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14 February 2024

Overcoming Insomnia with meditation

Matthew Capps

The pain of sleeplessness

The last 2 year period has, without doubt, been the toughest, most challenging that I have faced in my life. I am now 52 years old and unfortunately, in March 2022, I started to suffer from insomnia. Worrying about not sleeping soon became a “runaway train” and within 8-10 weeks was followed by general anxiety and depression.

These 3 challenges provide the perfect ‘vicious circle’ and feed one another incessantly. My mind felt like it had been completely taken over and if I managed any sleep at all, it was a good night. There was no mental respite and anxious thoughts hit me every few seconds. I lost weight and the depression was so severe that I really doubted myself and wondered how on earth I could ever get out of this nightmare. I struggled to get NHS mental health support and was only able to get anti-depressant medication, which gave no respite, despite increasing the dose on a number of occasions.

A warm welcome at the meditation centre

My recovery finally started in September 2022 when a good friend recommended breathing meditation and suggested I find a Buddhist centre in Exeter. Luckily I googled meditation in Exeter and went along to morning meditations at Kadampa Meditation Centre Exeter. At first I felt somewhat uncomfortable in my new surroundings, despite the incredibly warm and friendly welcome from Gen Chonyi, the Resident Teacher, and other regular students. My breathing improved and I finally had some mental peace, even if it was only for a few minutes. Although I knew very little about the Kadampa Buddhist Tradition, I always felt better for visiting the Centre.

man lying awake

Learning to accept suffering

I began to visit more regularly and read a couple of the wonderful books by the Buddhist Teacher, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. The most useful guidance for me came in his book titled “How to Solve our Human Problems”. I re-read the chapter headed ‘Learning to Accept Suffering’ many times and tried to put it into practice. It is not easy - but it is undoubtedly the way forward for me. It is a daily challenge to gradually accept my suffering (for now!) and work on reducing my strongly self-grasping mind.

The Buddhist teachings (Dharma) are so clear and profound, particularly given the fact that they were originally written hundreds of years ago. The modern day books by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso make the advice even more relevant to modern day lives. No one can surely argue with the 3 main principles of wisdom, compassion and peace of mind.

No preaching - just clear explanations

It is not just the Dharma wisdom itself. What is at least as important for me has been the way Buddha’s teachings are delivered by my teacher and by teachers at other Kadampa Centres that I have visited in the UK. It is always easy to understand for everyone, even someone like me who feels like I still have my ‘L-plates’ on with my knowledge of Buddhism. The delivery is also given in a way that allows everyone to take whatever they feel helps them and there is never a feeling that you are being “preached to”. They understand and accept that we are all at different stages of learning and practice.

Matthew with KMC Exeter students

Feeling hopeful and supported by kindness

The wisdom and benefits of Buddhism have also been reinforced massively by the wonderful people I have met at all the Kadampa events I have attended. Without fail, everyone has been incredibly kind, generous and humble. Some of their stories have also been so moving and inspiring and have reinforced my belief that following Kadampa Buddhism is so helpful, particularly if you are facing one of life’s major challenges.

I am still learning and still suffering but I have hope and belief. Much of this has stemmed from that initial, fortunate piece of advice I received to visit KMC Exeter to get help for my insomnia through breathing meditation. I hope that these few words help others to start their own spiritual journey.
Matthew Capps

Matthew Capps attends KMC Exeter 

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