It used to be that when I couldn’t sleep, I’d lie in bed and feel the anxiety building in my chest. I’d worry about not sleeping, I’d worry about how tired I’d be in the morning, I’d count backwards or try to remember the names of everyone in my first grade classroom, all in a desperate – and usually unsuccessful — attempt to fall asleep again.
Now, when I wake at 3 or 4 a.m. and can’t fall back asleep, I think, oh good, the perfect time to meditate.
Most people can’t find time to meditate during their busy days. Even 20 minutes seems elusive when you have work, family obligations, a home to care for, and so on. But at 4 a.m., there’s nothing on the calendar, no phones ringing, the laptop is sleeping even if you can’t. So why not meditate?
Monks and mystics intentionally wake up at these early morning hours because this pre-dawn period, when the rest of the world is slumbering, is ideal for achieving inner quiet and stillness.
You can sit up in bed and meditate or meditate lying down on your back (think savasana if you’ve ever taken a yoga class). There are lots of techniques to use. But since to day is day 1 of Deepak Chopra’s meditation challenge (which, by the way, I plan to participate in), I’ll start by directing you to a Dream Meditation that the Chopra Center recommends. This is a meditation in which you replay your day, condensing all of your activities from waking to going to bed into a 5-minute ‘film’ that you project onto your mind’s eye and watch as an objective observer. Listen to the podcast for details.
I find meditating in the middle of the night, during bouts of sleeplessness, will often lead into clear, and sometimes even lucid or luminous dreams. And surprisingly, I wake refreshed despite the small number of hours I’ve logged in sleep.
So, next time you wake and can’t fall right back into sleep, thank your insomnia and start your new mediation practice!