Middle of the Night Mind Bending

I love Tara Brach. She has been a companion of mine for the last 5 years or so, though she doesn’t know it. I started listening to her when we were away sailing and while I was recovering from CFS/ME. I used to lie down in my little cabin and listen to podcasts of her talks and meditations. She is a superb storyteller who I respect immensely in her ability to convey a message.

A few night’s ago she came to my rescue yet again.

Around 2 am my son returned from his beach party with a little band of comrade teens in tow. As I lay there hoping to return to my slumbers my head filled with anger, judgement and criticism.

  • Don’t they think about anyone but themselves!
  • Bloody drunk teenagers.
  • Selfish little sods!

You get the picture.

Not very pleasant, but in the middle of the night it’s just so easy to imagine the worst and to let the mind run riot. My sleepy feeling disappeared as my body became more stressed and tense. After all no-one’s going to sleep when they are in fight or flight and that is where stressful thinking takes our bodies.

After growling at them to quieten down again around 3 am I finally decided to save myself. Lying there fuming, familiar as it is, was never going to help. I don’t know why our minds can get so ridiculous in the middle of the night but they do. I guess there is little else to distract us so the mind can wander or in my case rev up into a full throttle charge. I needed to escape from believing what my mind was conjuring up because it was projecting an extreme, unpleasant and scary future for my teens.

I opened my I-pod and chose a podcast by Tara Brach entitled:

Letting Go of Judgement.

What a life-saver. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you Tara, I love you.

Not only does she talk total sense, she shares her own human struggle and she makes me laugh. She tells beautiful stories that guide and enlighten, that illustrate the point and lead me onto a better path where I can return to love.

I followed her guidance and focused on the feeling in my body. I knew it was adrenaline fizzing through my veins, stressing my system, and that feeling will never help any situation except those that require me to fire up and fight or run for my life.

This primitive response can be very useful if we find ourselves in life-threatening situations but generally speaking it’s not helpful and it actually makes it harder for us to find solutions. If we stay there we are in danger of destroying our own bodies as the stress response interrupts it’s normal functioning. We don’t need to digest, have a working immune system or think deeply when about to flee for our lives, these functions and many others are switched off or compromised when stressed. No wonder so many of us experience digestive issues, immune system problems and we just can’t think straight. We have to learn to switch this response off so we can return to a state of calm.

Underneath lies fear and that is what we need to address, not the mind-made-madness that would have us shouting, arguing, demanding and acting out our stress.

  • Fear  – false evidence appearing real.
  • Fear – finding excuses and reasons.
  • Fear – false emotions appearing real.
  • Fear – frantic effort to avoid reality.

“The emotion of fear often works overtime. Even when there is no immediate threat, our body may remain tight and on guard, our mind narrowed to focus on what might go wrong. When this happens, fear is no longer functioning to secure our survival. We are caught in the trance of fear and our moment-to-moment experience becomes bound in reactivity. We spend our time and energy defending our life rather than living it fully.”

 Tara Brach

Fear can be difficult to acknowledge, it’s often easier to cover it up with judging, criticising, anger or some other emotion where we feel less vulnerable. However if we face our fear, instead of acting it out we can heal it. If we bring it out of the shadows and shine a compassionate light upon it, we begin to heal.

I fear for my children’s future for so many reasons. Their lives have not always been plain sailing, there are issues that still concern me, but ruminating over them in the middle of the night, sleep deprived and fuelled by anger at self-centred teens is not the route to a loving, helpful answer.

As I listened Tara gently taught me to notice but not buy into the thoughts, to acknowledge them and then to focus on a time when I felt love, when I felt connected to my children. As I did this also focused on the impact on my body.

My heart quietened, my breathing slowed down, my muscles relaxed as I recalled a heart warming conversation earlier in the week and a hug.

I saw clearly how my thoughts create the feeling and the feeling is a response in my body. I know this from the work I do. With EFT we often start with the body’s sensations letting them lead us into our inner world. We use the body to help us find the cause of our suffering, to guide us to the root of our troubles. Instead of the fear dictating our behaviour we gently explore it’s origins clearing the stuck energy, so freeing ourselves from the emotional stranglehold it may have on us, especially in the middle of the night!

So I tapped, gently sending a message to my body that all was well, it was safe and it could calm down. This combined with focusing on my heartwarming memory very quickly changed my body response, and soon sleep returned.

As my middle-of-the-night-head so clearly showed our mind is capable of building mountains out of moles hills, of running away with itself. The stress response kicks in and we are buzzing and unable to sleep. The cycle plays on and on in a never ending destructive loop where we end up exhausted and sleep deprived and often convinced of the truth of our fear based ideas, projections and disaster scenarios.

How fortunate are we to have techniques like EFT and mindfulness available to us?

They are life-savers, however we have to practice them. I do not think it would be so easy to help myself in the dead of night but for my daily meditation and mindfulness practice and regular use of EFT. If we practice self-help in what ever form suites us then we are strengthening our neural connections so that when we really need those practices we might just remember them and put them to use.

We are all worth saving from the tortures of our own minds. Check out my resources pages for more information, or book a free initial consultation here to learn more about EFT and how I can help or find a meditation class near where you live. 

Change is always possible, but it may require a little effort!

“Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns…We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.”
Tara Brach