I have been trying to write a blog post for weeks about insomnia, but with each tragedy that happens in our midst, I struggle to write something useful about getting good sleep. Let’s be real, it’s scary out there. Sometimes it feels necessary “not to rest” in order to be constantly vigilant in this violent world. How do we find peace?
Is Sanctuary Possible?
I say why not. We need rest if we want to fight the good fight, and we need to take care of ourselves if we want to take care of others. The first step for getting good rest is feeling safe. Instead of providing a guide to getting better sleep, it might be more important to think about how to cultivate our inner sanctuary as a way to improve our ability to rest.
How can we begin?
For me, the process starts with simple observation: Where can we go inside our homes and inside ourselves to feel safe? What activities make us feel secure? Are there specific articles of clothing that calm us inside? What rooms can we pass through before we turn in for bed?
Breaking bread to feed your soul
Cooking food with care and intention is about nurturing ourselves, and at times, those around us. When the days are short, it’s even more important to create warmth, aroma, and tasty food. Lights should be turned on, candles lit, soothing music played, and the event of cooking can begin, ideally with a glass of wine in hand.
While dinner has to be made for sustenance, a bit of ethereal magic can enter the act. Maybe you can roast sweet potatoes or sauté mushrooms in olive oil and garlic over a low flame while the steam from a chicken stock wafts through the kitchen. All of these things give a feeling of being settled. It is a feeling of safety, that hearty food is coming and there is plenty. These are not just smells; these are signifiers harkening back to another time when perhaps we felt cared for. And if we weren’t cared for in this way, now is a great time to give this love to ourselves.
Crafting the conditions to nurture our selves
To feel safe is to feel like the conditions are ripe for our survival. Along with food, if you have a fireplace, build a fire. If not, consider lighting candles. There is something primal about the beauty of the flames and the warmth. Also for our prehistoric ancestors, having the ability to create fire was intrinsic to survival.
Cleansing your body in a ritual
A ritual is a ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a specific order. You are free to create your own rituals. Try this before eating: run a bath. By shedding the clothes of the work day and slipping into a warm bath, there is something about transitioning from our public lives to our private ones. It is shedding the issues of the outside world and setting the stage for a calm insular moment of home life. You might add Himalayan sea salt or epsom salts to the bath to help unwind. Several drops of sandalwood or lavender oil can also be soothing. Feel the heat returning to your fingertips and your toes as you relax down the length of your spine.
Wrap yourself in a favorite blankie
After the bath, change into something that makes you feel comfortable, something you instinctively reach for in your closet: your favorite sweater, a scarf you inherited from a loved one, a t-shirt you swear you’ll give back to your best friend one day, or a thick terry cloth robe.
Feed yourself so you can feed others
While all of these things may not make the world right, safe, or fair, we need our rest before we can keep fighting to make the world safe. In the bathing, dining, and resting there may be a place to calm the heart and find consolidation, soothing quiet, and perhaps the right conditions for restful sleep.
Photo by Dominik Martin