Rest & Ritual
In June, Martha Lewis of Complete Sleep Solutions led us in a discussion about mindfulness and the importance of sleep for a healthy and happy life. What became clear during the discussion was the inextricable relationship between sleep and our wakeful state - one aspect feeding into the other. Sometimes that feels like a vicious cycle, especially when we seem to be stuck in a season of poor sleep. I talked about that very challenge during one of the partnered discussions. My partner has since reached out to me, and the following is an excerpt from an email exchange where she asked how I was doing which I think illustrates how real the struggle is...
“In general, I've been doing well, but have gone back and forth with sleep stuff. I have the same problem with falling back into old patterns when I'm around my family. My parents were visiting us and left a bunch of wine at my house. As I was feeling stressed the last few days, I popped one of those suckers open and have been dipping into it knowing full well that my sleep is going to suffer. Sure enough, I've been groggy in the mornings and despite my best efforts (setting multiple alarms and telling myself adamantly that I will wake up early - mental finger wagging), I have not been able to start my day the way I've wanted. It's definitely had an impact on how the rest of my day has played out, resulting again in the desire to pour myself a glass come witching hour. Blahhhhh!”
Can anyone relate? Obviously, the choices we make all day have a profound impact on whether or not we rest well. In a meditation I read this morning (one of my better habits), the author drove home the point that resting well is not as easy as we may think and requires intentionality, referencing Hebrews 4:9: “make every effort to enter God’s rest.” Does anyone else see the irony that rest must be earned with effort?
So how do we intentionally create harmony in our relationship of wakefulness and sleep? Does a single mindful act cut it or does it require ritualized mindful practices? Clearly, my mindful setting of the alarm clock and intention setting to wake up early was not enough - 5:00am alarm 6:57am wake-up.
Martha pointed to a few ways that we can attain the harmony we seek when she talked about morning and evening routines, suggesting that SAVERS (Silence, Affirmation, Visualization, Exercise, Reading and Scribing) for mornings and gratitude journaling in the evenings can help us ground in the present moment, make conscious choices to begin our day and not only acknowledge the aspects of our lives that might be keeping us up at night, but also put them to bed. These rituals give us the chance to cozy up to practices that foster a sense of acceptance, peace and joy. Who wouldn’t want to rest their head on their pillow with those things on their mind and in their heart? That kind of rest really does sound divine.
“Once upon a time, when women were birds,
there was the simple understanding that to sing at dawn,
and to sing at dusk, was to heal the world through joy.
The birds still remember what we have forgotten,
that the world is meant to be celebrated.”
- Terry Tempest Williams
Coincidentally, two friends of mine have recently begun celebrating morning and evening prayer respectively. Using Martha’s language, one is an early bird or lark and the other a night owl. Another friend leads an evening meditation in a teepee on the elk refuge and yet another is creating an app called Six Minutes Daily where participants commit to mindful mornings. I’m in awe of the many ways humans can ritualize routine by imbuing it with gratitude, surrender, self-compassion and intention.
I wonder how I might better incorporate these rituals into my daily practice. I tried something new today. I sang varying rounds of, “good, good, gooooood morning to you!” with my children. I have a feeling today is going to be a good day. I’ll let you know when I wake up tomorrow.
Want to share your thoughts? Discuss