“La nuit porte conseil.”
A French proverbial suggestion that the night (that you spend asleep) will bring much-needed advice the next morning, la nuit porte conseil literally translates to say ‘the night is the door to advice’.
While watching the documentary film The Gardener (2018), the gardener himself Frank Higginson Cabot spoke to this French saying when waiting to understand what the land could and would most fully be with regards to gardening. In his case, Cabot spoke to the patience he needed to have until the land shared its wisdom with him, guiding him to decisions that would forever change the landscape surrounding his home in La Malbaie, Quebec.
Our sleep, when we find deep, full nights of slumber, works what seems to be magically discoveries, when in reality, certain parts of our minds are resting and other parts repairing, bringing information known unconsciously, seen and/or learned years ago, months, even days ago back into recollection making what seems to be disparate connections, only for us to snap our fingers in the morning upon waking paired with the utterance of Aha!
However, the key is a full (7-9 hours) night’s sleep.
Over the past four months, I have not been sleeping well for reasons outside of my control due to caring for my elderly pup which I was grateful to be able to provide and most recently, working my way through Covid, but in just the past two nights, the quality sleep I had been missing has begun to return. My sleep has been deeper, longer (8-10 hours) and as wonderfully restful as it was leading up to the last four months.
Thankfully, the past four months required me to be present on projects, but not create or plan them as they had already been completed – the book, already written; the last of the customizations in Le Papillon, already planned; the life decision to begin a new chapter, already made and announced. And I can say with assurance and confidence, it was due to the opportunity to sleep deeply that all of these significant decisions and creative ideas came to my conscious mind.
Why, you may be wondering, do we need a full 8 hours of sleep at night? After all, many people live on caffeine after only 4-5 hours of sleep and seem to be working fine. The truth is, a vital component to not only a healthier life, but a more deeply lived and fully awake life is missed when we avoid the full night’s rest.
Professor and doctor of psychology at Cornell, James B. Mass (his book Power Sleep shares how to improve your mental and physical well-being) writes, “Besides boosting alertness, sleep–particularly rapid eye movement (REM) sleep–is a way for the brain to store new information into long-term memory. Sleep spindles–one- to two-second bursts of brain waves that rapidly wax and wane at strong frequencies, so-called for the spike image they form on an EEG reading–occur during REM sleep. The REM phase usually takes place toward the end of the night, between the sixth and eighth hours of sleep, when people are most likely to dream.“
And even more importantly, it isn’t until we reach REM sleep, that “the brain busily replenishes neurotransmitters that organize neural networks essential for remembering, learning, performance and problem solving.”
Ahhhhh, okay. So not only will problem-solving not actually begin to occur until we reach our REM sleep, but neither will the repairing of our brain. All the more evidence to guard our sleep fiercely. (I highly recommend reading the full article from the American Psychological Association as it shares examples of instances when we learn skills while we are conscious, yet are unable to see the results we seek, largely due to not getting enough sleep in between the new skill introduced and the attempts to apply the lesson.)
From tapping into your creativity in whatever medium you pursue; coming up with new and different ideas for a project or lesson or lecture; understanding the behavior and actions of the world around you so that you don’t react, but rather respond constructively; finally figuring out what to do with all of the ‘dots’ gathered up in your life as Steve Jobs calls them and connecting them, our sleep, a good night’s sleep, helps us achieve what prior to sleeping seemed opaque and unknown regarding how to proceed.
But . . .
Don’t forget to feed your mind with the tools and information for it to do its job well.
Two weeks ago, I shared a post about The Need to Let Go of Distraction, sharing as part of the sources of distraction, television as well as aspects of life that provoke unhelpful dreams that either create sleeplessness or unnecessary worry.
As we learned above, our minds are receptacles of all that we see, hear, witness, read, touch, taste, and also what we let ourselves think consciously. If what we feed it is junk or pain or undermining of our potential, our minds won’t have the tools to construct something amazing.
A mechanic if not properly trained can no more repair a Rolls Royce, let alone a broken down Mazda when given the opportunity and left to their own devices (the mechanic’s, not the car 😉) because the necessary knowledge was never acquired. I do find Steve Jobs’ quote again to be helpful: While we cannot connect the dots moving forward, the only hope we have for connecting them into something wonderful looking back is if they are quality dots in the first place.
Some of the most surprising and delightful ahas happen with information gained from reading a particular book on a topic I wanted to learn more about and understand more clearly, then seeing a local exhibit or listening to a description of the context of a composition and how it was created whilst drawing waaaaay back into my youth or young adult years an experience I had thought I had completely forgot and certainly didn’t think would come into play as beneficial for a life decision in my 40s.
Our life builds upon itself. What are you building? What are you constructing? Choose to feed yourself substantially. It need not be strenuous, simply follow your curiosity.
I remember after having taught To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee for a handful of years, coming to be most curious about the author and then attending a book signing by an author who wrote an unofficial biography about her life. Listening to the author was not necessarily inspiring as I felt uneasy about his willingness to write something so brazen (even though most has proven to be true) without the living author’s (at the time) permission. However, it lead me to become even more curious about Nelle Harper Lee, and I began exploring more on my own what I could, what she shared willingly. I have taken what I have learned about her and began to see the characters in the original novel with new eyes and taught the novel with more context in the following years.
A different, yet similar example is how we construct our gardens. As Frank Cabot did, he listened, he observed, but what he also did was apply his life experience having traveled far and wide – to Japan, to the Himalayas, throughout Europe – and applying what was possible beyond his plot of land in Quebec, finding similarities in climate and soil, had vast potential ideas due to his explorations throughout his travels. Surely, we cannot keep all of the information gained on such awe-inspiring journeys at the forefront of our minds, but such priceless information is still there, waiting to be tickled while we sleep and let our minds reach the REM state.
With nights of full sleep returning, I wake up rested and eyes wide with eagerness to start the day and explore the potential for tomorrow’s projects. Small problems and worries tend to evaporate by morning’s dawn as my mind filters through the trivial and the real (most of it trivial) and my hope and confidence is stronger for whatever may unfold throughout the day.
Remember to let la nuit porte conseil, and witness your everydays elevate and your life simultaneously deepen in its quality experienced.
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