Amanuensis. Acrylic on canvas, 10 x 10 inches, 2015 by Sarah Atlee Sometimes I can't sleep.
Sometimes my mind wakes up before my body is ready and I have to try to convince it to settle down and go back to sleep. My mind, rebellious, goes to the Bad Thoughts. I think of every time I've ever been angry, hurt, or humiliated. I rehash the memories in detail, resulting in more feelings of anger, hurt, and humiliation, and so on until the birds chirp nyah nyah na-nyah nyah and I give in and go make coffee.
This pattern of thinking is sometimes called rumination. The mind goes round and round, thinking that if it just thinks hard enough, it can stop thinking about a thing. Of course, it doesn't work like that.
Practicing mindfulness is a great way to break this destructive pattern. In The Mindful Way through Depression, the authors remind us that "There is an alternative strategy for handling the negative moods, memories, and thinking patterns in the present moment, as they arise. ... It is called awareness." (If you'd like to learn more, I highly recommend this book.)
Mindfulness and meditation are things you practice, however, meaning that no one does them perfectly right out of the gate. I've found a tool that helps me through these wakeful Bad Thought times.
I first heard Al Gromer Khan's album Space Hotel years ago, by accident at a friend's house. It's been a consistent favorite of mine for over 15 years. It's the perfect blend of soothing, mysterious, colorful, and calm. Listening to these beautiful sounds provides my mind with a focal point, someplace to return while letting the Bad Thoughts pass away like clouds. A sample:
Khan gave me Amanuensis.
The image you see above floated into my consciousness while meditating on Space Hotel. I saw this spongy white rectangle, like a tofu cake, with yellow arcs passing through it. Layered, repeating passages put me in mind of a cosmic game of telephone, hence the title Amanuensis - one who copies.
I recently learned of experimental cellist Zoe Keating's solo career. I didn't realize I'd been listening to her play with Rasputina for many years. Her album Into The Trees has become another touchstone of Good Sounds to battle the Bad Thoughts. Listen for yourself: