It’s time to set our November intentions.
There’s a concept in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali known as Brahmacharya, and even though it originally referred to celibacy and the reservation of sexual energy, it may also be directed towards energy for spiritual growth (more on that in another blog). What we can see it as today is the right use of all our energy: thoughts, words and actions.
As we find ourselves in the colder, darker months of the year, energy levels may not be what they were back in July or August. With the sun and warmth giving rise to days spent outdoors and a greater willingness to get out of bed in the morning, the summer was something of an energy boost for many of us. November however, brings dark mornings, darker evenings, cold weather and many more reasons to stay in bed a little longer. Indeed, the surge of energy we may have felt in Spring and Summer might be lacking in November, which is why it’s so important to pay attention to where that energy is going. Is it being wasted? Or is it working towards something truly useful and helpful?
There’s a reason many of us spend so much time staring into a smartphone screen. It could be boredom, a need to distract ourselves from unwanted thoughts, fear of missing out, a virtual pull that encourages us to see what others are doing and subsequently compare ourselves to them. It could be a longing for a sense of connection, a glance at a friend’s night out, a quick peek that turns into hours of scrolling, only to emerge with lower self esteem, more anxiety, and a sore neck….
Energy Flows Where Attention Goes
If you find yourself feeling low when you don’t have anything to announce on Facebook, no photos to post on Instagram, and nothing to celebrate about; if you respond to emails when you could be sleeping; or lose yourself in the sea of social media when surrounded by loved ones, you’re not alone, and this is a wake up call. We can understand the word Brahmacharya as a reference to spending our energy in the right way, and considering whether our thoughts, words and actions are directed in a positive and powerful direction. There are lots of things in life we’re missing out on whilst we’re Googling or scrolling, comparing our lives to those of others’, and paying more attention to the actions of others online than the actions of ourselves in the here and now.
Using our energy in the right way isn’t just linked to exercise and rest, deciding whether to head out for a run or hit the snooze button again. It’s linked to every single thing we do and everything we experience. We are a result of what we do and where we spend our energy. If our energy is spent wisely, it’s likely we’ll feel fulfilled, balanced, harmonious and content. If however, our energy is wasted, we usually feel depleted and tired for no reason, emotionally under-nourished and unusually over reactive. If our energy is spent wisely, we’ll usually be present and engaged with the world around us, but if it’s spent unwisely, we’ll likely miss out on whole chunks of life because we were busy focusing elsewhere. If this sounds familiar, you may be spending more energy focusing on your screen than yourself; your worries more than your family; your status rather than your significant other.
My teacher has always said ‘energy flows where attention goes’, and if we’re focusing our attention on things that honestly don’t matter, and things that don’t bring us any joy, use or fulfilment, then all of that energy is flowing down the drain….
Perhaps it’s because Autumn can be a particularly beautiful time of year, but looking outside and up at the golden, red and amber leaves, it’s sad to think we could miss all of this if we keep looking down at our phones. It doesn’t have to be about technology or social media either: consider the things you think about or spend time on that only make you feel worried and weary, or that promote a negative state of mind. Things like worrying about aspects of life you cannot change: gossip, insults, comparison, jealousy or holding onto past events. Some of these things are more difficult to deal with than others, but they all pull our energy down and drain it away….
Right Use of Energy
So this month, how about being more aware of how your energy is spent, and practising directing it towards something useful, joyful and fulfilling? If you feel disconnected, low, lonely and less-than, examine what you’ve been doing, and what you’ve been thinking about. How has your energy been used?
If you catch yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media, ask yourself why, and perhaps swap the screen for a phone call, or a book from time to time. If your energy is spent comparing yourself to someone else, ask yourself what that person has that you want, and whether it’s worth spending all your energy on them.
Consider what your energy could be used for: do you have family and friends who could do with love and care at the moment? Are there things you want to learn about, or would you feel better if you simply went for a walk and looked up at the trees? We have so much potential to simply experience life and live it fully – whether life is always photo-worthy or not! If we direct our energy in a way that serves us and those around us, we may just feel more joyful, fulfilled and present at the end of November.