[“You are Star Stuff” by Betsy Roper]
Like many aging people, I sometimes struggle with insomnia. Anxious, depressed, fearful; it’s dark night of the soul time for sure. Over time, however, I’ve gleaned how to manage these gnarly sessions. Somewhat.
Lesson Number One: Never ask myself why I might be anxious. Because there’s always something to be anxious about, right? But if I choose to give this free-floating feeling a place to land, whatever situation or challenge I mentally name will not just land—it will colonize. And there goes any hope for sleep. No, better to give my gnawing brain something to chew on besides, say, a bumpy conversation with a dear friend that day, and maybe what I should have said was . . .
Once upon a time, repeating the lovingkindness prayer over and over on behalf of family and friends had worked like a charm. “May X be/feel safe. May X be happy. May X be healthy. May X live with ease,” I’d whispered over and over. My heart rate slowed and, enveloped in love, I’d fall back to sleep. Sadly, though, like a medication that over time loses its oomph, this practice is losing its efficacy. (Not that I’ll cease to send out lovingkindness into the universe. I have merely stopped expecting a different outcome.)
But recently I began to wonder if, like the lovingkindness prayer, focusing on something love-based might work. What if, during those tossing, turning moments, I considered my “All my relations”? And the “peace of wild things“? What if I reviewed the previous day to recall moments of wonder, moments of connection with something not anthropocentric, moments when I felt a part of the Whole and aligned with All?
Great idea, right? Two small problems, though. I live in a city. And it’s February!
But even in February, even in over-developed Somerville, such moments are possible. The five or six goldfinches who daily alight in the top branches of the tree across the street so easily visible as I write in my journal; how they glow in early morning sun! Or how the scraggly, messy, strangely beautiful native-plant garden bordering a park near my house warmed me on my cold, brisk walk. Or how . . .
Early days into this new practice, on Wednesday and Thursday, the nighttime sky provided such wonder; the passing of Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF). Let me be clear: I experienced that wondrous, last-time-this-passing-happened-was-50,000-years-ago comet. I didn’t actually see it.
No: I mindfulness-nessed it. I stood in my back yard, faced north, and, like sending off the lovingkindness prayer into the universe, I sent off my awe, my gratitude, my alignment with Wholeness in that green-tinted comet’s general direction—before scurrying inside to get warm.
And slept well. Both nights.