Falling, Failing and Sleeping

Happy New Year! I’m not a great fan of making resolutions but this year I want to go for it, take a few more risks both personally and professionally.

Perhaps it was this mindset that last week sent me flying through the air to land unceremoniously on the bouldering mat at my local climbing centre. It was quite a fall but thankfully I landed unscathed. I’ve always been a good ‘faller’ – as a child falling out of mango trees, taking big falls on ski trips, sailing over my bike’s handlebars when I used to commute in the City (those pesky car doors!).

There is such a thing as falling well. When we fall well we do so with openness, we let go completely, we trust. Same with falling asleep. We get into bed with openness of mind – regardless of whatever’s hitting the fan in our waking hours. I’ve said this before: Sleep is an act of faith and trust.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about falling and how we fall in life and its connection with sleep. Many of my clients are perfectionists – they are so hard on themselves and there’s this constant background hum of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of taking a risk and getting it wrong. And they can’t sleep. Why? Maybe because they are so rigidly braced against life and what could go wrong. Tense with the have to do’s, must do’s, should do’s. They are closed to possibilities because they don’t believe there’s a bouldering mat or safety net beneath them. Recently I asked a client who was having problems getting to sleep and staying asleep ‘what do you have faith in?’ It was our second session and we’d had the conversation about nutrition, technology, sleep hygiene and so on. His sleep had improved over the Christmas holidays but fell apart as soon as he returned to work. It was time to go deeper. He was – perhaps understandably – somewhat perplexed by this question. He wasn’t sure if he had faith in anything.

Actually we all have faith but what do we have faith in? If the perfectionist thinks hard enough about this they might come to the realisation that their faith lies in ‘It’s up to me to get this done and I can’t possibly fail. I can’t trust anyone else. I have to make this right. It can’t go wrong’ Or you might have faith in the belief that you’re bound to fail, you’re just not lucky like other people (I hear this a lot). Can you see how this type of faith might cause a tightening of jaw, a rigidity of mind and body….leading to nocturnal wakefulness and worry?

An important aspect of my work in helping people to sleep lies in activating their faith in the right thing. And that means not only having faith in ourselves – self-belief, self-worth, self-esteem – but also faith in something beyond our-self. Because only then we can truly soften and let go and let God, or the Universe, or the angels, or Krishna, or your higher self, or the XXXXXX. Whatever you choose to call it. Fill in the blanks. This is deeply personal so I wouldn’t dream of doing this for you.

So we’re at the start of this New Year which, according to Chinese numerology, is the start of the next nine-year cycle of our lives, maybe it’s time to clean up our faith. We’re hearing a lot about clean eating, clean exercise, clean breathing, clean sleep. How about clean faith? This means cultivating and strengthening the right faith muscles. The ones that enable us to trust and let go. To lean back and accept rest and support even when – especially when – life feels messy, uncertain and unkind.

But how to begin to cultivate the right type of faith? As I said, this is deeply personal and as such, it calls for a very personal inquiry or exploration. This might involve seeking out books such as Victor Frankl’s ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ or you might choose to listen to the Dalai Lama or Alan Watts on faith:

I don’t know what the right path might be for you but I do know that the answer lies within you and I wish you well in whatever exploration you choose. I hope this year is the one where we give ourselves the gift of taking time to stop, breathe deeply, be still, listen and feel the stirrings of something deep within that might just be that seed of faith. 2016 was a turbulent and challenging year for many of us – the uncertainty left many sleepless and me busy. Maybe it’s the right time for this.

Yours in deepest peace and amazing energy.

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