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In life we sometimes come up against a Great Unmoveable and that means we are in the presence of a Teacher. For me that teacher is a goddess called Insomnia. By calling her a goddess I choose to focus on her Divine aspect: the way she teaches me about my own boundaries and imperfections.

As a shamanic practitioner I have offered many shamanic healing sessions. As a shamanic teacher I teach the art of shamanic healing to students.

The question that arises in this work is:

Can we heal anything and everything?!

My own answer (evolving as I gain life experience) is that miracles occur more often than we think (often our own way of thinking blocks them from happening or blocks us from seeing them), so we need to always remain open to all possibilities.

Having said that, I have come to believe that some things are not meant to be healed in this lifetime. They are our dark but faithful companions because they always have more to teach us.

I suspect that one human lifetime does not suffice for what Insomnia is committed to teaching me.

When I speak to people about insomnia, I find that only those familiar with it understand it. Obviously the same thing goes for families dealing with autism, people with cancer, people with disabilities (that is to say differently able people) and so forth. To me insomnia is a disability. I am often tempted to fill it in on those medical forms: do you have any disabilities? (Tick! Yes, severe insomnia).

Those who have no experience of insomnia, or only very brief flirtations with this Mysterious Presence, will trot out the standard medical advice. And yes, let me reassure that I know about:
– a regular routine and one hour of unwinding time before bed
– keeping the bedroom uncluttered and free of electronic devices
– milk and honey
– reading in bed and having a lamp positioned the right way behind me
– Oh and I have not watched TV for 17 years by the way
– And I never have time to nap in the daytime either – I am at no risk of that!

If a fairy godmother granted me one wish, to be used only for myself (and not for the greater good of humanity – obviously an end to all wars is more important!) I would ask for a good night’s sleep for every day I spend on this planet.

For many people I know this is a given. They pass out the minute their head hits the pillow. Then again, I may well have abilities that others envy – but it certainly isn’t my ability to sleep!

I have come to see this as a Dance with a Dark Goddess. She literally arrives when the world goes dark, people around me snore and dream, and I try very hard not to think about my immense to do list and responsibilities for the next day.

I often ask myself: would not sleeping pose a problem if I had no children to parent, no courses to teach, no clients to see?

One day, when I hit retirement age, I will quite happily become a nocturnal creature and keep my Night Vigils. One can do wonderful shamanic work at night, when the world goes quiet and the Veil between worlds thins! Then sleep in the afternoon to catch a big wave out to the ocean, the way a surfer does. Sleep could become an adventure and the Insomniac an intrepid explorer of the mysterious lands between waking and sleep.

Being up at night could so easily be a form of community service: saying prayers, conducting souls between worlds, keeping an eye on things while most eyes around us close.

However, this is not compatible with leading a”normal” life in the day time. Sadly it will not be an option for another 16 years or so.

So then another question I ask myself is: what would happen if I really could ban Insomnia from my life? I suspect that I might get into trouble because I would push my own boundaries and get overconfident about what I can take on. For me insomnia is the dreaded red line. When She comes calling, it is time to step back and be honest about all my human failings and imperfections. I know can lose myself in things when I follow my passions and drop into deep flow. In my enthusiasm I can also underestimate how much time and energy a given project or commitment is going to require from me. These are useful teachings… the teachings of cosmic tough love.

And so the dance continues. Rather than seeing Insomnia as the Dreaded Demon I reluctantly embrace her (kicking and screaming all the way) as a Teacher of human limitations and humiliations.

So if I speak to you and I admit She has come calling again, kindly don’t bombard me with advice I did not request, or attempts “to heal me”. In every shamanic course I have ever attended I have asked others to bring a me a remedy for Insomnia. None of these things ever made the slightest difference at all.

And please don’t ask me if I meditate!

If you must,  ask a priest: do you pray?

Imelda Almqvist

London, 4 September 2016

Imelda Almqvist’s book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books on 26th August 2016.  She is based in London,UK and teaches shamanism and sacred art internationally.