What time do you go to sleep? Much later than you want to, I'm sure- a recent poll suggests the average Brit clocks out around 10:45pm and still doesn't manage to get a decent night's kip. Many factors affect this. What we're told to basically cordon off from our bedroom for a cherub's slumber, is trespassing my bedsheets: my laptop. And my phone. I have two pillows with two functions. One is for my head and the other is a surrogate hiding place for my digitals. The plumpness of my pillow masquerades all the wrong I am doing. I sleep with technology.
My Google Chrome has a permanent conga line of dormant tabs open for potential reads, until some of them disappear past the arrow of no return and I eventually 'x' them out of existence. This barrage of information, lying next to me, puts the mind in overdrive.
Here's some brain trivia for you: we have a prodigious 70,000 thoughts a day. At first I thought (perpetuating the problem here) it was a spurious estimation. I then started counting the different thoughts as they came and went one day to the point where my brain was like a washing machine in spin mode.
Of course there's the motoring, action thoughts we have: get up, use legs, bend knees, sit down again, too tired. With the way we pace day to day, the number of thoughts swells.
On a particularly water soaked London day, I was in a taxi with the two children I used to babysit on the way home from school, transfixed on the outside grey, unconscious to their nagging cacophony. My head, fat with thought, felt hard and dense until an outside contributor added to the surge of questions, pushing against my brain space.
"Georgie, do you ever stop thinking?" spewed one of the little lovies. Now credit must be given here- children have unimpeachable perception, borne out of spontaneity and lack of experience.
A little taken by how clued in she was, I asked if I looked visibly deep thought. To which she said: "You just look like you're always thinking." Of course she bounced into unaffected play again while my thought continued.
I was craving a small slice of the day for productive mental chatter, so I installed a guided meditation app.
It comes with levels, stages and a library of cross-referenced themes. It's all very school of the mind- "Well done you've passed the first level!" except my teacher is a liquid gold voice- I slightly fancy him. Her anyone?
While being gently ordered to focus on the body and acknowledge how it felt, my mind reviewed the day's happenings. Jumping from one scene to another, leaping to tomorrow, projecting what could be, what will be and what has been. Even though my body was in repose, my mind was walking about, restless with energy like a fidgety child who sits crossed legged for ten seconds, then puts their legs behind their ears and then puts their arms in trappable places and roly poly's out of it ninja style.
I'm told it's OK for thoughts to come and ago- but I doubt planning a whole week's itinerary is acceptable. I'm also told that the mind is like a clear blue sky. Mine isn't though. Mine has Tic-Tac-Toe boards of crisscrossing airplane trails. As the vapour fades on one thought, another galvanising whoosh of white smoked pondering follows.
My mind has not achieved stasis in the first five sessions. On the sixth, I really focus on my breath. The rise and fall, the in and out and the openness of my chest. I don't feel the weight of my arms, legs or middle area- but my watermelon-weighted head suddenly sees a Narnia white void. Excuse the lemon-faced cringe on this one but it was so good.
All my thoughts are suspended in a transcendental blip, "HA! I've got you now blank space, you're mine!" And then it's gone. Back to twitchy ripples of none focused thoughts. It happened though, the thoughtless mind came and went but it still dropped by.
I'm on level two now and the session is upped from ten to 15 minutes. I feel guilty if I miss a day, mentally soothed when I am consistent. It doesn't impede the day. If anything, it's a little 'me' time and a chance to evaporate the preceding strains. Those moments of white are happening more and more, but sometimes my head is full and doesn't let it happen, still I'm told this is normal.
The laptop and phone haven't left the bedroom yet. I can't help a bedtime read- it's not my fault newspapers and magazines get to The Middle East a day late if at all, and I have to commit to online subscriptions. Though the laptop and phone do have a place in the closet now and I have a sprawling new found space to make like a starfish and not worry about kicking valuables onto hardwood flooring.