Monday, May 28, 2018

Focusing the Mind Can Help You Relax

There is an article at which describes a method they claim will allow you to fall asleep in 2 minutes or less. I can't verify that it works in 2 minutes or less, but it is very similar to a technique I use to help myself get to sleep. What is interesting about this technique is that it can also be used to help you reach deeper states of relaxation during meditation. By practicing the technique as you are going to sleep, you can learn to recognize how it helps you reach deep states of relaxation and experiencing how that works can help you do something similar during meditation.

Here is an excerpt from the article which explains the technique:

The course also aimed to teach “combat aviators to be able to go to sleep in two minutes any time, day or night, under any and all conditions”; instruction in this skill was included to ensure that pilots got adequate sleep, and could sneak in extra shuteye whenever possible.

To accomplish the first goal, Winter taught the men how to physically relax. To accomplish the second, he taught them how to mentally relax. In fact, he essentially defined sleep as the state of being both physically and mentally relaxed.


The key to falling asleep quick is thus to stop the train of thoughts that is usually rumbling through your head. You have to stop ruminating on the regrets, worries, and problems of the day.


So, when you’re looking to nod off, you just want to fill your head with the stillest, calmest of contemplations. Winter suggests three good ones to use, though you don’t have to use all three; just pick one, and if it doesn’t work, try another:

“First, we want you to fantasize that it is a warm spring day and you are lying in the bottom of a canoe on a very serene lake. You are looking up at a blue sky with lazy, floating clouds. Do not allow any other thought to creep in. Just concentrate on this picture and keep foreign thoughts out, particularly thoughts with any movement or motion involved. Hold this picture and enjoy it for ten seconds.


In the second sleep-producing fantasy, imagine that you are in a big, black, velvet hammock and everywhere you look is black. You must also hold this picture for ten seconds.


The third trick is to say the words ‘don’t think . . . don’t think . . . don’t think,’ etc. Hold this, blanking out other thoughts for at least ten seconds.”

The article gives more details of the technique and references a book that explains it even more fully. I haven't read the book so I can't verify if the claims of "two minutes or less" and "ten seconds" are true. But when you are going to sleep it can be very instructive if you try meditate by counting the breath and notice that if you focus your mind on thinking the numbers, you will find yourself becoming more and more relaxed, but if your mind wanders onto the problems of the day, you don't. If you can notice that phenomenon as you are falling asleep, try to achieve a similar effect as you meditate to get to a relaxed state in meditation. When you notice that maintaining concentration during meditation helps you relax, you have a system of feedback that will help you to learn to relax more effectively during meditation.

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