I’m sure we have all been there. It is two, three, or possibly four in the morning. Something has roused you from a sound sleep. You listen for a moment. You reassure yourself that there are no burglars, no dogs barking, no unusual house sounds. If you have pets, they are all peaceful and sound asleep. All is still. You close your eyes and relax, trying to regain the blissful sleep you enjoyed only a few moments before. Then it begins!
The position you are in becomes uncomfortable, so you turn this way and that. You try to find that certain spot in your mattress which cradles you perfectly. You turn your pillow. Then you flip it over. You may even make several attempts to fluff its stuffings. All your attempts are for naught. By this time, your brain has cleared it’s pre-dawn fog and your thoughts begin to run around as if it were daylight!
It is within these minutes, which sometimes turn into hours, that I find it a perfect time for quiet contemplation. Once I have accepted the fact that I am awake and that sleep is not soon to return, I can settle in and begin watching where my mind travels. I must admit, it was not quite as easy when I knew that the alarm clock would ring, at its appointed hour, and there would be a full day of work ahead with no opportunity for even a tiny cat nap. In those days, I would nearly drive myself insane trying to force myself back to sleep.
One of the blessings of my retirement is that I have learned to be gentler with myself. My only regret is that I didn’t realize, in my working days, that the brain frenzy of those sleepless nights, only kept rest and rejuvenation further away. Today, when I relax into the practice of passively observing my thoughts, sleep returns more quickly and sometimes answers to life’s puzzles are revealed.
Early this morning, about 4:30 a.m., I had one of those experiences. After making a casual examination of the house and our pets, I was assured that all was safe and sound. I returned to bed and found a cozy position and began to observe my thoughts as if they were paper boats sailing by on a clear blue lagoon.
The first thought was song lyrics, “at night when all the world’s asleep, the questions run so deep for such a simple man.”
The next “thought-boat” brought the message that the whole world is NOT asleep! Some people, particularly firefighters, police officers, nurses, many in our military, and all those dedicated workers on the “owl shift,” are wide awake and doing their jobs.
Then a quick little boat arrived to say, they are all awake with me! So I quickly said a prayer of gratitude for their services and the gift of their body clocks attuned to such late night tasks.
Several faces of friends and neighbors were on the sails of the next few boats, so I asked for blessings as each of them passed.
The next little craft was playing a recorded message from my childhood, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord, my soul to keep….God bless….” I allowed the message to play out in its entirety. As each loved one’s name was played, I expressed how grateful I was to have them in my life, whether they were still here on earth or gone to their eternal reward.
It was awhile before the next little craft came by, so I knew I must have begun to doze. Then the most important vessel of the night came into view. Its message so funny, I think I may have involuntarily smiled. The little paper dinghy had a decal on it which read, “It MUST be 5 o’clock somewhere!”
For a split second, in half-sleep, I felt I was connected, beyond time, to every person who was awake around the world. In that moment, all the hero-servants working the night shift were my brothers and sisters. In my own little community, my spirit was joined with young moms and dads walking the floor with cranky babies, homeless people trying to find a warmer place to sleep, folks who were tending farm animals or preparing for a day’s work, those who were ill or in pain, and the lost and broken wanderers striving to find peace and contentment in these wee hours of the morning.
Beyond my local area, I realized, in that very instant, it was mid-day in Rome and for many of the world’s people it was sometime between dawn and dusk. Billions of people were awake and going about the business of their lives facing challenges and joys of every sort. My wakefulness was joined to that of billions of others!
I don’t recall any other boat passing. I must have fallen asleep!