we imagined things in circles rather than opposing poles: Each point of view tends to fade into the others when taken to its logical conclusion. Hence libertarians and anarchists may be regarded as “right” and “left,” but they are not far apart on many issues. In order to have peace in society, we have to somehow make room for serious disagreement without demonizing the other. We must open a welcoming space in our minds and hearts, which is far more difficult than seeing oneself as always having the correct point of view.
This evening, you may find yourself clinging to a strident point of view, perhaps as a result of a news story that you read or something a friend said on social media. You probably cannot and should not let go of your personal ethics and your political beliefs, but perhaps you can hold these ideologies in suspension for the time being. Allow your mind to enter into a space of not-knowing, of not having solutions, of not casting blame. Before you go to sleep this evening, enter into a space of equanimity in which you regard all people in the same light. Give yourself the freedom to not have to have the correct belief.
Willing Yourself Into Calm
"Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties." —Helen Keller, author and activist
Settle into the much-deserved rest at the end of this day. Allow yourself to fade into the rhythms of this evening, whether you are chopping vegetables in the kitchen or folding a pile of laundry, whether you are listening to the sounds of traffic or the sounds of crickets.
Release the tension between your brows and allow yourself to merge with your surroundings. Release any conflicts you may have had with your loved ones or associates. Release troubles and worry. Release physical pain—if not the pain itself then the thought process associated with it.
If you are having trouble letting go, try exhaling worry, tension, and doubt. Inhale relaxation, joy, and peace. Exercise your will to bring yourself into a more calm state of mind. Open yourself to the possibility of divine presence. It may help to visualize your chosen divinity or perhaps a wise elder who has guided you along life’s path. Allow the confusion and stress to dissolve, and bring your awareness to your calm center.
Go Outside and Play!
"The emotional experience of wonder brings a sense of the fullness of the present moment, the existential now. It dethrones ordinary plans, purposes, and motivations and makes us receptive to our participation in a more general order of life." —Robert C. Fuller, scholar of religion
We spend so much of our adult lives in the mode of purposefulness, accomplishment, and achievement. Indeed, we come to believe that this is the only way to live, at least the only practical way. So we come to measure things and people by how well they suit our purposes. This attitude becomes a kind of everyday monstrousness. We forget that we can laugh and play and be surprised.
This evening, take a few minutes for play, true play with no other motive. Go outside and lay in a hammock. Talk to your favorite tree or animal. Be foolish. Run in circles. Climb a tree. Blow bubbles. Look for four-leafed clovers. Don’t do anything productive or “adult” for at least half an hour. Don’t even think about looking at your cell phone. No, you can’t just check your e-mail.
Excerpted from A Mindful Evening by David Dillard-Wright, PhD, Copyright © 2017 Adams Media, a division of Simon & Schuster. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
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