29 Oct 2012 -- I can't fall asleep. Even when my eyes droop shut, my brain looks for more interesting stuff to process. If I don't feed it through my ears -- listening to podcasts or internet radio, for example, then my skin lights up and decides to itch.
This isn't new. It isn't technology- or stress-induced. I rejected falling asleep as an infant. I just can't let go of the world's buzz. And yet I'm not a night-owl. By 10 PM I'm fried as far as meaningful activities go. I'm beat.
In 2006 I discovered the miracle of Ambien. Even though I reduced my dose from 10 mg to 2.5 mg over the years, it remained auntie's little helper -- just strong enough to tip me over the threshold. But in mid-September, I quit.
So sleep is back to being a challenge. I can't have 20 things carooming around in my head, then switch off anymore. I have to be planful. I have to consciously let go. I hate letting go.
When I took a month-long holiday from Ambien while we spent February in Florida, I found a method: (1) Play an audio novel and (2) set the timer for it to turn off in 20 minutes. I would be asleep. If I momentarily stirred when the sound stopped, I could tell myself nevermind and sink back down into the darkness.
That method still works but I don't always use it. I could eat an apple instead of a Klondike bar too. I could savor a glass of cool water instead of wine. And I could keep my bathroom scrubbed...
What's even more puzzling is that for years I slept with my radio on all night. Art Bell kept me company through the nineties -- when I woke up his mysterious voice would be there to calm me and pull me back into darkness. There is a Best of Art Bell station on internet radio, but it doesn't work its magic anymore. It pops me wide awake.
I need to get serious. Last night's method:
- Listened to "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" by Suzuki for about 20 minutes while I settled my mind with an easy Sudoku game. This audio book was reminding me that chasing away thoughts is an ancient technology that can be mastered with attention.
- I closed my mind and tried to practice Zen mindfulness with shamanic drumming playing. That was ok for 15 minutes, but the shamanic drumming was all wrong for Zen. Zen is about quiet.
- Then I tuned my iPhone to Coleman Barks reading the poetry of the mystic Rumi. Timer set to stop playing in 20 min.
Sleep! A solid 8 hours.