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Insomnia: The Art of Letting Go

Outside our Western culture, there are indigenous people who believe that the onset of the spiritual journey often is heralded in by insomnia; It is time to take up your duty to the soul.
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Neither are the residents of the Pacific Northwest 'sleepless in Seattle,' nor is insomnia confined to our greater Seattle area, despite the continuing T-shirts with this phrase hawked at Sea-Tac Airport! By now, if you've been following the HuffPost Living Section, you've reviewed most of what's 'out there' on the subject. So, valuing both you and your time, let me 'cut to the chase' on the topic, in an attempt to be useful, rather than redundant.

Dare I say it? What if insomnia is not the issue? Yes, we know sleeplessness is linked with a number of health concerns, not limited to weight gain, tissue inflammation, cardiovascular conditions, maturity onset diabetes, and so on. Louise Hay is not the Lone Ranger when she suggests that too little shut-eye is related to a problem with letting go. The question is, letting go of what?

When top Fortune 500 big-wig, Wilson, came to find the remedy to his trouble with inadequate sleep, his words differed from Elena's, a 54-year-old elementary school principal. Both had tried prescriptions, over-the-counter herbal remedies, and 'counting sheep,' none of which had worked.

When I asked them individually what they believed was the cause of their distress, however, their answer was the same: worry. Although Elena worried she'd have to lay off more staff due to tightening budgets, and Wilson was more concerned about his inability, as he put it "...to get it up anymore when I want to," both experienced a similar frustration of 'swimming against the current.' Fighting life as it is turns out to be a set-up for bigger problems. Not surprisingly, each identified sleeplessness as the enemy. Admittedly, insomnia is a game changer.

Another Strategy. Since nothing else had helped, I suggested we get 'out of the box' and take a leap from a literal to a metaphorical way of understanding this challenge. Blessedly, they 'were game.' I say 'blessedly' because we cannot solve a present dilemma through the same old, worn-out 'eyeglasses.' Both were open to what follows, patient, and got results. I asked them to consider the following 7 suggestions:

1. What if the underlying problem is NOT that you can't fall asleep? Sure, you want and require more sleep. However, what if there were another, greater part of you that is trying to help you symbolically wake up? To their 'huh?' I continued: Outside our Western culture, there are indigenous people who believe that the onset of the spiritual journey often is heralded in by insomnia, especially when the non-sleeper is post-menopausal. The idea being that when you've reached a certain stage where you've handled responsibility to the village compound, then it is time to take up your duty to the soul. While Carl Jung did not emphasize the menopausal aspect, he certainly differentiated our life duties by these two stages.

3. What might your unlived life be; your "Soul duty," that's possibly nudging you to pay attention? Hint: What heart's delight have you been putting off too long?" Elena was waiting to travel to Peru for the past 20 years. Six months ago, her only brother, an athlete, died suddenly of a heart attack. Since then, she had insomnia. Her mortality 'clock' was ticking. Wilson, twice divorced, started seeing a younger woman. Although he was smitten, he was terrified his grown kids would judge him, so he kept his secret life quiet. His heart condition worsened, and blood pressure rose since he was keeping what's important to him walled off from his support.

4. For the next week, notice what drains your energy. What do you need to release in order to honor more of who you'd like to become? To answer this one, notice which tasks, situations and people leave you most depleted. You don't have to change anything, if you don't wish, just notice and record so that you can create more ease in your system when you're ready. Wilson noticed he was particularly fatigued after a family visit, where he kept the conversational ball on a superficial level.

5. On sleepless nights, imagine, as vividly as you can, with all your senses, yourself slowly, slowly, slowly letting go of the circumstances that leave you drained. Pretend that you have been handed pruning shears, and you are 'cutting away' the dead branches on your metaphorical Tree of Life. Enjoy the weight that's lifted, the stillness, the space.

6. Be good to yourself. By allowing yourself to step away from the clamor of the world, out beyond what's deadening, you enter the domain of new life. New seeds sprout best in quiet, un-pressured places. Be kind to you. All new life requires a patient labor and delivery. Some take longer than others, as I was reminded on New Year's Day, when my daughter birthed our grandbaby. There's a time to push, and a time not to push. It's important to know the difference. During the experience, I was reminded of the words:

Welcome difficulty.

Learn the alchemy

True Human Beings know:

The moment you accept

What troubles

You've been given,

The door opens...
-Rumi

Follow-up. Well, it took some time for Wilson's doors to open, and get more sleep. First, he needed to prepare himself to meet with his kids and tell the truth, awakening to the fact that it was not their judgment that was keeping him awake, but his own. Both his family and he are adjusting. Elena returned from Peru two weeks ago. She's sleeping "like a baby," and planning her next trip to Africa where she'll be volunteering at an orphanage on her vacation.

7. Take heart. Whatever new life is taking shape and form through the 'birth-pains' of your insomnia, be assured something beautiful is on its way through your life force if you don't push at the wrong time. How do I know? Simple: create a welcoming atmosphere for what is beautiful to your heart and healing will come in amazing ways. Said Frederick Bailes:

"Nothing kills the healing consciousness so easily as the habit of criticism...
Criticism poisons, but love heals."

Recall 'Sleepless in Seattle"? The story began with an ending, in a cemetery. The new chapter begins through a child's willingness to ask for help, when he cannot sleep. No wonder it's a classic. So are you!

I've missed you during my holiday! Let me know: How you are? What would you like to let go of this year? What new life would you most enjoy welcoming into your heart? What would be fun 'just for fun?' Thanks for passing this piece along to your special contacts!

Love,
Cara

P.S. Mama, baby, and grandma are doing beautifully!