A better night's sleep, or a better night's rest?
When it comes to catching the proverbial 'eight hours,' what are we really looking for?
The Bible tells about an evening on a boat when Jesus slept – in the middle of a big storm. After his disciples woke him up, concerned about the storm and incredulous at his peace of mind, Jesus got up and stilled the storm and the waves of the sea as well (see Mark 4:37-41).
Today's storms take different forms from the ones the disciples faced in that boat. But nights may not feel all that different to the estimated 70 million Americans who, according to the National Institutes of Health, struggle with sleep disorders or chronic sleep loss. Products such as mood music, body lotions, room scents, and food containing sleep-inducing ingredients offer consumers the hope of a better night's sleep. And sales of prescription sleep medications reached $3.6 billion last year, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on advertising (USA Today, March 21).
When it comes to catching the proverbial "eight hours," what are we really looking for? A better night's sleep? Or a better night's rest? Compare the two, and you'll see something important: Sleep is largely an unconscious state in which little thought or voluntary activity takes place. Rest indicates a peace of mind and mental calm that's fully achievable in wakefulness.
While they may be able to induce a less conscious state, none of today's medications offer the tranquility and refreshment of mental rest, peace of mind, and release from anxiety. For this, one has to move toward a renewal not so much about the brain and body as about spiritual dominion over thoughts of fear, pain, poverty, and discord.
Mary Baker Eddy's discovery of Christian Science revealed that the same conscious awareness of God's all-good power that enabled Jesus to heal – and to calm the literal and figurative storms of life – is available to us. This awareness is the Christ, Truth, which Jesus embodied beyond measure. According to her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "The consciousness of Truth rests us more than hours of repose in unconsciousness" (p. 218).
Rather than fixate on the number of hours of sleep we're supposed to be getting, we can begin to define a good night's rest in terms of how much we've adopted this Christ consciousness, which brings the assurance that God has made us in His perfect likeness. What God has promised to one, He has promised to all, and this includes health and peace of mind. The healthy state that God gives does not, cannot, include weariness and exhaustion.
Christian Science empowers everyone today, tonight, and every night to find rest through the prayer that entertains Christly thoughts of God's care for all creation. The Apostle Paul described this prayer when he told the Romans, "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (12:2). That describes the Christ at work in individual consciousness, the mental activity that can't help bringing more of the restful, balanced sleeping and waking that so many are searching for.
Because these ideas transform people in different ways, there's no need to compare one's sleeping schedule with another's. Everyone who seeks rest in "the consciousness of Truth" can expect to have all they need for the good of themselves and others. And it shouldn't be surprising to find this spiritual renewal enabling us to do more and more without feeling overtaxed. Mrs. Eddy found that "the human mind, imbued with this spiritual understanding, becomes more elastic, is capable of greater endurance, escapes somewhat from itself, and requires less repose" (Science and Health, p. 128).
It's natural to hunger for more rest. But we'll find it in greater quality and consistency through conscious connection with the divine Mind, rather than in the disconnection of unconsciousness. And the one restful Mind of us all promotes something that's sorely needed in the world today: spiritual peace.
Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel.