The Unswung Bat

Friday, April 28, 2006
How to Fall Asleep

Tell yourself, whatever you do, not to move. There's a little clock in your head, and your problem is, it's still ticking. Like one of those self-winding watches, every time you budge, to turn or rearrange your sheets, it resets. Shuffle, click. Try to keep that in mind. You will find reasons to move. You might feel hungry the minute you lie down, and decide to ignore your appetite, try to get to sleep anyway, only to hear your stomach growling louder, agitating against this tiny famine and refusing to let you sleep till you eat something. Unless this happens very regularly, it's hard to plan for, and will often force you out of bed. Afterwards, you might have left the kitchen sink dripping, and think you'll be kept awake all night by the gentle tapping. God forbid a car alarm should—
       —Go off! Disrupting your whole patterned being, it puts a huge dent in the flow of your night. Those sirens sounding outside put you in a frenzy, even though you keep still: your mind clenches into a red ball of surprise, your body tells itself to react and not to, to be angry and not to. You practically have to move, if only to swat at your pillow till you cool down. But moving will fracture the unity around you. You move, and instead of sitting stock still, everything in your room shifts in relation to everything else, exploding from a flat picture into a bristle of separate shapes and corellated vectors. That isn't what you want. That's day and movement. Ideally, everything blurs together as night mills on. So don't pay attention to any single thing. This can be very hard. Is your furnace noisy? Do your pipes hiss? Does your lover, shamelessly asleep, breathe loudly next to you? Think of these as noises without causes or names, and so not really noises: features of your ears, purely sensory, not sonic, phenomena; artifacts of perception. Extend this. Your window glowers with star light, probably, or street light, or moon light. Again, this is a scene painted on the inner surface of your corneas. Nothing is beyond it, nothing is even in it. It's one thing, in you. There are neither streetlights, nor heavenly bodies, nor anything else that creates that light—certainly not a dim market square, paved in heavy cobbles thinly lined with spiky grass, with hedges of banana crates and chipped empty tables, a bench or two on the sides, and bookstores and butchershops facing in. That doesn't exist. In a reversal of the normal relationship between human beings and the universe, the world is because you see it. You are the god of your own unravelling. And your fallen angel is an itch between your shoulderblades, agitating, threatening to pry apart the harmonious aggregate you're balling together. The traitor, needling you in the trough of your spine, insists on special recognition, on treatment as a unique circumstance, requiring specific action, not caring that your design demands that everything settle into one block with no gaps. If you can think your way around the itch, good. But make sure the cure is not worse than the disease. Kundalini yoga may overcome the physical sensation, but risks focusing your mind when you need it to diffuse and bleed blackly into watery night. Therefore, Kundalini yoga is counterindicated, as are timed breathing, visualization techniques, and any mental game or recitation. Passivity, of mind and body, is crucial. Don't even react when the mattress seem to knurl your back or prod against your joints, or when your nostrils and mouth are dry. Move like a skeleton: only in the feathery moss between your ribs, and the roots knobbing through your pelvis or displacing the occasional vertebra. Some myths say the world grew from the body of a dead giant. Others say it's somebody's dream. Combine these. Combine whatever you can. When you stop sorting everything into different corners, and tune nothing out but hear nothing either, and feel no comfort or discomfort, and neglect the senses of time and place, then, unmoved, these things settle on you, a weight of thought-matter, a hazy solid with no edges or margins, lacking internal division, having only the recognizable quality of weight, multiplying, forcing you down, contributing to your stillness, pressing your mind out of its daily shapes, holding your body in a pose of exhaustion, until the space between your being and this weight is so small that it almost disappears, until your refusal to distinguish, your absorbing the world into yourself, so that all you suffer or do takes place within you, ends finally with you smothered by the undifferentiated mass you have taken in, with you joining that unthing in your unspace, swallowing yourself down till there are no legs or arms or chest or shoulders, nothing but head or mind, or the smallest piece of you that exists, and that held between your own teeth.



original site + text contents ©2004 twenty oh four by me called it

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