The energy of the mind is the essence of life
How’s your energy today?
By that, I don’t mean, “Did you eat your Wheaties?” I hope you did… and if you didn’t, I hope you ate something of equivalent nutritional value and promise. No, what I mean is, what type of energy are you bringing into your day? Every thought you have and every action you take is accompanied by energy. The tenor of that energy can determine if a thought is positive or negative, if an action is performed with joy or with frustration and if you’re generating more feelings of love or ones of resentment. Sometimes, our thoughts and feelings are not quite in alignment with our energy. When this happens, it can lead to frustration and anxiety, and sometimes it can take a while to pinpoint why we’re feeling this disconnect.
For years, I struggled with sitting meditation. My life philosophy puts sitting meditation at the center of its practice. I’ve read countless articles about the mental and emotional benefits of sitting still – even for just 15 minutes a day. I know this is a proven practice for bringing some level of inner calm and clarity.
My thoughts were, “Mediation is good for me. To be a good Buddhist, I must do this. To maintain any sliver of sanity, I should do this.”
My actions were to buy books and CDs, schedule time in my calendar and to attempt to sit. Sometimes I’d go a few weeks… sometimes a few days… before the daily practice was interrupted.
If it’s only for 15 minutes a day, how can my practice be so easily disrupted? Simple: my thoughts and actions were not in line with my energy, the core of myself that I was bringing to the practice.
Here’s the truth: I sit still and the monkey mind takes over, no position is comfortable and that whole ‘focus on your breath’ mantra suddenly has me in turns heaving heavily or periodically holding my breath in pathetic attempts to achieve some level of evenness. It’s a lot of work. And not at all calming or restful. In the midst of the monkey mind clamor of work projects, household chores and something I am sure I am forgetting, I am adding a new concern that I clearly do not know how to breathe.
Confession: for all the years I’ve struggled with this, I already knew it wasn’t going to work. I was severe and reprimanding of myself, bringing in a level of energy that is not compatible with the easy, open thought waves of meditation. I was fighting against common beliefs – limiting beliefs – that sitting mediation is the right path, the only path, to finding that sense of inner calm. And if I couldn’t master sitting meditation, then I was a bad Buddhist. So for years, I kept trying.
It was another coach who asked me why… why was I fighting so hard for something that wasn’t working for me? The energy I brought to sitting practice was impatient, frustrated and already pre-programmed to fail. So, she asked, if I looked deeper inside me and paid attention to my inner voice, what was it telling me?
But that can’t be right. I am a dedicated runner but a terrible one. I’m slow. I don’t warm up properly. I don’t always eat right. I don’t measure my splits, I don’t do fartleks though I know I should and my GPS watch gets all squirrelly on me when I sweat so I’m not even sure my times are right… and I do those goofy races where you crawl through mud under barbed wire and wear pink tutus. Plus, running is a physical activity that is quite the opposite of sitting perfectly still and focusing on your breath.
But… when I run, I bring a different energy. Sometimes I run to raise money for charity. Sometimes to challenge my physical and mental strength (Aroo! to all you fellow Spartans!) and sometimes, I run to be alone. On a run, thoughts fly in, I toss them around a bit and then set them free. It’s a different kind of monkey mind, perhaps, but one where I don’t feel trapped and overwhelmed. Instead, it’s a mental sorting and releasing of the energy around each of those issues. After a run, I can come back to any challenge refreshed. I am calm. I am happy. My energy is about embracing my life. All of it. So why can’t this be my own form of meditation, of finding that place where my mental and emotional energy can find relaxation and release?
It can. It is. When I accept that the energy I bring to running is the right energy for me to clear my head and find some peace, I let go of all the negative messages I have been holding on to about what a bad, undisciplined Buddhist I am. Others may still think I’m going about this all wrong, but that’s ok. I’m not telling myself that message anymore. I’m going about this in the way that works for me.
The energy of the mind is the essence of life — Aristotle
So when you look at the energy you bring into your day, look at how it affects the decisions you make and the thoughts that you tell yourself. How are those thoughts bringing your energy down? How is your energy predicting your outcomes?
When we examine our thoughts, we can see exactly which inner gremlins are holding us back- and we do it to ourselves. The real question is, why?