When we sleep, I have read, the unconscious begins to process, resolve, and heal the buried emotions of the day. That little inadvertent thing which seemed so massively embarrassing, but which everyone else has forgotten. The awkwardness, the stresses, the misunderstandings, the little buffetings of the heart.
Anxieties, shame, fears, tensions, and triumphs–we relive them, and often resolve them in our dreams. Often, I reconcile with people I haven’t been able to reconcile with in real life, and wake with a sense of relief.
Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Some psychiatrists say that depression and bipolar disorder are at root sleep disorders! Sleep is cathartic. God, or our unconscious, resolves many of the day’s niggles. “The night belongs to the Lord,” I have heard it said. And so “he gives to his beloved sleep,” and we awake with fresh energy and resolve for the new day.
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You know what else gives me the same sense of resolving the unresolved by a subconscious process? Of resolving tensions, dissatisfactions, minor anger, and irritations?
Exercise, aerobic exercise, working at the outer limit of my comfort zone.
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I was very ill last November, too exhausted to leave my bed for a couple of weeks, and if I had not had surgery for Stage III colon cancer, with nine lymph nodes affected, that fast growing “rabbit cancer,” would have metastasized, and I might have died.
In a Spirit-guided decision, I declined chemo and as part of my chemo-free recovery, I have been trying to walk as fast as I can. My one year check-up showed entirely normal results, for which I grateful
I have never been strong, so at present, it takes me 20 minutes to walk a mile, and I can do three or four miles. But, let me embarrass myself, because I was so unwell, because I’ve never been strong, walking a 20 minute mile takes focus. I break a sweat, oh yes; I gasp at times, I feel the strain in my lungs and heart. If I lose focus, I won’t break my speed goal (I am currently trying to break a 20 minute, 23 second mile)– so focus I do.
But while my body is working, and my conscious mind is focused on my walking speed, my unconscious is working too.
When I come back from my walk sometimes just a mile, sometimes over three, I feel purged, cleansed. It was cathartic. Many of the anxieties, irritations, question marks and worries have been resolved, who knows how? I am now ready to settle down to work, with calm of mind and clear focus. It’s as every cobweb has been vacuumed from my brain.
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A book I reviewed earlier this year, Stress by Simon Vibert says that one way to deal with stress is to do something so demanding that you can’t consciously think of anything else while you do it. At present, trying to walk a mile faster than 20 minutes and 23 seconds does that for me.
If you are stressed at this season, perhaps do that? Find your baseline, your comfortable pace, and try to walk faster than that for… a mile? Or the 10,000 steps which are the minimal requirement for good health, according to Britain’s NHS (about 3.5 to 5 miles depending on your stride). Dr. Andrew Weil, my favourite medic who works with alternative medicine says walking 4 miles a day at 15 minutes a mile will revolutionize your health, a goal I am shooting for.
I will probably get there, but meanwhile, I am enjoying the journey. Those little bursts of 20 minutes 23 seconds make me significantly happier every day, and that is never to be underrated, that little thing, happiness. Through so easy a means, walking shoes, and a mile, or three. Perhaps four