The official site of the sleep-deprived

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Meditation and Insomnia

Using meditation and yoga to relax during the daytime helps you sleep better at night, showed a study directed by Ramadevi Gourineni, MD, director of the insomnia program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Evanston, Illinois (published in ScienceDaily in June 2009). According to Dr. Gourineni, if you suffer from insomnia it’s likely you are in a state of hyperarousal 24/7. 

The study divided participants into two groups. One group practiced Kriya Yoga, which uses meditation to focus attention; the control group didn’t. At the end of the two-month-long trial, the patients who practiced yoga/meditation experienced improved sleep quality and sleep time.

The results of Dr. Gourineni’s study didn’t surprise me, but they did remind me to spend more time relaxing during the daytime. Over the years, I’ve noticed that when I do yoga and meditate regularly I sleep better. When I don’t, I lie awake for hours worrying about things I can’t or won’t change, rehashing the day’s most meaningless and miniscule details, and sometimes even gaining what seem to be genuine insights.

One of reasons people meditate is to stop the squirrelly chatter that runs rampant through our minds most of the day. For those of us who suffer from sleep dysfunction, the chatter doesn’t stop when we go to bed. A daily dose of meditation trains us, over time, to turn off the chatter, or at least turn it down.

Here’s another thing I’ve noticed about meditation and sleep: When meditating, I frequently recall my dreams, even those that occurred long ago. Perhaps that’s because during meditation our brainwave frequencies slow from the usual 13–30 cycles per second (when we’re awake and active) to 8–13 cps, closer to the dream state’s 5–8 cps.

Has anyone else experienced this? Do those of you who meditate and/or do yoga find it helps you sleep better? Is it more effective than other forms of relaxation? We invite you to share your thoughts.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Overlapping Worlds

Lately I’ve been wondering how much our waking and dream worlds overlap. Of course, we're all familiar with the nightly processing of our daytime issues and how the subconscious communicates advice via dream scenarios. Occasionally we experience dreams that foreshadow things to come in our everyday lives, or journey in our dreams to places that actually exist here on earth––even though we may never have gone there except during sleep.

But a few nights ago, I experienced something new (for me anyway) that caused me to look at the idea from yet another angle. I dreamt a tarantula was in the bedroom and my cat was playing with it. When I awoke in the morning, I noticed she’d pulled out a patch of her fur. Looking closer, I saw about a dozen spider bites on her bare skin!

How much of what’s going on around us are we aware of while we’re asleep? What part of us keeps watch over the waking world and how does it communicate with the dreaming part? Anybody have thoughts or experiences to share about such things? 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dream Journeys

Where do we go when we dream? The idea has intrigued and baffled us since before recorded time.

Usually we think of dreams, and the arena where they’re acted out, as being subjective and imaginary––personal fantasies concocted by the unconscious in order to convey information to us while we sleep. And indeed, it appears there’s some truth to this, but it’s only a partial truth. According to some researchers, the level at which nocturnal problem-solving and self-analysis take place is but one neighborhood in the complex landscape of dreams.

Shamans suggest the realm of dreams is actually an alternate reality, a place every bit as “real” as the physical world we inhabit by day. In his book The Art of Dreaming, Carlos Castenada talks about different dream worlds, including the world of inorganic beings. In Dreamscape, Bruce Vance describes the dream environment as an objective territory with its own inherent laws. He says it remains essentially the same when viewed by any dreamer––an idea that contradicts what we’ve been led to believe about the individual nature of dream experiences.

Some of us also journey via dreams to places that exist here on earth––an instantaneous way to travel that eliminates security checks, passports, and jet lag. Several years ago I took a dream trip to what I believed was Africa (even though I’d never been to Africa in waking life). In the dream, which seemed incredibly realistic and vivid, I stood on a plateau overlooking a green lake. When I described what I’d witnessed to globe-trotting friends, they immediately recognized the place as an area of Zimbabwe.

Journeying in the Dreamscape is an option open to anyone who chooses to pursue it. All it takes is intention and a little practice. In fact, you may have already done some dream traveling without realizing it. Have you journeyed in your dreams? What worlds have you visited? What experiences did you bring back? Please share your adventures with us––pictures anyone?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Who is The Watcher?

For the past four nights I have awoken at 4:44. Nothing particularly noteworthy about that other than – how does that happen? How can someone wake at precisely the same hour and minute four nights in a row?

All of my life I have had the ability to wake up at exactly the time I intended; I’ve never needed an alarm clock. How does that happen? As far as I know, only my waking consciousness understands the man-made concept of time – so what part of me is lying awake watching the clock?

There are nights when I’ve attempted to trick the clock-watcher by choosing randomly odd times to awake, like, 1:27. Didn’t matter – the watcher was not amused. I don’t know about you, but I find this a fascinating phenomenon. Since I know I’m not the only one who can do this I have to wonder, has anyone ever done a study on this? Is there a sleep institute somewhere handing out grants?

Do you suppose this task falls under the job description of guardian angels? Page 2,037, paragraph 3, second sentence, “become familiar with the peculiarity of the human race called “time” and whatever you do, do not allow your human to sleep past their arbitrarily-appointed hour and minute.” With everything else mine has to deal with during the night like making sure I don’t walk into the closet by mistake, steering my bare feet away from the big ugly bug by the bed, or holding onto me so I don’t fall into the toilet in the dark, I would think she’s much too busy for clock watching.

If anyone would like to share their thoughts on this, try me tomorrow morning – say, 4:44?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Deja Vu Dreams

Dreams enable us to transcend the boundaries of time and space to peek into the future. Seers often report that their dreams convey information about upcoming events, and we find many examples of dream prophecy in spiritual texts. In fact, precognitive dreams aren’t particularly rare––lots of us have them, yet we may be baffled or unnerved by their appearance. How can we know about things that haven’t happened yet?

Einstein’s work showed that time isn’t linear. Rather than being like an expressway from the past to the future, time more closely resembles a winding mountain road that bends around and occasionally curves back on itself, so that you periodically catch glimpses of the same scenery in the course of your journey––hence, the experience we call déja vu or “already seen.” Some Eastern spiritual traditions believe that the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously, like a mountain range with peaks and valleys.

One night I dreamt I found a black cat on the side of the road. At first I thought it was dead, but when I touched it the cat woke up. I took it to a vet who told me the cat had distemper and suggested performing surgery immediately. The cat didn’t seem particularly ill to me, so I refused to let him operate.

The next day while I was out walking I spotted a black cat lying in the gutter. It appeared to be paralyzed and I thought it had been hit by a car, although I saw no sign of injury and it didn’t seem to be in pain. I knocked on the doors of all the houses in the area, but no one answered, so I took the cat to a vet. The vet surmised that the cat must be near death and recommended doing an autopsy to see if it had a contagious disease that might infect my cats.

Remembering my dream, I refused and took the cat home instead. Later I returned to the neighborhood where I’d found the cat and again knocked on doors until I located the cat’s confused owner. She told me she had no idea how the cat had gotten out––it had been paralyzed from birth because its mother had contracted distemper during pregnancy.

When I related my dream, she grew even more amazed. The previous night she’d dreamt her cat had disappeared!


Saturday, November 21, 2009

The God of Dreams

The drug morphine was named for Morpheus, the god of dreams in ancient Greek mythology. Morpheus is said to infuse dreams with visions of humans and to give shape to the beings that inhabit dreams.

According to many dream researchers, everyone who appears in your dreams represents an aspect of you. Who inhabits your dreams? Do any particular characters turn up with regularity? What facets of yourself do you meet when you're asleep? 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Witching Hour

According to an old Pagan belief, the time between midnight and 3:00 A.M. on the night of the full moon is the “Witching Hour.” During this period, the veil between the spirit world and earth supposedly thins, allowing entities from other realms to visit us humans.

Some Christians call 3:00 A.M. the “Devil’s Hour.” Based on the idea that Jesus died at 3:00 P.M., this theory proposes that the opposite point on the clock belongs to the dark side, i.e., demonic forces whose power is strongest at this time.

Regardless of whether you subscribe to either of these concepts, you may experience unusual or inexplicable occurrences between three and four in the morning. Many people report hearing sounds or smelling aromas that have no discernable source. Others say they sense the presence of nonphysical beings––angels, spirit guides, deceased loved ones––when they wake during this eerie hour. One summer night several years ago, when my sister slipped into a coma unexpectedly, I awoke to the tinkling of tiny bells and the scent of her perfume. She died a few days later.

Researchers suggest that we reach the deepest levels of sleep between 3:00 and 4:00 A.M., and that the most vivid dreams of the night are likely to occur at this time. During this stage, our awareness may expand beyond the normal range, enabling us to perceive other levels of reality. If we’re fearful, or conditioned to believe that evil lurks in the shadows, we might interpret our early morning experiences as demonic rather than instructive.

Many of us find ourselves wide awake at, well, 3:15 in the morning. This is the time when I often do my best thinking. With nothing to distract me, I can no longer avoid whatever issues I’ve pushed aside during the daytime. In the still of the night, my subconscious finally feels free to offer up insights I might otherwise block or reject, giving me a chance to explore them at length.

I must admit, though, that I often feel alone and vulnerable in the darkest hours of the night. Problems tend to look scarier, bleaker, more formidable and beyond my control. Perhaps that’s the real meaning of the “Devil’s Hour”––when we come face to face with our own Shadows (as Jung called the repressed part of the psyche), the personal demons that lurk in our inner darkness.

Do angels or demons visit you at night? Do you find the early hours of the morning serene or sinister? We invite you to share your thoughts and experiences.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Are you awake? Or are you dreaming?

Okay, I had another one of those MADDENING dreams last night – we all have them – the one where you’re trying to make a phone call and the phone is missing numbers, or entire keys, or you’re talking and the other person can’t hear you, or you can see the entire keypad and numbers but for some reason your fingers keep hitting the wrong ones? Often in my dream I’m also in a hurry which only amplifies the confusion.

For years I’ve wondered what was behind these frustrating dreams. And maybe that’s it. Maybe they’re nothing more than the manifestation of the things that frustrate us about being alive, about being in this body, and on this physical plane. Communication is a huge issue in our daily reality – trying to be heard, to be understood, to understand what someone else is trying to say, to get a point across. If we communicate inappropriately we risk hurting another’s feelings. I mean, how often do you feel like you had a truly stellar communication day? Where the entire day you were diplomatic, empathetic, sensitive, humorous, and able to access exactly the right words every time in every encounter? Maybe these dreams are the culmination of the frustration we feel in general with our lack of communication and inter-personal skills.

What I have learned about these dreams is that they can be excellent triggers to alert me to the fact that I’m dreaming. When things start to act up and turn strange I have the perfect opportunity to stop and realize I’m dreaming. Once I realize I’m dreaming I can often turn the frustration into a productive lucid dream experience instead.

Another type of trigger, which has some interesting side effects of its own, is to ask yourself, whenever you think of it, “am I awake or am I dreaming?” Do this long enough and you’ll find yourself saying it in your dreams as well. And when you find yourself stopping to consider this question in a dream, you realize that in that moment you also have the ability to completely change direction if you like.

What has happened for me as a long-term result of this practice is that it has blurred the line considerably between “waking life” and “dream state.” Go ahead and try it right now. Ready? Out loud, ask yourself the question, "am I awake reading this or am I dreaming I'm reading this?

Are you sure?

How do you know?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Predictive Dreams

A man I know once dreamed about finding a trapped bird and setting it free. When he arrived at work the next day he discovered a bird flying around inside the building. He was able to catch it and put outside.

Dreams often give us glimpses of the future. Sometimes they warn us of things we need to know about so we can prepare ourselves. In some instances, as in the case of the man and the bird, we seem to erase the boundaries between present and future in our dreams––we actually witness an event before it happens in the physical world.

Some precognitive dreams are laden with poignant images. Others are straightforward and nearly devoid of symbolism. Three months before his brother died, Mark Twain dreamed of the death and funeral––exactly as it happened, right down to the smallest detail. Shortly before my father died in an automobile accident, my four siblings and I all dreamt about it.

Most people don’t go to bed intending to dream about the future––predictive dreams generally come to us unbidden. Researchers suggest, however, that the more aware we become of our dreams and our waking lives, the more likely we are to have precognitive dreams and to recognize them when they occur.

Have your dreams predicted things that later happened in your waking life? How do you know when a dream is forecasting the future—is it different from ordinary dreams? Please share your experiences.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Problem-Solving Dreams

Many famous people have used dreams to help them solve problems. Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Harry Truman, and Benjamin Franklin are only a few who were known to “sleep on it” when confronted with a problem or important decision.

Elias Howe, who patented the lock-stitch sewing machine, discovered the key to his famous invention in a dream. For ten years Howe had been struggling to perfect his machine. Then one night he dreamt he’d been captured by cannibals who told him he would die a horrible death if he didn’t resolve the matter. As he sat in a large cooking pot, waiting to be boiled alive, he glanced up at their spears and noticed holes near the pointed ends. Howe had his answer. He put the hole near the tip of the needle and the sewing machine was born.

Some part of you––your subconscious, your higher self––already knows the answer to your conundrum. It just hasn’t percolated through to your rational mind yet. If you have a problem and want help solving it, hold the question clearly in your mind when you go to bed. Tell yourself you’ll be given an answer while you sleep. You can even write down your request on a piece of paper and put it under your pillow. Chances are you’ll receive guidance during the night––though you may have to repeat the process for a few nights before the solution comes to you.

What answers have you gotten through dreams? How do your dreams speak to you and help you understand baffling issues? How do you work with your dreams to gain insight into situations in your waking life?


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fear. It's everywhere you want to be.

What are you afraid of? Old age? Being penniless? Being old and penniless? Being old and sick and penniless? Public speaking? Death? Clowns? Strangers? Spiders? Storm drains? An appendicitis attack while camping? Seeing the dentist? Not measuring up? Being laid-off? Having a car wreck? Hey, the sky’s the limit! And I suspect that, like me, you’ve already discovered that fear’s finest hour is generally oh, sometime right around 3:15 am.

It’s fear-speak everywhere you turn. Twenty-four hour bad-news media presents us with fears we didn’t even know we had. Even when we’re aware of what they’re doing, it’s easy to fall for it. I saw it on my home page this morning: “The 15 Things Women Do Every Day that They Should Never Do” (it’s nearly impossible not to check that one out).

And of course, fear sells products. Big time.

Fear of looking old? Better buy our patented wrinkle cream.
Fear of spending eternity in hell? Join our church – we’ll save your soul.
Terrorists are everywhere! Vote for me and I’ll protect you.
Bicycle riding can lead to brain injuries! Have we got a helmet for you.
Chances are 1 in 4 that you will get sick and need hospitalization! Pay us hundreds of dollars a month and we’ll give you peace of mind.
Intruders could break in and steal your children! You need our home security system.

It’s sad to think that fear is such a big part of who we are that doctors have an entire genre to identify each and every phobia.
Thanks to here are just a few:

Arachibutyrophobia (fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth)
Lachanophobia (fear of vegetables)
Dementophobia (fear of madness)
Mageirocophobia (fear of cooking – one of my favorites)
Geniophobia (fear of chins)
Consecotaleophobia (fear of chopsticks)
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia (yes, you guessed it, fear of long words)
Novercaphobia (fear of your step-mother)
Walloonphobia (fear of the Walloons) Walloons?
And to round out the list - Phobophobia (fear of phobias) But of course.

But what if life were just the opposite? What if you were surrounded and bombarded by love-filled talk instead – and had been as long as you can remember? What would that feel like? What kind of a person would you be? How good would you feel about yourself and others? What would your family life be like? What if we loved ourselves enough to only speak loving thoughts to, and about, others? On a larger scale, what would happen to the economy? Our political infra-structure? Our planet?

I think back on how many of my major life decisions have been rooted in fear. I think about how different the outcome would have been if I had applied love to my decision-making instead. Love of myself. Love of life. Love for the other people involved. Love from a higher perspective.

Do you know how to tell where your thoughts originate?

Fear-based thoughts never feel good.
Love-based thoughts always feel good.

Give it a try – I think you’ll be surprised at how well it works.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Herbal Remedies for Insomnia

If you’re having trouble sleeping, but don’t want to take drugs, here are some safe, natural remedies recommended by Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., noted sleep expert and Medical Director of the Firbromyalgia and Fatigue Centers, Inc. For more information, visit Dr. T’s website and look for his forthcoming book End Sugar Addiction Now! from which the following has been excerpted, with the author’s permission. (Please note this material is copyrighted.)

Theanine: This amino acide that comes from green tea improves sleep at night and alertness during the day. Use only brands containing the SunTheanine form (pure L-Theanine). Recommended dose: 50 to 200 mg at bedtime.

Jamaican Dogwood: The bark of the Jamaican dogwood tree has analgesic (relieves pain), sedative, and anti-spasmodic properties.This calming herb aids insomnia, anxiety, and even muscle aches. Recommended dose: 12 to 48 mg of the extract at bedtime.

Wild lettuce: The bitter cousin to ordinary garden lettuce, this herb aids insomnia and anxiety. Research shows that it is useful as a mild sedative and even a cough suppressant. Recommended dose: 30 to 120 mg of the extract at bedtime.

Valerian: The go-to remedy for insomnia, it improves deep sleep, lessens the time it takes to fall asleep, and enhances the quality of sleep. Recommended dose: 200 to 800 mg of the extract at bedtime.

Hops: A native British plant (related to stinging nettles) and member of the hemp family, the ripened cones of the female variety are used to make beer. This herb is good for insomnia, relaxing muscles, and anxiety. Recommended dose: 30 to 120 mg of a hops extract at bedtime.

Passionflower: A favorite herb in South America for its calming properties, it can also be used to treat anxiety, muscle spasms, and menstrual pain. Recommended dose: 90 to 360 mg of the extract at bedtime.

Lavender: A member of the mint family, lavender is one of the best herbs for sleep and relaxation. Mist your pillow with a mixture of lavender essential oil and water. Or, add lavender essential oil to bathwater and enjoy a soothing soak before bed.

Lemon balm: Like lavender, this member of the mint family is a natural relaxant. Placebo-controlled research published in the medical journal Fitoterapia in 1999 showed that taking 80 to 160 milligrams of lemon balm with 180 to 360 milligrams of valerian at night improved the quality of deep sleep.



Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dreams and the Collective Unconscious

Last week, while enjoying a much-needed vacation at the beautiful ranch Waldemar in Hunt, Texas, I attended three dream sessions facilitated by therapist La Jeune Wint. La Jeune explained that each individual’s dream is everyone’s dream, a concept I’d never considered before. I’d always believed dreams were an individual affair––but having read some of C.G. Jung’s work about the collective unconscious, the idea intrigued to me.

Instead of attempting to analyze and interpret one another’s dreams, this group of women (maybe a dozen or so on any given morning) practiced a technique that was new to me. We sat in a circle, eyes closed, warming our hands around steaming cups of coffee in the cool September morn, and opened our minds and hearts. While one woman recounted a dream, we listened and allowed ourselves to glide into her dream, to follow it as if we were dreaming it ourselves.

As each woman shared, her dream unfolded its significance for me, personally. Her closet monsters invoked mine; her conundrums called mine into question; her journey echoed my own quest. Amazing, I thought. Never mind that her dream hadn’t originated in my own psyche. Never mind that I’d never even met most of these women before. We were fellow travelers, connected in some inexplicable way, sharing a common experience in the dreamscape. I may not have reacted to or interpreted the dream’s content in exactly the same way as the woman who’d presented the dream, yet her dream revealed symbols, patterns, and “aha’s” that held meaning for me.

Later, as we discussed our insights and what we’d individually gleaned from someone’s dream, I realized that every dream––regardless of who dreams it––can help me understand my life. Not only my own dreams, but other people’s as well, can ferry me through life’s challenges and offer guidance in my waking world. We’re all interconnected, all part of the cosmic web that Jung called the collective unconscious, the world of archetypes and myth. And we are all here to help one another.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


It’s got to be because I’m co-writing this blog ….

But it used to be oh, sometimes 3:10, or 3:30, or on a really good day, even 4:00 before I’d experience the BIG WAKE-UP and know I was done for the night. But now, as reliable as ants at a picnic, my eyes open at exactly 3:15. Not 2:59 or 3:14, but 3:15. I stare at the illuminated numbers on the clock and think about Bill Murray’s character in the movie Ground Hog Day. It’s a sick, cosmic joke – at the stage of life when I feel I need more sleep than ever – it’s becoming more and more elusive.

The last few mornings I’ve been contemplating a comment by Wayne Dyer – something along the lines of “if you find yourself waking at odd hours, think of it this way …. perhaps the universe is using the only time it can to get through to you. Consider that it’s urging you to get out of bed and use that time wisely.” After a righteous dissing of the good doctor, (“yeah, well, he doesn’t have a 9-5 job”, “he wakes up to the sunrise in his beach house on Maui,” “he can get up at 3:15 because he can take a nap at 10:00 ….”), I remember that he’s also a very wise man and just maybe I should listen to him.

I roll out of bed wincing as I hit the squeaky spots on the hardwood floor wondering if I’ll ever have them memorized. My cats look up at me with squinty eyes; even my nocturnal animals think this is crazy stuff.

For many years now I’ve been having an early morning dialogue with my higher, more evolved self – she is L1 and I am L2. L1 lives our perfectly manifested life in northern California in our perfectly manifested, down-to-the-last-detail house near the redwood forests. We communicate via a special email account. She writes me from the future and takes great pains to tell me about the life waiting for me there. She tells me what she does all day, what the weather is like, what she’s reading, what new fabric she found at a craft fair that is just right for the couch in the den. I note with a twinge of jealousy that she’s always happy, always content, always well-rested, and has always just done an hour of Bikram yoga.

I write from the here – wherever that may be – and tell her about my days, my struggles and concerns, how I’m progressing (or not), and sometimes, even about the little victories. Most of the time I solicit direction and wisdom from her higher perspective – and what has come of this pre-dawn dialogue is nothing short of astonishing. I have no doubt that it is the combination of the stillness of the hour and not being fully awake that allows me to open a blank email and allow her to talk to me.

I have just enough coffee to be a functional typist, and then quietly clear my thoughts (fortunately there aren’t many at that hour) and open my heart. I type until there’s nothing left to say and I do not read it until the next morning. L1 is a much better writer than I, and speaks with a voice and vocabulary that is most definitely not that of L2. Not only do I have no recollection of taking the dictation and what was said, but the advice she gives is always dead-on and jaw-dropping in its clarity.

So the next time you find yourself wide awake at what seems to be an un-Godly hour, try changing your perception to embrace the hour as quite possibly the most sacred time of day. Rather than lying there silently cursing the dark and your inability to sleep, choose to be honored that, just maybe, someone magnificently wise and greater than you has awakened you for the sole purpose of having a talk.

Now how cool is that?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Recurring Dreams

Most of us have dreams that repeat themselves periodically. If you believe that your dreams are trying to tell you something, a recurring dream suggests you haven’t gotten the message yet. These dreams, then, are especially important.

The dream a high-powered business executive related to me is a good example. She repeatedly dreamed she was walking naked along a crowded city sidewalk. Although this woman was very successful, she felt inadequate to the responsibilities of her job and worried she’d be exposed as a fraud.  When she took a job that suited her better, she stopped having the dream.

From time to time most of us dream of being in a classroom taking a test for which we are unprepared. Not surprisingly, we tend to have this dream at turning points in our lives, when we’re facing new challenges or moving into a new phase of life.

During a particularly difficult time in my life, when I was faced with many daunting challenges, I dreamed my basement was crammed with old junk and debris that I had to clean up. (Usually a house in a dream symbolizes your life situation.) Several weeks later I dreamed my kitchen sink and counters were cluttered with dirty dishes. I continued having variations on this dream for some months, and each time the “task” before me diminished in size. The last dream in the sequence involved removing a few old garments from my closet and putting them in a bag for The Salvation Army. My dreams marked my personal growth as I sorted out the troublesome areas in my life.

What dreams keep replaying, like old movies, for you? Pay close attention to your own recurring dreams. Notice any changes in the dream’s narrative, setting, or characters––these will tell you how the situation referred to by the dream is progressing.


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Unreasonable Happiness

Lately when 3:15 rolls around I find myself staring at the wall, thinking about happiness. And joy. Does happiness lead to joy - or vice versa? Is there a difference between the two?

I think about the very few people I know that I consider honestly happy, and I try to dissect their lives for the formula that makes them so. A few are obviously passionate about how they spend their life energy, others have just made the choice to be happy, no matter what the circumstances. A few I can see no reason whatsoever why they should be so happy - life seems to have dealt them a rough hand, but no matter. I think about where I land on the spectrum.

Like many people, I believe I love animals and keep them around to remind me about the joy of living in the now. Animals don't drag around thoughts about whether they're living up to their potential, or their reason for being on the planet. They don't create endless stories about how if they hadn't made the dumb choice to run off that day, they'd be back home and much happier than they are now. They don't wonder if they've been putting out too many negative thoughts to the universe and that's why their luck has changed ..... we couldn't ask for better role models.

Complaining is the antithesis of happiness. It's impossible to be happy when you're negatively verbalizing - or listening to someone who is. And complaining is our national past time. We complain about the weather, politics, neighbors, our aches and pains, other drivers, co-workers, bad service - and sometimes we're downright righteous in our complaining. "If people weren't so rigid and intolerant," we think, "we'd all be much happier." And there we are, rigid and intolerant and complaining about those that are rigid and intolerant. And on and on it goes.

In an earlier post I talked about my hope that a new mattress would be the Thing That Makes Me Happy. And it does! My back couldn't be more pleased, which makes me very happy. I started on bio-identical hormones, thinking okay, all those annoying symptoms will disappear and I can go back to being really happy again. They work, and I am! I'll move to a larger house where I can spread out and I'll be happy. Yes, it's great! I got a new job and a pay raise - yay! - that definitely makes me happy. Lots of things make us happy in life.

But lying in the dark at 3:15, I realize that though we may have a life filled with lots of individual events that make us happy - it's still not happiness.

I'm a sucker for quotes (quotes that really hit home make me happy) and one of my all-time favorites is from the book Wisdom of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman. Dan's teacher, Socrates, tells him,

"A fool is 'happy' when his cravings are satisfied. A warrior is happy without reason. That's what makes happiness the ultimate discipline. Happiness is not just something you feel - it is who you are."

"Feelings change. Sometimes sorrow, somtimes joy. But beneath it all, remember the innate perfection of your life unfolding. That is the secret of unreasonable happiness."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Color Purple

Is there a connection between sleep, dreams, and the color purple? Deep purple, the color of the evening sky, embodies a sense of mystery and magic. Holistic healers associate purple with the crown charka, the energy center that links us with the spiritual realm. In chromotherapy, the art of healing with color, indigo (blue-violet) and purple light are used to alleviate nervous tension and remedy sleep disorders.

The purple gemstone amethyst has long been prized for its balancing and soothing qualities. Its tranquil vibrations encourage relaxation and promote a sense of inner peace. A favorite sleep aid since ancient times, amethyst calms fears, restlessness, and tension; it can also induce vivid dreams and improve dream recall. Early healers recommended rubbing the gem on your temples to encourage sleep. In her book The Encyclopedia of Crystals, Judy Hall calls it “a natural tranquilizer” and says “Sleeping with Amethyst facilitates out-of-body experiences.” Place an amethyst under your pillow or on your nightstand to enhance sleep and dreams. Hold an amethyst in your hand to relieve stress or deepen meditation.

The fragrant lavender plant is widely utilized as an herbal nerve tonic and sleep aid. When inhaled, the scent of lavender dispels tension, eases anxiety, and benefits insomnia. Put a little lavender essential oil in water and mist your pillow with it. Or, as I suggest in my forthcoming Aromatherapy Card Deck, “At the end of a stressful day, add a few drops of lavender oil to a tub of hot water. Soak in the bath, relax, and let your cares float away.”

What’s your experience with the color purple? Do certain colors resonate with you or inspire particular reactions? Have you ever worked with color in sleep- or dream-related areas? For healing purposes? We invite you to share your ideas and insights.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Is Lack of Sleep Making You Fat?

Is lack of sleep wrecking your diet and keeping you from losing weight? Here's what Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., noted sleep expert and Medical Director of the Firbromyalgia and Fatigue Centers, Inc., has to say.

How much sleep is optimal for staying skinny? 7-9 hours is best. Less than 7 hours increases the risk of obesity about 30% and adds an extra 5 pounds on average.

According to Jean-Philippe Chaput, MSc, from Laval University in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, and colleagues, "Current treatments for obesity have been largely unsuccessful in maintaining long-term weight loss, suggesting the need for new insight into the mechanisms that result in altered metabolism and behavior and may lead to obesity."

The increase in body weight in the US population has been paralleled by a reduction in sleep times. For the past 4 decades, daily sleep duration has decreased by 1.5 to 2 hours, and the proportion of young adults sleeping less than 7 hours per night has more than doubled, from 15.6% in 1960 to 37.1% from 2001 to 2002.

Studies in adults and children have repeatedly shown that reduced sleep is associated with increased weight.

To determine the relationship between sleep duration and weight, researchers followed up 276 adults aged 21 to 64 years who were enrolled in the Quebec Family Study, a 6-year longitudinal study in a community setting. The investigators compared weight gain relative to sleep duration: short (5-6 hours), average (7-8 hours), and long (9-10 hours).

Compared with average-duration sleepers, short-duration sleepers gained 4.4 pounds more in a 6-year period. At 6 years, short-duration and long-duration sleepers were 35% and 25% more likely to experience a 12-pound weight gain, respectively, compared to those who slept 7-8 hours a night.

Compared with average-duration sleepers, short-duration sleepers had a 27% increased risk for the development of obesity, and long-duration sleepers had a 21% increase in risk. Adjustment for caloric intake and physical activity did not affect these connections.

(Reprinted with permission from Dr. Teitelbaum.)

Visit Dr. T’s website for more information––and look for his forthcoming book Beat Sugar Addiction Now!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dreams,Art, and Divination

A couple years ago I took a workshop offered by the very talented Santa Fe artist and dreamworker Victoria Rabinowe (see the link for her Dreaming Arts Studio). Along with several friends, I spent a lovely afternoon creating a series of “dream divination cards” using the medium of collage art. The cards we designed drew upon the images and themes presented by our dreams, and we translated them into a series of visuals that functioned on many levels simultaneously.

Dreams, of course, have long served as oracles, offering wisdom and sometimes glimpses of the future to the dreamer. Victoria suggested that our personally created dream cards might provide even better guidance than tarot cards or oracles (such as the I Ching and runes) that had been designed by other people.

So that afternoon, after my friends and I had produced six dream cards apiece, we put them to the test. Each of us shuffled our cards while contemplating a question or matter about which we sought advice. Then we laid out the cards in a prescribed pattern to reveal answers.

The results amazed us all. Just as Victoria had promised, the cards responded eloquently to our queries, providing a wealth of insights and information. Being a long-time student of the tarot––as well as an artist––I was thrilled. I was so excited that I set about creating a whole deck of dream divination cards.

I now have more than 50 cards in my deck and keep making more art cards as my dreams inspire me. I continue consulting these cards on a regular basis, whenever I need help from a “higher source.”

How do your dreams guide you? What insights do you get from them? Do your dreams reveal glimpses of the future to you? We’d love to hear about your experiences.

If you’d like more information, please contact Victoria Rabinowe or us here at the 3:15 Club.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Welcome to Billy Bob's

It's one of those things you don't notice until you're ready to make a buying decision. Signs that say "Mattress Sale - Today Only!" You think "Hey, that's great!" "'What a stroke of luck!" "Am I a saavy consumer, or what?" As you get closer, you see the sign's edges are yellow and curled up, with hundreds of dead flies stuck tight behind the glass.

Rule #1 - mattresses, like used cars, are always on sale.

The concept of "moderation" is not well understood in Texas, and I find myself at the entrance to Billy Bob's Big-Ass Bed Emporium staring into an airplane hanger filled floor to ceiling with nothing but mattresses. No, no, no, no no! This is NOT how I had visualized it at all. I am stunned by the decisions that must be made before progressing to Level 2 - the actual test drive.

Queen or King? Or maybe California King - like sleeping on opposite sides of the continent!
Innerspring or memory foam?
Coil count is critical! Heavy or light gauge?
Hourglass shaped, continuous coil or individually pocketed?
How about half innerspring and half memory foam?
Are either of you a light sleeper? (ok, now that's funny)
Do you prefer firm or soft?
Are you a side sleeper?
Are you a side sleeper who likes soft and your partner a back sleeper who prefers firm?
Do your arms tend to go numb?
How about a mattress with a water bladder?
Do one or both of you get up alot during the night? (I'm not clear whether those last two questions are somehow related.)
Then there's the matter of pillowtop. Plush, Euro-style, quilted, silk, cashmere, cotton or wool?

If you think you might want to try memory foam - great! Same material the astronauts use (you know, I had never thought to put mattress material and "G" force sustainability into the same sentence before).
Memory foam is a little more firm but conforms to your body! (There's no mention that it also creepily resembles packing material.)
How about a solid core latex mattress then? It's all natural you know. And, you'll sleep cooler than on synthetic foam (a rubber bed - this is joke, right?)

Trying to be accommodating, the salesman assures me there's a bed for every budget - $500-$4500 - which narrows the decision considerably.

And then, to drive in the last nail of his sales arsenal he reminds me, "But, of course, you can't put a price on a good night's sleep now can you? After all, heh, heh, you'll be logging 30,000 hours on this baby! What's that worth to you?"

I realize I probably look like a cobra staring at a snake charmer. I'm even swaying back and forth with my mouth hanging open. I put my tongue back in and refrain from screaming at the baby-faced salesman with his 29-item ala carte mattress menu.

"Don't you understand? I just want to buy a damn bed that will allow me to sleep through the night, which will put me back into the game, so I can become absurdly happy, fabulously rich, over-the-top good-looking, the epitome of health & fitness, with a higher IQ and maybe a new wardrobe! There is absolutely NO WAY I can make this decision without a decade or more of research. No, no, no, no, no." I am not happy. I want to run out of the store. I need more time. I need someone to make this decision for me. I need fresh air. No, I take that back; what I really need is wine.

Menopause has already rendered my usually rational, linear, quick-to-make-a-decision-with-no-looking-back brain into the equivalent of mental Bisquick; this was to have been a simple lie down, this feels good, how much, I'll take it kind of day. Deliver it tomorrow and by Tuesday I will be A BETTER PERSON.

Obviously, this wasn't going to be the quick fix I had envisioned. It was to have been The Thing that changes EVERYTHING. And The Thing did not include the equivalent of a multiple choice mattress SAT.

So forget about the bed. Besides, I've just learned of something even better. This is the Real Deal. This is The Thing. I'm told they will stop the aging process, give me Linda Hamilton's biceps, repair snapped synapses, allow me to sleep throught the night, and give me the flexibility to finally do Pilates:

Bio-Identical Hormones

to be continued ....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What Are Your Dreams Trying to Tell You?

Although we don’t know exactly where dreams come from, many researchers and psychoanalysts believe our dreams are trying to tell us something. Freud and Jung proposed that all dreams contain information that can help us in our waking lives. Deciphering this information, however, can be tricky because messages are usually encoded in symbols. Here are some common symbols that show up in most people’s dreams and mean pretty much the same thing for everyone.

A house usually represents you and the various facets of your existence. The basement signifies your unconscious, instinctual side; the ground floor describes your everyday living situation and ego; upper floors indicate spiritual awareness or mental activity. Individual rooms have meanings similar to their functions in waking life––a kitchen suggests nourishment, a bathroom cleansing, and so on. Finding an unknown room in the house means discovering a hidden ability. The condition of the house is important, too. A dilapidated building suggests your life needs fixing up; a crumbling foundation indicates your support system is weak or deteriorating. Conversely, a large, elegant house depicts a rich, full, healthy life––or that you are moving in this direction.

A car generally signifies how you travel through life’s journey and/or your physical body. Look at who is driving the car. If it’s not you, who is it? Then ask yourself why you’re letting someone else pilot your life––is it time to take back the wheel? A friend of mine often dreams he can’t see out the windshield when he’s driving. This person doesn’t have much direction in his life and hasn’t established clear goals for himself. The dream describes his situation accurately: he can’t see where he’s going. I once dreamed I was driving dangerously fast and wrecked my car. My dream was warning me that if I didn’t stop pushing myself so hard I could damage my health.

Water usually symbolizes emotions. If you find yourself swimming or immersed in water it could mean your emotions play a large part in your life. Look at the state of the water. Rough water suggests turbulent emotions. Muddy water indicates murky feelings; clear, sparkling water corresponds to a happy, balanced emotional state. Deep water or a large body of water describes powerful feelings.

Sex dreams usually mean the masculine and feminine sides of yourself are united and working creatively together. Or, these dreams may urge you to dissolve barriers between yin and yang. Look at your partner in the dream––what does this person represent to you? Your dream shows you are successfully merging with the qualities symbolized by your dream partner.

Dying in a dream rarely means physical death. Instead, it points to a transition and shows that part of you or something in your life is dying to make room for something new. If you dream someone else has died, ask yourself what characteristics you associate with that person––these show what’s passing out of your life.

Giving birth in a dream generally means something new is entering your life or that you’re beginning a new phase. This dream can also signify creativity, fruitfulness, or the birth of an idea or opportunity.

Dream images may also have meanings that are unique to the dreamer. For example, a dream about redecorating a house usually means you’re reorganizing your life, but if you’re an interior designer, your creativity may just be working overtime. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep a record of your dreams and list the major symbols that appear in them, especially the ones that crop up again and again.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why Do We Dream?

Since the beginning of time, dreams have fascinated and perplexed us. Why do they happen? Where do they come from? What do they mean? Are dreams merely the result of chemical changes in the brain, as some studies indicate, or vehicles for divine communication?

Dreams figure prominently in the literature, practices, and mythology of all cultures. Muslims believe that a spiritual source gave the Koran to Mohammed in a dream. Buddhist priests use information gleaned from dreams to help them locate each new incarnation of the Dalai Lama. In ancient Greece, people with illnesses spent the night in temples built to Aesclepius, the god of healing. There they received guidance in their dreams from the god, and the cures were written on the temple walls. The early texts of the Egyptians and Hindus, the Old Testament of the Bible, the writings of such diverse authors as Shakespeare, Socrates, Omar Khayyam, and Descartes all provide evidence that for millennia people around the world have looked to dreams for guidance, prophecy, wisdom, and inspiration.

American Indian, Australian Aranda, and Celtic shamanic teachings suggest that the dream realm is a parallel universe, a place we journey to when we sleep. Though nonphysical, it is every bit as real as the world we inhabit when we’re awake. Author Carlos Castenada described these alternate realities in The Art of Dreaming and other books.

Although we don’t always remember our dreams, we dream every night. In fact, most adults spend about 1.5 hours dreaming and have three to five dreams per night, each lasting from a few minutes to half an hour or more. Most, but not all, dreams occur during periods known as REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, when the brain stem sends out signals that stimulate the brain’s sensory channels to produce images.

Neuro-physiological explanations of the process, however, don’t tell us anything about the purpose of dreams. Perhaps, as David Fontana proposes in his book Dreamlife, “We sleep partly in order to dream. Sleep…may be the servant of the dream.”