Saturday, October 30, 2010

Count to 100

Does your mind race around trying to keep track of the things you have to do? Mine does. Even with my compulsion for list-making, my monkey mind just hops around and bounces back and forth, reviewing what I've done, setting up what needs to be done, flicking through my mental file just who's on my "To Delegate" list, on and on.

Monkey Mind does pretty well (with the help of those lists!) and often, as my little internal file keeper is reorganizing and categorizing what Monkey Mind is tossing around, she brings to the surface some important item that got buried or a new idea for solving a current situation. So I don't like to put the lid on Monkey Mind or Ms. Inner Filer all that often. However. When I'm ready to go to sleep, I really do need the dynamic duo of Mind and Filer to take a break. Whew! Tough one.

There are a lot of suggestions I've read--no computer, no e-mail, no phone, no TV; visualization of a pleasant landscape, reading a few pages of a soothing book, listening to soothing music or sounds. All good suggestions. I do these from time to time. But I find that what helps me most is to count to one hundred.

Get comfy in bed; relax against the pillows; turn off the lights, TV, radio; settle into the dark and the relative quiet.

Tell yourself that you will focus on this counting until you reach 100. If you reach 100 and you're still wide awake, then you may need to try that visualization method, but you're going to allow yourself to stick with this to 100.

Then direct your attention to your breath.
Breathe in, as you breathe out, count 1.
Breathe in, as you breathe out, count 2.
Breathe in, as you breathe out, count 3. And so on.

Don't try to breathe deep or change your breathing rate. Just, every time you breathe in and out, count.

If a thought comes wafting in (and it will), gently redirect your attention to your breath and continue counting. If you hear sounds from the other room, or feel movement on the bed for whatever reason, acknowledge it and go back to attending to your breath and counting. If you lose count, start where you left off and keep going. Don't angst about missing numbers, just resume your attention and your counting.

I usually count from one to ten, then start over because counting from one to ten is so completely a part of me that I can do it, well, in my sleep. And that is the point.

With this method, even though I give myself permission to count to 100, I get to the 5th or 6th round of counting to 10 (or to 50 or 60 if I count in sequence), and I'm out. For the night. I even feel skeptical some nights when I'm really wound and I'm certain that Monkey Mind and Ms. Filer will never let me sleep. Attending to my breath and counting works every time.

Now I know you're going to say, "But that's kind of like counting sheep, and that's silly." Counting sheep does work for some people. If it works for you, by all means, continue. My problem is that when I'm counting sheep, I start to make up stories about each one, why is this one underfed, why is that one so fluffy, and did that one have anything to do with the fire at the farm earlier that day. So you see, sheep do not help me in the least. They could be labelled "Enablers" to sleepnessness. Let's not go there.

Try the breath counting. It works for me. It could work for you.

Pleasant dreams and blessings on your caregiving.

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