I have spent many years, decades actually, struggling with low energy. Physically this – what feels like a lack of energy – has ranged from debilitating fatigue to just being tired. There have been a variety of factors contributing to my inability to simply accomplish and do more physically. Environmental stressors (like moving a lot!), hormonal influences due to the cycle of pre and post menopause, and sleep disruption have certainly contributed their fair share. I have seen a variety of healers, utilized alternative medicine and herbal support, and continually attempted to learn, discover, or find some reason – something that I can fix or change – to heal my lack of energy and motivation to do more. Including, just accepting it.
It’s been an interesting process to observe, experience, and cope with. What I also find interesting is what presents itself on the rare occasions when I have gotten several nights sleep and my energy starts to strengthen. At first, I try to enjoy and just soak in the feeling of well-being that moments of feeling rested and energized bring. But, there is another layer underneath that: A layer that is supported by a foundation of suffering or dukkha.
Recently in a class on The Eightfold Path, there was a discussion regarding how often spiritual seeking is born from dukkha. For many of us, we were experiencing a sense of dissatisfaction in our lives that prompted us to question our existence. For me, it started as a teenager, but the real significant shift came about 30 years ago. At the time, I thought I was relatively happy or at least that I should have been due to my life circumstances. I had gotten married, completed my B.S. degree, and was living in a house that exceeded anything that I thought I would ever live in. Yet, I was waking up with an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame.
With youth frequently comes naivety. I didn’t understand that I had probably been carrying guilt and shame around with me for most of my life. So, at the time I remember a conscious turning point: I woke up one day and realized that I could not spend the rest of my life feeling like that! Let alone, start my day with so much pain and suffering.
It’s not that I had committed some terrible acts that gave me a clear excuse to point the finger at and say “hey, I need to change that!” No, the subtleties of lack of self-worth were still buried in the shadows of my subconscious.
Maybe I’m a slow learner, but I am surprised that after a lifetime of exploration, education, and expanding my awareness, I am still called upon to face the demons of guilt. And, I wasn’t even raised with a strong guilt incentive like many cultures foster. Of course, that can also lead one to deny that guilt is an issue. Our monkey minds and defenses do seem to enjoy a romp through the trees.
It’s kind of a full circle moment for me. I’ve had several nights sleep and been feeling quite good emotionally and energetically. This means that I have the opportunity to observe what bubbles to the surface when I am not overwhelmed by lack of sleep or fatigue. Hmmm, there’s some anxiety, and oh yeah, there it is: guilt. Really? I still have to deal with that? Naturally, there are the accompanying judgments, expectations, and confusion. Lots of confusion.
What am I so confused about? My life path. How have I managed to stay unemployed for so long? Is it really ok for me to be lousy at earning money? What is the matter with me? What am I to do now that I have some energy? Will the energy last, or is it just a rare occurrence that will cease any moment? If I keep this up long enough, I will be tired again and the pressure to clear a path through the confusion and act will most likely recede – which leads back to guilt. How can you waste a good night’s sleep?!
And so it goes, as I delight in a dukkha free moment, I am inviting dukkha right back in. Or, was it ever really gone? It’s funny really. It reminds me of the coyote in the old Road Runner cartoons. Get flattened by a steamroller just to get up and do it all over again.
It’s ok. I am not the same naïve person that I was so long ago. Now, I can observe and not attach my well-being to the guilt and confusion (most of the time anyway). I know I am more than that. I have greater awareness and understanding of my thoughts and feelings, and how I create them. This allows me to open to the duality of pleasant and unpleasant states without having to do away with one or the other
Even though I find myself with similar feelings regarding guilt and lack of self-worth, the significance and impact they have on my being have dramatically changed. Now, I can stand off to the side of the road; watch the steamroller go by and avoid getting run over. On the occasions when I still can’t resist wandering into the middle of the road and getting smashed, I know I can still move to the side – even if I have to crawl.
The coyote does always rise again. My faith in our ability to change gives me hope that strength will follow.
© Sallie Odenthal 2012