Tag Archives: Meditation

Insomnia Sucks

Looks like I’m doing this again. I’ve always been a night owl, but being a night owl is a bit different than having full-blown insomnia. Going to sleep late/waking up late is fine — at least you’re sleeping — while insomnia, the total inability to sleep, is hell. That’s been my existence for the past two days and it is not enjoyable. Anyone who has suffered through it knows exactly what that special hell is like.

I had a severe bout of insomnia years ago. I think I was awake for three or four days. Memory of this time is fuzzy, luckily. I watched a YouTube video about anesthesia a few days ago and it reminded me of insomnia. Apparently some anesthetics don’t stop you from feeling pain, they stop you from remembering the pain. Isn’t that a terrifying thought? In a way memories are all that your sense of self is; if you don’t remember something it’s almost like it never happened to you. Back to insomnia. Luckily I don’t remember the first episode very well. Nothing concrete sticks in my mind about it. All I remember is some fuzzy feeling that I was miserable, terribly miserable. I recall desperately trying to nap at work during one of my two-hour long breaks. I think I did nap for a bit and felt a little better. I suppose it’s nice that insomnia wreaks havoc on your ability to form memories. Once it’s over it almost seems like it never happened.

This time isn’t nearly as bad; I only suffered through one/two day(s) without sleep. I awoke at 1 p.m. on Monday and didn’t fall asleep until 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, more than 24 hours without sleep. I slept until 3, a whopping 1.5 hours of sleep, so I could drag myself to work. Work was awful and I tried sleeping on break to no avail. After work I was tired and felt like my body was physically falling apart, but somehow I ended up staying awake until 5:30 a.m. reading The Wheel of Time. 40 hours awake with 1.5 hours of sleep. It was bad.

I slept okay last night, but still have trouble falling asleep. I have severe anxiety about insomnia which only makes the problem worse. Those vague memories from years ago terrify me, and laying in bed hoping to sleep while being terrified of not being able to sleep only makes it harder to fall asleep. It makes you feel like a dysfunctional human, a total failure of an organism. Sleep is as natural as eating food or breathing; can you imagine the insomnia equivalent of those two? Desperately wanting to eat or breathe but unable to do so. I’m thinking asthma is a good analogy for the later, and maybe a stomach virus or eating disorder as an analogy for the former. Do any other species have insomnia? Is this just a problem with being human, a problem with higher consciousness itself? It seems being as aware as we are is a downside in many ways — we’re prone to overthinking and worrying, stuck in the past while living for a vague future — and maybe this is another example of it. Do other animals have brains that are so overactive and filled with fear that they cannot sleep? Maybe they do, but I doubt it.

Sleeping is easy: you just have to stop your brain from having thoughts. Easy right? You get to think about whatever you want. No, that’s not how it works. Anyone who has casually tried meditation knows that this is harder than it seems. Have you ever read a book only to find out you read a paragraph only to have no idea what you’ve actually read because your thoughts just wandered away to whatever random shit popped into your mind? The mind seems to hate being idle, to have absolutely nothing to think about, so it just makes shit up. Meditation, having no thoughts and perfectly clearing your mind, is nearly impossible. Here, try it now. Stop reading and think about nothing for a half-minute or so. I just tried it. I looked at the wall and noticed the reflection off a picture of the TV that the kids are playing Minecraft on. One of them just said, “Come back in Kitty Cat,” and this simple input kicked off a chain of thoughts in my brain. Nothing important enough to cause insomnia or trigger bad thoughts, but enough to have a thought. It’s like thousands of needles popping the void bubble of zero thoughts over and over again. Once you have perfectly zero thoughts, one just appears out of nowhere making you start all over again searching for that perfect zero-thought void.

Yesterday in bed I realized how shitty controlling your thoughts actually is. My brain would not shut up. I thought to myself, “Okay, I just need to not have any thoughts. I’ll lay here and think of nothing. If I start to think about something, I’ll shut it down.” It worked for about five seconds. It felt like I was batting thoughts down like a person swatting flies or mosquitoes away from them. The act of not thinking was a thought in itself. It keeps your brain working trying to not work. Even when I didn’t have a thought I started to notice the strange patters of color that you see sometimes with your eyes closed. Even without a thought my brain was making up shit visually. With my eyes closed I’d notice how the colors flowed and note the shapes they took, and this became a thought. I also noticed how Talking Head’s “Burning Down the House” was continually on loop on the border between conscious and subconscious. Even without having actual thoughts things were still happening that I was hopelessly paying attention to.

This is what millions of people suffer through every damn day, and how do you even fight against this? It’s literally your brain, the thing that is YOU, not letting itself sleep. It’s doing what it evolved to do — thinking in a higher fashion that any other known creature — yet it undermines itself and the body in the process. Sometimes I hate my brain. Most of the time I hate my brain. I wish I was a goose; they seem happy enough eating grass and shitting everywhere. I doubt a goose stays awake until the sun comes up thinking about not thinking and how hard it is to do. I doubt a goose is kept awake at night thinking about it’s inevitable death, or the size of the universe, or how strange it is to exist, or asking itself what the hell is consciousness anyways?

Not to be a total miserable person here, plus people seem to read blogs to find out useful information and not hear someone whine, but maybe meditation is a solution? It’s not as easy as popping a few Xanaxs, but maybe by training your mind, letting it Git Gud at not thinking, you’ll learn to have no thoughts. And with no thoughts comes sleep. It’s like any other skill; practicing it makes you better at it. You know, that’s what I’m going to do. Maybe I can report back on it in a week or two, but probably not knowing my blogging history. Thanks for reading!

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Enlightenment Sucks (Part 1 of ?)

I’m pretty much a closeted Buddhist. I say closeted because I’m not really good at being a Buddhist; I’ve never been to a temple and I’ve never actually done anything extremely “Buddhist” whatever the fuck that means. I also have a blog where I write “fuck” alot, complain about everything, and seem to hate all sorts of shit: this also doesn’t sound very Buddhist of me. But I do have the mindset that favors introspection, curiosity, understanding, and being at peace with the world and find the “religion” (if you want to call it that) to be very appealing. Buddhism just kinda clicks with me I guess.

Buddhism doesn’t attempt to place universal blame on some entity for suffering or salvation on someone else’s back: everything seems to be solely up to you. While Christianity seems hell-bent (pun!) on saving your soul through Jesus Christ, Buddhism seems to be focused on saving your ass from yourself. To prevent you from making your own life miserable. And instead of some holy figure to guide you, you’re given the Buddha: some dude who figured out the way to be enlightened. That’s about it. He himself wasn’t actually special or anything: he just figured it out. Life is about finding enlightenment and that’s it. Because, according to Buddhism, the only problem with your life is your mindset. Life isn’t fucked up: it’s your view of life that is fucked up.

What is enlightenment exactly? Buddhism seems to define this as being “aware of how things are” and in a slightly different aspect of it “happy” or at least “okay” with how things are. Buddha didn’t become a saint or do anything magical; he was just a guy who figured shit out and was at peace. This is cool because if some random dude in India figured shit out, then so can you! I suppose at the end of the day — and maybe everyone feels this way — I have the same goal: I want to have a deep and fundamental understanding of existence and be at peace with it. Even if something shitty happens to me I want to be able to back up, view the event from an outside perspective, and be “happy” or “okay” about it in some form or another. This is what enlightenment is, at least to me. It’s kinda hard to put into words really.

The problem arises because I’m fucking terrible about being happy and thankful with the current state of the world! As much as I idealize this idea of enlightenment I’m actually awful at placing it into action: I’m an angry and pissy person and it’s hard for me to see any positives in anything that actually happens. My own personality, while liking the idea of being enlightened, seems to be diametrically opposed to it.

Here’s an example. I was out on the porch drinking just being in the moment and while not purposefully meditating I was still in the zone so to speak. It was like a form of passive meditation. There were kittens outside playing and I was simply sitting there, watching them, totally at peace with the world. Life was good. I would assume that Eastern philosophy and Buddhism would refer to this moment as “enlightenment” (especially Zen as this moment was a kinda “aha! I get it!” moment) and while I didn’t ascend to a higher plane or have any deep insights I was at peace with the world (which is the deep insight really) and totally okay and accepting of anything in it.

But apparently not. Because that’s when the neighbor lady showed up.

She came outside and started trying to call one of the kittens over. We named him “Rain” which is a pretty fucking stupid name anyways, but apparently she had named him “Cutie” which is another level of stupid. So there I was, peaceful, buzzed, and in the Buddhist-Zone when this lady starts yelling in a loving, motherly voice but with the tone of pure nails-on-chalkboard, “Cutie! Cutie! Where are you, Cutie?! Come here kittykittykittykittykittykittykittykitty !”

“It’s an older meme, sir, but it checks out.”

I about lost my shit. It wasn’t as if this slowly wore my mood down over time — no — as soon as she started screeching at the cat my blood instantly started to boil. My pulse and blood pressure notably skyrocketed. My peace, love, happiness, and understanding instantly disappeared in a fiery moment of pure hatred towards this other person. Another being in the universe having the same experiences and troubles as me? My ass. This lady was totally ruining my goddamn peace love and happiness! Didn’t she realize how utterly fucking annoying she was? Didn’t she realize that you can’t force a cat to love you? Didn’t she understand that the kittens were playing and didn’t give a fuck about anything she was screeching about?

(Insight Note: You can’t force a cat to love you. They’re passive beings that love doing their own thing. The kittens had more love for me passively sitting there and not bothering them than they did for the overly aggressive lady that wanted the kittens to love her. Cats have to love you on their own terms. I put myself out there to be loved by the kittens, but at the end of the day I try to leave them alone until they’re accepting of me. This is also true of people. WOAH. 3deep5u.)

Obviously this wasn’t a very cash-money Buddhist way of feeling, and I almost feel bad about these intrusive thoughts. Almost. The thing about meditation is it makes me happy and when this happiness is interrupted I get angry, usually way too angry for the situation. It’s really frustrating because I’m obviously not at the “peace, love, and acceptance” level where I can deal with incidents like these. I’m still horribly flawed even if I do have glimpses of enlightenment and peace and this makes things even more frustrating.

The Buddha when I lost my peace thanks to Neighbor Lady.

And it’s times like that where I think I’m not cut out to be enlightened or at peace in life. I’m just not worthy of it. Im kinda a jackass. I talk shit about some of my coworkers and while my supervisor is a very peaceful, loving, and “everyone has their own story and struggle and you shouldn’t judge them” type of person, I can’t seem to not shit all over people for doing the smallest thing wrong. I understand what she’s getting at, but can’t convince myself to feel that way even if I do think that way. I’m a goddamn dirtbag! While on the surface I understand that people have their own struggles and so on, I still can’t put that into practice and, ya know, be a good person.

In fact I’ve almost started embracing my dickishness. When I’m at the store I openly cuss in front of children. I scowl as people that stand in my way. I’m petty and bitter and love saying “I told you so” when I’m proven right. I don’t go out of my way to make people miserable (I’m not “Karen” asking to talk to your manager) but if I’m pissed-off it’s hard to hide it. I’m all for self-improvement and think everyone should try to fix their flaws, but at the same time I think everyone needs to be themselves, which makes zero sense really. It pisses me off when I see Facebook posts saying something like “If you can’t handle me at my worst you don’t deserve me at my best.” It sounds like justification for being a terrible person. I want to not be a terrible person but I also want to accept myself as-is, even if I apparently am kinda a dick. It’s confusing and contradictory.

As much as I’m into the Buddhist theory and mindset, I’m apparently fucking terrible at putting it into practice. While I like the idea of enlightenment, I realize that I’m not the type of person to actually be enlightened. Something is always pissing me off (which is nice when you have a blog called Everything Sucks I guess) and even if I had an amazing day, I’ll still be upset by something. (“I won the lottery? Well now I’ll have to pay someone to do my taxes for me next year. Fuck.”) It’s a constant feeling of I’m not good enough and I’ll never be good enough in terms of my own peace, happiness, and well-being. Maybe I’m just not cut out to be an enlightened person.