There is a beautiful line that’s hidden in a small song in the Jewish Friday Night service of Kabbalat Shabbat.
Right before the famous Lecha Dodi, with it’s popular melodies and moving imagery, there is a small paragraph that, in most prayer books, is found in smaller print.
The song starts off with the words:
Ana B’Koach Gedulas Yemincha, Tatir Tzrura.
Please, With the Strength of Your Right Hand, Untie the Bound.
There are several interpretations of what it means to ask God to “Untie the Bound”, but there is one that hits particularly close to home.
If you have ever been trying to untie your shoe lace, and it some how creates this ferocious, impenetrable knot, you know what I mean. You say to yourself, “How on earth did this happen? Three seconds ago it was a nice bow. Now, it’s a jumbled mess!” All you are trying to do is to take your shoes off, and somehow you seem much farther away from when you started. Deep within that knot, there is the right cord, that if pulled correctly, will release the entire thing. But it’s not always so easy to find.
I oftentimes feel the same reflecting on the previous week going into Shabbat. We all had challenges last week. Perhaps we got angry, frustrated, or jealous. Maybe we tasted despair, depression, or worthlessness. Challenges came up in work. Misunderstanding happened at home. Personal goals were cut short. Somehow we just didn’t live up to our greatest expectations. The week looked so bright in the shadow of the Havdallah candle last Saturday night. Now, things just look confusing.
I don’t know where to begin. I want to improve. I want to achieve greatness. But after a week like that, with so many confounding variables preventing me from reaching perfection, I don’t even know how to untie the knot to begin to move forward.
At the moment of that humility, almost at the apex of the Kabbalat Shabbat services, I turn to God and ask Him to simply help me find that cord, to untie the knot of negativity and constriction, so I can take off last week and begin to achieve inner peace and tranquility.
It is a rich moment that adds tremendous value to my own experience as I approach Shabbat every week.
The same thing is true with sleep in the context of overall mental health.
We are progressing as a society away from the stigma of mental health issues and coming to realize that every issue of the human personality exists along a spectrum. Whether you have been diagnosed or not, whether you have seeked treatment or are on medication, everyone has challenges in their own personality or mental health. It’s called being human. From a Jewish perspective, the Mussar movement challenges every person to clarify their own strengths and weaknesses and embark on the endless pursuit of character perfection.
Whether it’s the classic psychological labels of depression, anxiety, and OCD, or the negative character flaws in Jewish terms of jealousy, lust, and honor, they all have one thing in common.
They are all exacerbated if you are not getting enough sleep.
They take considerable amounts of mental and emotional effort to overcome, and if you aren’t sleeping properly, this can be an insurmountable task.
Anyone who has struggled with sleep knows that it affects your entire mood, overall health, and willpower to change. Often times they play off of eachother.
People are anxious and therefore can’t sleep. The more sleep deprived they are, the more anxious they become. It’s a vicious cycle.
As a sleep coach, I help break that cycle.
I am very clear with all of my clients that I can’t help them through every issue in life. I have a team of coaches and therapists that I refer people to, in order for them to live the most fulfilled, rich life possible.
But it starts with a good night sleep. That rest they need help give them the energy and clarity to tackle all of life’s goals.
I am grateful for being able to untie the knot of insomnia in the light of all mental health issues.