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.

Saving 10,000 : Winning a War on Suicide in Japan

March 7, 2013

Thoughts on the movie Saving 10,000: Winning a War on Suicide in Japan

rene duignanLast night I was invited to a well attended Diet screening for Rene Duignan’s much talked about film (see Asahi Shimbun 1/22/2013, Yomiuri Shimbun 125/2013 amongst others).    The presentation, opened by MP Hosono, and closed by MP Renho, who is the former minister in charge of suicide prevention in Japan, had an important following.

View Movie Trailer Saving 10,000 Winning a War on Suicide in Japan

Over 100 Diet members were invited.  Murata Nobuyuki moderated the event and Professor Hidetoshi Nakamura, Deputy Director of EU Institute of Japan at Waseda University gave remarks.  Saito Yukio, Nakashita Daiki and Rene Duignan were on the panel.

Rene Duignan and Saving 10,000

Rene Duignan Saving 10 000Rene Duignan, who works for the European Union Delegation in Tokyo, is by training an economist.

A man of great spirit and focus, he spent many late nights and countless weekends over the three last years wanting to make a difference about one issue:  suicide in Japan.   Interviewing countless experts he made a film which examines why so many Japanese people take their own lives in Japan.   The result is tremendous.

Saving 10,000:  Winning a War on Suicide in Japan

The film is released today free on the internet in order to reach the greatest number.  Saving 10,000: Winning a War on Suicide in Japan, is going to make an impact.  It will make you think about what you can do to save a life.

Statistics on Japan’s Suicide Rate

suicide statistics japanThe movie raises many questions about why Japan’s suicide rate is so high despite a declining population.  A few figures stuck out: the suicide rate in Japan is 2x that of the United States,  in the last 10 or so years 300,000 people committed suicide in Japan — a figure about equal to the population of Iceland.

Most notably, of the 30,000 who take their lives each year from suicide, 10,000 have been in a mental hospital and  1/3 are over 60.  Having said this, to suggest that the thought of suicide only crosses the mind of the weak or aging in Japan would be wrong.  Another study shows that 40% of University Students in Japan have considered suicide.

I will allow you to view the film or see the reviews.  I will just make a comment on a possible answer to suicide.

The Best Suicide Prevention: Stronger Intimate Relationships and Existential Meaning

For me the opposite of death is life.  This means that the best suicide prevention is to help people live healthier happier lives full of meaning.

Life Track Three SpheresMeaning can come on individual level with close relationships, with a sense of self and of achievement.

It can also come on the existential level, with a sense of life purpose or meaning that has a spiritual element be it a strong morale, an appreciation of beauty or the capacity to use our life to help others.

On an existential level this can be experienced as beauty, as oneness with nature,  or for some the experience of being one with the universe or with God.

Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

On the individual level, given the Japanese statistics, Japanese psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers can play a role by helping the Japanese balance their inner lives, despite outward difficulties which in our world today only seem to be growing.

Yukio IshizukaFor this reason, Rene will also be giving up a follow-up event of the EU’s screening of his film on March 27th 2013 at the EU Delegation to Japan with Dr. Yukio Ishizuka, a Japanese Harvard trained psychiatrist who founded the Japan International Medical Student Association (JIMSA) with the support of Dr. Taro Takemi—the long-standing President of the Japanese Medical Association and a well-respected physician and nuclear physicist.

Using Crisis to Make A Breakthrough in Life

Yukio Ishizuka 5 Alternatives at threshold of stress

Dr. Yukio Ishizuka will talk about how a failed suicide attempt can be an opportunity to breakthrough beyond a previous best level in one’s sense of self, intimacy and achievements.

The talk will address our threshold for individual stress, the subjective factor, suffering and happiness.  Rene and other experts will be on a panel.

Suicide a Permanent Solution to a Temporary Problem

As Rene points out in his film, just one of us can do a lot.  The patrol man Shige-san who along with his volunteers has sucessfully stopped 297 from jumping off Tojimbo Cliff, has had an impact.  Most notably of those 297 who were determined to take their lives at that moment, only 4 later committed suicide.  That means, that 293 of the 297 found it possible to overcome the terrible circumstance that once made life seem impossible.

Societal Factors that Play a Role Should be Addressed

But as Durkheim, the French sociologist, pointed out the causes of suicide can be found in social factors and not just individual personalities.  When a society faces disintegration in the family structure, in politics and religion (or meaning), then suicide increases.  That may be true not just of Japan, but of the world.  However, there are national specificities in life insurance packages, in gambling, alcohol, mental health, bullying and how we view death and suffering through our culture, literature and history that also play a role.  In this aspect, the film examines some important issues.

Japanese Artists Have a Positive Role to Play

As far as Japanese artists goes, there is also much that can be done.  Henry Scott Stokes, a personal friend of Yukio Mishima — the Japanese renown author who took his life in gruesome circumstances– has much to say on the matter.  The death of Mishima is a great loss to the world.

In the film Saving 10,000 lives Mr. Stokes states, “The suicide tendency among Japanese authors has been extremely high.  And if you just list them going through the decades there are many who took their lives and the pattern is totally out of shape with the rest of the world.  There is no where else where the suicide of novelists is so prevalent.”

Henry Scott Stokes and Mishima

Stokes and Mishima

Henry Scott Stokes regrets dearly Mishima’s decision and states, “Those of us who knew he had suicidal tendencies should have stepped forward, should have found a way to enable him to continue to live.”

Because artists are often sensitive to the beauty of life, they also feel deeply the pain.  The challenge for Japanese artists in the future may be to help the Japanese experience the fullness of life without the fascination for death.

While life and death are inseparable, all of us can overcome.  We can express the ugliness of despair and the beauty of finding one’s own way.  Through art, including literature, Japanese artists can inspire the Japanese to new heights, to the experience of greater beauty and meaning– to a dignity that will move us all.

There is a spiritual value in art that touches our core and in this Japanese artists have a profound opportunity to touch far more than 10,000.

Art will always express what words cannot.

Crisis and Opportunity for Fundamental Change

overcoming crisis Yukio Ishizuka

Lifetrack Therapy: Using Setbacks to Breakthrough and Experience Happiness

Fundamental Individual & National Change in Crisis

As difficult as crisis can be, it may be an ideal opportunity for fundamental change in the individual as stated by Dr. Yukio Ishizuka and seen in the graph above or (as Dr. Paul Briot, a Belgian philosopher and writer) has pointed out  poignently — in a nation.

In a letter addressed to Japanese friends published in English and Japanese by the chief editor of Sogensha in Osaka, dealing with psychology psychotherapy and art, Dr. Paul Briot and I write:

“Nations, just like individuals, often ask crucial questions in times of crisis.  It is only when things become really difficult that we have the courage to consider transformational change.  After the 2011 tragedy, Japan set about recovering with a dignity and courage that moved the world.  Just as in 1945, the Japanese will recover and rebuild.  The question is: can a new Japan emerge?”

It is often only when we have reached our worst, that we can ask fundamental questions and create something new beyond a previous best.  After March 11, 2011 the time may have come.

Japan Can Use Crisis to Breakthrough

Japan can do much to reduce the suicide rate and help create a society of meaning.  We all have a role to play in this.  It starts by taking time to notice how we impact others and how we can help those in difficulty.   We can start by making changes first in ourselves and then in the world around us.

On a national level, it also takes bonds, but of a more profound and fundamental nature.  By calming our emotion, by using our reason and focusing on knowledge and compassion, we can begin to make important changes in our country and in this world.

Please contribute to the campaign and pass on the link to those who can make a difference.  That is: all of us!

Some Useful Links:

Film Trailer Saving 10,000: winning a War on Suicide in Japan http://www.saving10000.com/

View the Full Film Saving 10,000: Winning a War on Suicide in Japan

Hotline in Japan on Suicide: Tell Suicide Prevention

For more on Health, Happiness and Optimal Adjustment
www.PositiveMentalHealthFoundation.com

For more on Stress, Overcoming Fear, Stress Types, Stress Techniques, and Five Alternatives at the Threshold of Stress