“Don’t forget,” Grandma said to me a few weeks ago, before I boarded the plane in Houston for my return flight home to Seattle, “get good rest.” We all know that it is important, so why do we still choose to stay up late, forgoing the extra hour of sleep in favor of catching up on Twitter feed?
There are nights, magic ones, where we must not rest our heads. The night it first snowed in Boston, or the evening I met my wife. The day turned dusk turned dawn, losing oneself in favor of the moment, becoming insignificant, stars in the massive black sky. This is paying attention to something else. This is worth losing shut-eye.
Paying attention to oneself requires commitment, the kind easier to give away than to give yourself. Most of us, when we listen, hear what our bodies need. We may not follow, standing in front of the fridge, door ajar, choosing makes me feel bad instead of makes me feel whole. But when we make the right choice, we are rewarded. Energy. Alertness. Happiness.
This is true of sleep, this sustenance, requisite. Our bodies crave it so intensely that we used to do it twice. The first sleep was followed by an interlude of awake hours, completed by another period of sleep until morning. Still achieving eight hours a night, the awake interval was meditative, prayerful, sometimes playful time spent in the dark (I think you know what I mean). Our ancestors did not check their phones during this oftentimes four-hour awake-but-restful period. They stayed quiet, in their beds, honoring their bodies, getting good rest.
In Indian/Vedic tradition, this early morning 3 a.m. wake-up call is ideal for meditation. Monks have been known to climb mountains at this time, nuns known to wake for prayer. Indeed, plenty of cultures use this time wisely, becoming more productive multi-tasking individuals.
It isn’t just about sleep, dear reader. Grandma said to get good rest. But we usually panic when we awaken in the middle of the night, don’t we? Quickly, we try to determine the hours until the alarm sounds. The to-do list begins. We replay scenarios, outcomes, and we probably check our email. Just in case.
This week, this holiday season, especially, try to not. Don’t panic. Don’t turn on your phone in bed. Don’t reach for the remote or get up and make coffee. Instead, stay in the moment and pay attention to yourself. Read. Write. Cuddle. Meditate. And above all else, honor the time to rest. Your life will thank you.