Monday, July 11, 2011

Sleeping with Bread

I first learned of this concept, "sleeping with bread," from my dear friend Shirley. She explained we need to hold onto what gives us life. And so the word picture of holding onto a loaf of bread is both figurative and literal. Literal because a loaf of bread became a physical reassurance to kids during the fallout of World War II. During the bombing raids, thousands of children were orphaned and suddenly left to starve. Many were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they were cared for and fed. Because of the trauma, many of these kids could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again abandoned and without food. Finally, a very wise caregiver hit upon a wonderful idea. She gave each child a small loaf of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these kids could sleep in peace, knowing for sure that "today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow."

Eventually a book was launched based on this premise. It is amazingly simple, and basically reminds you to ask yourself two questions at the end of each day: 1) For what am I most grateful? 2) For what am I least grateful? These questions help you identify moments that gave you life and moments that drained life.

Why are these two questions so powerful? For me, I need this simple exercise each day because it helps me get better at telling the truth about who I am and what I need. It helps me navigate an ever-changing world by staying focused on the good stuff and realistically filtering through the bad stuff. These questions are also excellent fodder for conversation. Ask a loved one these questions and you will learn something new; ask a stranger these questions and you will make a friend. Besides, it digs so much deeper than the standard, "How are you?" that we hurl into the air a zillion times a day. These questions are quick, simple and meaningful.

There are many ways to ask the same questions: When did I give and receive the most love today? When did I give and receive the least love today? Or...When did I feel most alive today? When did I most feel life draining out of me today? Or... What was today's high point? What was today's low point? And yet another way: When today did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, others, God and the universe? When did I have the least sense of belonging?

Here's an example, from my journal in 2007: For what am I most grateful? The sky! It was the color of the inside of an oyster shell. For what am I least grateful? It rained! We had to watch the Parade of Roses (Portland, OR) under dripping umbrellas, and we were cold. So you see, I found both joy and discomfort in the same moment. I named both, felt both, and allowed myself to be loved in the midst.

I encourage you to give this a try. Tonight, maybe after supper, get in touch with what made you happy, and give thanks. Then ask what you are not-so-grateful for. Name it, feel it, and appreciate that you are not denying it and God is with you in it. Healing will seep in, to the degree you welcome all your feelings and allow yourself to be loved in them. In this way, you can truthfully acknowledge pain and take in love. Hopefully you can fall asleep with a grateful heart and the knowledge that "tomorrow, I will eat"

Sleeping with bread. A good way to remember God speaks through sadness and pain, as well as through times of consolation.

1 comment:

  1. To answer these two questions in the moment: I would have to say I am most thankful for the rain restoring our dry land which puts my faithful dog next to my ankles for protection from the storm. Kind of how I need to draw close to God in the storms of life. What am I least thankful for in the moment? My basement is probably leaking.