What a Simple Question Can Do

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Ethan Lofton

For the most part, I sleep all right. When I don’t, it’s never the falling asleep. For me, that part is easy. It’s the waking up at 1am or 2am or 3am.

Not fun.

In a few of my previous blog posts, I wrote about how much I love my meditation app, Headspace. Well, 30 days ago, I chose the sleep pack to see if I’d experience any of the great things I’ve experienced with the other packs.

I have to come clean. I was skeptical. How could meditating on sleep soon after I wake up in the morning impact my sleep hours later?

Let’s just say it did. And in a big way.

Early on in the pack, Andy, app CEO, co-founder, and meditation leader, asked one of his perpetually thoughtful questions: how can you change your relationship with sleep?

Huh. That got me.

A few days after he asked that question, I woke up at 1am. Typically, when I wake up and can’t fall back to sleep I get caught up in thoughts. At 1am, they’re rarely positive. To escape them, I’ll get up and distract myself in some way – by reading or writing or working.

What Andy challenged me to do was to stop taking it all so seriously. Okay. So I’m up. So what? Why all the thoughts? Why all the impatience, the self-judgment, the worry?

So the next time I couldn’t sleep, I tried something different. I didn’t get up. I didn’t try to distract myself. I just stayed right where I was. And I breathed. I lightened up. I just took it one breath at a time.

Every time this happened over the course of the 30 days, I did something to change my relationship with sleep. I didn’t panic or fixate. I just breathed, and I just shrugged it off.

Guess what? It worked every single time. I found a way to fall back to sleep.

And that’s happened with every pack I’ve tried. With every pack and every meditation session, I’ve literally found more head space. I’ve been able to create some distance between my thoughts and feelings and the concrete, flexible and physical reality of what is.

It’s been incredibly liberating.

Partway through this 30-day sleep experiment, I happened to listen to Todd Henry interviewing Brian Koppelman. I found Koppelman interesting enough to check out his podcast, The Moment. As luck would have it, Koppelman shared an interview he’d done with James Altucher, someone whose name kept coming up again and again in my feed (here’s one of his recent articles).

If you find the time, listen to this interview. Altucher is a thoughtful and quirky guy. He’s started nearly 20 companies, and he’s earned and lost millions. Along the way, he’s created some incredible things. What I found fascinating about him was that he’d changed his relationship with success, with failure, with work, and with people.

Sometimes the simplest question can be life changing. So I have to ask: how can you change your relationship with __________?

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