Sleeping in the arms of safety

One of the side effects of the Corona crisis are new sleeping disorders. This does not come as a surprise, considering that the foundation for good sleep is feeling SAFE. Our physical, material and emotional safety belong to our first chakra, just like our primal need for sleep and food. What affects one, affects the other. Every baby knows and shows that in its sleeping and crying behavior. Most people experience anxiety or fear these days, either directly related to the health threat or indirectly, because of loss of income, relationship difficulties or simply less possibility to escape oneself. Sure, there are many factors influencing sleep, but none of them will give you deep, regenerative sleep consistently, if the ROOT of safety, of relaxation, of peace is not in place.

My recent experience moving from Brussels to France to Spain allowed me to experience this fact in my own body.

For most of the 12 years that I lived in Brussels I experienced issues with sleep, mainly trouble to fall asleep and to fall back asleep when I had to go to the toilet at night. In the morning, the noise of the neighbors, a partner or my cat would wake me up earlier than my body would have needed to compensate. Even though I spent a lot of hours in bed, I would often wake up tired and irritable. This lack of sleep at night impacted my ability to fully LIVE the day, reducing my ability to think clearly and to feel joy.

I tried all kinds of strategies, first and foremost setting up a healthy rhythm, diet and lifestyle: I eliminated anything stimulating (I never drank coffee, but also stopped all green tea and even cacao at some point), I took supplements, increased daylight exposure, moved during the day (but no hard exercise too late in the evening), meditated, used calming music and only soft light in the evening, eliminated blue light by using f.lux on my mobile devices and even wearing orange glasses in the evening, I tried to not drink liquids too late, slept with ear plugs and a mask to block out light and sound distraction… And yes, sometimes I would have a good night of sleep, but most of the time those measures were not sufficient (still of course, if you do not have those in place, it’s a good place to start).

When I moved to France in December last year, I hoped that the calmness, clean air and walks in nature would positively impact my sleep. But the opposite was the case. I had even more difficulties! However, ever since I arrived in my new home in Spain 4 weeks ago today, I have been sleeping well almost every single night. Often, I cannot even finish connecting with my intentions and I am already asleep. I still wake up once to go to the toilet, but I fall back asleep immediately. I dream a lot more than before, too, yet I wake up refreshed with the light, around 8am, meaning I sleep about 10 hours. And my body really needs that much sleep – it feels as though it is regenerating from decades of suboptimal sleep and stressful city lifestyle right now (and I feel it needs a lot of sleep in general, which is typical for people with a lot of “Air” in the constitution, more on constitutions and their needs in the future).

At first sight, the situations in France and Spain are very similar: I am living with my cat alone in a house in nature. I do have neighbors, but the next house is about 100m away. Life is calm and relaxed, there is no alarm, no fixed agenda, but a lot of peace, quiet, spaciousness and nature. I breathe fresh air, I drink clean water, I eat healthy food (more or less the same way in both places). I walk in nature, sit in the sun (or inside when it’s raining), move, sound, breathe, meditate, stretch, write, read… I get up without an alarm and get ready for bed around 22pm.  

The big difference between Brussels, France and Spain is that I feel SAFE now, whereas in France I was freaking out from fear, even when I barricaded my doors and windows. Here in Spain, I do not even have curtains!

The perception of safety is very personal and can be very subtle.

Objectively, I was not unsafe in Brussels nor in France. In Brussels there were many neighbors, often I even shared my flat with a partner or friend (which oftentimes improved sleep initially because of increased perceived safety, but over time the noise distraction became more dominant and sleep deteriorated). The village in France was calm during wintertime, but not abandoned. If anything, I could feel more vulnerable here in Spain, being even more remote, with less people around and without a phone or internet connection to communicate in the case of emergency (my neighbor has wifi, but his house is 100m away).

And yet something in my subjective, instinctual nature perceived both my situation in Brussels and France as unsafe and did not allow me to be at peace there. Meditating, praying, connecting to my inner anchor and even pretending I was being held by a loving partner (or Mother or Father energy) helped only somewhat. I seriously pondered to get a dog to feel safer (others get a boyfriend for the same reason…).

Here in Spain I do not need any of those strategies to fall asleep. This is because I finally arrived in a place that feels like home, which completely eliminated the urge to continue seeking and moving, and instead finally allows for deep resting, at least for now. In France I still had the insecurity of where to go next. The remoteness of my new place actually makes the place feel MORE safe for me, especially given that it’s just the right mix between aloneness and community (and we also have dogs on the premises). In France I did not know anyone and felt rather isolated. The first Chakra also is about family and tribe and my experience shows me that this is indeed something human beings need to feel safe and sleep well.

My sleeping issues were thus not just fruit of a fearful and irrational mind, because my mind is still the same. You just cannot persuade your wild, instinctual nature that something or someone is safe, if for some reason they are not. And this is a GOOD thing. The problem is that we do not usually trust that type of body wisdom.

Your chronic and persisting sleeping issues are pointing towards something in your physical, emotional, mental and/or spiritual reality that is not safe, not aligned, not supporting your full soul expression. This can be as simple as being cold physically, not having eaten enough food (a serious stressor to the nervous system that has kept me awake many, many nights), not having eaten the right type or quality of food, sitting too much in the office, staring too much at your computer or phone… The stress can also point towards your own mind, tendencies for self-destructive attitudes, behaviors or thoughts, a lack of grounding, a lack of trust in Life and in yourself, confusing soul-inspired, real intuition with mind-produced, irrational fears… or it can indeed be related to the concrete place you try to sleep at, the people you share the place with (or the already mentioned lack of community) or thoughts about a place you need to go to for work the next morning… All of those (places, people, activities, habits…) might be comfortable, but not what your soul truly needs to flourish and feel happy and fulfilled.

The bottom-line is that if you do not feel safe, deeply at peace, relaxed and at home, both in your body and in a specific place, your sleep will suffer, no matter what you eat, which supplements you take, your work load or the amount of sunlight or exercise you get.

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