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Sleepless in San Miguel
Insomniac Strategems

photo - Russel Monk

by Dr David, Editor / Publisher

The dog on the roof behind us barked... just long enough... the noise efficiently conducted three storeys down the the open space, the 2x4 meter shaft that brings air and light to the back rooms on each level. By the time I was completely awake he was quiet again.

I reached over for my earplugs, stuffed them into place, rolled over and tried to go back to sleep. I have a technique for this. I keep from lighting up the thought center of my brain by clinging to what I had been dreaming of.

The problem is when I forget to remember what I was dreaming or when what I was dreaming is disturbing enough to prevent sleep on its own. Last night I forgot to remember. I switched to Plan B. I tried to imagine dream-like material. However, there was a problem with Plan B. Namely, the part of my brain that was trying to conjure up a dreamscape was already wide awake.

A friend of mine had told me just that afternoon that his fiance when she can't sleep flips randomly through Instagram for 10-15 minutes, thus lulling herself back to sleep. Maybe I should get an Instagram account. Maybe someone ought to do a study about which parts of the brain light up when you are on Instagram; "This is your brain on Instagram."

My girlfriend was lying next to me. She has her own problems sleeping, worse than mine. I rubbed her back. We snuggled. I pulled away leaving one of my hands on her hip. Twenty minutes passed. It became obvious that Plan B was not working.

At this point I usually get out of bed, flip on the compu and write, usually for an hour or two. Many is the night that I write or (failing inspiration) work from 3:00 or 4:00 to 5:00 or 6:00, then either return to bed (easily falling asleep) or keep going, taking a siesta in the early afternoon or retiring early that next evening. But last night I improvised.

I remembered, one night when I was a young boy, telling my father that I couldn't sleep. Dear old Dad gave me some sage advice. Drawing my attention to my sleeping brother's rythmic breathing, he told me, "Breathe like that." I put Plan C into effect.

Now following the breath - breathe in, breathe out - is the most basic meditation technique. Rythmic breathing, into a paper bag or not, is great therapy; it calms you right down.

In my younger years I spent a lot of time sitting in meditation, but I was never any good at it. The masters say "Chop wood. Carry water," as an admonition to be present and undistracted; when you are chopping wood and carrying water, then just chop wood and carry water. I like to think that I am never that far away from a meditative state of mind. I have, for example, an easy time getting into the zone while I am preparing dinner or doing yoga. But when it comes to sitting cross-legged on the cushion my busy mind wins every time. Except for last night.

The greatest book on spirituality that I ever read is called I Am That. For what its worth, according to Wikipedia, Eckhart Tolle, Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra tend to agree with me. The book is a transcription of talks given by a Hindu guru, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. In one of these talks Nisargadatta says that the state of mind immediately before falling asleep or immediately on waking up is enlightenment.

Lying there last night, breathing rythmicly my monkey mind stopped jumping around. I stopped thinking. My whole field of consciousness collapsed down to a single point. I watched that point for an instant. Then I fell asleep. At first it was a light sleep. I bobbed to the surface various times. Each time I did I noted from the otherworldly content of my mind that I had been, or still was, dreaming.

Falling asleep once, 10 or 15 years ago, I had an out of body experience. As I was lying on my back, just as I was slipping off to dreamland, I realized that I couldn't tell where my body was. I was disoriented as to where my head and feet were. My consciousness was disassociated from my body.

Last night, just as I was falling asleep, bobbing up and down in those first proto-dreams, I felt, or should I say, I dreamed my spirit was exiting my body, leaving from the region of my right shoulder. It was a wild, delightful sensation. My consciousness hovered and came back and began leaving again and, then, I fell completely asleep.

Recently, I listened to a Youtube video where a scientist claimed that we don't actually see reality. He asserted that we see a user interface. He gave a computer's screen as an example, saying that the screen doesnt show you the actual reality of what is happening in the computer. He said that not seeing the complexity of reality makes it easier to survive. I considered, Whoever thought that we were seeing reality? For a strictly materialistic scientist this might be news. But the rest of us know that we are making a lot of it up as we go along. We are interpreting, approximating, telling ourselves stories.

When patients ask me if I believe in past lives, I tell them, "I don't even believe in this life." Pulling the rug out from under their feet, at just the right moment, I like to assert, "You don't even exist, at least, not like you think you do."

With these, my own admonishments in mind, I confess that I don't know what to make of my two out of body experiences. However, I woke up this morning with a clear understanding of the moment my monkey mind contracted to a single point just before I fell asleep again last night. The great flame of mind deprived of its fuel or its oxygen or both shrank down to a final ember. And what was left was awareness; an "I" that was watching.

"I Am That," according to scholars, is better translated as "That Thou Art" or, in plainer English, "You Are That." This encompasses the root of Nisargadatta's teachings. You are that awareness, the primary awareness of being, the awareness you have reading this now, the awareness you always have.

That awareness is God, at least a little part of God. Which, now that I think of it, is maybe what Buddha meant when he said, "All beings are already enlightened just as they are."

From the dust jacket of the book:

"Once you know that death happens to the body and not to you, you just watch your body falling off like a discarded garment."

"The real you is timeless and beyond birth and death. The body will survive as long as it is needed. It is not important that it should live long."

Following my breath last night, the ten thousand things stopping their rising and falling, the calm center was revealed. Somehow, in some strange, otherworldly way, everything is ok. Sweet dreams.

**************

Dr David is looking for people who want to add more meaning to their lives.

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