“It was that sort of sleep in which you wake every hour and think to yourself that you have not been sleeping at all; you can remember dreams that are like reflections, daytime thinking slightly warped.”
~ Kim Stanley Robinson
I’m still in the grip of this flu. Not only that, I’m stuck in the city so that I can be close to a hospital while my heart continues to misbehave.
Here I am again, awake at 2am (which is when I am writing this – I’ll schedule it to post all by itself so I can sneak back to bed later and hopefully finally get some more sleep). Each night I’m in bed early, and I’ll fall asleep easily. But then my heart wakes me up, sometime between 11pm and 2am, pounding and crashing and racing in my chest. I’ll sit up in bed, distressed, catch my breath and cough a little and then quieten myself and try to bring my heart back to a normal pace using meditation and my breath. I’ll have a nice big glass of water with magnesium too, which sometimes helps. Still, it’s a bother.
Once upon a time, years and years ago, I used to panic at stuff like this. I was an amateur back then and worried excessively about every creak groan, pain and weird symptom. Now this kind of stuff is background noise mostly, and I have a raft of management techniques I use while I wait to see what my body will do and if I will need medical attention or whether it will settle on its own. One of my favourite techniques is mindfulness.
Mindfulness has become a soothing companion for me over the years. I use it three ways. I thought that by sharing this you might be able to add it in to your coping skills toolkit too. This technique works for pain, anxiety and many other kinds of problems.
- I become mindful of my body. Sitting or lying quietly I bring my attention to my breath. Then I take a tour, starting at the top of my head and working all the way to the tips of my toes. At each part of my body I draw my focus inwards and observe. How does my body feel? Any pain? Hot or cold? Any sensations or things I need to be aware of? Can I use my awareness to bring control, assistance and calm to my body? I’ve found that this simple act often dials down my pain, calms my heart and breathing, and lets me work through and out the other side of whatever is going on. Thinking about pain generally is very different to feeling into it specifically. When you connect with your pain through mindfulness and being in the moment everything becomes much more manageable.
- I become mindful of what’s going on outside my body. Always I bring my attention back to my breath first. Then I reach outside myself with my senses. What noises can I hear? How far can I hear when I reach beyond myself? Where does that awareness take me? Is there a breeze or any other kind of weather I can detect? What animals or people can I hear? If I can see the sky I pay particular attention to that. I let myself dissolve into the world around me, so that I am at the centre and life surrounds me. (This is a brilliant technique for developing your psychic senses too!) If my eyes are open, what can I see? What can I feel? Can I feel the texture of the sheets, or the cool of the night? This brings me a sense of reconnection and belonging. I see that I am more than just my body.
- I become mindful of my thoughts and emotions. By now, having spent time in mindfulness of my body and surroundings I am usually calmer. I sit or lie quietly and bring my focus to my breath. Then I stay quiet and open, waiting to see what arises for me. I tune in to any thoughts or emotions – not grabbing at them but letting them float up into my awareness. When I recognise a thought or emotion I sit with it, to see what it means for me. I do this with love and compassion for myself. Often this simple act of witnessing will dispel worry and uncrowd my overactive mind. This, in turn, soothes my physical body and often enables me to return to sleep.
Once I am calm again and things have settled I might go back to bed, or stay up for a little longer and write, or perhaps stand at the window or sit on a chair and watch the slumbering world for a while.
There’s a gorgeous moon tonight, a streaky golden sky, and the air is warm and slightly salty. It feels like there will be early morning fog here in Brisbane. It’s May and I am wearing only a thin cotton nightdress. My feet are bare. It’s almost winter, but it could be a summer night.
As I stand on our balcony I see a lone black and white cat walking down the centre of our street, placing her paws very deliberately, looking warily as she patrols. A possum and her baby are creeping along the power lines and there are fruit bats crying noisily and flapping all about the fig tree across the way. A rescue helicopter flies high overhead enroute to hospital and I send them love, light and my prayers for their journey. Meanwhile, the street sleeps on…
Hopefully soon so will I.
Sending much love to you, Nicole ❤ xx