Two nights ago there was the most impressive storm. Thunder crashing and lightning striking at the same time – we were right in the eye of the storm. I lay in my bed feeling safe and sound, revelling in nature’s cacophony. I’ve always loved storms – maybe a throwback to the seven years spent in the tropics where storms were dramatic and violent and then they’d just pass and there’d be brilliant sunshine. I especially love the rain that comes with storms and everything feeling cleaner and brighter the next day. My 11 year old daughter couldn’t sleep. She didn’t feel safe.
We need to feel safe in order to sleep. I wrote about this in my last blog. Sleep is an act of faith. And to sleep deeply we must trust deeply. Trust that whatever is going on out there, we can put it to one side and sleep deeply and restoratively waking with the energy and resilience to face life. We especially need this at the moment in these uncertain times. We need to cultivate a deep sense of trust.
Recently I’ve been working on trusting deeply. The last six weeks have been a rollercoaster with one particular lesson in trust that I’d like to share with you. On May 16th 2016, while on a yoga retreat, I got lost in the Portuguese mountains. At 5pm I set off for a 30 minute run following my usual (I thought) route on the mountain trails but this time, I got hopelessly lost. The sun beat down on me while I tried in vain to retrace my steps. I hadn’t told anyone I was going out for a run and I had no means of communication. No phone. No water. Just me and my watch. An hour later I started to get seriously worried but held on to the thought that my friend would raise the alarm at 7pm when everyone sat down to dinner. 7pm came and passed. No search party. Hot, thirsty, senses on hyper-alert, body flooded with adrenaline, I found the river and lay down on my stomach to gulp the delicious cool water. I found an abandoned village (the disappointment!) and a plastic sack which I ripped open and used as a cape to shield my rapidly cooling skin . I kept walking. I saw wild boar and deer, vibrantly coloured flowers and butterflies but I was in no mood to appreciate. The sun dipped down behind the mountains and soon it was dark but for the hazy light of a half moon. It was at this point that something changed. My breathing settled and deepened and I became calm. The darker it got, the clearer I felt about the direction I was taking. I felt this unshakeable sense of conviction in the direction I needed to take. In fact, it didn’t even feel as if I needed to think or make a choice – all I needed to do was just keep going. As simple as that. It was around 10pm when I found a road which eventually led me to a sign. The sign for my retreat. I had found my way home.
Apparently I’d gone miles off course. Apparently my friend had retired to bed early with a migraine so no alarm was raised. Apparently I was meant to have a terrifying and primal lesson in listening deeply…and trusting. And connecting with something – call it an inner voice or compass that guided me back to safety. Since returning home this inner compass has remained switched on as I’ve navigated my way through more life challenges and choppy waters.
And two weeks ago I found myself on the couch in the This Morning studio with Phillip and Holly doing a live phone-in on sleep. Caller no. 1 can’t sleep since her baby died of cot death. Caller no. 2 can’t sleep since her marriage ended. Caller no. 3 can’t sleep since his partner got the diagnosis of cancer. Oh and I’m supposed to solve each ‘sleep problem’ in less than sixty seconds!!!
Sleep problems are not about sleep! They’re about life!
They are about the messy, mulchy, uncertainty of life and everything that comes with it. And as we navigate these uncertain times we need to keep strengthening the connection with trust, our inner guide or compass or ……. (whatever you choose to call it) so that we don’t become fearful, overwhelmed and sleepless. How do we do this? You might want to experiment with the following:
* Stop obsessively watching the news, media (including social media) and anything that tells you repeatedly that we’re not safe and that we can’t trust
* Turn the noise off and turn your attention inwards. Breathe deeply into your belly. Send roots out with your exhalation. Send them out through your feet. Imagine sending them down to the centre of the earth.
* Do this when you wake up and especially when the mad monkey in your head is telling you it’s not safe and you can’t trust
* Do this several times a day and especially when you feel jaw clenching, shoulders lifting, quickening of breath. Do it when you get into bed, when you wake during the night.
And finally, stay open and curious. A mindset of ‘I wonder…’ rather than ‘I hope…’ will stand you in good stead over the coming months.
Yours in amazing health and energy.