In The Still Of The Night

Those moments on the edge of sleep, in the still of the night, have such purpose.

Our thoughts like clouds, linger here, seemingly waiting to be sorted, sifted and settled into relevant compartments of the brain.

I love sleep. Who doesn’t?

But I value even more that precarious window which opens between sleep and wake.

When I was younger, I’d put on a cassette (yes, remember those?) and happily drift off to the harmonies of 50’s groups The Platters, The Drifters, or Fred Parris and the Satins. ‘In the Still of the Night’ took on a literal meaning for me then.

Maybe it was their calming presence, nestled in the background or the company of a soft bed in which to lay my body. Either way, I loved this time of day the best. I still do.

Even more so now because it means an end to a usually chaotic working day, filled with demands or expectations from children, partner, employer, friends, etc.

Whatever our situation, sleep affords us some necessary time to relax and recharge the body.

But it does much more than that. And this bubble before sleep, means even more for our mind and wellbeing.

How seriously do we take our sleep?

There is plenty of evidence out there that confirms the physiological, neurological and psychological benefits of sleep , so I’m not about to delve into those here.

But even without the support of science, having the darkness surround us and with our senses heightened, we feel the tangible presence of our thoughts cajoling us to make good with them. To end the day having processed them properly.

Back then as a kid in my room, in the growing darkness I could exhale and begin to reckon with my thoughts. Process all the questions and uncertainties that seemed to surround us at that age especially.

I used to wonder a lot about life’s great mysteries like; why brothers needed to even exist? When would I be able to understand Maths? And how could I possibly get Marcus Johnson to like me?

Yes those teenage years were heavy.

But in all seriousness, deep questions did plague my mind on the cusp of sleep and still do.

I remember at times being terrified by life, wondering how I was ever going to deal with the loss of a loved one or the unpredictable nature of events that I saw happening all around me.

At night, alone with our thoughts can occasionally be unnerving and yet at the same time vital to our wellbeing.

French Philosopher Descartes knew this when he suggested 350 years ago, that it was the sleeping brain which stored thoughts and solidified memories.

And Scottish physician and philosopher Robert Macnish, who published ‘The Philosophy of Sleep’ back in 1834 wrote that the main objective of sleep (among other things) was “to renovate the mind by the repose which it affords the brain”.

“Very little new information is gained during sleep, but consolidation and maintenance of memory from experiences of the previous day is considerable.” Sleep Physiology: My VMC

Take the good with the bad

I’m not sure if it is the dark or the depleting capacity of my brain to process thoughts rationally at that time of day, but all sorts of scenarios both jubilant and fearful, flit between the workings of our mind on the cusp of sleep.

As I’ve grown older I’ve come to see sense and value in this time of day even more.

That fear which sometimes sneaks into our thoughts, eventually gives way to resignation and acceptance, then hope and excitement at all that tomorrow might bring.

A new untainted version of all that could be waiting for us on the other side of sleep. A new day to exist and new opportunities to experience. And I kind of like that.

In the still of the night, is where we might wrestle with our thoughts, rejoice in them or simply file them away for safe keeping.

But at the very least, the surging wave of sleep which follows, forces us to put aside our troubles and let them burden us no more (at least for the night).

And that is something worth sleeping on.

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A Conversation With Time

Time; we consume it like a grasshopper does a ripe leaf.

We are quick to criticise its confines. We claim it is our greatest enemy and yet if we could, would willingly give up almost anything in order to ‘buy’ more of it.

We are told Time ‘heals all wounds’ but in the same breath, that time is ‘running out’.

With Time, lies the deepest secrets of our past, our hopes and desires for the future and our thoughts and actions of the present.

Each experience we have is trapped in Time, only once to be shared and forever after remain a version of itself, contained within a morphing memory.

“Time and memory are true artists; they remould reality nearer to the heart’s desire”. John Dewey

What power it has!

A duplicitous character, it would seem that Time is our greatest enemy and loyalest companion, all in the same breath. A bit Yin and Yang, Jekyll and Hyde, Tom and Jerry.

And yet, for all this Time is a simple creature; humble, gentle, generous (if allowed to be) and telling.

Pretty cool for a social construct of our own making; Time that is. But what a fascinating foe or friend it can be.

According to website Changing Minds, “If you ask a scientist how many fundamentally things there are in the universe, he or she will probably answer ‘four’. Not four dimensions, but four things that spell STEM: Space, Time, Energy and Matter. Space, energy and matter can be sensed directly with one or more of our five senses, but how are these used to sense time?”

While I’ve always been fascinated by Time, it’s fair to say that I have a love/ hate relationship with it (like most of us I dare say). Time often gets a bad wrap.

Throughout our childhood, teenage years and into adulthood, Time is omnipresent. There, always by our side.

Sometimes seeming a little overbearing perhaps, but there none-the-less. Like a loyal dog to his master, this companionship has many hidden benefits.

Time; a man or woman’s best friend

In rare moments when I have bothered to stop and just be still, I’ve found Time to be a willing companion. Someone/ thing to share a silent conversation with.

Now, hold back on calling me crazy just yet. New Age terminology would label this as ‘being present’, but I prefer to think of these moments as ‘Pause Points’.

Some might refer to it as ‘day-dreaming’ or a ‘tea-break’, but whatever the terminology, however it happens, they’re moments Time graciously affords us.

They can and do happen in random bursts.

I can be sitting in the car without the radio on and suddenly Time offers up a ‘pause point’, giving me a chance to question an event or situation. To ponder people and relationships. Reflect on a moment and wonder what the heck that was all about!

After reading a novel, at the end of a working day, while listening to a song, at night when everybody else has gone to sleep, after chatting with a friend.

Time takes a willing seat beside us at these points and momentarily, obligingly pauses, giving us the chance to stocktake our own thoughts, process them accordingly and open for business as usual, after.

A patient participant

It’s at these ‘pause points’ when we can feel most open and vulnerable and yet come away feeling free or lighter.

Unlike Time which is a constant, Life is unpredictable by nature and has a habit of running away with itself, consuming Time like a greedy child devouring party treats.

But I love the thought of Time remaining there, intent on listening to our thoughts, deeply part of the conversation and generous with it’s attention.

We are quick to judge it, reckless with it and all too often fail to appreciate it. Time deserves our time!

Whether it be in gentle conversation with it or opening up our eyes to it’s humble availability, we need to value it.

And like all good relationships; give to it, just as much as we take from it.

In the legendary words of Gandalf, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” J.R.R Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’.

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Who are we really? The Holiday

It’s a little known truth that very few of us are certain of who we are.

Yes, we may be a teacher (who daringly dabbles in free-diving), a nurse (with a penchant for fierce rally driving), a (surfing) social worker or a businessman (who bakes on the weekends), but that’s barely scratching the surface of who we really are.

The new year has barely begun, but this question has been hanging out with me all through these holidays. Happily, dreamily, willing me on. With it’s beloved cousin ‘time’ also by my side, I’ve had the luxury of doing and musing on a great many things.

(Among them, clearly viewing too many period dramas, now that I’ve written that!)

So, without sounding too 20th Century, how do we begin to acknowledge or even explain, the multifaceted individuals that we are? And why is it important that we even do this; take the time to explore what makes up us?

The world of workholiday-dreaming

While our jobs may be part of this puzzle, we are commonly caught up in a world of work that inevitably but unfairly define us and leaves little room (and time) for us to be who we truly are, or would hope to be.

In truth, when meeting new people it’s not long before the proverbial question ‘So what do you do?’ enters the conversation.

Yes, it seems harmless enough and surely warranted when beginning to surmise who this stranger before us is. We can immediately make some connection then, place them in a social grouping, maybe even judge what ‘type’ of a person they may (or may not) be. But it is ultimately a flawed question.

The work we choose to do (in most cases at least) says something about us.

‘Occupations shape who we are….. Every occupation weakens or reinforces aspects of our nature’ Book of Life.

The Aged-care worker is a giver; patient and attentive. The artist; imaginative and creative. The farmer; methodical, persistent and determined.who-we-are

But no one job can ever be enough to satisfy all the parts of us and it certainly should not alone define us.

Specialised and finite as our jobs may be, they are often void of opportunities to explore the vast array of talents and interests we possess. We are so much more than the ‘work’ we do, but how easy it is ‘to behave across our whole lives like the people work has required us to be’.

Do we work to live, or live to work?

So it would seem that time off from work; holidays, provide us not only with a ‘break from work’, but with this freeing platform to delve greedily, recklessly and wantonly into our creative talents, our hidden pleasures and allow us the space to be free with our ideas and behaviours (somewhat).

If we are so fortunate as to claim some ‘holiday’ time, we can indulge in our passion to paint, explore that interest in film, fashion up some new culinary concoctions or simply experiment with several ways to potter about the place.

We can dedicate time delving into that new interest, partake in being a present parent and play for the sake of playing.success-on-beach

When else in life, do we have the time and space to do these soul satisfying acts? And when else is there a better time to appreciate and acknowledge who we really are? Or indeed, who we would like to be?

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