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Sleep Article II

Reflections on a Waldorf Teacher’s Conference- The Importance of Sleep and Traversing the Cultural Abyss

Susan R. Johnson MD, FAAP, 3/6/05

I just finished a four-day Waldorf Teacher Conference in Fair Oaks, California where one of the main speakers was Dr. Michaela Gloeckler from Switzerland. She is a Pediatrician and was one of my teachers when I went to Switzerland. She is a very wise human being with a great capacity to synthesize the essence of things. The topic was the importance of sleep, both for the teacher and especially for the child, and the potential we have to access the Cosmos when we sleep. She explained that how we live our waking life (even the music and media that we expose ourselves to during the day) determines the quality and depth of our sleep at night. It also determines our ability to be nurtured by the Cosmos during our sleep. Problems sleeping at night are really problems related to how we lived our day and the key factor is to be present in the moment. To not only look but to see, to appreciate, to have reverence and to have gratitude as we live each moment of our day. Just as we need to fullly exhale in order to fully inhale and experience contraction of a muscle before we can fully relax that muscle, we also need to be fully conscious (awake) to the events of our day in order to have a deeper and more restfull sleep during the night.

She talked about the "cosmic" amount of time that we as adults should be sleeping. It is a platonic second, and it equals an average of 7.2 hours a night (more during winter and less during summer). She also talked about the abyss that exists between what we see in this world (all the materialism, suffering, and fear) and our ideals of how loving and compassionate human beings and our world could be. She gave seven things to strive for to strengthen us as we deal with this abyss in our own lives. These aren't new ideas but they were stated in a different way and I wanted to share them:

1) We need to look after our own health both mentally, soul wise, and physically. Find work that we can do with joy. (I remember Marshall Rosenberg saying not to do anything in life that you do not want to do or can't love doing). Only risk our health to do a duty that is out of love. Never risk our health for only fun and pleasure. (I think the idea here is that when we do something for someone else out of love there is energy that is created and flows back to us. Unconditional love has a giving and receiving aspect to it so even though one is "sacrificing" sleep to do something out of love, the energy from that love returns to us and fills us back up).

2) We need to see ourselves in a problem as always part of the solution. Live consciously in the context of karma. Take full responsibility for our relationships to make them better. Don't sit back and wait for the other to come to us.

3) We are creators of our own reality. The way we think, feel and act make up the spiritual atmosphere that surrounds us.

4) Develop a strong Identity, an inner life. Identify first with ourselves (The inner culture) and become independent from "The outer culture" of money, drugs, passions etc. Know ourselves. Don't base our actions or thoughts on what others think or what others want us to do. Stay true to ourselves and our own beliefs. Maintain our integrity. Follow through with our promises to ourselves and to others. To really be free we must first become independent, then we are able to enjoy material things, like money, out of freedom and not addiction or dependency.

5) Steadfastness. Stand by our decisions even if those around us wish that we behaved or thought differently. In order to maintain this steadfastness we need to first focus on the above 4 things. Come from a place of inner strength and we will be able to "swim upstream" against the cultural norms that we perceive as unhealthy. Also be flexible enough to change our opinions if we discover that what we were believing or holding to be true no longer represents our truth.

6) Look at everything in life with this question: What can I learn out of this situation? BE GRATEFUL for the learning experiences that come our way. Even if these experiences are painful. Hold within ourselves the feeling of gratitude toward life. When we are grateful then we are in a place of "Being" and full presence in our relationships. We are in the present moment and fully conscious. We are coming from a place of love.

7) The point of our life and existence is service to others. We can build a new outer culture (change the current and unhealthy “norms” of our society) by strengthening and developing our own inner culture based on goodness, truth, and beauty. Most importantly, our spiritual striving is not for ourselves, it is for humanity. We are all companions on the inner journey. I am You, You are Me, We are all One.

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