“What do you mean you can’t sleep? Just have a glass of warm milk and read for a while, Shreya. It’ll help you shut off your brain.”

For me (and most people I know), “shutting off my brain” is tantamount to spooning with a hungry great white shark: it simply ain’t easy. So naturally, I’ve been trying it. The shark spooning, that is.

But seriously — every night, for a few minutes, I’ve been shutting off my lights, sitting against fluffed up pillows and just…. sitting. Breathing in.  Breathing out. Breathing in again. Eyes staying closed. One theme that seems to come up in every source I’ve turned to for how to meditate before bed: imagining that with each breath in, the breath oozes into each of your cells; with each breath out, all the tension and aches and day’s worries are exhaled. And the final body part to do this with is the brain, and in doing so I will shut my brain off and waltz into a night of restorative, serene sleep. Okay, I’m game, let’s do this. Oxygen-calm in, carbon dioxide-chaos out.

Which in theory, is peachy. Inhale air, exhale stress:

Exhale. Oh, there go those night-before-final-job-interview jitters from my kidney. Exhale. Man, that six-week-to-Kim-Kardashian-butt workout really kicked my, well, butt. There that goes. Exhale. Man, that fight I had with my sister about who gets to wear the cool striped shirt was really stuck in my shoulders. Exhale. Crap, I still need to finish those six million job applications and send them out — and out they go from my elbows. Exhale. My Redbox movie rental is 46 days late and really cramping my diaphragm!

And, as theories usually go, this one strays light years from the truth. Because my truth is, sitting is really freaking difficult. I mean: just sitting. Only sitting. And breathing. Sitting and breathing, for long enough without tendrils of thoughts and anxieties slinking back into the picture. The first night, I sat for approximately 90 seconds before giving up and shuffling downward under the covers (but I was proud of those 90 seconds!). The next night, I felt myself growing impatient after probably 2 minutes. Four minutes the next night.

But it was improvement. So I kept going.

Last night, I meditated for an hour. And slept like a bear in hibernation. It’s still terribly difficult and downright frustrating at times, but completely worthwhile. I think I’m going to stick with it. Not to deliver some trite end result of “being centered” – whatever that means – but because it’s proved to be a non-drug version of ZZZQuil for me. And for a light sleeper ensconced in an electron cloud of infinite thoughts and a world just as loud at night as it is during the day, restful sleep is ecstasy. Besides, I’ve never been successful at flat-out shutting off my mind and thoughts before, and the challenge of trying it and the retrospective realization that I did it — even if for a few minutes or seconds — makes it worthwhile.

and then, you know, I'll work up to this

and then, in no time, I’ll work up to this