Looking at how we live these days I see so much stress, and sometimes feel in people an overwhelming disconnection. It’s like the stress makes it difficult to slow down enough to really touch anything or each other. Many jobs expect more from us than we can deliver and a feeling of “not being enough” nags in the background. So we keep going on coffee and tea, crave sugary snacks, and long for a nap that often doesn’t happen.
Yet, despite our challenges, we are surprisingly resilient. Ups and downs are a natural part of our lives. We make it, and keep our eyes open for new and better sources of energy. We each have our own ways to find and manage the energy we need, though we may not be so conscious of what we’re doing. Looking around, we can see many different strategies in play.
We can see individual and cultural habits, spacious approaches and disciplined ones. Many life choices are based on what gives us energy. On a given day we might choose coffee or ginger tea; heavy, filling foods or light and fresh nutrition. We might go for a morning run or sit in meditation instead. The variations are so manifold because we are so different in body, personality, and culture.
We feel energized when things go well, so we make life choices to increase our energy that way. We become good at what we do, we get a raise or pass a test and we develop a satisfying personal life. Some find energy in having a family and living a life inspired by children and care. Others engage in an interesting career path, trying to move up, do good, express their qualities and create technologies, knowledge, and wealth. And some of us choose a spiritual path and believe and invest in personal development, purification, practice and stillness.
Are there common threads in our universal search for good energy?
One thing that inspires me is that we can gain a lot of energy from things that are not necessarily tangible. If people feel that their life has meaning, they feel energy. If we are motivated by a good cause and if we are encouraged by others we also feel more energetic. When we are very confident and successful in what we do we even feel good energy when others are criticizing us or throwing stones at our feet. We can feel safe too, as if we’re flowing down a river in a strong and sturdy boat.
Feelings of love, compassion, gratitude and joy go along with feeling good energies. Equanimity is a peaceful and accepting state that allows us to feel well-supported even in the face of difficulties. These emotions have complex effects in our bodies—as do feelings of stress that push our fight/flight buttons. Our amazing bodies have the capacity to burst into activity, driven by powerful hormones from the adrenal glands. But this energy source is like the candy bars that might fuel a hard hike but are not ideal to serve our guests during a relaxing meal. The mode of living in connection and ease and the mode of strenuous action need to be balanced. If these two modes are not balanced well we might experience deep and lasting renal exhaustion.
We may not be convinced of it, but the body has its own ingenious methods of energy management. There is a complex neurological, biological and chemical magic at work in us. It allows us to suddenly speed up if needed, and it also allows us to live in a place of spaciousness and ease. These two can be seen for what they are and how they operate. Do you know this inner system, do you have the feel of it? It has so much to teach us. As I have written many times, if we don’t have enough truly relaxing downtime, we disrupt our inner balance and deplete our resources. We can try to counteract sensations of depletion and exhaustion with coffee and more, but at some point this will actually make things worse. Factors like our age, our genes and our mood affect this sensitive balance too.
I’ve learned from my body that I can maintain a good balance if I mix powerful physical activity and honest breaks, if I eat healthy foods and drinks, and if I rest in the evenings before sleeping. In addition to these things, I use the practices of mindfulness and awareness, mind-body exercises and meditation. Looking at society in general, I find that my sense of the need for these practices is heightened, which is why I return to writing about them again and again. I don’t know how I could live in a balanced way without them. Self-awareness of my energy needs allow me to use those techniques whenever needed.
I encourage you to look closely at the energy in your life. What sparks it? What nourishes it? What depletes it? We humans can live in a strong and stable current of energy if we learn how. I wish this beautiful river of energy for you!