In the scriptures, and in our faith tradition, serenity, calm, and the ability to restfully sleep are associated with faith and trust. At the sleep seminar on the 21 August, 2020, we explored how surrendering to sleep, allowing ourselves to descend into an unconscious state of being, and letting go of control, can be seen as a spiritual practice, an act of faith and trust.

Watch the seminar here.

In our hectic world, sleep is often regarded as an inconvenience, and a waste of valuable time. Sleep research tells us that this is an erroneous, and even dangerous, viewpoint. Studies have repeatedly shown that sleep is necessary to heal, sustain, and renew our bodies and minds. Paradoxically though, sometimes, the harder we try, the further sleep slips beyond our reach. Creating space for sleep, being ready to ‘jump on the sleep train when it arrives’ is a habit that needs preparation and practice.

For many, church attendance was a weekly practice that helped us to pause regularly and find calm and peace in a busy world, and open ourselves to God to be nurtured and healed. Many of us are missing our buildings because of the conditioned state of mind that we would naturally slip into whenever we gathered there. It is harder to recreate that same experience watching a video, or engaging on Zoom at home. 

Likewise, it can be harder to find sleep in our currently unfamiliar living conditions. It is possible though, if we engage in active preparation, and consciously create space, slow down, take a couple of deep breaths, and prepare to open our hearts and souls. It will help sleep find us – something not unlike getting ready to open ourselves for a connection to the divine, for prayer, for contemplation and peace to come in a religious setting. Right now, while there aren’t places to go outside, there may be places we can explore inside – spaces where calm and peace can be nurtured into a helpful context for both sleep and the healing presence of the divine to find us. 

Here is a prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, who lived through two world wars and several pandemics, to help to calm down and create space to rest. 

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can; 
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time; 
enjoying one moment at a time; 
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; 
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it; 
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will; 
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

Anneke Oppewal