Diving into the pool at 6 a.m. in order to work out with my swim buddies means I have to go to bed on time and sleep through the night five nights a week. Otherwise the next day will not be pretty. This sometimes puts pressure on being able to fall asleep at a reasonable time and stay asleep.

But sometimes I don’t fall asleep when I need to. Sometimes I’m so consumed with thinking about this or that…

In my head

…that I am not in my body. So much of me is in my head that I’m not present anymore. I’m “gone.”

To fall asleep and leave my body for the night, I have to first come fully into my body.

This is an image of being in the body. The stick figure is the body. The circle represents the non-physical self: the spirit, the self, one’s energy, focus, presence of mind. When spirit and body are in the same place, we’re at ease. That’s when we can fall asleep if we’re tired.

When I’m deeply into my head, as in the first graphic above, I have to do something to get back into my body in order to fall asleep: pushups, deep breathing, and sex all work because I have to be in my body to do them. Once I’m solidly in my body, I’m ready to sleep. Even though it might take five to twenty minutes, it beats churning or fretting for two hours and it brings me fully down into my body, a prerequisite for sleep.

What are the circles about?

The circles come from the diagram of the Range of Mindfulness.

From Presence to Absence

This diagram represents the places we go during the day, relative to our bodies. The 1st Circle is calm, control, groundedness, centeredness, peace, and safety. The 5th Circle is panic. We can be found somewhere on that trajectory at all times. Yearning to be asleep is at least the 3rd Circle—ahead of your body, wanting to be somewhere you’re not.

When you want to go to sleep, if you’re in the 3rd or 4th Circle, focus on something physical and allow yourself to drop back into your body.

Sweet dreams.


  • M. Ellen Dash

    Author, Speaker, Founder of Miracle Swimming, M.S. Ed.

    Miracle Swimming

    Founder of Miracle Swimming, Dash first defined mindfulness for her adult swimming students in a visual way in 1983. The 5 Circles Spectrum of Mindfulness provides an infallible way to make learning inevitable and guaranteed for most people. Dash demonstrates the imperative use of mindfulness to be successful overcoming fear, and specifically, learning to swim as an afraid-in-water adult. Her system is outlined at 5CirclesTeachingMethod.comMiracleSwimming.com, MelonDash.com, and in her first posts at ThriveGlobal.com. Dash is author of Conquer Your Fear of Water (2006), Conquer Your Fear of the Triathlon Swim, producer of The Miracle Swimmer DVD, and host of The Learn to Swim Show, 13 podcasts at MiracleSwimming.com. She has spoken at national and international meetings to turn the ship around for adults who are afraid in water who have little chance of learning to swim in traditional swim classes. Nearly six thousand adults have graduated from her program since 1983.