Insomnia, dancing and making the best of it!

(Please note I’m talking about 5Rhythms dancing in this post. To be very, very clear, I’m not an expert or a teacher in this practice. I’ve been to a few sessions and I have several CDs at home that I dance to, irregularly right now!)

It’s 5:30am here in Ireland as I write this and it’s been 3 weeks since I last posted. There were good reasons to take time off over Christmas – I took time off from everything pretty much, as much as I possibly could, becoming even more hermit-like than usual. I took time and started reading again. I took time and spent it with my husband. I took time and thought about things. I took time and imagined fantasy worlds of make believe and supposition. It was fantastic and I feel more rested and energised mentally, if not physically.

Because, yes, I took time off from my physical stuff as well. I didn’t walk much for most of those weeks, my physio exercises definitely dropped in frequency and my meditation sessions dropped as well. I didn’t meet my goal of walking 4miles in 1 hour without pain, but I did walk 5km (3miles) in 1 hour with no pain, so I’m counting it a win. (The next goal is to hit that 4miles target by end of March if anyone is interested!)

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. I went to bed about 11:30pm, feeling tired and ready to shut eye and dream. And then my brain started working. This is insomnia for me. Nothing worked for me. Counting sheep, meditation – even the Jason Stephenson one that hardly ever fails me! Breathing exercises, gentle stretching/ tensing and relaxing the body a bit at a time, sips of water… sometimes this happens. The doctor has me on melatonin and once a week or so I see if I can sleep without it – turns out, not yet anyway.

So at about 4:30am, I gave up and got up. I lit a candle and put on a 5 Rhythms cd. This is a new one for me (called Double Wave by Gabrielle and the Mirrors). It became clear to me pretty quickly that I needed this. I was moving very much in the stillness part of the wave – actually hang on. Sweat Your Prayers by Gabrielle Roth was published in 1999 I think – or at least that’s the copyright date on my copy. The book is about using dance as a means of prayer or meditation. Gabrielle outlines 5 waves to move through, usually in the format flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness. This notion of dancing your prayers isn’t new – there’s 9-10 verses in the Bible that mention dancing, although funnily enough, those verses aren’t used to often in modern times, wonder why? Most religions/spiritualities that I’ve read about have some measure of dance or movements incorporated in them. So this isn’t and wasn’t a new idea as such. But this form of dancing your prayers, was I think reasonably new. It was definitely new to me anyway!! (For proper information on the practice, check out the official website here)

I speak about this because it became very clear this morning that stillness was calling to me but in a strange way. I can spend hours on end being still, except for the turning of a page or taking a sip of a drink. This morning, I felt like I danced with Brigid and she was reminding me of the importance of real stillness. The type of stillness that doesn’t put achievement above self care; that doesn’t put advancement to the fore of nourishment; that insists on pausing for a moment before jumping off the cliff into this Brand New Exciting Thing that might or might not be a good idea.

So this means right now that I need to pick up where I left off before Christmas. Make time in my day for meditation, movement, physio exercises. I can spend less time advancing my career – especially since I have serious questions about what my career will look like in 5yrs anyway. I don’t have to learn ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW WITH NO DELAY!!! I don’t have to fix everything right now or achieve everything right now. I can move slowly, as if through honey. I can proceed at my own pace. But in the mean time, I can spend the time to instill, properly, those habits that will allow me to speed up at a later date.

So time every day for meditation, movement and physio exercises. Time for ensuring I have food I enjoy and that works for me (yeah over Christmas, we basically survived on Christmas cake, biscuit cake, and one roast chicken lasted 4 dinners for us!!) Time for checking in with myself and making sure my energy is being replenished as much as it’s being spent. And that means drawing hard clear boundaries with myself and others. No more 9pm finishes at work. No more 7 day working. Pausing in progress to consolidate is sensible – especially when there’s a lot to be done in that consolidation.

That doesn’t mean there’ll be no more classes for a while – there’s an Imbolc ritual class coming up with the Irish Pagan School (see here) and I will be doing the 5 week course starting in early Feb as well. The five week course is getting an overhaul this year as well, because my practice has moved on from when I started it and I think it needs to reflect where I am now, rather than leaving it in the past. That would feel awkward. So, stillness doesn’t mean no work or no new material, but it does mean a bit of consolidation as I said and particularly in my personal practice of self care and nourishment – I need to consolidate hard!!

It came to me a week ago, I’m doing a 90 container with Joanna Hunter to give this some structure and the first question she asked us to answer, journal, think about was “what do I require as a human being to be nourished?” More came after that, but I’m stuck on nourished. It’s not just food, y’see, it’s life. What is it in my life that makes me feel nourished? It’s a worthwhile question to answer for yourself and I hope you don’t find it as hard as I am!

For now, I’m going to go make myself some porridge, so I can get a good breakfast inside me (made with milk and probably some raisins or honey or something with it, just in case you’re wondering. Hell, it’s a weekend, I might even throw in some chocolate!) I’m going to make a nice cup of herbal tea. I’m going to watch the sun come up (in about 2.5hrs, cos it’s still January in Ireland and sunrise isn’t until 8:38am apparently!) Then I’m going to settle in and watch the last few episodes of Wheel of Time and decide what book I’m going to read today. I may get around to folding laundry as well…

But seriously – learn from me – what do you need to feel nourished? What are the building blocks that support your mental, physical and spiritual health? What do you need to pause, consolidate or otherwise slow progress on?

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