Last month, we learned how to create solid foundations for ourselves in yoga, exercise and nutrition. From this steady base, we can advance this month to building our energy. When we pour energy into stable containers, we can concentrate and direct it to effect the changes we want to see in our lives.
Let’s start with yoga. The practice in the West, on the exterior, can appear to be selfish and even narcissistic. Because it is. We focus predominantly on the physical qualities of yoga because of our obsession with the physical body, our desire to preserve the ego and the salability of sex. This self-obsession is fine. We are looking for something to attach to, to fill us, and to answer questions about ourselves.
When I walked into my first yoga class as a beer-slugging frat boy, I was interested in one thing: stretching my hamstrings. If someone would have told me I was there to learn about myself and, as a result, my relationship to the world, I would have walked out. I needed the practice of yoga to appear to be about my self, or my temporary personality, on the outside to learn about my Self, or my eternal being, on the inside.
Yoga is a selfish practice – until it becomes something else. For many of us, the physical appeal is exactly what we need to get onto the mat. Fill yourself first, until there is no room left. Then, let your practice and energy overflow and positively affect others around you.
When I talk to students and others about filling themselves first, I’m really talking about energy management. We have access to only so much energy. Be vigilant about how you expend it so that you are refueling rather than depleting yourself.
When you are full of energy, you are more likely to feel hopeful and optimistic. When you are full of positivity, there is less room for negativity. Look at this as an equation:
Positivity = +(Energy) > -(Energy)
Do more of the things in your life that increase your energy, and do less of the things in your life that decrease your energy. Don’t know how to distinguish between them? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. WARNING! The following activity has the power to change your life.
Energy Gains vs. Energy Drains
1) Draw a T-chart. Label the left side “Energy Gains.” Label the right side “Energy Drains.”
2) List five things on the left that increase your energy. List five things on the right that decrease your energy. They can be anything in your life: activities, people, food, hobbies, etc.
3) Look at your list. Without judging or labeling it, what patterns do you notice?
4) Do not make any changes yet. Over the next seven days, simply notice how your gains and drains show up in your life.
5) After seven days, reflect on your observations. What have you uncovered? Are you making decisions and taking actions in your life that are increasing or decreasing your energy?
6) I am not going to give you step 6 because it will limit your power to discover it for yourself. Once you do the steps above, the final step will become blazingly apparent. (Feel free to share your takeaways in the comment section below)
Here’s what my chart usually looks like:
|Eating a breakfast high in protein, low in carbs||Mindlessly spending time on social media|
|Moving through yoga, exercise, sports, etc.||Judging others|
|Talking to my parents (most of the time)||Drinking heavily|
|Teaching and coaching||Sitting around all day|
|Socializing and being with positive friends||Eating lots of refined foods|
People commonly tell me that they don’t spend enough time taking care of themselves. More commonly, they confess that they spend time doing the opposite. We tell ourselves that we aren’t good enough to deserve self-care. Then we beat ourselves up for our choices, leaving us feeling even less worthy.
This is why I say to be selfish. Be so selfish and fill yourself with so much energy that there is no room for it to remain inward. Once you are full, you will become less interested in your external self, and your life will expand to something bigger. You will then be living from your internal Self and have the ability to truly care for others.
By filling yourself first and taking care of your inner world, your external world will begin to reflect the same. This is the Buddha’s teaching of “bodhicitta,” the path of being dedicated to others and to achieving enlightenment to benefit all sentient beings.
Be selfish until your selfishness transforms into selflessness. Be selfish until it is no longer a necessary tool on your path to bettering the world.
I regularly use the Energy Gains vs. Energy Drains activity with students in my private stress coaching practice. If you are ready to change your life by filling yourself up first, contact me to set up a free 30-minute consultation.