There were no more annoying words to me as a kid than when my dad would say “Sounds like someone needs a nap.” (This happened most often when I’d start to get the least bit whiney.)
To my childlike mind, I had stresses too, and they merited more than this simplistic answer. Granted my problems weren’t as big as his. Mine didn’t include running a bank or feeding a family, but I had problems. They could range anywhere from not wanting to do homework to not getting a popsicle right then, but 9 times out of 10, when my “But why?” started to sound just a wee bit whiiiiiney, Dad’s be all/cure all answer was usually “Sounds like someone needs a nap” (or if evening, “It's time for bed.”) which as all kids know, is the death knell to any parent/child discussion.
Curiously, this advice didn’t end at childhood; it followed me well into adulthood. I’d call with concerns about a car repair or a question about a bank loan, and while always there with advice, Dad had this uncanny knack of spotting it if something in my voice was more emotional than practical; his “she needs sleep” radar would go off, and I’d find myself just as frustrated as when I was 5, that he wasn’t hearing me, or that he thought my “very real” problems could be cured by something so simple as a nap.
And yet, I can’t tell you how many times, just going to bed did the trick. Something about releasing my mind from the self induced torture of replaying a problem over and over and over, was precisely what I needed to stop the madness and make space for answers to come through.
Now that Dad’s not here to remind me of these things, I find myself having theoretical conversations with him all the time. (Actually, they aren’t so theoretical to me. I’m pretty sure he’s still weighing in from wherever he’s hovering these days, but the mental exercise keeps me on my toes regardless.) When facing some newfound dilemma in business or life, I know it is my habit to first, think the problem to death, imagining every possible scenario that could play out. But once exhausted from that little exercise (which never works anyway) I then (and only then) say “Ok Dad. How would you handle this?” And then I shut up and listen.
Sometimes when sitting still, I fall asleep. Sometimes I'll unplug for 20 to meditate. Sometimes all it takes is shifting focus, but there is something magical about identifying when I’ve overthought a problem and shifting gears to just let it go. (A habit that does not come naturally to the Western mind.)
I was talking with a friend the other day, newly divorced, just sold her house…No clue where she’s going to move; no firm plan as to how it all gets paid for when she gets there. In short, her total world is upside down. Next on her list is to “Find a job” and she’ll be great once she does, but first, I suggested, “Is it possible to get some sleep before you interview...give yourself a day or two for rest?" It was not to take from the timeliness of needing said job. But the quality of our discernment changes with rest. And, as I shared, “The person that shows up today for that interview will not be the same person that shows up next week if that person is fresh and rested.”
I liken it to a patient about to undergo open heart surgery. If given the choice of the doctor who’d just pulled a 36-hour shift, or the doctor just coming back from his Hawaiian vacation, which would you pick?
I know from experience that life’s challenges take on a different hue and vibration when I’m rested. Something about hitting “reboot” on the ol computer in my head (and body), lends space for new insights, if not entire solutions to the problem at hand.
Part of that, I’m sure has to do with sheer, physical exhaustion, a state from which no heavy machinery should be lifted (physically or mentally). But another part, I’m now convinced has to do with what Deepak Chopra calls “getting in the gap,” which as he describes it, is that space BETWEEN our thoughts where God resides.
Like the monk who tells his devotee that a full rice bowl leaves room for nothing else, we must come to these things as an empty vessel if we hope to be filled with a better solution. And to me it brings comfort to know it is not my job to come up with every answer. Instead, it’s my job to quieten my monkey mind to make space for that answer when it does arrive.