The Science of Sleep

Boy, am I tired today. Sometimes, even well-intentioned people can be loud until midnight when you need to get up at 6:30 the next morning.

I woke up and did a quick analysis of my condition. Eyes barely staying open. Arms lethargic, legs like lead weights, coordination entirely off. 5 hours of sleep, after a weekend of extreme, strenuous, exhilarating fun (New Years, visit from my brother, a great evening with a new friend, and today, my birthday!). I'm about 12 hours in debt to myself, and there's really no sign that this deficit will be repaid any time soon.

But, as I arrived at work, buffeted by the bone-chilling Westchester Wind (I've anthropomorphised this Beast of Winter), I remembered something incredibly important that is honestly quite easy to keep in mind while I'm feeling well. In fact, it's become second nature to me, except when I'm cranky, anxious, or tired. Unfortunately, those are the times when advice such as this is most necessary. Bandages aren't that useful when you don't have a wound in need of dressing, and therapy is generally lost on even the most damaged of individuals if they happen to be in a good mood at the time.

But I digress. I walked, and I thought the following: at some levels, both the highest level of being (the Observer) and the lowest level (the Reactor), we need only BE. There is no need to engage ourselves in every distraction that comes our way. As long as we are engaged in our own existence, we are safe no matter what happens to us.

So today, I'm exhausted. I really would rather be at home and asleep than at work, but I know that focusing on that will only make my estrangement from bed all the more painful. As a culture, we tell ourselves all the time that focusing on the negative is not helpful, but in general our solution is to distract ourselves in some other way. For instance, I could focus on work or writing this post, but in the back of my mind, I will always be thinking about wanting to go to sleep.

This method sucks (at least for me). And I know I'm on a Zen-Heavy trip these days (sans the dogma and doctrine), but in a lot of cases, the Zen answer is the correct answer. In this particular case, we find that rather than distracting ourselves further, the healthiest course of action is to acknowledge the discomfort, let it be felt, and let the thought dissipate naturally. Don't dwell, but don't try to artificially replace the thought either. And voila! You're out the other side, on your way to some sort of sleep-deprived enlightenment!

Every moment of my life in which I deal with thoughts and experiences AS THEY COME is a successful moment for me. Every moment in which I succumb to distraction is slightly annoying, but not sinful. There is no sin in this world, and that's what makes it so powerful. Sin is just another distraction from self, a roadblock that must be overcome in order to be truly OK with the world from moment to moment.

And, that, my friends, is how you write a barely cogent blog post. It feels good, though.


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A blog about social change, written from Brooklyn, New York. Currently looking for contributors.