Available energy

From chapter “Stewarding Resources: Viriya Pāramī” by Ajahn Sucitto:

Let’s consider energy or viriya. Energy is fundamental for all of us and to anything we do. When our energy is bright and steady we feel good and act effectively; when it’s low or scattered we feel bad and mess up. So energy is relevant both as the resource of vitality and as the way that we apply that resource….

However, the topic of energy can bring up an uneasy feeling: when I’m already tired, and stressed, do I have the capacity or the interest to exert myself further? Well, that worry itself is another wave that has to be met and enquired into.

A wise response to that worry would be to say that the priority is to learn how to conserve energy and not dissipate it. Also, energy needs to be regulated: many of our problems are connected with either not having enough energy, so that we feel flat, or having too much of it, so that we’re overcharged and bursting at the seams. The irregularities are because the mind’s natural inclination is to orbit and check out what’s happening in its external and internal domain – so its attention gets caught by attraction, aversion or confusion. These forces can capture energy and overwhelm the mind. So the degree of exertion should be determined in accordance with what we’re meeting. When we’re tired out, energy is most usefully applied to kindness, and letting go of the need to sort out business. Then we come out of the grip of confused priorities. And in all cases, mindfulness – acknowledging the present state of the mind – is essential….

Entire book can be downloaded here: https://forestsangha.org/teachings/books/parami-ways-to-cross-life-s-floods?language=English

The previous post was about deciding what we should do next, and one determinant of that is the level and quality of our available energy, right now.

Ven. Sucitto’s words identify a common discomfort with talking about energy: most of the time, we feel that we should have more energy than we do – not a helpful beginning. As with all mindfulness practices, we try to discern what IS, not what we wish were the case.

If our energy is in balance, our choices are clear; with reflection, we can choose wisely. But what if our energy is scattered, wound up, and anxious or low and resistive? What then? In either case, task number one is to recognize what energy, both physical and mental, we have available at the moment. If we’re unsure, an honest inventory of our physical sensations should be revealing. Anxiety and lethargy can be felt in the face, torso, hands, etc. What is the quality of our breathing? Free and deep or tense and shallow?

The breath can be used to understand our energy level and also to regulate it. A few deep, slow breaths can dissipate an energy overload AND can bring extra oxygen to bear on weary minds and bodies. With our energy not too low and not too high, we can meet whatever conditions are present without defensiveness or aggression. We can inquire into the elements of our current experience and discover for ourselves what’s true, whether action is called for, and what might be best to do next.

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Filed under Causes and results, Mindfulness, Perfections, The 8-fold path

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