The last eight weeks, I’ve been engaged as a volunteer in a wonderful sleep clinic–testing out various videos, audio tracks, and techniques. Over the years, I’d created a hostile relationship with Sleep. We were enemies, engaged in a battle that I was losing. There were nights I feared that I might never sleep again. And other nights, I felt that I was wasting half my life sleeping. I fought Sleep. I resented Sleep. I craved Sleep.
And I justified my inability to sleep in several ways:
- I’m a crazy Vata. “Deepak Chopra says so: “Most Vata people are prone to worry and at times suffer from insomnia, the result of restless thinking. Normal Vata sleep is the shortest of any time–six hours or less is characteristic, growing shorter as one ages.” Deepak–as much as I believe in Ayurvedic healing–legitimized the problem for me. I’m not blaming Deepak, but as soon as I identified with this Vata hell, it became my reality. Or
- I’m an HSP (highly sensitive person). Any kind of stimulation in the evening will keep me awake all night. I need to curl up in a cave on the bottom of the ocean to get anywhere close to unconscious. Or
- I need the nighttime to process everything I can’t process during the day.
The list goes on.
One thing I realized over the last few weeks is that this “night” time does not have to be for sleep alone. I don’t have to fight with It. Night can be a time to meet my muses, and to descend into varying levels of consciousness. While I am asleep, I can go “on a date” with my characters, play out scenes, visit exotic locales and friends not accessible on this plane. Dreamtime is where and when I write. It’s a place of beauty and promise and magic. Sleep is my friend, not my enemy, and if I unleash a question, I can awaken with an answer.
Here’s an example. Now that books one and two are singing on the shelves, I’m back to writing book three. I actually started writing book three in 2014, then left it to edit and revise the other two. But now, I’m back on Creation Island with freedom splashing like a sea around me. It’s the place of shadows and surprises, of unexpected gifts and connections.
When I started drafting in 2014, I created a character named Leopold. I had photos and written descriptions. I knew his background story, his motivation; knew I had connected with him. Leopold is a key player in book three. But, when I searched for my notes a few weeks ago, they were gone–lost in the mire of new computers and lost USB drives. At last, I gave up and decided to begin again. I remembered the crucial bits of Leopold, and that would have to suffice. Still, I wanted it all. Leopold was my Sangria Niño, my Blood Child.
This afternoon, when I sat down to draft, I had an overpowering urge to sleep. I don’t usually nap, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Literally. You know that image of holding your eyelids apart with toothpicks? It was like that. So, I succumbed and went to bed imagining Leopold.
When I awoke, I knew where he was. I went to the computer, typed in his name and voila! The whole file emerged on my desktop, images and all. Now, when I searched several weeks ago, nothing came up. Perhaps, my fingers had not whispered his name. Perhaps, there were so many other voices in my head, I couldn’t hear his.
So, what I’ve really learned out of this sleep clinic–and I will post the results in a few weeks when they are released–is this. I must listen to my body and my spirit. I must venture into the silence and wander and listen and be still. I must appreciate this solitary landscape as a place of spirit and imagination. And embrace it.
When I finished embracing Leopold, I rummaged through my box of journals from 2014, and found this beautiful card: a gift from an old friend who saw me in the image.
In this moment of stillness, I need to do just one thing. Listen.