The Last Five
How we enter sleep matters more than we might think. What we think about before we slip into the evening’s rest, in some ways, means more than what we think about during the day. There are those that celebrate the goodness of the day. Those who worry over all of the mishaps of the day. Some of us are grateful while some of us are disgruntled. Sometimes we dread the coming days and sometimes we look forward to what the next day will bring.
All of us may have approached sleep in all of the ways described. Whether we have failed or whether we have succeeded, our perspective tends not to be on the result of the day. Our perspective is clouded by how we felt during the day. If I see a child playing in the street it might remind me of a happy childhood. It might also be a reminder of a tragic news story where a child was hit by a car. The child playing in the street will do nothing different, but the way I observe it will change my day.
In the same way, if I were without a job for a time and began working on a truck dock, I would be happy. If I lost my fortune with a bad stock trade and was forced to work on a truck dock, I might be miserable. Experience shapes our view of things. We have to work hard to choose for what to be grateful. We have to work hard to choose, because we are easily deceived into thinking we know for what to be grateful.
There are mysteries in our sleeping. There are lessons learned there that cannot be learned while awake. Dreaming is good for the body. Studies on REM sleep proved this years ago. What shapes our dreams and the lessons learned during sleep is the gratitude that exists before we enter slumbered states.
Simply put, it helps to find anything for which to be thankful for each night. It might be a smile on the face of a friend recently seen. Perhaps it was the relative ease of the day. Our next breath, our ability to find the strength to face another day, or even our loves through life.
Though we can be grateful for things, it is more helpful to be thankful for people, simple kindnesses, or a glimpse of the sun. Even our bodies are temporary and will change over time. What lasts is the love we share and the love we receive. What lasts is the care we give to living a life that leaves a mark on those that have been touched by our efforts.
So many people will offer you advice on how to fix what is wrong in your life. There will never be a shortage of those that claim to know what you need to do in order to be fulfilled. This is my only advice to anyone I meet. Find a thing and enjoy the thing. There is no sense in my telling you to be happy, because happiness is only an emotion. It might be lifted up by some as the ultimate goal and purpose of life, but I promise, it is not all it is made to be. Especially by those who are selling books on how to be happy.
What I can offer is this and this alone. Whatever you are doing, if you cannot find a genuine appreciation for what it produces, do something else. If you cannot be grateful for one thing, focus on another. It is not that happy people are grateful. It is that grateful people tend to be happy more of the time than not.
Do not be ashamed to be grateful for what you are. Do not hesitate to give thanks, be it to the universe, the divine, or creation, for what you are becoming. If you do not like yourself the way you are, either change yourself or change the way you see yourself. I promise you are better than you think, even if you think you are the proverbial “berries”. There is a grace afforded by the fact that we are too close to ourselves to see the wonder by which we were made. The magic of what we are being made.
All of this to say, that in the last five minutes before you fall asleep, breathe. Breathe deep and exhale slow. And when you exhale, think to yourself or say aloud, anything for which you are thankful. It is my experience that gratitude takes all of our effort in an effortless way. It is easy to be grateful, but we can do little else during our times of gratitude. If we can only do this one thing, we cannot worry for tomorrow, we cannot replay the day in our minds, and we can only prepare ourselves for the gift of rest. Gratitude uses everything we are. Gratitude trumps all other thoughts and is the only proven cure for anxiety.
Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you ever say is ‘thank you’, you have done enough”. My hope is that we understand this more and more each day. Peace to you.