Far too many of us are far too tired.
When did we loose our capacity to understand and manage our energy wisely? Some blame the industrial revolution and the evolution of factory labor all the way to office enslavement, others point to the invention of the light bulb and the subsequent technologies that have dis-harmonized us from the cycles of sunlight, moonlight and seasonal change. Whatever we point the finger at, it's time to take ownership of our own energy crisis. I've found a tool to do this through modern revival of wisdom that's existed for centuries. The ancients understood a thing or two about living in health through balance, and here's one piece from my teachers at ICSS to help plot my days so my life and my creative practice can flourish.
This weekend in Red Lodge I learned a simple technique that's already changing how I work and how I feel. it's called Charting your Daily Naturals, and it's how to find your peak energy times of the day are, and how to work your schedule to get the most out of your days with as much ease, energy and joy as possible. It's all about maximum efficiency with minimum effort, n'est pas!?
We all have 2 full cycles of what are called our 'naturals'. These are cycles of energy that go from low, medium low (where your energy is building), high, low medium (where your energy is falling) and back to low. One of your low times is the time when you sleep, and the other will be a time during the day when you need rest. Our medium energy times are ideal for menial tasks like running errands, cleaning the house, catching up on emails or visiting with friends. Our high energy times are sacred - these are the two times of day when you are at your best and brightest. High energy times should be spent on your most important work, which for many of you will be your creative work and your art.
Here's how it works:
- take 2 days to chart your energy, or 'naturals' on a grid, (like the one pictured here) What time of day do you really hit your stride and when do you crash? Everyone's pattern is different - some of us get our high energy in the early morning and hit the hay at 9pm while others are at their finest in the witching hours.
- Look at how your days are currently scheduled and what activities you normally do during your different energy times. Where do your activities and energy not match up?
- Start to play around with how you can adjust your schedule to suit your naturals.
- Commit to shifting your daily activities to flow with your naturals and to observing the outcomes in your mental, physical and emotional realities.
I realized very quickly that I often waste my high energy on menial chores and tasks, so when I sit down to write, I am in my medium low: the opposite of how I should be working my energy. Also, getting up and attacking the blank page right off the bat doesn't really work for me either, because at that time in the morning I am just revving up my energy from low to high, rather than writing in my high. Working on my most important projects in my mid-low energy time is not the most effective energy management for me, and reflecting back, I can see that in the quality of my work, how easily distracted I become and how I feel like I have to 'fight' to get the ideas out. Today, I mapped out my routine a little differently, so that I am writing this during my high time (1:15pm) I am finding the flow easily with natural effort and a relaxed focus- lovely!
Here's the big important piece to remember: DO NOT PUSH THROUGH YOUR LOWS. There's a reason why you have them - to re-coup, regenerate and stay in your natural rhythm. Pushing through is the best way to totally drain yourself of energy and to burn out fast. Once you've mapped your naturals, plan to take a break at the bottom of your low energy time. This could include doing a restorative yoga pose (link to legs up the wall) or taking a Shaman's nap (curious!? Stay tuned - it's the topic of my next post!) Whatever you do, make sure that you are totally unplugged and are not using any electronic device, this does not actually relax you (duh!) try to be in nature if possible, and find as much stillness and quiet as you can.
For those of you working 9-5 in an office environment, I hope that your company has begun to wake up and offer rest or meditation areas/rooms. Plan to take a 'breathing break' (my take on the unspoken right of the smoker to step away from their desk) and hit the rooftop terrace or, in desperate times, take 10 minutes to yourself in the bathroom stall and do some slow deep breathing. A friend of mine actually used to nap under her desk! Notice your urge to fight your lows with things like coffee or sugar: this will in fact drain you even more because you are fighting your body's rhythm, it's as draining and injurious as punching a brick wall. Try going with the flow and allow yourself that dip, trust that your body knows what it needs and listen to it. Consider this an act of empowered protest against unhealthy work demands that value the bottom line over your well being - consider taking a stand against the internal energy crisis of our culture by lying down!
Our second low energy period is meant for sleep. Feeling when you start to wind down in the evening (and letting yourself actually feel and notice it by stopping and paying attention to your body) is an equally important key to managing and balancing your personal energy. Try to be in bed for when you shift into your second low point so that when it hits, it will send you into dreamland. Have you ever had that experience when you stay up and push through your natural sleep signal and then can't get to sleep for the rest of the night? This is the consequence of missing that sleep signal.
The name of the game in art, life, and the art of life is longevity. Like the earth, we also have cycles of output and input, seasonal patterns, births and deaths, (little and large), when understood and followed can radically alter our lives for the better. Yes we are spirit - that creative spark that makes beauty from nothing reflects the divine within us. But we are spirit tied to flesh, to matter, and that matters. Take care of your physical, know your naturals, and create, work, play and live in abundance and joy.