Rubin Naiman: Falling in Love with Sleep

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August 20, 2013

Rubin Naiman: Falling in Love with Sleep

Rubin Naiman August 20, 2013

Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Rubin Naiman, an internationally recognized leader in integrative sleep and dream medicine. Dr. Naiman serves as the sleep specialist at the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine, directed by Dr. Andrew Weil. With Sounds True, he has produced the audio programs Healthy Sleep (with Dr. Weil) and The Yoga of Sleep, as well as the online course Ask the Sleep Doctor. In this rebroadcast of one of the most popular Insights at the Edge interviews, Tami speaks with Dr. Naiman about how hyperarousal interferes with healthy sleep, the power of weaning ourselves off the alarm clock, and how we can embrace the deeper dimensions of sleep and dreams. (58 minutes)

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Rubin Naiman, PhD, is an internationally recognized leader in integrative sleep and dream medicine. He is director of Circadian Health Associates, an organization that provides information, goods and services in support of sleep health. Dr. Naiman is the sleep specialist and clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine, directed by Dr. Andrew Weil. He also serves as Director of the Sleep and Dream Advisory Board for Sleep Studio. For more than a decade, Dr. Naiman served as the sleep and dream specialist at Canyon Ranch Health Resort in Tucson, where he founded the first formal sleep center at a spa. Subsequently, he served as director of sleep programs for Miraval Resort. Dr. Naiman is the author of a number of groundbreaking works on sleep, including Healing Night, Healthy Sleep (with Andrew Weil), The Yoga of Sleep, and To Sleep ToNight, as well as a number of professional book chapters and articles. He also blogs about sleep and dreams for The Huffington Post and Psychology Today.

Author photo © Rubin Naiman


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Founded Sounds True in 1985 as a multimedia publishing house with a mission to disseminate spiritual wisdom. She hosts a popular weekly podcast called Insights at the Edge, where she has interviewed many of today's leading teachers. Tami lives with her wife, Julie M. Kramer, and their two spoodles, Rasberry and Bula, in Boulder, Colorado.

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Rubin Naiman: Falling in Love with Sleep

Tami Simon speaks with Dr. Rubin Naiman, an internationally recognized leader in integrative sleep and dream medicine. Dr. Naiman serves as the sleep specialist at the University of Arizona’s Center for Integrative Medicine, directed by Dr. Andrew Weil. With Sounds True, he has produced the audio programs Healthy Sleep (with Dr. Weil) and The Yoga of Sleep, as well as the online course Ask the Sleep Doctor. In this rebroadcast of one of the most popular Insights at the Edge interviews, Tami speaks with Dr. Naiman about how hyperarousal interferes with healthy sleep, the power of weaning ourselves off the alarm clock, and how we can embrace the deeper dimensions of sleep and dreams. (58 minutes)

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What do I do when a loved one is suffering? How do I have empathy if I’m getting a divorce or losing my job? If my family treats me unfairly? Or if I’m emotionally overwhelmed or in chronic pain?

If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, I’ve written The Genius of Empathy for you. It also includes a beautiful foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

In the book, I present empathy as a healing force that helps you overcome obstacles in your life with dignity, grace, and power. As a psychiatrist and empath, I draw from my insights and present techniques from my own life and from the healing journeys of my clients, students, and readers. As I say in the book, “Empathy softens the struggle, quiets the unkind voices, and lets you befriend yourself again.”

Empathy doesn’t mean being “on call” 24 hours a day for those in need. Empaths can often wear an invisible sign that says, “I can help you.” However, if you want to heal yourself, have better relationships, and contribute to healing our tumultuous world, you must learn how to set healthy boundaries and observe, not absorb, the energy of others.

To start taking a more proactive role in how much empathy you give others at any one time, I suggest that you keep in mind the following “rights.” They will help you maintain a healthy mindset and prevent or lessen any empathy overwhelm that might arise:

  • I have the right to say a loving, positive “no” or “no, thank-you.”
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Practice: Take a Sound Break to Repair Yourself

Plan periods of quiet to recover from our noisy, fast-paced world. This helps calm your nervous system and your mind, an act of self-empathy.

It’s rejuvenating to schedule at least five minutes of quiet or, even better, complete silence for an hour or more where no one can intrude. As I do, hang a Do Not Disturb sign on your office or bedroom door. During this reset period, you’ve officially escaped from the world. You’re free of demands and noxious sounds. You may also get noise canceling earbuds to block out noise.

If too much quiet is unsettling, go for a walk in a local park or a peaceful neighborhood to decompress from excessive sound stimulation. Simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other, which is called mindful walking. Nothing to do. Nothing to be. Move slowly and refrain from talking. If thoughts come, keep refocusing on your breath, each inhalation and exhalation. Just letting life settle will regenerate your body and empathic heart.

Embracing your empathy does require courage. It can feel scary. If you’re ready to discover its healing power, I would be honored to be your guide to helping you in overcoming your fears and obstacles, and enhancing this essential skill for long-term change.

Though many of us have never met, I feel connected to you. Connection is what fuels life. While empathy is what allows you to find peace. With both, we can make sense of this world together.

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Listen to the first 15 minutes of this audio program:

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Somatic Abolitionism is a living, embodied anti-racist practice, a form of culture building, and a way of being in the world. In an immersive audio workshop, Resmaa Menakem presents ten sessions of insights and body-based practices to help listeners liberate themselves—and all of us—from racialized trauma and the strictures of white-body supremacy.

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Most of us have been taught that empathy is wholly positive and should be fostered in children and revered in adults. This idea is partly correct. The absence of empathy is clearly problematic. When the ability to sense or care about others’ feelings or pain is missing, we edge into sociopathy. However, empathy is experiencing another person’s pain as our own. In small doses and for short periods, it allows us a deeper understanding of our fellow beings. But it can also make it harder to help, because the pain is spread around, not diminished. If your friend breaks their leg and you experience genuine empathy, it might feel like your leg is broken too. This makes it harder for you to function and definitely harder for you to help them.

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Many people feel helpless in the face of the magnitude of suffering in the world today. It can result in what appears to be apathy at first but is actually empathic distress, which means “hurting for others while feeling unable to help.” An op-ed in the New York Times titled “That Numbness You’re Feeling? There’s a Word for It” described this phenomenon and cited some of the research I used to create the Sounds True audio course Shining Bright Without Burning Out: Spiritual Tools for Creating Healthy Energetic Boundaries in an Overconnected World.

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Being unable to adjust between compassion and empathy is a big reason many people feel drained and overwhelmed. Research about the critical difference between compassion and empathy aligns with many spiritual concepts of energetic boundaries. It also challenges some. One of the ways we inadvertently make things difficult for ourselves is when we believe that to be good, kind, “spiritual” people, we must always be wide open. We must be at one with the universe, be open to everyone, and say yes to everything. There is a paradox here. We are all one on some level, but we need to embrace the ability to differentiate ourselves from others at times to steward our own health.

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Mara Bishop

Mara Bishop is a shamanic practitioner, intuitive consultant, teacher, author, and artist. In private practice, she uses her Personal Evolution Counseling™ method to provide an integrated approach to spiritual healing, personal growth, and emotional well-being. Her books Shamanism for Every Day: 365 Journeys and Inner Divinity: Crafting Your Life with Sacred Intelligence are resource guides for spiritual practice. She resides in Durham, North Carolina. For more, visit wholespirit.com.


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