Today, there was an article in a Broomfield newspaper directed to the elder. The topic was about old people sleeping patterns and the news that what used to be considered as a normal evolution of aging – you know, when you are old you sleep less and wake up earlier – is now something to consider as a “disorder” and when it came to list the symptoms one of the examples used was that of older people being tired (sleepy) by 7 or 8 and waking up earlier therefore something had to be “wrong” with them.
My intention is not to discredit the seriousness of their studies but maybe add a more wholesome perspective to it by mentioning that (if you are one of those people that live with awareness you know this) the healthiest pattern of sleep is the one that happens with the sun light cycle. The sun sets around 7 or 8 PM and it rises around 6 in the morning. Minutes after, minutes before, depending on the position of the Earth. Animals follow the sun light schedule to sleep or wake up. It is the human animal who due to lack of stillness create all kinds of “entertainment” – TV, Work, nightlife, technology, all that has to do with unnatural light- to entertain us after the sun is set and therefore distract us from sleep. If you happen to be old it might be very normal that your energy source, in contrast with your youth times when you could eat your energy or produce your energy exercising, now is produced only by sunlight.
Those who practice meditation and the path of Dhamma, know well that you will need less sleeping as you progress in your practice. The vitality of the body increments and feeds you with the energy needed to be healthy, and sleep will come in the awareness of true rest. Basically, oversleeping is a distraction for those interested in the path towards enlightment.
While I was reading the article I remembered a conversation I had with my father about Attention deficit disorder (ADD). I was trying to describe a friend of mine to him and in order to be fast I said -” you know dad, he has ADD, a disorder that is identified by the difficulty the person has in paying attention, is a disorder- to which he answered – We don’t have “disorders” in our country, that would raise a serious question about who is in “order” and the absurdity of defining what “normal” is, we all are distracted one time or the other, so when somebody behaves in extreme like that we just say that that person is distracted easily, and there is nothing wrong with it. You just make a little more effort to attract his o her attention and take it as an opportunity to develop your patience.” Then he laughed in the same way he laughed when he visit a doggy store in California that was the size of a whole block.
Also, the memory arised of how when coming back to Los Angeles to visit after some years I came to find at least three of my dear good friends medicated with this “new drug” Prozac; they had being diagnosed bi polar and depressive…!!! …. If you knew this people, you would also …!!!… I am talking about creative, vibrant people that I came to find in a state of dormant zombie behavior and lack of inspiration, totally non emotional. I remember thinking how odd it was that the three of them had been diagnosed with the same “disorder” and medicated with the same drug – it happened to be when LA went through tough times and the Union was in strike.
Then a beautiful story about the Dalai Lama came to mind. It is said that when monks where asked about their progress in America as far as introducing meditation, the monks report was that we had a lot of difficulties learning to how to create good will towards the self because Americans lived in self hatred. It took so much effort from the monks to explain to the Dalai Lama what self hatred meant, because there is no such concept in their reality. It is said that the Dalai Lama asked : Do you mean they hate themselves?! What is self hatred? After understanding finally what the monks were describing, the Dalai Lama instructed to change the way meditation was thought and to asked western practitioners to practice good will for others, knowing that eventually it would lead to our development of good will towards the self.
Some people in America have, in my humble opinion, a very accentuated disorder; they have the obsessive-compulsive behavior of classifying our differences as human beings and label them as disorders. Maybe it is because America’s social behavior is strongly influenced by the pharmaceutical approach and western medicine is dominated by the Health Care Institution, there is always a pill for your disorder, the more disorders the more pills and the more visits to the doctor…maybe? Or maybe it is because American culture is strongly influeced by the family separation by-product of our eternal state of war with others and the individualistic system created to weaken the union between people. Maybe?
I love America.