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How to Get to Sleep (the P.L.A.N.)

We’ve been having an almost magical stretch of calm in these parts, during which I’ve been able to “lay me down to sleep” and actually go to sleep.

This is an especially welcomed development as it comes on the heels of a string a weeks where I would “lay me down to think”–and feel frantic about not going to sleep. The circus in my conscious simply refused to surrender the job to the dream duty team.

“I really need to sleep…”

“No! I really want to sleep,” I corrected myself, acknowledging my Inside Out mantra.

The trouble is, I also wanted to keep thinking about my husband’s job offer, our college kid on the other side of the country, my brother-in-law who has ALS, the elections, the COVID positive nurse at work…

Finally, when I was tired enough of being tired, the desire to feel decent in the morning won out. God heard my unspoken, big picture prayers and we pursued a plan, which became a P.L.A.N. (and a mindset shift that you can read about here).

First, I remembered how I’m a big proponent of “pushing pause.” So I told myself it was time to pause and, immediately, I had this great visual of a black plastic vintage cassette deck, bordered on one end by a row of chunky push button controls.

Happy feeling emerged with the memory of how my sisters and I would lie in bed at night listening to Your Story Hour tapes. Inevitably, someone had to get up and go to the bathroom. “Pause it,” she’d say, to which someone would feel along the row of buttons searching for the correct control to press.

“Kerclunk.” The pause button did not pop back up like the other controls. It stayed down until we pressed it again and the story picked up where we’d been left hanging.

Pause. Not stop. I could pick up the thinking whenever I wanted–no need to panic or come to a final conclusion in my thinking–this was a pause.

Another visual came of me standing (or lying) in the middle of the parted sea, perfectly still while my thoughts piled up on either side. No drowning sensation, no currents to fight.

Everything was quiet inside and as I put my weight down on that path, the next thought was to take a deep breath and let it go.

While that was happening, I noticed the tension in my jaw and neck and I released it, sinking even deeper into the stillness.

Suddenly, I was tired. And very aware of the artificial energy that had been running me into high RPM mode.

I started noticing things. First, my husband’s rythmic breathing (on average, it takes him about 67 seconds to fall asleep after we’ve stopped talking–he quickly figured out that drifting off while we’re talking is not conducive to a good night’s sleep).

Next, I noticed the sound of traffic. I couldn’t believe it. There is a bypass a few miles from our house, across the gully, over the river, through the woods. In over four years of sleeping in this house, on this bed, by this window, I had never been aware of the highway nearby. This was disappointing as I love the feeling of living in the woods away from noise pollution.

I kept listening and noticed a clattering and amplification of sound when certain vehicles crossed the overpass.

Then I noticed the crickets and occasional flutter of leaves when the night air exhaled.

I felt so still that I wanted to bottle the experience for later–maybe this was a method that I could share. May this could change the lives of millions of people.

Sigh.

It’s telling how quickly I want to skip over myself and save the world.

My thoughts were now back at it and I had to start over. I replayed the steps in my head and discovered that, with a bit of creative muscling, those steps could be forced into an acronym: P.L.A.N.

P: Push Pause. This still consistently works to stop my in my thoughts, especially when I visualize pushing that big plastic button. Knowing that I can go back to mental processing if I want to really helps.

L: Let Go. A deep breath should really come first, but P.L.A.N. is much easier to work with than P.B.A.N., wouldn’t you agree?

A: (be) Aware. Out of respect to accuracy, being aware–realizing or coming to know something–should come after noticing. Noticing is observing and paying attention–which leads to awaress. But, again, P.L.A.N. is so much nicer than P.L.N.A., no?

N: Notice. Total transparency here. I never make it to “N.” I land on A and lump awareness and noticing together and that either ushers me into a drowsy state OR requires that I start over because I noticed something that engaged my thinking. Which makes me wonder if awareness is the best place to be when you’re trying to fall asleep, unless…

This is my latest greatest–I’m now practicing it during the day whenever I catch myself in overdrive or blindsided by a big emotion. It’s a little shocking how much tension I hang on to as I go about my business–I love the feeling of letting it all go.

I don’t guarantee life changing results for millions, but I humbly offer this P.L.A.N. as one more way to pause and get present–which is a good step towards Inside Out life changing transformation.

Happy Pausing,

Alicia

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