I was recently inspired by another Uber Cool Mama to spend more time meditating or at least just focusing my mind. If you're like me, you probably don't get much/enough sleep (a problem of epidemic proportions among us parents), so as I was lying in bed trying to catch some of those desperately needed zz's, I came up with this great trick.
But first allow me to express my exasperation at the devastating irony that is my "sleep life." I have three kids, so maybe I'm on one extreme of the spectrum, but I never get more than 3.5 hours of sleep in one stretch. And it's been this way for more than a year now (youngest child is 13 months). But the horrifying paradox I am currently living with is that I am no longer able to sleep more than 3.5 hours in one go, even if the baby doesn't wake me! And IF I can somehow miraculously get to bed early I still lie awake, my mind going over everything that happened during the day, plans for the next day, shopping list, plans for the weekend, people I need to get in touch with, etc. I just can't shut it off despite really needing to!
So, it's a self-perpetuating cycle. But how to break it? Without a nervous breakdown from lack of sleep, that is.
Well here's the answer. My miraculous sleep-inducing, stress-relieving, mind-clearing relaxation technique is as follows:
Lie down in a comfortable position, on your back with hands resting on your belly or to your sides, if you can. Close your eyes.
Imagine yourself swimming. The setting can be as detailed as you like or as nondescript. I usually imagine myself slowly walking into a mountain lake and try to feel every sensation: water on my feet, gravelly sand beneath my soles, water rising higher, not too cold, up to my waist and now it's up to my middle and I can push off the ground and start swimming. I tend to favour breaststroke, but you can swim however you like.
Now imagine everything that is keeping you up: your to-do list, that fight with your neighbours, never-ending household chores, random embarrassing memories from your 20s, your 3-year-old's newest clingy phase, the book you're reading, absolutely everything that is on your mind. You can imagine the actual pile of unopened mail (or whatever) floating next to you in the water, or symbolize these things any way you'd like, as balls floating in the water next to you, for example.
The idea is to get everything in there, visualize it all in the water with you so that you cannot swim because of all the things blocking your way. Make this part as comical as you like; I find that batting away an overflowing dirty clothes hamper bobbing in the water next to me is a satisfying visual.
So now you feel like you are drowning in the amount of stuff around you, and you can't escape from everything that needs your attention in one form or another. (Sound familiar? And you wonder how I came up with this technique!)
Now take some deep breaths and as you do, all of the items start to sink or float away. Now you can start swimming. Every stroke takes you farther out into clear water where there is nothing but a tree-lined horizon (or whatever you prefer).
And now swim like a graceful mermaid or dolphin or sea turtle. Imagine how the water feels on your skin, between your fingers, in your hair and just feel how free you are. Breathe fresh air into your lungs and think only of the emptiness around you in your lake of solitude as you slowly drift off into the most peaceful slumber.