In 1960 the poet Robert Duncan published a book of poetry called “The Opening of the Field” and when I work with clients who find sleeping difficult, I find myself returning again and again to these words:
Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place…
created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.
I find that when people have trouble sleeping it’s because they are paying way too much attention to themselves trying to fall asleep.
People will say: “I lay in bed, tossing and turning, thinking to myself I need to sleep! I am so tired! But then all sorts of thoughts start racing through my mind and then I’m up for hours.”
There are plenty of external reasons why sleeping can be difficult: noise, an uncomfortable bed, physical pain, and chocolate are a few that come to mind.
But in spite of all these diversions and distractions, there is a way you can get to sleep by opening the field – and to believe that you can find that “scene made up by the mind that is not mine” it’s useful to “not” think about it. How?
Well, if you’re “not” sleeping, it’s because you have a memory of what it feels like to sleep and you know that what you’re doing now (tossing and turning) is “not” that.
And it’s useful to know that whatever you’re doing that is “not” working means that you can do the opposite by asking yourself a few simple questions:
What’s everything else that I’m not thinking about while I lay here not sleeping?
What’s everything else that I’m not hearing while I lay here not sleeping?
What’s everything else that I’m not feeling in my body while I lay here not sleeping?
It’s possible that as you imagine everything else that you’re not thinking about right now that you’ll notice your body take a deep breath.
A breath that feels a little more like sleeping. And that’s a thought you can follow into the shadows where forms fall– forms of dreams, or your body finally resting.