Q: An article in an American woman’s magazine says that as many as fifty million Americans suffer from so-called insomnia. After the common cold and headache, this disease ranks as number three for visits to the doctor. Would you comment?
Osho: Insomnia is not a disease. Insomnia is a certain way of life.
Man is made by nature to work hard for at least eight hours. Unless he works hard for eight hours he does not earn the right to have a deep sleep. And as a society grows richer, people are not working hard. There is no need; others can work for them. The whole day they are doing small things which they enjoy doing, but it is not hard work like that of a stonecutter or a woodcutter. The body is made so that after eight hours of hard work it naturally needs to fall into sleep to rejuvenate its energy. But it seems difficult…you have earned enough money and still you are chopping wood for eight hours? Then for what have you earned all that money? It seems stupid. You could have chopped wood even without becoming a millionaire.
So if fifty million people in America are suffering from insomnia, that simply means these are the people who are not earning the right to sleep. They are not working to create the situation in which sleep happens. You cannot find fifty million people in a poor country…you cannot find five people.
It has been known for centuries that beggars sleep better than emperors. Laborers, manual laborers sleep better than intellectuals. The poor sleep better than the rich, because they have to work hard to earn their bread and butter, but side by side they are also earning the right to have a beautiful sleep.
Insomnia is not a disease, it is the richest way of life. In fact what is happening is: the whole day you are resting; then in the night you are tossing and turning in the bed. That is the only exercise left for you, and you don’t want to do even that exercise. Toss and turn as much as you can. If the whole day is of resting then the night cannot be of sleep. You have already rested.
If the people who are suffering from insomnia really want to get rid of it they should not think of it as a disease. Visiting a doctor is meaningless. They should start working in their garden, doing some hard work, and forget all about sleep; it will come. It always comes, you don’t have to bring it.
These are the difficulties. Nature never intended that a few people should have all the riches in the world and most of the people should be poor. Looking at the intentions of nature, it seems it wanted everybody to work. It never wanted these classes of the poor and the rich; it wanted a classless society where everybody is working.
It is possible the work may be different. If you have been painting the whole day, that will also bring sleep. Or you have to create artificial exercises — go to the gym, run for miles, jog. Many idiots are doing it. A futile exercise — why jog when you can chop wood? Why jog when your garden is being looked after by somebody else who sleeps perfectly? You pay him for the work, and he sleeps perfectly well.
You jog, and nobody pays you and you find it difficult to sleep. How much can you jog? How much can you run? And a man who has not slept the whole night does not feel like running in the morning, because the whole night he has been struggling to find a little bit of sleep. Tired of tossing and turning, in the morning he finds a little bit of sleep — and that is the time suggested that he should run and he should jog!
Insomnia should not be counted among diseases. People should be made aware that you are not following the natural course that the body needs. Then you can do small things…swimming, tennis — but it will not be a real substitute for hard labor for eight hours. Man basically was a hunter — and not with machine guns, just with arrows — running after deer. It was not every day that he would get his food. The whole day he would run and follow the animals and would not be able to catch one, and he would come home empty-handed but utterly tired.
Your body is still asking you to do that. You can choose in what way you want to do it; then insomnia will disappear of its own accord.
Those fifty million insomnia sufferers do not need any compassion from anybody. They have to be told directly and straightforwardly, “Your way of life is wrong. Change it; otherwise suffer.” And it will bring a great revolution if fifty million people start working eight hours a day. They don’t need it for their food, for their clothing, for their shelter, but they can work for those who need food, who need medicine, who need other necessities of life.
If fifty million people turn out to work hard eight hours per day in the service of the poor, it will change the whole climate of the society. The very idea of fighting, of struggle between classes, will disappear — because there will be no classes.
And this is going to become a bigger problem every day because machines are replacing man in every field. Machines are more efficient, more obedient, can work twenty-four hours without any rest, seven days a week…no holiday, no religious holiday, because they are neither Jews nor Christians nor Hindus.
Machines don’t ask for anything, not even for a coffee break. And one machine can work in place of a hundred people or a thousand people, so soon the whole world is going to be in a trouble: insomnia is going to be one of the biggest troubles in the coming days because when the machine takes over, the man is free. He will be paid for his unemployment, and paid enough so that he does not ask for employment. He will have enough money.
So what can he do? He can play cards, chess, drink alcohol, have a fight — and suffer insomnia. Insomnia is going to be a worldwide phenomena. What is happening to fifty million people in America will be happening to almost every person whose work is taken from him. When people retire they start suffering from insomnia, and they had never suffered before.
So I don’t believe that it is a disease. Don’t categorize it as the third most prevalent disease. It is not of the category of diseases; it is our wrong way of life.
There may be a few people, a very few people, for whom it may be a disease — for example, the intellectuals whose minds are continuously working and get into the habit of working. Then in the night when they want to sleep the mind goes on working, and that’s enough for insomnia. And they have no control over the mind to stop it. They may shout; the mind doesn’t care about it.
The mind, while you are resting in bed, goes on unwinding itself, because in the day there were many sidelines of thoughts which have been left incomplete; they have to be completed. Mind is a perfectionist. It wants to do everything perfectly, so whatever has remained incomplete it is trying to complete. And it has no need of sleep. It is the body that needs sleep. If the body has not worked and has not earned any sleep, and the mind has been functioning too much and going so fast that it has become habituated to it, this type of man may even work with the body and still suffer insomnia. Then it will be a disease. Then he needs the medicine I call meditation, so that his mind can relax and allow the body to go into sleep.
But these people who cannot sleep are really suffering badly because in their life there is nothing — no meaning, all hypocrisy. “Socializing” they call it. And then in the night they cannot even sleep. The day is useless, the night is useless. They have lost all touch with life. They should be helped.
There should be more meditation centers specially for people who are suffering from insomnia. Meditation will help them to relax. And when they come to meditate then they should be told, “Alone meditation will not do; it is half of the work. Half you have to do — that is hard physical exercise.” And I think people are in such a suffering without sleep that they will be able to do anything that is suggested.
And hard work has a beauty of its own. Chopping wood and perspiring and a cool breeze comes…and there is such a beautiful feeling in the body, which a person who is not working hard cannot even understand. The poor man also has his luxuries. Only he knows about them.
OSHO – The Path of the Mystic, Talk #44
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