I recently read a news article that the US military teaches pilots a step-by-step relaxation process to fall asleep quickly. From personal experience, I can see how it might work. When I was a teenager, my dad had a small home library, one of his books was about self-hypnotism. I tried it but wasn’t very good at clearing my mind or relaxing. But I kept the process in mind and tried it again once in a while. The article described the same process.
Fast forward 25 years, long after school, and my military career was over. I was diagnosed with a chronic illness and depressed about being sick with no chance of recovery. Dozens of therapies and medicines later, I tried binaural beats. With binaural beats a listener hears two different tones so that one tone is in one ear and the other slightly different tone is in the other ear at the same time.
The sounds change; they can be virtually any noise at all, but the difference between the two supposedly activates or calms different parts of the listener’s brain. Binaural beats didn’t work perfectly for me. But remembering my self-hypnosis experience, I gave it more than a few tries.
One audio file I tried just after New Year’s Day a few years ago gave me amazing results. The particular audio file I listened to just wanted me to find a relaxing place in my memory. I tried that, but I have a terrible habit of letting my mind wander. In this case, I meandered back to the day I got lost in the woods. You can read about that in a previous blog post HERE.
The woods still call to me after all these years.
I was able to relax while remembering how I got ready to ‘hike’ that day. Instead of a tranquil setting, I imagined the path I walked, and like stepping into a lucid dream, I was back on that path as if I was there in person. The experience overwhelmed me enough that I didn’t have time to marvel at how real it seemed until it was all over. But I did write a FB post right after it, describing how remarkable the experience had been.
In my mind’s eye, I returned to the path I got lost on. I went past the oak tree and horse, down into the creek bed where the trail disappeared. As if for the first time, I experienced a sliver of panic from being lost in the dark. Just as exquisite, I found an echo of the joy from finding my way back home. The experience left me refreshed, but also more at peace than I had been in years. I’d finally stumbled onto something that worked for me.
Is it meditation, or intense memories?
I don’t meditate, if you can even call what I do meditation. All I do is step through the relaxation process from my dad’s self-hypnotism book. I forgo the binaural beats but still imagine getting ready for my hike. The clothes I wore, the walking stick I carried, and the bag of utterly useless stuff I brought along are all integral to my process. The memories are crisp and detailed, right down to the hand-sharpened point I put on my walking stick.
From my front door, I imagine retracing my path to where I got lost. Next, I pick my way along in the dark beside the creek till I’m out of the woods. Then I make the final walk beside the road that led back home. Each part of the trek brings an emotional response from my memories. By the time I’m back home, I’m also more relaxed and at peace than before I started.
Maybe this can help you too…
I still don’t always fall right to sleep, but it helps. Not only does it help me sleep, but I’ve also tried it as an exercise before I write or outline. It helps clear my mind then, too. The sensory details I include in my writing after one of these sessions are exceptional. Perhaps there is an event in your life that will help you achieve a similar result. With or without the beats…