The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Sleep Experimenters Needed

I’ve discovered something strange.   For months now, I’ve successfully used Shiva Rae’s “Moon Salutation” to overcome residual muscle tension and turn off my brain for sleep.  But to be honest, sometimes I am too lazy late at night to do approximately seven minutes of yoga.  Those nights, if I’m not careful, I’ll toss and turn and get up in the morning un-rested.

So I made it a rule: at the very least, I do a simple Sun Salutation before going to bed (and usually waking up in the morning as well, although I might do a set of joint recovery drills instead.)  That came pretty close to doing the trick. 

Then about two weeks ago I did something different: after getting in bed, instead of counting sheep or even going through the WARRIOR SLEEP program (which works like gangbusters…but like I said, sometimes I’m lazy) I visualized myself going through the “Moon Salutation” sequence.

It was strange.  I had a hard time holding the sense of being in “First Person”—performing it from the “inside.”  I kept flipping to watching myself do it as an observer.  I relaxed, focused, and slipped more deeply into the drill…

And suddenly it was morning.  I was shocked, and have tried this every night for the last few weeks, and have only gotten to the end of the sequence once. A few times I woke up again about four hours later, used it, and went right back out.

Now…I don’t know if this would work for others. Whether you need to practice yoga, or practice the Moon Salutation sequence, or whatever.   This might be something anyone can do because of secrets locked in the movement pattern, or something that works for me and no one else.  So…I’m putting it out there, and would like feedback.

Because if it works for anyone….wow!


Sarah said...

I printed out a page with the series of positions for the Moon Salute yesterday. Some of the stretches I do each day for running preparation are based on yoga positions, but I haven't made an attempt yet to learn any type specifically. Haven't found the time in the day. I think I can add that series before I go to bed, though. What you experienced is interesting. I am sometimes successful imagining myself in one of my memory places or running or viewing what I would see if I were running as a means of falling asleep. Perhaps it has to do with how you feel when you are doing the activity while awake. The opposite is certainly true. Remembering or imaging arguments is a sure way to Not fall asleep or sleep peacefully.

Steven Barnes said...

"Memory Places"? You use the memory palace technique? Would you share your experience, please?

Sarah said...

About four or five years ago when I was really unhappy one of two times which are tied for lowest moments, my mind started visiting memories. I didn't decide consciously back then to do it. My mind just did it. These are the memories I have of the times when I have been filled with so much joy and happiness I can't find the words to describe it: God's grace or my life force peeking up to the surface. One of my favorites is an early spring day about 8 or 10 years ago. I was running out in the country on my way home. I heard a gold finch singing and stopped to look around in an attempt to find him. It was early enough in the spring that bird song was rare. I spotted him standing on a fence post with his beak upturned and open and his chest puffed out. He was singing with complete unfettered joy. The memory isn't just a picture of the goldfinch and the fence post. I can feel the sweat on my body and the energy in my legs from running. I can feel the cold air mixed with burst of warm air. I can smell the new grass and moisture of the melting snow. I could actually be there. In fact, just writing this has made me take a deep calm breath and smile. I live for those moments. After a fashion, my conscious mind realized what my unconscious mind was doing and since then, I have practiced going into these memory places. I do it when I can't sleep or when my head is under too much pressure. Last night I woke up at 4 am from a bad dream. I actually woke myself from the dream while I was in it. I don't remember what was happening in the dream, but it was violent. I was wide awake at 4 am. Not a good thing. I thought about just getting up, but considered how tired that would make today. I visited the back yard of the house I grew up in. I was sitting on the back steps looking at the yard, walked down to my Dad's vegetable garden, and pretty soon I was back to sleep. My parents don't live in that house any more, but that yard was my favorite place as a child. I don't think it is an accident that most of these memory places are outside. I almost always feel like my brain waves and energy are being interfered with when I am inside. My grandma's kitchen in the house they used to live in is an exception. Yesterday, I made some vegetable broth. The smell of the vegetable broth reminds me of her kitchen. While I was cleaning up last night, I was visiting there. I now think of these memories as love letter. They remind me why I get up each morning and have to figure out a way to survive. I can't make these moments happen. They show up of their own accord, but I keep them in my memory to revisit when I need comfort and calm and to feel loved. I have tried to explain this to a few people and gotten looks like they thought I was a bit loopy. I think perhaps you will understand what I am trying to say.