Tag Archives: sleep

Rest Your Head: lullaby

Rest your head and close your eyes,
listen to this lullaby:
let the sights and sounds of day
gently dull and fade away;
let the chirping crickets’ song
slowly make the minutes long;
let the fresh and cool bedsheets
softly lower your heartbeat;
let the shadows of the night
send you off to sleep’s delight.

‘Til the morning, shall you float
on a cloud, a little boat,
gently ‘cross the sea of time,
as the hours of night decline.
Sleep now, in the current ride;
cast your cares over the side;
let the waves roll long and slow,
rock your cradle to and fro.
May you find some peace and rest
in the dark night’s warm caress.

4 APR 2017

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10. Wake From the Sleep of Habit

I suppose one could take this advice two different ways: to wake from the sleep of habit, but also to wake from the habit of sleep. That is for the former, to be aware of everything you do by rote, simply going through the motions without conscious attention to the details; for the latter, to work in Ben Franklin again, to refrain from idleness, sleep only enough to replenish your batteries, and avoid lounging around altogether.

One could argue however there are good habits and bad habits – to which I think at least Montaigne (and perhaps Lao Tzu) might counter, since we can’t accurately discern between the two subjective extremes, it might be better to leave off all habits, regardless of their moral superiority. Cigarettes, lack of punctuality, procrastination, voting strict party candidates, prejudice, daily reading, obsessive social media checking – all habits by that standard of comparable if not equal import simply because they tend to take up little bits of time, here and there, that do not seem consequential when looked at as individual moments, but when accumulated can represent some pretty large chunks.

There are of course energy cycles in everyday life. My own approach what used to be called manic-depressive, but of course the height and depth of any cycle just as subjective as anything else, and just as subject to both internal and external perception. Any cycle flattens over time: what seems very high today may be only average for the course of a month. The severity of a habit, like a risk, matters to its overall impact only as relates to its likelihood. You probably could manage them similarly. Some habits eat up a lot of time, certainly. But if they achieve something “positive” (again, highly subjective), then they can be preferable to another activity that is more likely to result in a “negative”. It is not because it’s better to be constantly positive that so many philosophies talk about balance. It is because that is reality. It is not possible to be “up” all the time, any more than it is possible for any habit, when indulged to excess, to always be a good thing.

Mystics from both Western and Eastern spiritual traditions naturally wax philosophically on doing exactly what Montaigne suggests, stated quite simply: pay attention. Awareness of what you’re doing as you’re doing it is the antithesis of habit – unless of course your habit involves becoming so absorbed in the execution of each component of even the simplest tasks that you maintain no forward motion, no momentum or velocity whatsoever. There is a thin line that runs the spectrum from habitually obsessive to obsessive-compulsive to habitually compulsive. The serenity prayer remedy for such a spectrum might as well be “give me the serenity to let go of the things I cannot control, the courage to unwillingly accept control of the things I can, and the wisdom to recognize control itself as a complete illusion.”

So perhaps again mindfulness is the answer. Unless mindfulness is itself your habit. What is it that Hamlet quipped, “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; and thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and enterprises of great pith and moment with this regard their currents turn awry, and lose the name of action.” What he’s suggesting is that there is a precipice at the extreme edge of paying attention. Once we become (and believe me, I’ve been there) a “man who thinks too much”. As the Bard again suggests, in a different context altogether, such men are indeed dangerous. Not just to ourselves, but to others. The wormhole of overthinking can suck in the innocent bystander just as easily as the thinker themselves. The Skeptic position to doubt everything is good up to a point; but you’ve got to put your feet down somewhere if you’re going to walk at all.

One of the nastiest habits to overcome is the insistent need for justification before acting. When I would tell her the long-drawn-out story of one of my current dilemmas, my dad’s bookkeeper used to tell me, “Do anything – even if it’s wrong!” There is the danger of taking the wrong step, wrong turn, certainly; but there is an equal and perhaps greater danger of doing nothing at all, of falling into wrongness simply by losing the opportunity to act.

So, where is the “happy medium”? And is there actually such a thing? Part of the problem in even answering that question lies in the highly subjective definition of happiness – as either an end or a journey. Does the medium, moderate, middle way imply stagnation or gestation? Is it that state when the door is closed between two rooms? Is stillness or movement the habit? Newton suggested that an object in motion tends to stay in motion, where an object at rest tends to stay at rest. He then proved through the demonstration of gravity that nothing, absolutely nothing, is “at rest.” It’s all movement.

Who is the weak, and who is the strong, when the river’s still flowing but the mountain’s gone?

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The Catacombs of Night

Lo! I have wrestled angels in the catacombs of night
and risen, as if from the dead, bone-weary, at daylight,
my sheets soaked through with fevered sweat and every muscle sore,
and tufts of mutilated feathers scattered on the floor,

to find the world transformed in just a single evening’s span
from one of warmth and sunlight to a shadow, pale and wan,
bedraped with funereal shrouds, their edges dipped in mist,
that turn to bitter gray and cold cheeks summer once had kissed.

And from that sleep like unto death, where angels and I tossed,
I woke not knowing why we fought, nor if I won or lost,
nor why the air that morning no more smelt of life’s perfume,
but seemed to hang like sullen, leaden clouds there in my room.

From my opponents, not a word, no revelation come;
as if they were but ancient ghosts, their voices long since dumb,
or worse, bereaved of speech and reason, just their body’s shells,
imprisoned in my dreams between their heaven and my hell.

I felt a sense of deep foreboding creep into my mind,
as if there should have been some message they had left behind,
some alchemic instruction, some archaic mystic key;
but I found nothing in the room, except what seemed like me.

I wondered then, if they were truly angels, or disguised
as such, mere demons I had conjured up to fantasize
some victory against the darkness of my thoughts of late;
some active principle to best my wont to hesitate

borne deep of my subconscious mind, where inhibitions fail
and dreams are formed of both apocalypse, and holy grail,
or if it was a memory brought out by some distress.
I wonder, what if William Blake had been taught to repress?

06 DEC 2006

for William Blake

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I closed my eyes just for a wink

I closed my eyes for just a wink,
it seemed, to find two hours past;
and in the space of that mere blink,
the sky, dull grey and overcast

had cleared into an inky blue.
The tepid post-rain afternoon
had settled, like the evening dew
that lurks beyond each near monsoon.

The stars were ringed with sweaty haze,
like Van Gogh bulbs against a cloth;
the cloying, heavy jasmine sweetness
filled the air like honeyed broth

and made the air so treacle thick
that it was hard to breathe it in,
while dirt and stone and grass and brick
were glazed with sweat, like my rough skin.

18 JUN 2005

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Intimations of Idiocy

From early childhood until now I’ve spent my life immersed
in earnest pantomime of games adults will feign to play:
the forging of relationships through love, business and war;
the chaos that somehow surprises all when facades fail
and underneath, our lack of understanding is revealed.

In retrospect, it seems so pointless that this grand charade
we call adulthood is but one more round of hide-and-seek;
and now, on different playgrounds, the same bullies still parade,
hiding their shame and fear behind bravado that relies
on hurting and belittling those who would disagree.

And love? We still believe in it: ideal, without the strings
that in our adolescence, even, we could plainly see,
some fantasy played out in Greek mythology
that culture’s constant shuffle classes second-rate
compared to the technology of modern, improved angst.

So now we watch, our brainwaves dulled to sleep
except when from banal, idyllic states
it is required that we produce or purchase
to keep the dream machine well-oiled and financed;
in such an embryonic state, we all wait to mature.

From early childhood until now, I’ve been told meaning waits
around the bend, a few short years beyond where I am now;
but every month that passes by exposes those who preach
this gospel as just more blind fools who like me, search in vain
for dreams that will not simply fade as we approach the light.

01 MAY 2005

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Stirring the Pot, Part 2

As if the little things were not enough:
those trivialities that chafe and burn
like tinder when it’s dried and raspy rough,
that seem so insignificant you spurn

the notion that beyond them is the truth.
It’s just that they are countless, and to try
to sweep them each aside is of no use;
for each one sings its own sweet lullaby

to soothe you back to sleep, where you have been
up to this point content to never mind.
Yet try to shut them out; you’ll find their claws

sunk deep into your psyche. You will dream
of ways to satiate their greed, and find
they hound you without mercy, grace or pause.

05 JAN 2005

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Sleep on, new world — your time is yet
to come; and in that pall of death, forget
what was, what is, or merely seems,
and build the future from your dreams.

Sleep on, mankind, rebuild your strength;
prostrate, laid on your bed full length,
dream of new heroes still unborn
in slumber’s womb yet safe and warm.

Sleep on, green growth, in winter’s hold;
for soon Spring comes to melt the cold
and bitter snow that buries deep
the germinating soul in sleep.

Sleep on, and dream of things to come,
and rest your weary, busied tongues
replete with words that bite and bruise.
When waking comes, they are no use.

Sleep on, new world, and wake evolved;
for weary, you’ll no problems solve
while you sit restless, bleary-eyed,
consuming yourself from inside.

Sleep on, sleep on in stupor’s gauze,
and from your labors, rest and pause;
the universe will still be here
when you awaken, fresh and clear.

Sleep on, mankind, and stay your hand
from constant schemes and endless plans;
and let what is, and was, and seems
emerge to clarify your dreams.

17 MAY 2004

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