How many of us lay awake at night with thoughts spinning in our head only to be exhausted throughout the day? How many of us simply feel tired a lot of the time – even if we do sleep “okay” during the night?
One of the main reasons for our chronic fatigue is a busy mind.
We engage our thinking-mind almost constantly throughout the day – and almost always when we don’t need to. The mind is a very functional thing. But, when we recognize that mind is energy we may be able to see that by its constant use we are needlessly burning our fuel for life. Meditation practice will show us just how busy our minds are. Virtually no-one in modern culture is exempt from this energy-drain.
As an experiment, take one waking day to examine your situation. Remember to ask yourself throughout the day: “Is what I am thinking about right now necessary for what is actually happening in my life RIGHT NOW?” Our experience tells us that there will be a mix of responses:
1. There will be those who have some sort of meditative-like practice that is daily and consistent and has been ongoing for some time now. These people, ironically, will probably, say, “Yeah, wow, I have about ten thousand unnecessary thoughts everyday!”
2. There will be those who have some natural skill at self-reflection but do not have a meditation practice, per se, and they, too, will probably be blown away by the business of their minds.
3. Many will forget to even ask themselves the question – seriously… very functional people do this practice and will go days without remembering to check back in.
4. Then, there will be those who say, “hmm… I had like 3 unnecessary thoughts today.”
Those people, the “3-thoughters”, have one of two things going on: 1. They are natural adepts and we should sit by them and try to learn from their natural wisdom. Or, 2. Their mind is so busy that they have about a million thoughts and they don’t notice any of them due to the “white noise” effect, which is described by my teacher as being like the static fuzz on a way-old school television set. When you look closely there are a million little lights flickering in and out, but from a distance it looks like one constant expression. This is analogous to many of our minds: a million different thoughts that appear as one continuous, unbroken experience of our life.
Whether 10,000 or 10 million unnecessary thoughts, in either case we have a major drain of energy for just about all of us. It is like keeping our cars running all day long even when we have nowhere to go. And for many of us it is more like putting a brick on our gas petals while the car remains in neutral. This is perhaps the principle cause of common fatigue in the modern world and the reason why “5 hour energy drinks” are edging their way into advertisements and offices worldwide – nevermind the long-standing normalcy of caffeine addiction.
So, then, you might ask, what can we do about this? How can we reclaim our energy, our fuel, our vitality, our life?
Actually, there are countless “things” to do to help this situation. One thing we can learn is the step-by-step, methodical and time-tested process of “Classical Mind Training.” But, we can also work with our diet, our daily routine, our exercise habits in order to experience a natural state of abundant energy. Of course we can also just adhere to common sense and simply do less, but if practical methods are what interests you then there are plenty which, thankfully, I didn’t make up. This wisdom has been passed down for millennia from teachers to students.
Looking to energy-boosts in the various ways we find them is a form of procrastinating… we are putting off our chronic exhaustion until it becomes too late. We require adequate energy to age well. Without it, we may find ourselves playing with far less than a full deck. And if you are familiar with dharma teaching about transiting the bardos you might also be aware that doing so in a good way (i.e. liberation or a better rebirth) requires one’s gas tank to be replete. Though it has become the norm, withering away into death tired, afraid and diseased is not our natural condition.
Therefore, if, after experimenting in the laboratory of your life and finding out, “Holy crap! My mind is out of control!” then you may be interested in finding out more about how to re-energize your life by learning classical mind training, as one example of the many ways you can empower yourself. This particular practice will not only focus your mind for higher effectiveness when you do need your mental faculties but will also enable you to let your mind go and relax when you don’t.
For fun, feel free to comment back to this article with the results of your 1 day, counting unnecessary thoughts experiment. It will be great to see that we’re not alone in this craziness! And, maybe a “3-thoughter” will chime in with some helpful wisdom!