Recently, I’ve been reading Roshi Joan Halifax’s “Standing at the Edge.” The premise being that when we recognize the Edge States in our lives, we can stand on the threshold of change and see a landscape abundant with wisdom, tenderness and basic human kindness – but at the same time, seeing a desolate terrain of violence, failure and futility.
The Edge States are: altruism; empathy; integrity; respect; and engagement. You can lose your footing with any of these and go over the edge. The destructive side of the Edge States. But as Thich Nhat Hanh has said, “no mud, no lotus.” You sometimes have to take the risk of going over the edge in order to achieve psychological transformation. Our suffering can feed our understanding and be one of the great resources of our wisdom and compassion.
I love Roshi Joan’s analogy of the Edge States to a red-rock mesa. It’s top is solid and gives us a vast view, but at the rim is a sheer drop-off. The edge is an exposed place where a lapse in concentration can cause us to loose our footing. We have to work the edge, expand its boundaries and find the gift of balance. It’s at the edge where we can discover courage and freedom. The Edge States are all about how we see things, a fresh way of viewing and interpreting our experiences of those States – and their shadow sides. To help us better understand when we are standing on the edge – and when we are in danger of going over…
A long way back, I blogged about how I wasn’t sleeping well. Since the start of the pandemic, my sleeping schedule has dramatically changed. I go to bed much earlier than I used to – and I’m often up by 4:30 am. On the whole, it’s worked for me – but it can be challenging because I can’t seem to break the cycle when I need to stay up for an activity that lasts beyond 9 pm.
Most people would say they are someone who gets insufficient sleep – either in duration or that they have an abnormal pattern. I’ve spent a good deal of my adult life that way myself. It’s a bummer.
Recently, I read the wonderful book by a neuroscientist, Matthew Walker, entitled “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.” My wife had been handing out copies to friends for over a year – and I finally caved to see what the hubbub was about. Subconsciously, I think I was avoiding reading it because it illuminates just how important sleep is.
The book is chock full of fascinating revelations. Here’s the description of it from the Amazon page selling the book:
“Sleep is one of the most important but least understood aspects of our life, wellness, and longevity. Until very recently, science had no answer to the question of why we sleep, or what good it served, or why we suffer such devastating health consequences when we don’t sleep. Compared to the other basic drives in life—eating, drinking, and reproducing—the purpose of sleep remained elusive.
An explosion of scientific discoveries in the last twenty years has shed new light on this fundamental aspect of our lives. Now, preeminent neuroscientist and sleep expert Matthew Walker gives us a new understanding of the vital importance of sleep and dreaming. Within the brain, sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorize, and make logical decisions. It recalibrates our emotions, restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism, and regulates our appetite. Dreaming mollifies painful memories and creates a virtual reality space in which the brain melds past and present knowledge to inspire creativity.
Walker answers important questions about sleep: how do caffeine and alcohol affect sleep? What really happens during REM sleep? Why do our sleep patterns change across a lifetime? How do common sleep aids affect us and can they do long-term damage? Charting cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, and synthesizing decades of research and clinical practice, Walker explains how we can harness sleep to improve learning, mood, and energy levels; regulate hormones; prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; slow the effects of aging; increase longevity; enhance the education and lifespan of our children, and boost the efficiency, success, and productivity of our businesses.”
I just loved this two-part Brene Brown podcast with Susan Cain about how bittersweetness can be so wonderful. Susan is the author of “Quiet,” which informed us all about the power of introverts. Now she has penned “Bittersweet” – and how longing and sorrow can make us whole.
The essence of the concept is that we are creatures who can transform pain into beauty. From the podcasts, it seems like there are oodles of quotes in the book that you might be hanging on the wall above your desk. Like “Creativity has the power to look pain in the eye and turn it into something better.”
Note that Susan is not advocating for depression. That’s not a good thing. Whereas melancholy and bittersweetness are not all that different, depression clearly is different and something to be concerned about…