Many people tell me they have trouble sleeping, or staying asleep, or they have upsetting dreams. In an earlier post I presented ways to work with feeling more grounded and more sense of purpose. This is very important to do in the morning. Yet it is also really important at night, as we get ready to go to sleep. Here I will share some strategies for helping us get a better and safer night’s sleep.
SAFETY IN DREAMS EXERCISE: In preparing ahead of time for dealing with upsetting dreams, sit down either alone or with a supportive friend or loved one, and practice the following chant: “I’m a dream body and I cannot be hurt.” Say it many many times so you memorize it. It really helps to practice it with a friend or loved one or just someone willing to help. Our objective is to commit it so deeply to memory that when we find ourselves having an upsetting dream, we can say it right in the middle of the dream while we are still asleep. It will help us turn the dream in a better direction toward safety. When you’ve practiced it for a while, stop and notice what you are feeling in your body. You can share that with you friend or loved one, and if they practice it, they can share with you as well.
SETTING OUR PURPOSE FOR NIGHT: As we near the time to go to bed we can take some quiet time and pray or meditate. I recommend we always start with thanks. Thank the Spirit, or whatever you believe in for all the blessings in your life. Be specific about gratitudes. Like saying, “today when I was feeling discouraged, I appreciated feeling Spirit support to feel stronger.” Then state your purpose for this night. Here’s one way to say it: “I ask for help in having a restful sleep so I can awaken in the morning refreshed and ready to live the day.”
Then you may choose to surround your room with good spirits like angels, or medicine wolves or dogs or other good boundary protection animals. This will do no harm. You can also practice the chanting that is in the exercise above.
Sometimes our dreams will waken us with big feelings. You can use the strategies in the Working with Big Feelings & Grief blog post as needed to let the feelings wash on through and then return to rest. Let yourself remember your purpose, to get a restful sleep. Let yourself return to rest. If you find yourself having a hard time being relaxed you can try the exercise below. Sometimes if a dream is especially troubling to us, or keeps reoccurring, some people find it helpful to have a divination about the dream to open another lens or perspective on what the dream may be saying to us.
BEDTIME RELAXATION EXERCISE: Rest quietly and let your breath gently flow through your feet, your calves, your thighs, your pelvis, your stomach, your back, your chest, your hands, your arms, your shoulders, your throat, your face, your eyes, your scalp. Let the breath help to relax you. Take your time, don’t hurry.
Sometimes in the night we may feel discouraged, alone or not grounded. Be gentle with yourself and bring your awareness back to your body and feel your feet. Remember your purpose of having a restful sleep. If so inclined say another prayer or ask for help and just let yourself rest. Don’t worry if it takes a while to get used to doing this. Keep at it and you’ll get better at it. Share any successes you have with a friend or loved one.
We can also draw strength and support from Mother Earth to be able to handle our feelings and settle ourselves.
© Jerry Allen 2016
About the author –
I hold a masters in public health education from UC Berkeley and a masters in counseling psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies. I’ve been a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist since 1991, and am certified in Somatic Experiencing. I began my medicine man training in my first vision quest in 1973. I was initiated as a medicine man under the training and supervision of Theresa Dintino. I studied Aikido for 30 years and received 3 black belts. I live and practice in Oregon and Sebastopol, and enjoy playing music, tending our apple orchard, and spending time with my two wonderful children.
Jerry Allen, LMFT, SEP, MPH, Anishinaabe Mashkikiiwinini (Medicine Man)
Gratitude Way Medicine Man Counseling & Coaching – firstname.lastname@example.org