I wrote this post early Monday morning. Around 3:43am that is. I have all sorts of things I do in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. Mostly worry. Then I review my to-do list. Then I go back to worrying some more. Usually after about a half an hour of tossing and turning, I remember to start meditating and praying. After a few minutes of meditating, I kinda just flow into writing.
It’s all in my head in the dark. I know that there’s a lot of sleep wisdom that says to keep a notebook beside the bed for writing things down. But this composing in my head works for me. It’s not that I remember everything I write, it’s just that it slips me into a different mode. Eventually I’ll write myself back to sleep. The best part is that I even retain some of it when I awaken.
I recently learned of some interesting research from a Ten Percent Happier podcast with Professor Lindsey Cameron. She studied whether meditation helps at work, specifically focused on customer facing jobs, and the results were fascinating. She found that traditional breath work meditations helped with centering the person in a bigger perspective so that the ups and downs weren’t as jarring. And she found that loving-kindness meditation (like I’ve described in this post) increase the ability to place ourselves in other’s shoes.
There’s research that shows loving-kindness practice reduces activity in part of the brain that’s active when we are anxious. And a study that showed we don’t want to practice mindfulness when doing emotionally taxing work. The example I heard in that case was a flight attendant who is having to pleasantly telling people to buckle their seat belts over and over again does not benefit from being more mindful in those moments.
Back to the point about writing in the dark. It seems our brain research is catching up with what our spiritual traditions have taught us for millennia. There are practices that help to literally change our minds. They’ve given us a tool set that we can use to help put ourselves in the best frame of mind to create, to understand, to be less anxious, to change, to be more altruistic, and so on. It’s no wonder I start writing in the dark after I start meditating, because the practice helps to shut down worry, and then I open up to creativity.
And it matches what works for me during daylight hours. In my post When I Write, I looked at what time of day works for me and it’s always after I’ve done the work to be quiet, to meditate, and to get a little perspective on life.
It feels a little clinical to separate out the meditation and prayer practices from the spiritual traditions and beliefs that tie us to a Higher Power. But in the middle of the night as I’m settling into a rhythm of breathing and repeating “faith over fear,” it’s also kind of fun to know I’m setting up the conditions for calming my brain. And that I might even get a post out of it.
(featured photo from Pexels)