Do you recognize those moments, when you’re about go to bed and something is still very, very active in your mind?
Surely, we all know that we should wind down before going to bed. No coffee, just water or tea, no bright screens and DEFINITELY no work emails!
Yeah, we know that, but every now and then we get trapped by something so seemingly important, that we just HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT.. over and over again.
Just when we’re about to go to bed…
You’ll hear yourself say: ‘Nope, it’s not worth it. Nope you’re not going to keep thinking about this and stay awake for hours like you did last time.’
And then: ‘Yep.. you ARE!’
Before you know it, an hour has passed and you are still thinking about that THING he or she said.. or that email from a client.. ‘God, why did I check my email! I know better!’
Here’s an idea, that you might find useful the next time you find yourself in this unfortunate situation. It did help my girlfriend last night, so it might work for you too.
What’s keeping us awake are our thoughts, right? Thoughts we believe to be true or thoughts that are somehow really important to us. Otherwise we wouldn’t spend any attention to them.
Now here’s an important word: attention.
We only have 1 attention. That sounds funny.
But you could even say that we ARE our attention.
And our attention can only be focussed on SOMETHING. Whether it is those thoughts that you are having or it’s a bunch of jumping sheep that you keep following through the meadows far into your dreamscape. 😉
The thing is, you cannot focus your attention on NOTHING. Impossible.
Even during meditation you might go from you breathing to some deep feeling (or Being) within.. but still your attention is (you are) focused on something.
Don’t think of the BIG FAT PINK ELEPHANT.. and there you have him, right?
This is supposed to be the logical effect of living in an inclusion based universe: we are expanding all of the time (at least for now we are 🙂 ). This means that what we focus on, will attract more of the same. It’s like gravity pulling similar things together and on a deeper level you could call it the law of attraction.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that you cannot not-spend attention, only do-spend attention to things. So if we spend attention to our thoughts, more similar thoughts arise.. or more variations! (Like going over a 1001 different ways you could approach ‘this problem’ you’re having)
The problem is that these thoughts, over time, have gained a substantial amount of traction. Or momentum. Which is like a big snowball, gathering more and more speed and mass as it rolls downhill. It works the same way with our thoughts.. they can use up so much energy from our minds, that after a while it feels almost impossible to think about something else! Well imagine that you would have to stop a fast rolling, 5 meter tall snowball going downhill. 🙂
Knowing this, what we ‘could’ do is the following:
First decide if you really want to keep thinking about this thing or not
I know, it sounds obvious, but sometimes it’s just so important to you, that you just want to continue thinking about it. Well then do so.. but know that it’s a decisions you take.
Something that really helps to make that decision, is to get it out of your system by ‘releasing’ it. You can do this by writing stuff down. Simply writing down your thoughts (or ideas!) will allow you to release. This could also mean getting up, making yourself a cup of tea and writing that email.. if that’s what it takes! (I always keep pen and paper close by)
Choose a clear, new point of attention that you DO want to focus on
You can for instance ask yourself: ‘What would make me feel really, really good right now?’ When you focus on your physical body, your mind automatically gets less energy and you become calm. E.g.:
- Focus on your breathing for as long as you can. Stay with the breath going in and out, down through your belly.
- Do a full body ‘scan’ by giving attention to each body part. You can start with your feet and go up from there. Continue doing this.. really slowly. You can do it in waves, going up and down. Or you can feel your entire body coming in and out of your attention. If you haven’t already; try it! It has an amazingly calming effect.
You can also start fantasizing or visualizing something that would make you feel really good. Your next holiday for instance, your dream job, or your dream husband or wife. 🙂 The trick is to get specific. Go into detail. Really see it, feel it, hear it.. use your internal senses. This technique might still make use of your mind, but at least you are focussing on something that makes you feel more relaxed, in stead of stressed out.
And finally: stick with it. Remember: we are trying to gain momentum
This might work for a few minutes and then, while losing your awareness, you might suddenly find yourself thinking about ‘that thing’ again. THAT’S OKAY.
Just go back to focussing on the new point of attention again. You might have to repeat this several times. The important thing is that you are gaining momentum with this new thing and thereby losing momentum with the other thing, the thinking.
Just don’t beat yourself up if you need to try this several times. Don’t give up. Simply continue the process and you might just wake up the next morning, realizing you did wonder of in your new point of attention.