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Archive for the ‘insomnia’ Category

There is Stress

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There will always be Stress. That is because Stress is a normal and natural part of the universe. There has always been Stress. Just the fact that we live on a ball of dirt and water, hurtling through space with gravity gluing us to its surface–is Stress. We might as well get used to it. But that doesn’t mean we have to continuously suffer from it.

The Problem with Stress is that we internalize it. We worry about it. We open our mind and allow it to come inside, where it proceeds to gnaw at us without mercy. The human mind has been doing that since we lived in trees. The answer to the Stress Problem is to NOT internalize it. Isn’t that easy?

Ah yes, that’s so easy to say, but not so easy to do. So, let’s break it down and make it a bit easier to do. “Internalizing” some external thing in our life actually and simply means “thinking about it.” If you think about it, you are internalizing it. If you don’t think about it, you’re not internalizing it.

This is where so many people say, “But not thinking about it means I’m just running away from the problem.” Thus, based on their idea of being mature and responsible, they think. And think, and think. And wear themselves out by thinking. Like a rat in a roundhouse, running around and around. Which is is a terrible form of self-torment, agony, suffering, and self-abuse.

Therefore, your clear solution to Stress is not thinking about whatever you have to worry about. Or, better yet, controlling your thinking machine so that it only worries when you want it to. I advise people to write down everything they are worried about, and then study that list for one hour at 7 p.m. Or at 10 a.m. in the morning. Or maybe for a half hour at noon. Whatever gives you the feeling that you’re being “responsible.” The rest of the time you have my permission to not think about all that stuff.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

April 22, 2019 at 10:25 am

Almost Sleeping

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Zen meditation is such a beautiful way of dealing with insomnia. Some practitioners actually look forward to insomnia if it ever happens, because that is a perfect time for practicing. More often than not, staying in the meditative state for a while will prepare you for sleep very nicely. And you may fall asleep while meditating.

But what if that doesn’t work?

There are times when you’re exceptionally stressed, and your mind is out of control. Or perhaps you’re dealing with pain you can’t escape from. In those situations, it seems like meditation just won’t work.

That has happened to me. A few years ago, I had a head injury that created a severe headache for about seven months. It was the worst pain I’d ever known. During that time I accepted that I was likely to die from it. Worse of all, the pain wouldn’t let me sleep. But during that ordeal, here’s what I discovered I could do to get some rest:

I would lie down and get in the most comfortable position that I could find and relax as much as possible. Then I would try to enter the meditative state. Some of the time it would work for a few seconds, sometimes for a few minutes. Occasionally I would get some lessening of the pain, but not always. But if I kept after it, the times I could keep my mind still would gradually lengthen. And I’d do that over and over.

During some of the periods of meditation, the headache pain would fade just a little. Then it would come charging back a few minutes later. Over and over, I’d repeat the attempts to meditate, and gradually I would find the pain would back off just a bit. Then at some point I would come fully awake and realize that three hours had gone by without my noticing it! The pain had not ever completely disappeared, but I had somehow escaped it for a while in a way I can’t fully explain. And while I might not have actually slept, it was something close enough to sleep that it gave me some rest.

I wonder if that sorta sleep I discovered during those months might have saved my life. It turned out months later, when the surgeons went in and fixed the problem, they said I might have been close to dying, indeed. Without all those hours of meditation and near-sleep, I might not have stayed around long enough to find the healthcare wizards who fixed me.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

April 6, 2019 at 4:27 pm

Can’t Sleep?

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NINE PEOPLE I know have told me in the last month they can’t sleep. During my haircut Saturday, my hairdresser Rae-Lynn was yawning so badly I worried she might accidentally stab me with her scissors. I asked why she couldn’t sleep, as I often do with yawning people. She had the same answer as the others: “My mind was racing and wouldn’t let me sleep.” What a shame.

I should do something about that problem. Because, if there’s anything I’m a master of, it’s sleeping. I can snooooze like you wouldn’t believe—I’m fortunate to have deep and restful sleep.

Sure, I had sleep problems caused by stress when I was in the military. Which was understandable, because back then I was certain that people were trying to kill me. But, an old Tibetan monk taught me how to calm down and go to sleep even when I was scared out of my wits.

Now, I can go to sleep under extraordinary pressure. So, I should teach my insomniac friends how I do it. I imagine that if I put some effort into it, I could do damage to the sleeping pill industry.

The trick is mind control: Learning to stop the thinking machine. Another word for that is meditation. I’ve been doing it so long that I can’t remember not being able to do it. It’s so easy.

Not long ago, I sat down and wrote everything I know about Zen meditation in a book. It’s called Original Zen and can be found on in paperback. It is also an ebook you can download to your device. If there is anything in the book that doesn’t make sense, send me an email. I will do my best to explain it.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

January 24, 2019 at 12:24 pm

Using My Angel Hour

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Just in case you don’t know what I mean by my angel hour, let me define it. When you wake up at some time between 4 and 5 a.m. and you don’t feel sleepy, maybe you’re having an angel hour. Go ahead and meditate to stop your mind, and see if you can go back to sleep.

RelaxedGirlIf you can’t sleep, your deeper mind may be trying to tell you something. So continue meditating to slow down and/or stop your conscious thinking. Stay very relaxed and very still. Soon, you won’t be entirely awake but you also won’t be entirely asleep. That is a good state to be in.

That very relaxed state of half asleep is an angel hour. When it happens, stay with it. I guess during this state of mind, people think angels are speaking to them. Who knows. Maybe so.

You might receive valuable knowledge. Or perhaps answers to a problem that has been bothering you. Or maybe not. You never know.

In any case, it’s a good place to be. During that time, you’re getting both physical and mental rest. It’s nearly as good as sleep. Some times—maybe not all the time—but for sure some of those times, you will receive deep-mind information that you might otherwise never know about. Your deep mind understands things unknown to your conscious mind. Among other things, that can be pure wisdom. It also allows you to clearly see your own intuition that applies to some matter concerning you. In some rare instances, you might receive genuine enlightening experiences.

In years past, it took a while for me to recognize an angel hour. I would get annoyed that I couldn’t go back to sleep. But then, after I realized what was going on, I relaxed into it. And I was often rewarded.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

January 4, 2019 at 3:31 pm

How I Go To Sleep

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So many people have difficulty getting good sleep. I’m astounded at the huge industry of sleeping pills and other aids. I’ve never used sleeping pills in my entire life. You might think I’m just lucky. But there’s a little more to it than that.

Typically, when I go to bed at night or take an afternoon nap, I fall asleep in about ten or fifteen seconds. People have asked me how I do that. So for the last few nights, I “watched” myself during the process just so I could describe it.

Oh by the way, a short answer to that question is: Many decades of regular meditation practice and training my mind. But a thorough answer takes a few more words.

When I’m headed for bed, I usually start my mental “falling asleep” process well before I actually hit the sheets. I might be brushing my teeth or taking my clothes off, but I’m winding down the thinking machine. I’m telling myself, “Okay, now is not the time to be worrying about things. Let’s slow the mind down. Just quit thinking.”

That is the first part of my secret: actually preparing the mind for sleep well before bedtime. Maybe it’s the decades of self-training kicking in, but as I slow the mind down, I can sense the heavy feelings of tiredness, fatigue, and low energy flowing downward into my whole body. Thus, with my thinking mind very near to stopping and the body already aching for rest, I’m close to falling asleep by the time I slip into the sheets.

Settling into bed, I’m letting my body find the most comfortable position for sleep. For me, this is already a well-practiced position that minimizes pain and suffering from my old body and a few old injuries. Everybody needs to know his own body and how it can best be positioned to minimize aches and pains. So, unless I’m dealing with  unusual bodily stress, getting myself positioned for dropping off to sleep takes me only a couple of seconds.

And now, it’s time for my “mini-meditation” that I use for going to sleep. Once again, this is where the many years of meditation practice pay off. My mind does a relaxation scan in one or two seconds, and I can feel my body going limp from top to bottom. At this point, the world around me is beginning to disappear. Sleep is near.

Now I focus my remaining consciousness on watching my breath and my heartbeat. The breath is already slow and relaxed, and now it is gradually slowing even more. I can feel my heart beating in my chest, and I also notice it in my fingertips and my temples. The heart rate is also slowing, and I can detect a lower blood pressures. And that is usually the last thing I’m aware of. I am asleep. It is a deep dreamless sleep.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

September 14, 2017 at 11:31 am

Torment of the Mind

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Almost everybody I know suffers from an overactive mind. They tell me they can’t sleep, can’t concentrate, and never get any real rest from all the stuff they worry about. Yes, I know the problem.

More accurately, I knew the problem all too well–until I learned a certain skill. Decades later, I wrote a book about it. To me, it’s the most important knowledge I’ve gained since I was born. But judging from the apparent popularity, it’s the most boring subject in modern civilization.

If it’s not too boring, read some more about ending your torment: Original Zen.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

July 2, 2017 at 11:59 am

Where Do You Live?

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No, I’m not talking about your snail mail address. What I’m asking is where in your body/mind do you spend your time? Has it ever occurred to you that you have choices about where you, that is, your inner being, can reside in that physical bodily conveyance you use to get around in?

It’s interesting to ask people this question, because (a) most people have never really thought about it and, (b) when they actually think about it, they realize that all of their waking time is spend in the conscious mind. Barely one person in a hundred in western societies is able to get away from their conscious thought stream while they’re awake.

Add to that, research has shown the conscious mind to be about five percent of the whole mind. Thus, if your total life experience is limited to living only in your conscious mind, it’s like owning a palace and living in the coat closet.

One of the most beautiful aspects of practicing Original Zen is learning to separate yourself from your conscious thought stream and thereby being able to become an observer of the conscious mind. By observing it, you’re also better able to control it. Oh, and train it, too. Which means you’ll be able to do things with your mind you might have never imagined. Not the least of which is noticing some of the self-damaging behaviors caused by your conscious mind—and correcting them.

In my own case, learning to shut down my noisy mind at night so I could get a night of restful sleep was my first huge benefit from Zen meditation. It’s been one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received, and it didn’t cost me a penny.

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

December 28, 2014 at 1:50 pm

People say, “Keep a positive attitude.”

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But how can you do that in the face of terrible situations? The suggestion is easy to make, but few people really know how to do it. The next time you hear somebody tell you to keep a good attitude when everything around you is going all to hell, ask them exactly how you should do it. They’ll probably offer you a stiff drink or suggest tranquilizers. But we all know that doesn’t change anything.

I learned from a fat old guy who lived 2,500 years ago (or rather I learned from what he wrote) exactly how that positive attitude trick works. And it works without using any booze or drugs. I practiced doing what he did, and I learned how to do it.

After I had practiced it for a long time, I took a master’s program in psychology to see if I could figure out how it works—and why. Then, I wrote a little book about what I learned. I published it as an ebook to make it inexpensive enough so that almost anybody can afford it. It’s cheap, but you must have Internet access and a device that will display an ebook.

As soon as enough ebooks are sold, I plan to publish that book in paper and ink. The paperback will also be inexpensive for the reason that I want this book to be available to everybody on the planet who would like to learn the “secrets” of Original Zen.

Getting Away from Your Body

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Leaving your body for a while is a meditative skill that takes place entirely in the mind. It is something you can learn to do a little bit at a time. Essentially, it means deepening your meditative state, and requires becoming more advanced in your meditation skills. I learned it accidentally over a long period of time. But, when you know what to do and you focus on doing it, you’ll learn it a lot quicker than I did.

Learn, train, read, study, get help from a teacher, and practice until you can achieve the meditative state (totally awake but without any thought) for ten or fifteen seconds each time. Start practicing for fifteen minutes a day for at least five days a week until you can maintain non-thought for a minute. Practice, practice, practice until you can maintain non-thought for two minutes. Learn to really LOVE your practice, and make it an important part of every day until you can stay in the meditative state for five minutes. By this time, in most of your meditations, you will begin sensing small traces of the joy and energy that are always found in the human spirit.

Don’t stop. Use those delicious little tastes of spiritual inner peace to deepen your commitment to the practice. Have many short meditations in your daily life, while standing in line at the checkout counter, during a long traffic stop, whenever you are bored, and every time you get in bed and can’t sleep. When you are a meditator, you eagerly use every episode of insomnia as an opportunity to practice and deepen your meditative state.

Then one day, you’ll discover that you are meditating ten to fifteen minutes each time—with ease. You might reach this stage of your practice in a year or two. Or, depending upon your dedication and consistency, perhaps in a few months. It took me thirty years. But, if I had known what I’ve just written in the two paragraphs above, it would have been much, much sooner for me.

By this point in your practice, you will have developed an ability to block some sensory inputs from your mind—to one degree or another. You’ll know how to block out a distracting noise, perhaps a buzzing insect, or whatever seeks to disturb your meditative state. Then, voila! One day you realize that you can block out the annoying pain in your knee, or the throbbing place where you hurt your hand. Perhaps even a headache. Simply by deepening your meditative state and silently telling the mind to turn off a particular sensory input, you have begun to separate yourself from your body.

As you explore your own mental geography and practice the skill of turning off sensory inputs, you will learn—again, one small step at a time—the art of leaving your body. Generally speaking, each “trip” away from the physical body brings you into the proximity of your own human spirit. There you may discover a vast resource of knowledge and joy like you have never known or imagined.

Will You Ever “Master” Your Mind and Body?

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Meditation is the doorway to self-mastery.

Inner peace, calm, and deeply restful sleep are gifts that come from a practice of self-mastery, which is the art of controlling the body and the mind. Perhaps most importantly, self-mastery can lead to spiritual self-knowledge, that is, knowledge of one’s own human spirit. And that knowledge can lead to Enlightenment.

Self-mastery (chiefly through meditation) is something that I was “taught” fifty-one years ago. But to be more accurate, it is something which in me became fully realized only decades later. Admittedly, my Tibetan teacher had limited skills in my language back then. But his words stuck somewhere in my brain and then, many years later, they blossomed into the insight I expressed above.

The pathway to self-mastery offers very little in the way of forward vision to the seeker. You can’t expect to see exactly how your meditative practice will result in self-mastery in the future. But intuition should tell you that self-mastery will come from a practice of self-mastery. And the practice of self-mastery starts with sitting quietly and not thinking. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Written by Eduardo Mitchell

October 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm