“One night they both dreamed – the cupbearer and the baker of the kind of Egypt, who were confined in the prison – each his own dream, and each dream with its own meaning. When Joseph come to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled.” Genesis 40:5-6, NRSV
Have you ever had trouble sleeping? Tossing and turning. Wishing you were sleeping. Worrying about the fact that you are not sleeping? It can be nerve wracking, can’t it? Maybe it happens less today because we have sleeping pills to knock us out at night. Can’t be bothered with loosing sleep. We know the bad consequences of sleep deprivation – more accidents and mistakes at work, impaired memory, irritability, etc.
But then, what keeps us up at night? If we’ll take the time to think about it, we may learn something. Something we should be paying attention to. Are we awake because we are worrying about something? An upcoming medical test? A bill that needs to be paid? How our child is doing in school? A disagreement we have had with a friend? What is keeping us awake at night? Just thinking about that may give us some insight into what is going on in our lives, where we need to pay attention, what we need to attend to.
Maybe what keeps us up at night is physical. Aches and pains. Indigestion. A headache. Maybe we need to pay attention to our body. Maybe it is trying to tell us something about our physical needs or the physical manifestations of stress. Practicing yoga has helped me to learn to pay much more attention to my body and how to keep my body functioning and happy. Not being able to sleep may tell us something about with our body that we need to know.
In addition, noticing what keeps us awake at night may help us to know what we are to be doing with our lives. It may help us to sort out what we need to be addressing ourselves to to fulfill our purpose. If the image of the little boy who can’t read keeps coming to mind maybe you need to be volunteering at a school or library. If the sinking of a boat full of refugees haunts you maybe you need to find out how to help those who must leave their homes and find a safe place to live. If the notion of the island of plastic swirling in the Pacific Ocean won’t let you go maybe it is time to get involved in cleaning up the environment.
Noticing sleep patterns, insomnia, and dreams can help us to see what is going on with us. We can learn about what we are experiencing. What needs attention. How we need to tend to ourselves and our relationships. But we might not see any of this if we don’t pay attention to what keeps us awake at night and what haunts our restless dreams. We can be so busy or distracted that we don’t bother to look deeper.
And, then there are those sleeping pills. . . .
We want to live full and abundant lives centered in Love. Then we can sleep at night knowing that we are doing what we need to be doing and we are being who we are intended to be. May we notice what disturbs our sleep, may we pay attention to our dreams so that we fulfill our purpose and find joy. Amen.