“Awareness is half the battle when it comes to sleep, both because most of us underestimate the costs of getting too little and because of the extraordinary value of getting enough. This recognition is the first step in making more sleep a priority.
IF you’re not getting enough sleep, you almost certainly need to go to bed earlier, given that you likely don’t have the option of waking up later than you already do. The key to sleep is to be relaxed, something that is increasingly difficult to achieve given the pressure of our daily lives. One obvious alternative is to use sleep aids. Every form of sleep medication has its drawbacks, from limited hours of effectiveness, to leaving us feeling groggy in the morning, to being addictive. Alcohol, the most common form of self-medication when it comes to sleep, is likewise a double-edge sword. Because it acts initially as a sedative, it does induce sleep, and nearly 30 percent of insomniacs use alcohol at least occasionally to help them fall asleep. But alcohol is also metabolized rapidly by the body, which can lead to physiological withdrawal symptoms in the middle of the night, including frequent awakenings, shallow sleep, and less overall sleep time. In simple terms, the less alcohol you drink and the earlier you drink it, the more deeply you’re likely to sleep through the night.
The best way to fall asleep naturally is to begin quieting down at least thirty to sixty minutes before you turn out the lights. That means avoiding anything stimulating as you get closer to your bedtime – e-mailing and the Internet, mystery novels, highly charged conversations – in favour of whatever you find relaxing: drinking a glass of milk or herbal tea, taking a bath or a shower, listening to music, or even reading a dull book.
Because feeling relaxed is so critical to sleep, it can also be helpful to intentionally “park” your anxieties before you turn out the lights. This simple technique involves writing down what you’re worrying about in a notebook or on a piece of paper. For many of our clients, this strategy has proven to be a surprisingly powerful means of temporarily setting aside concerns that otherwise keep them awake. By writing down what’s on your mind, you effectively give your brain permission to release it from conscious awareness. The same technique can be used when you wake up in the middle of the night, begin to ruminate, and have trouble getting back to sleep.
Setting a specific bedtime is especially critical, because without one, we tend to default back quickly to whatever time we’re used to going to sleep or simply stay up until we feel tired. Once the lights are out, one effective way to relax is deep breathing and progressive relaxation – tightening and releasing muscles throughout your body, starting with your toes and working your way up. For obvious reasons, we sleep better in environments that are dark and quiet. It also helps to sleep in a cool room, which allows the body temperatures to drop, as it’s meant to do during sleep. If you have any doubt about the value of a cool room, think about what it’s like to try to sleep on a hot summer night.
Peter Goettler, who headed investment banking at Barclays Capital until 2008, spent most of his working life feeling sleep-deprived. When that’s the case, it’s nearly always where we begin our work. Goettler went to sleep most nights between 11 pm and midnight and awoke around 5 am, scarcely an unusual sleep pattern for many of our clients. When Goettler got out of bed, he had the first of several cups of coffee to jack himself up. During the day, he often yo-yoed between feeling jittery and tired, especially in the late afternoons.
After working with us, Goettler decided to build a ritual in which he went to bed at 10 pm, got up half an hour later in the morning, and stopped drinking coffee altogether. Almost immediately, he was successful in going to bed earlier. At first, he reported that he found himself waking up earlier and therefore sleeping the same number of hours he always had. It’s a pattern we’ve often seen: the body can become deeply habituated even to sleeping patterns that leave us feeling tired.
We suggested that when he woke up, Goettler simply lie quietly in bed, relaxing as best he could and effectively giving his body permission to sleep longer. Even if it didn’t work immediately, he’d be getting more rest. After a week or so, he did begin sleeping longer. The extended sleep was transformative for him. “I was more rested, I felt better, I thought more clearly, I got less tired as the day wore on, and I had more energy when I got home,” he told us. “I never would have believed an hour more of sleep could make such a difference.” Adequate sleep, we’re convinced, sets the stage for taking more control of every other part of our lives.”
(From Chapter 5 Sleep or Die, “Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys To Transforming the Way We Work and Live” (formerly known as “The Way We’re Working isn’t Working: the Four Forgotten Needs that Energize Great Performance” by Tony Schwartz)
“I bless the night that nourished my heart
To set the ghosts of longing free
Into the flow and figure of dream
That went to harvest from the dark
Bread for the hunger no one sees.
All that is eternal in me
Welcome the wonder of this day,
The field of brightness it creates
Offering time for each thing
To arise and illuminate.
I place on the altar of dawn:
The quiet loyalty of breath,
The tent of thought where I shelter,
Wave of desire I am shore to
And all beauty drawn to the eye.
May my mind come alive today
To the invisible geography
That invites me to new frontiers,
To break the dead shell of yesterdays,
To risk being disturbed and changed.
May I have the courage today
To live the life that I would love,
To postpone my dream no longer
But do at last what I came here for
And waste my heart on fear no more.”
~ John O’Donohue ~
“A Morning Offering” – Benedictus (To Bless The Space Between Us.
In this inspiring poem, John O’Donohue has so eloquently expressed the silent prayer of our heart, our inner longing to be increasingly free from the ghosts of yesteryears as we continue to welcome the wonder of this day with all its brightness and beauty.
“When we begin to breathe mindfully and listen to our bodies, we become aware of feelings of suffering that we’ve been ignoring. We hold these feelings in our bodies as well as our minds. Our suffering has been trying to communicate with us, to let us know it is there, but we have spent a lot of time and energy ignoring it.
When we begin to breathe mindfully, feelings of loneliness, sadness, fear, and anxiety may come up. When that happens, we don’t need to do anything right away. We can just continue to follow our in-breath and our out-breath. We don’t tell our fear to go away; we recognise it. We don’t tell our anger to go away, we acknowledge it. These feelings are like a small child tugging at our sleeves. Pick them up and hold them tenderly. Acknowledging our feelings without judging them or pushing them away, embracing them with mindfulness, is an act of homecoming.
Our suffering reflects the suffering of the world. Discrimination, exploitation, poverty, and fear cause a lot of suffering in those around us. Our suffering also reflects the suffering of others. We may be motivated by the desire to do something to help relieve the suffering in the world. How can we do that without understanding the nature of suffering? If we understand our own suffering, it will become much easier for us to understand the suffering of others and of the world. We may have the intention to do something or be someone that can help the world suffer less, but unless we can listen to and acknowledge our own suffering, we will not really be able to help.
The amount of suffering inside us and around us can be overwhelming. Usually we don’t like to be in touch with it because we believe it’s unpleasant. The marketplace provides us with everything imaginable to help us run away from ourselves. We consume all these products in order to ignore and cover up the suffering in us. Even if we’re not hungry, we eat. When we watch television, even if the program isn’t very good, we don’t have the courage to turn it off, because we know that when we turn it off we may have to go back to ourselves and get in touch with the suffering inside. We consume not because we need to consume but because we’re afraid of encountering the suffering inside us.
But there is a way of getting in touch with the suffering without being overwhelmed by it. We try to avoid suffering, but suffering is useful. We need suffering. Going back to listen and understand our suffering brings about the birth of compassion and love. If we take the time to listen deeply to our own suffering, we will be able to understand it. Any suffering that has not been released and reconciled will continue. Until it has been understood and transformed, we carry with us not just our own suffering but also that of our parents and our ancestors. Getting in touch with suffering that has been passed down to us helps us understand our own suffering. Understanding suffering gives rise to compassion. Love is born, and right away we suffer less. If we understand the nature and the roots of our suffering, the path leading to the cessation of the suffering will appear in front of us. Knowing there is a way out, a path, brings us relief, and we no longer need to be afraid.
Understanding suffering always brings compassion. If we don’t understand suffering, we don’t understand happiness. If we know how to take good care of suffering, we will know how to take good care of happiness. We need suffering to grow happiness. The fact is that suffering and happiness always go together. When we understand suffering, we will understand happiness. If we know how to handle suffering, we will know how to handle happiness and produce happiness.
If a lotus is to grow, it needs to be rooted in the mud. Compassion is born from understanding suffering. We all should learn to embrace our own suffering, to listen to it deeply, and to have a deep look into its nature. In doing so, we allow the energy of love and compassion to be born. When the energy of compassion is born, right away we suffer less. When we suffer less, when we have compassion for ourselves, we can more easily understand the suffering of another person and of the world. Then our communication with others will be based on the desire to understand rather than the desire to prove ourselves right or make ourselves feel better. We will have only the intention to help.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh, “The Art of Communicating”
“I spoke about our relationships as flowers that need watering with love and communication to grow… we all need a friend to remind us…. Nourishing and healing communication is the food of our relationships…. We may not even know what we said or did that started to poison the relationship. But we have the antidote: mindful compassion and loving communication. Love, respect, and friendship all need food to survive. With mindfulness we can produce thoughts, speech, and actions that will feed our relationships and help them grow and thrive.”
- Thich Nhat Hanh, “The Art of Communicating”
We are all multidimensional in the sense that most of us, if not all, are ambiverts – we are neither fully introverts nor fully extroverts, as we are usually somewhere in between the two polarities, and we may lean towards one end in some situations and towards the other end in some other situations. I think it is also true that the personality type profiles are limited because even though they may represent or match some or most of our individual traits, they may not be able to fully describe our uniqueness or represent the multidimensional aspects of ourselves. At best, the personality type profiles may help us understand ourselves in terms of why we may respond to situations differently from others in social situations, and at worst, the personality type profiles may unwittingly result in stereotyping or over-generalisation of people.
There have been situations in life in which I find myself opening up and interacting with people in social settings, and I usually tend to do that when I am comfortable with them, and sometimes it can also be easier to talk and get to know new people because in such social settings, everyone is eager to be friendly. I was googling about “infp introspective conversation” earlier on since I find myself leaning towards this particular personality type, and I found this article which I kind of resonate with on some ways INFPs can improve their social interaction skills. Like what the article says, INFPs sometimes over-scrutinise themselves and avoid small talk, and the writer suggests that sometimes small talk can be helpful when it comes to meeting new people because it can help them feel more at ease, and I agree with that in this aspect.
On the other hand I quite agree with this article that when it comes to determining between traits such as sensing and intuiting, “most people don’t fall at the extremes – they fall in the middle”. I also agree that people’s personality traits tend to change over time, so their MBTI types may change over time as well. I would add that people may respond differently to a similar situation they responded one year ago or five years ago. For example, when checking out a MBTI test earlier, I came across statements such as “You feel at ease in a crowd”, and for such questions, my answer may be “yes” in some situations, or “no” in other situations, as it depends on several factors such as the kind of crowd I am in, my general mood and disposition during that time, and so on. I agree with the conclusion in the article that “finding out my personal strengths and weaknesses is a process that can take a lifetime, and is most likely not going to be reflected in any one set of numbers from a personality test”, and such tests may only serve as a useful tool or guide so long as I am aware of their limitations.
“I am large, I contain multitudes.”
- Walt Whitman
I have checked out the video and I resonate with Drew Sumrall’s message on what it means to be a militant of truth, and I learnt that Paul was a militant of the universality of truth by maintaining a steadfast fidelity to the event of the cross, or the death and resurrection of Christ, through faith, hope and love, which are the three things that remain. I noted that love is the work of maintaining fidelity to the event in the here and now, and love is over and above all other things such as spirituality, faith, charity and hope, which, while having their place, are worthless without love, for “the greatest of these is love”.
According to Drew, the mystery of love is our incompleteness reaching out to love the other, for love is about the other, hence the work of the militant of truth is to love the other. He added that love is what faith is capable of, which means faith is only the beginning of the work of love. He also said that they hanged Jesus on the tree not because he preached hate or he preached love but because he lived love, and his death was the consequence of his love. Love is the narrow road and the small gate, which paradoxically leads to life.
I noted that true love doesn’t foster acceptance as it foments rejection, and just by loving another, who is the other, we will risk a great deal, and as Drew said, to have everything without love is nothing, for the greatest of these things that remain is love. This is a timeless message to me that is worth remembering and meditating upon.