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To Say (& Do) Before Going to Sleep December 4, 2020

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Art, Books, Changing Perspectives, Depression, Dharma, Faith, Gratitude, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Loss, Mantra, Mysticism, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Poetry, Suffering, Vipassana, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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“To Say Before Going to Sleep”

“I would like to sing someone to sleep,
have someone to sit by and be with.
I would like to cradle you and softly sing,
be your companion while you sleep or wake.
I would like to be the only person
in the house who knew: the night outside was cold.
And would like to listen to you
and outside to the world and to the woods.

The clocks are striking, calling to each other,
and one can see right to the edge of time.
Outside the house a strange man is afoot
and a strange dog barks, wakened from his sleep.
Beyond that there is silence.

My eyes rest upon your face wide-open;
and they hold you gently, letting you go
when something in the dark begins to move.”

– poem by Rainer Maria Rilke

We all have our bedtime rituals, traditions, and habits. Some of them started in our childhood, and we continue them because they serve us. Some are as comfortable as our favorite pair of pajamas. Then there are some that have stuck around even though they are clearly worn, out, holey, and ill-fitting – not to mention the fact that some of folks just don’t bother with things like pajamas. Perhaps mixed up in those rituals, traditions, and habits are prayers, a glass of water by the bedside, a quick fluff of the pillow, and a bedtime story.

Because who doesn’t love a good bedtime story? The only problem is that the older we get – especially if we’re a parent and/or a single adult – the less opportunity there is for someone to read us a story. On the flip side, as an adult, we can appreciate all the different forms a bedtime story can take.

Some bedtime stories rhyme like a poem. Others read like a letter. Some are just beautiful, “lyrically intense,” and create a cozy space in our hearts and mind. Some are full of adventure. Still others are full of advice and make us turn inward. My favorites are all of the above. Perhaps, that’s why I love the poems and letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, who was born today in 1875; because, they make great bedtime stories.

“Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am”

– quoted from Sonnets to Orpheus, II.29 by Rainer Maria Rilke

Even though we started with a focus on prānāyāma, the “First Friday Night Special” series started because a dear friend requested “Bed(time) Yoga” and a handful of other friends got excited about the idea. In all honesty, I was half asleep when I texted something like, “Sure. I’ll get on that.” Only to wake up hours later and wonder, “Wait? Did you want yoga to help you go to sleep or yoga to help you wake up?” I realize that to most people this sounds like a seriously dumb (and slightly rhetorical) question. You must realize, however, that I sometimes do a bed-sequence at night and a slightly different sequence (in or on the bed) in the morning. Which means, of course, that this first “Bedtime Yoga” practice – also known as “Sleepy Time Yoga” – is just the beginning.

This month’s “First Friday Night Special” is a sequence to help you release, relax, and rest. The practice will also include tips on how the poses can be adjusted to make it a morning “get out of bed” sequence. It is accessible and open to all, regardless of age, experience, or gender. And, naturally, it includes a bedtime “story” or two.

“Here, where I am surrounded by an enormous landscape, which the winds move across as they come from the seas, here I feel that there is no one anywhere who can answer for you those questions and feelings which, in their depths, have a life of their own; for even the most articulate people are unable to help, since what words point to is so very delicate, is almost unsayable. But even so, I think that you will not have to remain without a solution if you trust in Things that are like the ones my eyes are now resting upon. If you trust in Nature, in what is simple in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge. You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

– quoted from Letter #4 (dated July 16, 1903) addressed to 19-year old officer cadet Franz Xaver Kappus, published in Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

Please grab your pjs* and props* and join me today (Friday, December 4th) 7:15 PM for a 65-minute virtual yoga practice on Zoom – that you can practice on your mat or in your bed. The Meeting ID and link are in the “Class Schedules” calendar. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below or email myra(at)ajoyfulpractice.com.

Tuesday’s playlists are available on YouTube and Spotify.

(The playlists contain a different variety of musical selections and you will only need one track/album for the practice. With one exception, the tracks play without interruption. There are more options on the YouTube playlist (and that has my preference), but there is a different Sigur Rós option on the Spotify playlist.)

*NOTE: Your regular yoga clothes will work for this practice. You can use standard props if you are doing the sequence on the mat, floor, or chair; however, I would suggest just using pillows and a strap if you are practicing in bed.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. You can also purchase a drop in class or use part of a package.

“You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must”, then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse. Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose.”

– quoted from Letter #1 (dated February 17, 1903) addressed to 19-year old officer cadet Franz Xaver Kappus, published in Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke

Mark your calendars, because the first Friday of 2021 is January 1st and there will be two special offerings! See the “Class Schedules” calendar for details on how you can start the new year with 108 Sun Salutations or Yin+Meditation.

### Zzzzzzz ###


1. muckth - December 4, 2020

Good one, Myra. Stories are nice. I used to tell a story to my kids every night at bedtime….a story about cute things the did when they were very young. I wanted them to go to sleep with a good feeling about themselves. 😊 Looking forward to tomorrow, t

ajoyfulpractice - December 4, 2020

Oh, those are the best kind of stories! Also, it’s a really good reminder of why what you say and do before sleep is so important.

Looking forward to it too,

2. kpmvhm - December 5, 2020

Lovely, Myra !   Karen

ajoyfulpractice - December 5, 2020

I miss you! Hope you and your community are well! Myra

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