|Image borrowed from a fellow Deviant Artist. All the artist's rights are theirs.|
I’ve fallen back into an old habit. It’s the same habit that got me into trouble back in the mid eighties when I fell asleep at the wheel of my dad’s El Camino and sank it in a flooded ten foot deep embankment. What is this old habit? It's probably similar to the one you yourself is into right this minute: adding so much stuff to the day that it’s impossible to complete all the tasks we've set ourselves. For me, the toll comes in the form of stress and sleep deprivation. When I go to sleep I cannot stay that way. I’m up before the rooster crows, scrubbing floors and emptying cat boxes.
This particular type of sleep deprivation was sneaky, so sneaky I hadn't noticed it until it until a few days ago, so I cannot tell you exactly when this got started. At some point, I started making due with six hours of sleep a night, which was fine, I reasoned, because studies show that the older you get the less sleep you need. Then I started waking up after five hours sleep, giddy and eager to get the ‘day over with,’ so I could have the afternoon with my husband and have some time to play guitar, paint or read, or watch a movie.
But as the day stretched on, other things took priority, and before I knew it, I was going to bed at midnight and rising at five am. And still, I hadn’t given it much thought. By midweek the hours dwindled again. I was going to bed around midnight, and waking at four am.
By the time I was ready for my weekly Dharma class with Lama Jigme, I was waking at three am.
"When was the last time you played?" Lama Jigme asked me during our meeting.
I had to stop and think about it. It had been quite some time. In fact, I couldn’t give him a proper answer.
Last month when I was feeling overwhelmed, he told me to take at least fifteen minutes out of every hour and rest, read, dance, play with the dog, in short: have fun.
I tried following that advice. I really did. But there was so much to do. The dog needed her ears cleaned, the floors needed sweeping, dishes were piled in the sink. I had a book review overdue. The next thing I knew, I had taken out the needed fifteen minutes for fun time and filled them with extra housework. Then before I knew it, I was up all hours, sleeping less than three hours a night, feeling cranky, exhausted and strangely revved up, as if I was on a caffeine high.
This is what happens I realized, when you don’t’ follow your teacher’s instructions. Didn’t he tell me that even the monks in the monastery he once resided hosted fun activities?
You can’t become enlightened if you’re staggering down the path like the sleep deprived zombie that you are, I told myself. It’s time to follow your teacher’s instructions. It’s time to rest. It's time to break out, and have some fun.
It wasn’t so long ago I was a child, and that I, like all children, looked forward to the break in routine to go out and play. And today and tomorrow is exactly what I will to do. I will unplug, work on my guitar practice, my sculpting, my reading, (Odd Thomas awaits) and maybe indulge my inner DaVinci by painting. And during the week, I will take those much needed fifteen minutes out of each hour to give myself a play time treat. I will also resume going to bed at a reasonable hour.
This weekend is, after all, mine to do with as I wish. The possibilities are endless.
But first: a much needed nap.
may you be happy and healthy
om mani padme hum