A CLUTTERED MIND
Last night was one of those nights. Many of us have had them for different reasons and I keep trying to understand why and what are some of the similarities and differences. I wake up either at midnight or 2 AM, having gone to bed around 9 PM, and something occurs to me that engages the gears in my mind and starts them turning round and round. One thought leads to another, then on to another and on and on it goes. I look at the clock and it’s been an hour, now 3 AM, and I tell myself, do some deep breathing and go back to sleep. But I don’t.
It has nothing to do with the recent change to Daylight Savings Time because we don’t change our clocks or our sleep, wake, eat, work, week habits very much. I wondered if it had to do with too much stimulation from watching March Madness and seeing a number 15 seed upset a number 2 seed. I dismissed that because I had seen another one earlier without wondering who is playing today.
I moved to thinking about what I had read before going to sleep, three, especially interesting and stimulating articles in this week’s New Yorker Magazine. One is about Jennifer Mills News called “Stop The Press” another by Jill Lepore, a professor of history at Harvard and author of at least 15 books and a two-time Pulitzer nominee. Her intriguing article is called “Pay Dirt” and is all about seed catalogs, once, a long time ago, interest of mine. The third, fascinating article, is by Elizabeth Kolbert, a staff writer at The New Yorker who won a Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction for “The Sixth Extinction”. Her latest book is “Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future” which I have but have not read. Her article “A Little-Known Planet” is about David Wagner, an entomologist who races to find caterpillars before they disappear. Quite a selection, yes?
My mind then started reviewing the week past, a poor choice because it was filled with more than the usual plethora of activities that consume my days and weeks. I tried to tell myself to just let it go, put it away and close the door because it’s over and gone. That didn’t work. Why, I asked myself? Is there some kind of unfinished business that needs my attention? And if so, what is it? I chewed on that for awhile and came up with several ongoing “projects” that I filed under self-care, including walking, vehicle purchase and transport, trip planning, more writing exercises and creative cooking. I also answered a couple of previously unanswered questions.
At 4 AM, I got up with a promise that I would take a nap later sometime, be selective about which two basketball games to check into later, and maybe clean up a couple of unfinished drafts waiting for me. It was Albert Einstein who famously quipped, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” That has been my justification for a cluttered desk for many years as I prefer a cluttered mind to an empty one.
It is now going on to nearly 6 AM, sunrise will be at 6:30 AM today as we leapfrog into Spring just two days from now. So, for now, I leave you with this little haiku:
A jungle of thoughts, My mind twisted and tangled, Making sense of the Now.
Yes. The hamster wheel of processing the thoughts from the day or week, in the middle of the night, isn’t unusual. I can relate to “clutter”, too, particularly over the past few months. I can’t figure out ‘why’ either, particularly since there is no significant change in my pre-sleep routine. It just showed up one day, and I have chosen to ‘let it be.’ Physical clutter is easier to see (and de clutter if we so choose) but mental clutter creeps up on us at most unexpected moments… one theory is that the subconscious mind awakens when our conscious mind is fully rested. The question then becomes – how do we rest the subconscious mind? Meditation is one answer, but then we may awaken the superconscious state… and then what are we going to do with that state? Maybe let’s not dwell on that question though – for we may sleep even less than we do now!
Hamster wheel a good analogy or is it a metaphor? Another image is the merry-go-round. I think we may forget where the pause button is on any kind of process – mental, physical, emotional or physical, perhaps spiritual too although that dimension has some different energies and connections than the others, at least for me. I find the walking, sitting, meditating, reflecting helps with the focus. In somewhat of a workaholic culture we would do ourselves and others a favor by learning the art, and science, and value of rest. Sundays growing up were considered a day of rest, only the essential work on the farm and little else. Based on the creation story in Genesis I think but it was Saturday there, the 7th day and evolved into Sunday in the Christian era.