Sleep

May 25, 2018

When I was a child I looked forward to bed as I did going to the cinema and there was a time when I was rarely disappointed.  Where else but in a dream, could I fly?   Where else could I enjoy experiences I could not see in the cinema?

And — yes– if you realize it is a dream – and you don’t like it you can always wake up or if you are feeling really bold turn around and talk to that monster chasing you asking it a direct question like, “Excuse me, I think I know you, can I help you with something?”  And then suddenly laugh as the monster melts or dissolves much like the witch in Wizard of Oz or better yet becomes someone you know like the kid down the street who is less than kind.

One cinema evening, however, didn’t end well at all for me. I must have been around four years old and I had not yet fully realized that dreams were distinct from waking.

In that dream, I had been given a candy bar.  I decided to hold on to the chocolate bar tight enough that it could make its way back with me upon awakening.  Ready to be… devoured.

After I awoke, I remember looking everywhere for that candy bar blaming my older brother Ken for stealing it and asking my parents if they had seen the candy bar anywhere.  I was in a sour mood and furious…until my mother asked me a few questions on where I had gotten that candy bar and where I had seen it last.  She then told me the bad news:  dreams are not real.  You can’t take things from dreams and bring them back here so easily.

And then I became deeply curious.  What were dreams and what were they good for?

Around the age of seven, my experiments lead me to use sleep differently.  I would read something at night and then set my alarm very early around 6am and re-read the material I wished to know one more time.

I realized that during the night my mind was working in wonderful ways while I was resting.  As I loved sleep, this pleased me immensely.  I enjoyed this method so much that as a reward to myself after completing the early morning study ritual in bed, I set up my alarm clock once again – this time for an additional 20 minutes of sleep.

During those 20 minutes of time I would let my body fall asleep but remain slightly aware. Everything during those 20 minutes of “light” sleep became even clearer.  Answers to my questions came.  Material was effortlessly absorbed.  Creative ideas abounded.

And when I awoke after those 20 minutes, I felt incredible as if I had three additional hours of rest.  Rest of a different nature.

It is only years later, that I realize that position on my back was shavasana and that the sleep technique was a form of yoga nidra.  Had I been more knowledgeable at the time, I would have used my sleep for far better things then just acing tests and being good at academics or coming up with creative ideas.

Had I known…

So, these next entries are for those who are a bit curious.

Perhaps you want to sleep more, perhaps you want to sleep less, perhaps you want to experiment with what is most beautiful within or a new direction in your life.  To each his own:  I let you choose, but do be curious, test what you think you know (as I did) and experiment with a few.  Sleep — less or more of a variant of it– may just change your life.

Sleep

  1. Assess Your Sleep (SWAN): Strengths, Weaknesses, Ambition, Needs
  2. Memory, Learning, Creative Problem Solving
  3. Sleep Well at Night
  4. Power Naps Equal to Three Hours of Sleep
  5. Use “Conscious Sleep” for Meditation

 

sleep

  1. Assess Your Sleep (SWAN): Strengths, Weaknesses, Ambition, Needs

Sleep is one of my most beloved moments in a day.  A serious moment to be reckoned as my husband will surprisingly attest — for when I get sleepy, I become warm as a baby and nothing NOTHING (not even mounds of laundry nor gold scattered on my bed) could stop me from nudging everything aside and letting everything melt away.  Hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, it might just not matter at that moment.

Anywhere, under any condition I can sleep–just kindly give me two minutes.  As funny as this may sound, the capacity to relax instantly has saved me more than once.

It is not that I was always sleepy, but when I want to sleep, I can.  And soundly.

And how about you – what are your strengths with sleep?  What are your weaknesses, ambitions and needs regarding sleep?

Take 5 minutes to assess your sleep: Strengths, Weaknesses, Ambition and Needs

Strengths:  Are you a good sleeper?  Do you wake up well rested and full of energy and ideas?  Can you fall asleep easily?  Do you need many hours of sleep or just five or so (imagine all you could do if you only needed 5 hours of sleep and felt GREAT)?

Weaknesses:  Is it hard to fall asleep?  Do you wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep?  Do you always feel a bit tired as if on empty?  Do you have bad dreams that disturb your sleeping hours?

Ambition:  What do you want from your sleep?  Is it a way of resting?  Is it a means to explore?  Do you use sleep to get new ideas or absorb information quickly?   Do you feel sleep effectively solve conflicts from the day?   And how about using sleep as practice for being conscious at the time of the ultimate sleep: your death?

Needs:  How many hours of sleep do you need to feel rested?  When you are tired can you take a quick nap and recover fully or do naps make you more tired?  If you need 8 hours of sleep do you calculate at what time you need to go to bed so you can wake up naturally without an alarm clock?  Do you find you need less or more sleep depending on what and when you eat?

Jot down a few ideas.  After all many people spend at least 1/3 or more of their lives in bed.  Might as well think for five minutes on the value of all this time and make it work towards your health, happiness and well-being.

 

2.  Memory, Learning, Creative Problem Solving

The technique I used for memory and learning during sleep as a child and young adult that helped me do well academically (took classes at Harvard Law, Harvard Undergraduate, Fletcher School, Amherst, Berkeley, HEC business school) was simple enough:

  1. Read, review or study something before going to bed for as long as needed (the last thing you see before sleep) and then wake up an hour or earlier to review it fully.
  2. As a reward allow oneself 20 minutes of sleep after the review where one can lightly dose in bed and rest soaking everything in on a different level.

Little did I know that this 20 minutes was the crucial technique that allowed the information to enter effortlessly and remain in my short-term memory.

 

3.  Sleep Well at Night

Usually, I go to bed around 10.30pm and like to wake up without an alarm clock early in the morning (I nevertheless set one just in case).   But most days I wake up naturally anytime from 3.30am to 5.00am.  Five hours of sleep is usually sufficient for me, but when my body is healing it can be later.  I enjoy this early morning time alone immensely as the air is fresh, cool and my mind and spirit are at their best.

Do things without Tension During the Day (Relaxation and Ease is Rest)

Since I do the most important things first thing in the day when everyone is sleeping I am more relaxed the rest of the day as I have done what matters most to me (meditation).  During the day, I try to do either things I love or at least do them in a way I love so my body is not tense.  Naturally, daily exercise also helps in letting go of physical tension.

Eating Different Foods Creates a Body at Rest & the Need for Less Sleep

I used to need eight hours of sleep.  However, my sleeping time dramatically decreased ever since I began to eat differently (became vegetarian and ate a good amount of raw fresh foods & raw organic juices so digestion happens faster and easier).

At one point when I was doing many organic juices and had many vegetables, I only needed four hours of sleep.  This made me realize that my body was not working optimally on a “regular French diet” even if I came from a family of great French chefs and ate good quality food.  This discovery has made me deeply curious about what foods bring energy and make you feel great.

Digest Well and Cleanse Away the Worries of the Day

Other things that help me sleep well is eating an early dinner around 6.30pm, a shower before sleep and a cup of warm un-homogenized organic milk with a pinch of turmeric 30 minutes just before bed.

Set up a Great Environment and Say Goodbye to the Day

I also like to light a candle in my room prior to sleeping with a little oil as it gives a beautiful glow to the room.  As I watch its warm glow, I say a silent prayer (not to disturb my husband) and then usually take 10 or more minutes to write about what was most meaningful during the day; what I learned about myself and how I might do things differently if given a second chance tomorrow.  If, as each day is a blessing.

Create Space for the Night for Greater Things to Happen

Just before going to sleep (if I am not already asleep as I usually fall asleep in two minutes) I try to disassociate myself from events or things during the day; creating a little space by reminding myself that I am not my body nor my mind.  In other words, I try to disassociate from the many roles I play during the day: mother, wife, yoga teacher, chef, artist, Director of Beyond Our Best, writer or other.

Gratitude and Joy

In the morning, I like to wake up and see the glow from the lamp (sometimes it goes out at night) and smile that I am alive for another day.  I like to smile too at my heart and thank it for beating while I was sleeping.

Do What Is Important

Another day is another chance for me to experience something worthwhile with people I love and to do what is important for me.  Before I usually practice morning meditative techniques, I put a little ash on my forehead (like Catholics do on Ash Wednesday but I like to do it every day) to remind myself that today could be my last day and if it is I must use it wisely.

This may seem strange to some, but something as simple as a little ash is a reminder for me that I may not be here long.  It changes the way I spend my day.  And each day adds up quickly to a life.  This simple morning ritual, can help me focus on important things such as calling my mother or a friend in need.  When you think of your last day; it is not often the large glorious things you think about, but the really important people in your life and what matters most to you.

For more tips, here is a video by a yogi named Sadhguru who explains Good Sleep Rituals

 

4. Take Power Naps 20 Minutes Equal to Three Hours of Sleep

When and if I get tired during the day, I take a short 10-20 minute nap.  After 10 minutes of rest, I can recover completely and seem like a different person.  20 minutes is ideal.

This 20 minutes of sleeping or resting is equivalent to 2-3 hours of sleeping time.  For it to be done properly, you need to teach the body to fall asleep but keeps the mind conscious or aware.   This practice is best done in the morning when one is not tired or else one tends to fall asleep…

You can use the Brainwave 35 Binaural Programs App to help Train Yourself to do this: Press on this link to download Brainwave 35 Binaural Programs.

It uses two different sounds in each ear so you need to use headphones.

Please note you can put relaxing sounds in the background such as raindrops or choose your favorite song in the background (good for teenagers who may not like elevator music).  Some other apps do not allow this function and you get tired of their music.

After you download it, use the Power Nap function and set your alarm for 20 minutes.  Put yourself in Shavasana pose (corpse pose) in yoga – lying on your back with your legs and arms spread slightly, palms facing upwards.  During the practice try not to move and make sure you will not be disturbed.

Try doing this for at least 48 days until you get comfortable with it and can then do it upon will without falling asleep.  When you are conscious or fully relaxed you can also say a “signal word” like — focused relaxation and let it be associated with the moement of intense relaxation you are currently in.  Later when you repeat the same word at the beginning of a meditation relaxation should come quickly.

Use “Conscious Sleep” for Preparing the Mind for Meditation

Deep relaxation is key to many things; sleep, memory and meditation.

For those who wish to practice meditation the capacity to relax is the first thing one must learn.  To completely let go or relax helps one enter states of meditation.

I practiced conscious sleep (putting the body to sleep and keeping the mind aware) in Shavasana for 6 months for about 40 minutes a day prior to learning sitting meditation.

For those who want to meditate, start with the 20 minute Nap practice in Shavasana.

Remember Conscious Sleep is best practiced when not too tired or you will fall asleep.  You can practice it at bedtime if you have a hard time falling asleep and then let yourself sleep!   If you are tired during the day try finding the time for a 20 minute power nap as it will deeply re-invigorate you.  It is a must for people with long or intense working days or who may work night shifts.  Flight attendants can use the practice during their “rest period” travelling, taxi drivers can practice it at night in their cabs when on “rest.”

 

Some Tools for Meditation that Give the Benefits of Restful Sleep & Far More

 

Brainwave 35 Binaural Programs App (Power Nap do 20 minutes)

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/brainwave-35-binaural-series/id307219387?mt=8

 

Yoga Nida (Beginners from Bihar School excellent 30 minute)

 

Yoga Nidra (Intermediate from Bihar School excellent 40 minute)

 

Shoonya (Taught by the yogi Sadhguru)

http://isha.sadhguru.org/isha-yoga-programs/advanced-yoga/shoonya-intensive/

 

Centering Prayer as taught by Monks such as Father Keating

Try one that seems right for you.  The first three are easy to use and you can begin with the video or the app.  Shoonya needs to be taught.  There are books on Centering prayer.

Wishing you great sleep, good power naps, great memory and a deep centered awareness throughout your day and night.

Nuclear Energy

Addressing Nuclear Energy with Greater Comprehension

nuclear energyAs a Franco-Japanese from New York, I realize that after Hiroshima, Nagasaki and now the “accident” of Fukushima, we must comprehend.

To learn something from our past is to embrace the need for a new consciousness.

In a country which experiences important earthquakes and tsunamis (and where there is a prediction of a 70% chance of a major earthquake to occur in the next four years), nuclear energy may be efficient and economic, but not “ethical” in that such “accidents” may present risks for the Japanese and for the planet.

Although I would like to believe that it takes a great tsunami, the likes of which we hope to never see again, to create such a disaster, I fear this is wishful thinking.  What opened my eyes to graver dangers were two documentaries on the crisis by Arte and the BBC.  In these documentaries we see that the reality on the ground is quite different from realities in headquarters miles away.

In one of the Most Industrialized Countries in the World what role did technology play on constraining the Nuclear crisis on the ground?

Experts interviewed by the French channel Arte  (Arte Enquete sur une supercatastrophe nucleaire) present an eye opening view to ground realities in a nuclear crisis.  Similarly,  (BBC This World 2012 Inside the Meltdown) presented me with a disturbing realization: our safety in one of the most industrialized and efficient countries in the world was in part in the hands of car batteries used to reboot electricity in a nuclear plant, manual maneuvers and men with courage.

What would this crisis have looked like elsewhere?

What we see in the documentary is that the rescue team on the ground used simple car batteries taken from their own cars to reboot electricity in a room at a nuclear power plant.  They had to resort to manually turn valves to release hydrogen (given that no one envisioned the possibility of an electric outage).  We see a small core staff from TEPCO and also firemen who cooled an explosive situation with simple hoses and make-shift maneuvers.  These men and their families are the true heroes, but we should not let their effort and gift of their own health and lives fail to teach us something important.

For me, the most important lesson is not nuclear energy nor a debate on whether it is 100% safe, but our actual state of human consciousness.

That we can do no better than use our intelligence to create bombs capable of eliminating much of humanity is a reflection of the current poverty of our consciousness.  That we have not yet focused on developing energy that is both safe and whose waste does not pollute our ecosystem for thousands of years is another statement for our era.

When the problem is defined as such, the solution is not the immediate elimination of all nuclear energy (although in some circumstances such as countries with high risks of earthquakes or natural disasters this can be common sense), but the creation of a much more vast human consciousness defined in positive terms.  This solution has to encompass a greater vision for man, for technology and for progress itself.

When we fight against Something We give it Power

The distinction may not seem important.   However, in the field of positive mental health in which I have worked with Dr. Yukio Ishizuka, we have found that when we fight against something, we give it power.  To fight against a depression is to give it importance and strength.  To create a war against nuclear energy will also create a strong backlash by powerful forces.

Succeeding in Saying “Goodbye to Nuclear” requires stating Vision in Positive Terms

Rather than defining success in Japan solely as “goodbye to nuclear” and facing formidable resistance by the government and industry, I believe Japan could define success in positive terms so that both the wise generation and the youth will rally behind such a movement and go much further.  I think defining success in positive terms will enable Mr. Kenzaburo Oe and Mr. Satoshi Kamata and others to provide a real and important alternative to the Japanese should they decide to shut down all reactors and create an alternative route to nuclear.

Success in Nuclear Defined in Positive Terms

Japan could demonstrate by example to the whole world that green and renewable energy is not only a “moral” choice in a country visited by earthquakes and tsunamis, but a viable choice for an industrialized nation. 

Through breakthroughs in technology and innovation Japan can lead the world in renewable energy and establish a new relationship with nature.  It can do so in a humane manner that respects the liberty of individuals.

Learning from Crisis

To achieve the above goal defined in positive terms will require tremendous will power, courage and focus.  It is likely to involve national and international cooperation and the will of a nation of great minds to make important breakthroughs in renewable energy and innovative technologies.   It will also necessitate a nation to make strategic decisions and create innovative funding structures capable of unifying industry with a common aim through an economic downturn.  And most importantly, it will require a compassionate Japan that considers and respects the dignity and liberty of all individuals.

Japan will need to create an alternative that currently does not exist. Given the current national and international context, it may well be, the Japanese, who could be amongst the first to succeed.

Fundamental change in a Nation does not start nor end with Nuclear issues

In a world where crisis is mounting and where our will is constantly tested, we need to define our future in clear positive terms.  The real problem or challenge is a change in consciousness.   This consciousness must embrace greater comprehension, compassion, liberation and realization both at the individual and national level.   Anything short of this is not success.

By creating a new Japan that uses its imagination to inspire, and rise above crisis, the Japanese may not only save themselves from the worst, but can provide an inspiring model for the rest of the world.  Through greater comprehension, compassion, liberation and realization, we may be able to overcome other disasters in the future, be they nuclear, global warming, rising nationalism, poverty, unjust and unhealthy working conditions or other.

I believe that the Japanese can and will succeed.

—–

Petition for Japan to become a leader in Natural Energy (anyone in any country can participate). Please print out the PDF, sign, send.

Original site with petitions in various languages:    http://sayonara-nukes.org/shomei/

Petition for the Realization of Denuclearization and a Society focused on Natural Energy 

The petition deadline has been extended to the end of May 2012. We ask for your further support!

English petition form(pdf)
________________________________________
■About the Petition Form■

In Japan, a personally signed petition is still more forceful than an Internet-based signature. Therefore, please print out the English petition form (pdf file) and send it to us by postal mail.

Here are some instructions:
1. The petition consists of two pages which have to be submitted together. Please staple the 1st page with the petition text and the 2nd page with your signatures together.

2. The English petition is addressed to the present Japanese Prime Minister. It is valid even in case the Prime Minister changes. When our organization will submit the petitions, we make sure that the legal requirements for a valid petition are observed.

3. Please send the petition by postal mail (fax is not valid) to the following address:
Citizens’ Committee for the 10 Million People’s Petition to say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants
c/o Gensuikin, 1F 3-2-11 Kanda Surugadai, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 101-0062, JAPAN

4. The final deadline of this petition is February 28, 2012. However, we have set two intermediary deadlines: September 10, 2011 and December 20, 2011.

5. Some further notes:
 You can write your name and address in your native language.

 Petitions from foreign citizens living outside Japan are valid as long as the petition is addressed to the Japanese Prime Minister. In case the petition is addressed to the National Diet (House of Representatives) or the Upper House, petitions from foreigners living outside Japan are not valid.

 There is no age limit. Signatures from children are also valid.

 In principle, a petition has to be signed personally. In case of children or disabled persons, it is accepted if someone signs the petition on the person’s behalf.

Use Crisis

February 16, 2012

Crisis Both Danger and Opportunity

Crisis can move artists and individuals in a positive direction.  In the future, we wish to post here interviews with key individuals in Japanese art, culture, and society who wish to discuss a positive vision for Japan and incite both the old and young to act with greater comprehension, compassion, liberation or realization.

Yukio Ishizuka 5 Alternatives at threshold of stress

We will also post articles for individual Japanese citizens to use the crisis as a means for greater comprehension, compassion, liberation and realization.  These articles will include a psychology of health, balance and  building meaning in our everyday lives despite difficulty.