I can honestly now say that meditating every day for a year has changed my life. I will go in to the different ways in later blogs, but for now I will start with sleep...and yes, it worked. In fact, this change didn’t even take a year: it took about two months of me meditating everyday and then, like someone had cast a spell over me, I magically began to sleep. And I mean, really sleep. No waking up, no tossing and turning, no vivid dreams, just sleep. To those lucky people that can just close their eyes and fall asleep this wont seem like an achievement but to insomniacs it is like you have miraculously been given a special power. I now average 7 – 8 hours of sleep every night and wake up feeling refreshed instead of exhausted. Admittedly, I still get the odd sleepless night but the point is it’s just that: a night. Nowadays the sleepless nights don’t snowball in to one awful week where I get increasingly desperate for sleep because I know that, when I don’t sleep, I’ll simply sleep the next night. This trust in my own ability to sleep took about 6 or 7 months to cultivate but I didn’t have to try to achieve it, it just happened. On one vaguely restless night I realised that I wasn’t stressed because it didn’t matter if I was tired for just one day. I was OK with what ever transpired.
it took about two months of me meditating every day and then, like someone had cast a spell over me, I magically began to sleep.
As an experiment, once I had been meditating for four months and my sleep was near perfect, I didn’t mediate while I was on holiday for about a week. Almost immediately, my sleep went out the window. This correlation really shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. This made me realise that, for me, it definitely has to be every day. Even though I know it is good for me and even though I know it helps me to sleep, for some reason I occasionally still encounter some internal resistance to sitting down to meditate. This typically happens when I change my routine if I am on holiday or have unusual working hours. I think 'oh, I’ll just do it later' but then invariably I don’t. I have learnt not to beat myself up about this when it happens, but my occasional lack of willpower has been an interesting learning curve. Why, when something is so beneficial, free, and takes hardly any time do I sometimes resist it? Since my experiment I have made sure that I never go more than a couple of days without meditating and 98% of the time I manage it everyday.
The other advice Andy gave me were some new sleeping rules:
1) No phones by the bed, buy an alarm clock;
2) No to sleep at around 11pm every night and don't alter that routine;
3) If you cant sleep, stay in bed: do not get up to do anything else;
4) The usual no caffeine, no alcohol, no late meals.
They all sounded simple enough at the time, but a year later? Well, I’d like to confess now that I have never managed rule number one. In fact, if anything this has got worse! I got a smart phone in March and rather belatedly discovered twitter for 'work 'and ended up following comedy geniuses Lily Allen and Slash from guns and roses. (If you don’t already follow them, you really should.) The thing is, I know he is right about this one, I just haven’t had the willpower. The other hard one was sticking to the 11pm routine as I am a night owl by nature. The important thing is that I did stick to it religiously for the first 3 months and that helped me to establish a good routine. All the others I manage to stick to, and now they are second nature. These rules aren’t about restricting your life. They are to establish good sleep habits. Once you are sleeping you can deviate from them occasionally because your overall habits have changed. If anyone has any tips on the phone rule, I’d love to hear them!