As a sometimes insomniac, I’ve long been intrigued by an apparent connection between disrupted sleep and enhanced creativity and spiritual awareness. I knew that some monks used to force themselves to wake up every hour so that they could better come to know God, and David sent me an article years ago about the benefits of that two to three hour period of insomnia some people experience in the wee hours of the morning. It turns out that many books, paintings and much music have come to be “as a result” of interrupted sleep. Since I hear complaints from clients regarding unusual sleep patterns and insomnia, and since I have recently been reaping huge benefits from being affected by David’s less than optimal work hours, I thought I’d share some decades’ long observations here. Not exactly rest for the weary, but perhaps the weary will find some encouragement and inspiration.
I should begin by thanking my parents — especially my dad — for kindly staying up with me when I screamed all night as a baby. For months. Possibly even a year of colic. My dad even made up a song, which he still sometimes sings as a joke when I visit them, “One, two, three, four, walk the baby to the door, five, six, seven, eight … [something, something, ends with “late”]. Even in the womb, I became most active at night, much to my early-to-bed mom’s chagrin. During the day, I was on hyper-alert. My Grandpa Frank, who was my best buddy until he died when I was three, took one look at me and told my parents, “This one will give you trouble. She notices everything.” And so I did. Not much has changed in that department.
As a child I needed my afternoon nap. Yes, in part that came as a logical consequence of less than restful nights; however, the need for an afternoon nap mostly happened due to stimulation overload. The phrase “overtired” came to everyone’s lips when I got cranky and my left eye drooped ever so slightly. “Time for a snack and time for bed.” Everyone assumed I was exhausted, but most of the time, I just needed some quiet time “to talk with my friends” and to dream. I’d get messages from house faeries that they needed certain supplies, which I’d procure (in real life) from my mom’s sewing cabinet or various storage covers — match boxes, spools of thread, small boxes, a thimble. They seemed particularly in need of sewing equipment!
Here’s the interesting thing, though: I would leave these requested items in the specified place, and they would actually disappear, never to be seen again. Part of me always thought my mom had gone around after me reclaiming her stuff, until she began asking for the little items I’d passed along to others. “I gave them to the Borrowers!” “Well, when will the Borrowers be returning them?! You know they’re fictional characters, Laura.” Hmmmmm, not entirely. That book series of The Borrowers seems to be based on Brownies.
Anyway, from early on, I experienced connections between disrupted sleep, afternoon naps, and communications with the Otherworld. I was also that creepy kid who would announce people’s deaths shortly before they expired, as well as that hair raising child who (until I learned to zip my lip) would tell mean people exactly what physical maladies their bad attitudes and nasty treatment of others were beginning to cause inside their bodies. More often than not, those people became even meaner, and sure enough, they’d develop what I said they would. I wasn’t cursing them. I could just see that their expressed dis-ease was impressing disease in their bodies.
At summer camp, I was even more popular at night than during the day — not that I could remember any of it. I used to give lectures whenever I did manage to sleep. My dad had — for years — found me talking when he’d check in on me before he and my mom went to bed. He would ask me questions about who knows what and listen to the answers, which is probably what primed me for my camp experiences. You see, I didn’t just mumble recaps of the previous day. At camp, I gave lectures about the stars! LOL, but true. I’d wake up the next day and be thronged with questions regarding things about which “I” knew nothing. When the other kids realized I really did know nothing about the things I gave college-like lectures on at night, that generated endless giggle fests among all of us. The only trouble was that I couldn’t stop it, so sometimes my sleep talking gave others a difficult night’s sleep. Ironically, I always slept great at camp!
Lucid dreamers know that we can program ourselves before going to sleep — either to empower ourselves in a dream, or even to solve real life problems in our sleep. Einstein drew many conclusions after sleep, and many inventors, artists, mystics and writers have developed odd, but effective methods of jostling themselves awake in the middle of REM sleep in order better to access the creative brew on the other side of the veil. Keeping a notebook (and pen!) beside the bed helps many people to access the wisdom of their dreams.
But don’t we need restful sleep? Yes, various studies indicate that we all function better with adequate rest. Extreme fatigue causes equivalent driving impairment as over the limit alcohol levels, and test scores usually show a relationship between quality of sleep and performance. But not always! I have personally used very poor quality sleep as my method of “studying” for big exams — especially Art History exams. I would glance over my notes and images right before bed, knowing full well that so much stimulation just prior to sleep would result in far less sleep. By design. My brain would flip through those index cards and images all night long, waking periodically to lodge things in my conscious mind. I experienced dramatically higher grades on exams using this method than when I tried more standard things like, ohhhh, going to the library and actually reading the books!
Ditto on books I hadn’t finished for English classes. If I just let myself drop slightly into a trance in class, I could answer whatever question a teacher threw my way — with sometimes (professor’s) jaw dropping insights. Of course, they weren’t really my insights, because I hadn’t finished reading the book(s) at that point, but, thanks to my ability to drift off at will during the day, I could access whatever information I needed from somewhere else.
People who suffer from insomnia or other sleep disturbances might notice this as well: when you finally do get to sleep, if you can extend that dreamy, sleepy state for awhile (even upon waking), then you enter a different realm. Waking life and sleeping life begin to blur. Most people consider this a bad thing, but that depends on how you live your life and how you choose to work this state of being.
If you pray for guidance while in this state, you will find that life takes on a magical quality thick with stacks and stacks of synchronicities, moving in slow motion with your brain filtering out inessentials and honing in on those most important details. Of course, the soul’s definition of “inessentials” and “most important details” often runs 180 from the ego’s, so bear that in mind. I happen to prefer a soul-rich life, so I surrender to this kind of dreamy, conscious trance state a lot, especially while running errands. Invariably, I have at least three highly serendipitous encounters on those jaunts, and people have actually spun around in line with a stunned look on their face, just due to the powerful energy this state carries.
When we first moved to Goshen, I shared a theory with David, which he has spread around to his friends, and they usually laugh it off. I know this theory has merit, though. Goshen has 85-90 trains on multiple tracks running through town every single day, all day and night long, except on Christmas. These trains honk at every intersection, because the town doesn’t have the guard arms that raise and lower. A federal grant may give us some quiet zones (hopefully near our house, since we really couldn’t get any closer to the train!), but that quiet zone won’t change the vibrating effects of the trains as they run through town.
Since we have multiple lines and major freight trains, there’s really not anywhere in Goshen that escapes the train noise. We have friends who live several blocks further away, and it’s really only a small gradation of difference. A couple neighborhoods along the Mill Race and at the “Dam Pond” are generally quieter, but sometimes those horns barrel down the water and echo even louder than being right near the train.
All of which is to say, that the many trains in Goshen simply must have an effect. People say, “You get used to them,” but on some level, they do mark time — whether through traffic, through minor wake-ups, or through interrupted conversations. I also credit the trains with triggering the huge outpouring of creativity evident in this little town in Northern Indiana.
Yes, the Mennonites have a great deal to do with it, too. Mennonites start learning how to sing in four part harmony from the moment they attend church, and most of them keep singing from cradle to grave. Yesterday, I attended a concert by two area high schools, and at the end, the high school choir directors invited the audience to join in the Hallelujah chorus. I walk a very different spiritual path, but that auditorium could have busted through the gates of heaven. Four part harmony, without any practice, young children and many, many people in their 80′s: it sounded like a choir of angels. A loud, glorious, triumphant choir of angels.
But this is just one example. Goshen College’s radio station was voted the top college radio station in the nation. Again. Goshen High School’s marching band and their choir frequently win state and national competitions. Ignition Garage — a little music store in downtown Goshen — draws big name performers from around the country, especially Nashville, but it also showcases incredible local talent, as well as people who grew up here and return for a show after “making it big.” We’ve got a new a cappella group performing there on Sunday — filled with professional a cappella singers, many of whom used to perform in Chicago.
We’ve got an amazing city chamber orchestra, and Goshen College’s acoustically excellent auditorium draws performers from all over the world — many of whom either went to Goshen College or grew up here. Our local theater is off the charts, including high school theater, and spontaneous gatherings of people of all ages result in concert quality riffs and duets. We’ve got artists, architects, creative chefs and an artisan bread maker and an artisan cupcake baker. It’s more common than not that you meet a farmer or chef who also happens to make jewelry, sing, knit, paint, play concert quality violin, and/or spin yarn. Usually several of those talents at once. Goshen is dripping with creativity. And I really believe the trains have something to do with it.
I know I use the trains as multi-sensory reminders that everything remains in motion, that from silence comes noise and from noise, silence. I giggle when a train honks to punctuate something I’ve just said in a session, and I enjoy the energy of connecting Goshen to so much of the rest of the country, even if many of those train cars carry GMO corn syrup grown in lovely Northern Indiana. I still bless ‘em in my half-sleep. Drivers have told me that they use the time spent waiting for the trains to pass as a moment to ponder their lives and the philosophical implications of time and timing. I imagine their subconscious mind continues to process such ideas whenever they hear trains at night.
The last time I lived in Chicago really brought this interrupted sleep idea home to me. I had been led — directly through dreams — to find an apartment on the 9th floor, 1.5 blocks from Lake Michigan, in Hyde Park. Unbeknownst to me at the time of renting, there was an old fashioned elevator pully directly above my bed. That elevator clunk-clunk-clunked at random moments all night long. Every night. As a light sleeper, this obviously, woke me up a lot, but I used that time well. I spent many hours day-dreaming (at night) about the kind of life I wanted to live now that I had liberated myself from a very tricky to leave marriage. I also downloaded designs for nine portal doors, which I ended up painting. Synchronously, six of those doors came from that very attic above my bed, right next to the elevator pully! You can read about The Mother Lode of Doors by clicking here. Those portal doors (which you can see here) ended up designing — in detail — the very happy, magickal life I’m living now. It used to freak me out, pleasantly, but freaked out nonetheless, how those doors I downloaded in my insomniac nine months in Chicago became blueprints for a life I love.
More recently, David has begun setting his alarm for 4:45 a.m. so that he has plenty of time to putter around the house in the morning and to wake up before heading to work. I have an erratic sleep schedule, so sometimes I’ll go to bed with him, and sometimes I’ll stay up a lot later. If I go to bed with him, I usually wake up around 3:30 and have only just managed to drift off again before the alarm starts going off. With our chilly mornings, I stay in bed, but I can hear him cleaning pots in the kitchen until he sits down for awhile. Then I drift off to sleep again, right about the time he comes up to shave and shower. With winter here, he likes to keep heat trapped in the bathroom, so if he comes or goes, that door opens and shuts. It’s kind of incredible how often one person can go in and out of the bathroom in the span of a half hour, but I’ve learned to appreciate it!
You see, that is prime meditation time for my day. I’m not quite asleep but certainly not fully awake, and all those opening and closing doors become portals to change. My mind, body and soul become alert to the openings and closings of what seems to some like “Fate.” Over and over, I recognize choice points, prepare myself to recognize choice points even before they make themselves known to “ordinary” senses. Sometimes I find myself in other realms. Sometimes I go to the past or to the future.
Sometimes, I trace world events to their logical conclusions and then use this Dreamtime portal work to tweak Reality. Whenever I do that, the Universe always sends me some sort of confirmation that the original concern was a legitimate one, but then I’ll also receive some kind of email or news story or a message in an “ordinary” conversation with a “real” person that such and such plot was discovered and foiled. Dreamtime is powerful! Some Native tribes believe Dreamtime can accomplish things five times faster than in “real life,” but with tangible results in the so called waking world.
My work demands an ability to move through veils at will — to command my attention and consciousness into someone else’s body, memories, location/realm or timelines. Humans tend to prefer less blurry lines between the living and the dead, between waking and sleep, and between reality and fantasy. One could argue that these false divisions create much of the unhappiness so many people experience in their daily and nightly lives. The next time you find yourself unable to sleep when society tells you that you “should” be sleeping, instead of stressing about it, consider the possibility that this insomnia or sleep disturbance arrives as a gift. What answers have you recently sought? What changes are you secretly hoping to explore? What life would you love to live?
Let your Dreamtime and Awaketime flow through you and around you, and you will find yourself living from a more inspired and joyful place.