I suffered from severe insomnia for four months. During those sleepless months, every moment was spent performing rituals that I believed would allow me to sleep.
At the beginning the impact was small – I took herbal sleep aids and stashed a headlamp and book next to my bed to fill the hours from dusk to dawn. As the insomnia persisted, I became increasingly paranoid – I got acupuncture, I went for long runs every day, I meditated, and I stayed away from phone and television screens. If I wore a favorite shirt to bed, that I’d slept in hundreds of times before, but my insomnia persisted, I would never wear that shirt to bed again. My rituals were irrational, desperate attempts to understand the roots of my sleeplessness.
The purpose of ritual is to structure time, to make meaning of chaos. In the absence of natural biological rhythms, I clung desperately to ritual to attempt to understand and control my fate. These waxing and waning mandalas were my rituals when my body forgot how to follow its own patterns.