Over a long period of time, my 10-year-old daughter Malva had a hard time falling asleep at night. I don’t remember when it started, but it was a big worry.
All our children had the same bedtime routine and the younger boys fell asleep quickly, but not Malva. We tried a variety of remedies but nothing seemed to help.
“Mom, I can’t fall asleep. I can never fall asleep,” she would often say after hours of lying awake. She would sit up in bed, feeling totally desperate. And it happened every night.
The later it got, the more anxious she became. She worried that she wouldn’t be able to get up early enough the next morning to get everything ready in time for school. She has her morning routine and being able to stick to it results in her leaving for school in a calm and happy mood. But the insomnia often interfered with that.
Troubleshooting Brings Limited Results
As her mother, I was constantly trying to find ways to help Malva get a good night’s sleep.
Being aware of the need for balance, I knew that too many physical activities in the daytime as well as anything that stimulated brain activity close to bedtime make it harder to calm down and fall asleep.
So we chose to curtail certain activities; Malva often even sacrificed opportunities to play with her friends after school. We tried to aim for a much earlier bedtime. My husband and I also had gentle chats with her in an effort to figure out whether something was bothering her.
But all this had very limited results. The sleepless nights continued and we didn’t know what to do. For me, I tried not to think about how hard it was on her, or to worry about the fact that I didn’t get much time for the things I wanted to do in the evenings.
An Unexpected Solution
For many years now, my husband and I have been practising—and benefiting greatly from—an ancient Chinese meditation practice called Falun Dafa. It includes gentle exercises and a philosophy on how to improve oneself guided by the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. We have benefited in many ways in our daily lives as a couple—we have a happier relationship and are more respectful toward each other.
As a parent, it is important to be able to pass on good morals to my children. Practising Falun Dafa and following the teachings laid out in the book Zhuan Falun has helped me, for example, to be more truthful both to them and to myself. I am honest about my mistakes and I don’t let conflicts fester and grow bigger. Instead I try to see where I went wrong. I may find the reason behind my reaction to be selfishness, fear, or simply laziness. These are things that I can let go of as I cultivate according to the Falun Dafa principles.
We talk to our children about how to be a good person according to this philosophy. They have also tried the exercises and sometimes they want to do one or two of them, but it doesn’t happen very often.
This summer, when my husband and I were practising outdoors in a park with the local Falun Dafa group, Malva came and joined in. There are four standing exercises and one sitting meditation. We did them all but shortened the length so she was able to get through to the end.
Soon after we got home it was time for bed and that’s when a miracle happened: Malva fell asleep instantly. It was easy to conclude that this was because she did the exercises. The next day I asked her how she managed to fall asleep the night before.
“It went well,” she said.
“How come?” I asked.
“Oh, I know why,” she said and laughed, without elaborating.
We decided that from then on we would have a short evening meditation together before bedtime. It doesn’t have to be for long—we sit for around 10 minutes. We do the meditation the way it is done in Falun Dafa, with the hand movements and the soft, peaceful music. Afterwards Malva feels calm.
We’ve been doing this for five months now and only very rarely during that time has she had problems falling asleep.
Also, Malva has been in a better mood in the mornings since meditating regularly. Before, she was short-tempered and easily irritated in the mornings—probably from the lack of sleep. This change is of course nice for the whole family, especially at a time of day that can be stressful.
I am very happy that we found a way that helps Malva fall asleep easily and peacefully. She says herself that before bedtime she used to have a lot of ideas lingering in her mind that would keep her awake, and she would also worry about being unable to get up in the morning. But during the meditation these idle thoughts and worries disappear.
Another nice development is that lately we have had some company—Malva’s 8-year-old brother has started meditating with us.
In this way, our whole family is benefiting from Falun Dafa. I am eternally grateful.
Eva Sagerfors and her family live in Sweden.
Falun Dafa is a cultivation practice of mind and body that teaches truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance as a way to improve health and moral character and attain spiritual wisdom.
For more information about the practice, visit www.falundafa.org. All books, exercise music, resources, and instructions are available free of charge.