This week, we're exploring the physical aspects of energy and how to manage it in the service of what matters most. Join us for the Sunday workshops in Asheville and Hendersonville, NC, if you can. It promises to be a lively discussion!
We all know the reciprocal relationship between our physical condition and our mental and emotional states. When we’re tired or sick, we tend to be more irritable, more reactive, less patient—more negative. It’s harder to sustain concentration, think creatively, be fully present to what’s going on inside us and around us—we’re less productive. I have come to recognize that the state of my physical energy is reflected in every aspect of my life, including the quality of my relationships, how clean my house is, and even in how much money I have in the bank.
And yet, I often hear myself and others say we want to get more exercise, eat more nourishing food, get more rest, maybe make space for quiet reflection, but there just isn’t enough time. I’ll get to it when I finish this project, when the kids are grown and on their own, when I retire.… What if it’s not about having enough time, but about priorities? Are we running so fast to get somewhere—or we really running AWAY from something? Hmmm.
I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said “Sleep is for the weak.” I think that kind of macho disdain for our physical selves is part of why so many are sleep-deprived in this country, with its attendant toll on our health and productivity. The same goes for poor diet, lack of exercise, and chronic stress. Why do we think it’s a virtue to see how little we can get by with?
I have come to recognize how I have treated even minor necessary maintenance like brushing my teeth with a degree of impatience and irritation. I have begun to notice how I delay responding to my body’s signals for rest, food, and even going to the bathroom with a slightly exasperated “Not now. I’ll get to you when I finish this.”
And when I get sick I feel betrayed. I don’t trust my body, in fact I’m probably afraid of it—yet it is my mind that is truly untrustworthy. Woody Allen said, “It's not that I'm afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens.”
I forget to be grateful that I have this body (and parts that need care and will eventually wear out). This body does wonderful things for me every day. Because of it I can communicate with the world, manipulate my environment, and use it as a vehicle to express the loving spirit that shines through me. My body grounds me in the present even as my mind swings from past to future. “Now is the moment of power,” in the words of the Huna tradition of Hawaii. What an amazing gift!
My mind is so used to bossing my body that I decided I would let them change places for a few days and see what happened. For instance, even though I felt a strong pull when I first got out of bed to check my voicemail and e-mail, instead I listened to my body and did what it asked—fed it or peed or did some stretching. Only after I had had breakfast and cleared the dishes away and was ready to give them my full attention did I make myself accessible to other tasks. If I started to lose concentration or felt tired in the afternoon, I took a nap or went for a walk, depending on what I thought I needed.
At first it was very uncomfortable. I felt tense and agitated when I didn’t give in to my mind’s sense of urgency to be engaged and/or distracted. And that sensation still comes up. More and more, though, I feel an enhanced sense of spaciousness, of possibility, of connection with myself and with the world around me. I’m more at peace, more “together,” more alive. What a marvelous way to be!
Practice exercise: Let the body lead
For the next week, listen to what your body is telling you moment to moment and then, as best you can, respond immediately to its needs. What happens when you do this? What happens when you don’t? What gets in the way?
If you’re willing, please add a comment to the blog about your experiences and insights.
Copyright 2008 Eugene Y. Smith, III. All rights reserved.