Sleeping In as a Spiritual Practice

“The early bird gets the worm.”

– Proverb

“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

– Benjamin Franklin

From the beginning of time, a thick, suffocating layer of guilt has been imposed upon anyone who made the unfortunate decision to sleep in.  No matter that you were up late the night before laboring around the house, or that you had worked your fingers to the bone over the preceding weeks at your stressful, screaming meemies job. The overall societal consensus was that if you didn’t spring into action at the crack of dawn, you were assumed to be a lazy, indolent, good-for-nothing – one who preferred to take it easy rather than put in an honest, hard day’s work.  Yes, in the eyes of Benjamin Franklin and his army of over-achievers, simply because you chose to loll in bed, you were destined for ill health, poverty and poor decision making.

With this in mind, just recently I had a very busy schedule, with lots of difficult shifts in the emergency department, and after this flurry of pressured activity, I went to bed, exhausted. When I woke the next morning, I fought off Ben’s admonition and made a conscious choice to stay in bed and relax. Lying there resting, a kaleidoscope of thoughts began to float across my mind, some from times past, others from the present, and some from an anticipated future.  While a number were enjoyable, some were disturbing, others frightening, and some exhilarating.  Whatever their quality, I smiled at them and let them cycle though my consciousness until they lost their power and dissipated.  I closed my eyes, once again fell into a deep slumber and in moments visited Dreamland.  As opposed to late night dreams that are often forgotten, I clearly remembered these subconscious reflections when I woke a short time later.  After examining these dreams, a totally different, unique set of thoughts greeted me, and once again, I dispassionately let them move in and out of my mind.  Much like the classic Clint Eastwood movie, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” they were what they were, and I did not attempt to control or judge them.  A short time later, though, I once again went to sleep, more dreams occurred, and the continuum of thoughts to dreams and dreams to thoughts went on for hours until, refreshed and relaxed, I stretched, rose from bed and engaged the day. Now, as I think about it, in many ways this process was like a deep meditation, and much spiritual work had been accomplished.

As I ponder my morning of R & R, I believe we are long overdue for a different mindset about sleeping in.  What we sometimes forget, in our driven, goal-oriented Western society, is that a balance is necessary between activity and passivity.  In the East, this is best demonstrated in Taoism, where our dualistic world is represented by the yin and the yang, which together make up an indivisible whole.  Good and bad, light and dark, wisdom and foolishness, day and night, truth and falsehoods, and yes, activity and passivity, all make up the dichotomy that is our Universe.  In other words, you can’t have one aspect without the other.

The long and the short of this is: I vow to let go of the need to be an early bird. No longer will I feel guilty about staying in bed and relaxing, or, in general, taking it easy, for not only will the extra rest do me good, also healthy, sacred healing can take place. I don’t plan to sleep in every day, but when I do so, I will enjoy it to the fullest.  After all, no matter what Benjamin Franklin said, I deserve to sleep in every so often, and have some quiet moments to balance my oftentimes frenzied life.

Sleeping in can be a spiritual practice, don’t you agree?

 

 

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