Sleep is the best meditation

A friend recently wrote a lovely blog on Sleep.  It brilliantly highlighted how parents – who have to contend with looking after kids, managing their jobs and juggling the many other balls up in the air at any given time – long for a few precious moments of uninterrupted sleep!  Raising our kids in India and later in the Middle East, we appreciated the support provided by our mothers, extended family and nannies.  Therefore, my wife and I have tremendous respect for young parents in Canada, who must manage things on their own absent additional helping hands.

Sleep is essential to our well-being.  Expressions like, “A good night’s sleep” and “Let us sleep over it before deciding” highlight the importance of this function.  The Dalai Lama has stated that, “Sleep is the best meditation” while Shakespeare had Macbeth lamenting:   “Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep’, the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast…”

It is almost customary for me to end up lolling on my favourite Ikea chair after lunch when our grandkids come over for a visit.  Dozing, I remain half-conscious of the suppressed giggles around me; this just adds to the pleasure and rejuvenates me!

As someone said, “People who say they sleep like a baby usually don’t have one”!

These days, parental activities include the nightly bedtime ritual of switching on a monitor and a “white noise sleep machine” before slinking out of the child’s bedroom.  Technology now allows parents the ability to remotely monitor every move, rustle, indeed each breath of their loved one.

We take on more than we (sometimes) need to.  I am reminded of a woman laborer who carted bricks over to the masons engaged in the construction of our mother’s house in Delhi late in the 1970s.  She would leave her toddler slung in a hammock, made from her “duppatta” (a piece of cloth like a long scarf used as a symbol of modesty by women in South Asia to cover their head and chest) tied between two trees.  The child occasionally bawled its head off; if my mother asked her to check on him, the working woman would shrug it off saying he was fine, hollering only for attention.  Yet, she would sometimes stop dead in her tracks and rush to the son’s side even if he merely whimpered because instinctively she knew he needed her.  No monitor can replace the maternal instinct which lets a mother know whether a child’s cries and tears are caused by hunger, discomfort or the need simply for a loving cuddle.

Parents today tend to read with, or to their kids when tucking them in for the night.  However, it was not so long ago that mothers would sing a “lori” (lullaby) as they cuddled their child and lulled her/him to sleep.  Perhaps some mums still do so.  I remember a couple of lullabies that my mum favored.  One was by the legendary singer K.L. Saigal “So ja rajkumari” (Go to sleep, princess) from a 1940’s movie; another was “Nanhi kali sone chali” (precious flower-bud preparing to sleep) from her favorite 1959 movie Sujata.  My wife used to croon “Chanda hai tu, meraa suraj hai tu” (You are my moon and my sun) when putting our toddler granddaughter, S to bed.  When staying overnight with us S, who is now over eight years old, giggles and asks her grandmother to sing “that Hindi song you used to sing when I was a baby; what does it mean, Nani?”  Our grandson R, who is three, merely stares until his eyelids droop and he dozes off when she sings this same lori to him.

My personal favorite is this lori “aajaa ri aa, nindiyaa tu aa” (Come gently, please come O’ sleep) from the 1953 hit movie Do Bigha Zamin.  Just listen; hopefully you will agree that even without knowing the words or their meaning, just the lilt of the evening raag Pilu is enough to soothe the mind.

On a completely different note, the legendary Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib challenges us with this philosophical poser about lying awake, sweating the small stuff:
“… maut kā ek din muayyan hai
niind kyuuñ raat bhar nahīñ aatī …”

[(If) the time of death is predestined, why does sleep not come (to me) all night?”]

An overly full, or an empty stomach are both detrimental to a good night’s sleep.

So, as we celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend and indulge ourselves, let us also pause to gratefully express “shukrana” (thanks) for all that we are blessed with; and Gracefully share our blessings with those that are less fortunate.

7 Replies to “Sleep is the best meditation”

  1. Each day is a little life and sleep a little death, said Arthur Schopenhauer. Had he known, he’d have mentioned the role strong Madras coffee plays in my daily reincarnation. Happy Thanksgiving!


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