Reverse Your Stress…Relax From the Top Down


While I still get insomnia, it doesn’t bother me much anymore. Except for the last few nights….

I traveled rocky sleepless roads filled with non-stop thoughts and stress. I had to continually ask my inner GPS to recalculate to the destination of relaxation.

It took a few detours, but I found a new Restful Insomnia route to the land of letting go. A different direction that may be helpful in your wakeful night hours.

What caused my sleepless rocky road? 

Bright lights, long nap, a little anxiety—various things caused my sleepless nights. While nothing was an urgent problem, my mind would persistently insist that doing something was more important than resting.

I didn’t believe my mind, though. I stayed in bed, practicing my usual Restful Insomnia techniques—almost always the paths to calm.

But those nights, I was stuck in the spiral of problems, preoccupations, and plans. When I did wander down a drowsy path—into the jumble of weird pre-sleep associations—I’d realize “I’m falling asleep.” 

A U-turn right back into thinking and wakefulness.

How to relax from the top down

So I tried something a little different. I rested from the top down.

The traditional method many learn is to relax from the bottom up—tensing and releasing muscles the toes, calves, thighs, and on up to the head.

I’d never had much luck with that technique, and tensing muscles didn’t help me let go, it just made me more alert.

Why did I go in the opposite direction? Donna Eden and others familiar with acupuncture and acupressure say that when energy rises in your body, you become more wakeful. I decided to see whether having my energy—or relaxation—move down would lead to rest.

I started out by trying to relax the scalp, but there aren’t a lot of muscles to release there. Instead, I focused on:

… Letting go of my face around my cheeks and upper jaw…
… Letting my eyes rest more towards “looking” at my navel…
… Feeling gravity help my neck and tops of shoulders become heavy…
… Softening behind heart, between my shoulder blades…
… Gently opening my chest…

Yes, I got distracted by my to-do list. But I kept coming back to relaxing from the top-down and the distractions became less and less:

… Softening the intricate puzzle of organs in my gut…
… Allowing the spine to sink into gravity…
… Releasing tension in my pelvic area…
… Imagining the femur (thigh) bones releasing away from the pelvis…
… Loosening my knees and calves…
… Releasing my feet and toes…

By now, my focus was in my body experience of rest, not on my thoughts.

After a few nights of practicing this top-down relaxation during difficult insomnia, I can unwind more quickly. It’s now the Restful Insomnia mode I use when I can’t sleep, allowing me again to rest at night.

Let me know if it works for you.

Enjoy your nights,

Shooting Star

Step 4: Relax into lack of control

Do you get irritated when you can’t sleep? Angry? Pissed off? Raging mad?

Join the club.

Anger is a terrible lullaby—no surprise. Instead of getting the rest you want, you spend the night noticing everything that’s wrong.

Think about this: Anger comes from wanting things to be different. For instance, when you’re ticked off during insomnia you may want:

  • Your partner to stop snoring
  • The neighbors to be quiet
  • To know that your 5-year-old daughter won’t crawl into bed with you at 4 a.m.
  • To be asleep already, damn it

None of those irritations are soothing in the middle of the night.

What can you do to get rid of the anger? Fix the problem, right? Kick your partner out of bed, scream at your neighbors on the phone till they’re too scared to make a peep, and lock your bedroom door. If you got everything under control, you could sleep… you think?

But no matter how hard you try, you can’t control or fix everything you think is wrong. At night, during the day. Or, need I say, in life itself.

What’s the alternative, then? Relax into the fact that you can’t sleep? Relax into what you can’t control? Surprisingly, those are the most relaxing alternatives there are.

I don’t mean resigning yourself to fate and then, resentfully, getting up to do something. Instead you can learn how to rest into your actual experience in the moment: your bed, your sheets, your breath, and especially the tension of your anger.

It’s a paradox. As you learn to be at peace with exactly where you are—even the exacerbating tension of wanting your night to be different—you can relax, renew, and perhaps even sleep.

That’s the aim of Restful Insomnia: to help you to let go of your conscious mind (which is thinking and staying awake) and move into letting your unconscious mind take the lead. Because it will lead you into rest, relaxing, and perhaps even sleep.

Why would your unconscious mind do this? It is naturally aligned with the body, which naturally renews at night.

Of course, when you let go of your conscious mind’s annoying behavior, it doesn’t fix every problem that causes insomnia. But when you change your relationship to insomnia, the problem of not sleeping doesn’t become a spiral of anger that keeps you awake.

You can also bring this gift of relaxing with “what is” into your day. It’s a chance to explore places in your life where you’re perpetually angry or irritated at what you can’t control: slow drivers, crowded busses, nagging sisters, persnickety bosses, saggy jowls, or messy teens. You can change your relationship to them as well, over time.

The wisdom of resting into insomnia can teach you life’s balance. It’s all said well through the Serenity Prayer:

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

~ Reinhold Niebuhr

Relaxing with this underlying cause of anger is part 4 of the five-step Restful Insomnia program:
1. Soothe your night environment
2. Befriend the body
3. Diminish the thinking mind
4. Release the hold of emotion
5. Tap into the natural or spiritual self

Let me know if bringing serenity to your insomnia shifts anything–just comment on this post.

Enjoy your nights,


Daylight savings time–split the difference

Daylight savings/standard/confusion time drives me nuts. Despite setting my clocks ahead during the day (which helps a tiny bit), my body and time orientation is all skewed for days. I heard there are more car accidents the Monday after the switch than usual, so drive carefully.

My idea: We should spring ahead one half-hour and stop the changes. A half-hour change seems no odder than our current back and forth system.

What do you say?

Enjoy your nights,

Insomnia without suffering

I had insomnia last night. I woke with a brain full of worries and sadness and lists and tension. I added the stress of no sleep to my list of woes.

I knew all the Restful Insomnia(TM) techniques–I developed them. Didn’t matter. I was so tense, and sleep seemed so far away, I couldn’t connect with trust that I could change my wakeful suffering. No, I would worry my way to happiness. Not the most successful plan, but well practiced.

Just try, it can’t hurt, I said to myself.  So I put on my eye mask, turned on the sound machine, focused on my body, and reminded myself that my thoughts were a story I was creating.

Insomnia without suffering. Okay, I can do this. Insomnia that drifted into sleep.

Glad I remembered.

Enjoy your nights,

Restful Insomnia in Seattle Magazine

seattle-magazine-ri.jpgIn November, I went to a photo-shoot at Hotel 1000 in Seattle. Upscale but not hoity and a great photographer. Now, that photo and an article about Restful Insomnia is in January Seattle Magazine. What fun.

Returning to the pen…

… more like returning to the keyboard. What was my last post? Looks like last year, right at this time. [Jodi sends me a note that my math is wrong--it's been two years.]

So much in 2009: A new full-time job in health communications, publication of A Better Brain at Any Age, writing my Restful Insomnia book (after trying for ten years), grieving the death of my husband, then the death of my oldest friend, changing my sense of self and sense of the world, feeling supported and held and sad.

A full year.

With it all, I was grateful to have Restful Insomnia–especially during sad nights or anxious ones. I could bring myself back from tension of unshed tears or the growing to-do list by remembering my body. Cry the cry, let go of the list for the moment, and just be with me in the night.

meditationchair.gif Now, my book is out, and I am out. Being seen, talking about my program, training in person and in webinars, to help create renewal for insomniacs across the world.

I miss sharing my book with my husband and friends, and happy to share it with you.

Enjoy your nights,
Shooting Star

A Better Brain

cherubs-on-book-413x470.jpgAh, my manuscript is done. The book is retitled: A Better Brain for Any Age for publication by Conari in the fall (2008). Lots of research, some writing angst–defining emotions and creativity was a thrill.

Here’s what the book will contain:

  • * Short Tour of the Brain
  • * Not All in Your Head: The Body-Mind
  • * Eating for Brilliance
  • * Your Brain’s Environment
  • * Play With Your Memory: Boosters and Stretchers 
  • * Hey, Genius! Intelligence, Learning Styles, and Creativity
  • * Emotions and the Brain: When You Can’t See the Forest for the Angst
  • * Meditation and a Bigger Perspective: Less is More

I’m ready to blog again–in between edits, medical writing, and the stuff that pays.

Enjoy your nights,
Shooting Star


I love to meditate. It took me only 30 years to get here.

meditationchair.gifI started with TM (Transcendental Meditation) in… Cleveland, dating Andy, probably 1974. After the instruction, I was high as a kite, happy for the first time at my work, ready for a lifetime of joy. Then life returned–so disappointing. I kept meditating hoping that joy would return. 

I often fell asleep when I meditated, though I had occassional moments of beyond this. Once, I was driving to State College while Andy drove my blue Dodge Duster; I remember the darkness, the road, the body sensation of spaciousness. I don’t remember the content, just the sensation of more.

TM faded–I slept more than meditated. Over the decades I tried meditation classes, reading, during yoga. I say tried because I thought there was a place to get to…transcending my thoughts… and I never did. 

Still, there was something that kept me going.

I found myself meditating during Restful Insomnia. Lying in bed, returning to the breath. It lessened the Conscious Mind and I was proud of myself (see, I’m a good person, I meditate!). Then Ragini suggested I could get more connection to the spiritual and my mind by sitting up. I rousted myself vertical during insomnia, meditated, and returned to sleep.

Then I found the pleasure in meditation during the day.

Meditation has so many aspects. The body: lowers blood pressure, relaxes, deepens breath. The emotional: opens to the stories–true or not–behind the anger or fear. The spiritual: connects to the reality beyond the thoughts. The mind: trains focus and attention.

Researching for Brain Boosters, I read John Ratey’s A User’s Guide to the Brain. He says that movement is the essence of thought. That’s a whole ‘nother entry. Still, it got me thinking about paradox. Doesn’t stillness–meditation–enhance movement?

So now I practice being still. It’s not trying. I’m coming back, learning again and again that there’s stillness between the throughts, that there’s my breath, that there’s here and now. Always changing, here and now, but not moving. 

Even when I “don’t wanna” sit, there’s always soft pleasure when I do.

In fact, I’ll go breathe right now.

Enjoy your nights,
Shooting Star

The Big Book of Brain Boosters

flaxseed.jpgWhere have I been? I’ve been researching and querying experts on that plastic glob under your skull: the brain. Experts who know about

  • Brain exercises
  • Food
  • Exercise
  • Creativity
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Types of intelligence
  • Energy medicine
  • Meditation.

I’m writing the The Big Book of Brain Boosters: How to Keep Your Brain Alive–Well into the Next Decade (Conari, 2008). The book will let you know the latest research on brains–in English–and tips to maximize the brain.

The first tip: Eat lots of Omega-3s* to improve the fats in our brain compared to the overdose of Omega-6s (most cooking oils) and other fats (animal fats).

Omega-3s are in

  • Walnuts
  • Butternuts (what are these?)
  • Flaxseed
  • Oils (flaxseed, canola, soybean)
  • Fatty fish (salmon, herring, tuna, mackerel, sardines, bluefish)
  • Fish oil capsules

And somewhere I read ground cloves?! Maybe that’s why we love pumpkin pie. Omega-3s ease depression and help cholesterol. I wonder if Omega-3s help you rest at night?

Have other brain boosting ideas? Let me know.

Enjoy your nights
Shooting Star

In and Out


What a healing time. Sadness, friendship, sand castles, in and out with the waves.

We went to Port Townsend–Mary, Sallie, Nancy and me–picked up Jesse and found Nora’s house. We remembered Diane’s laugh, her life changes, our loss. We walked to North Beach and, inspired by Mary, made a sand castle of our memories of Diane. Then the tide came and took it back to the ocean.

Healing into rest.

Enjoy your nights,
Shooting Star

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