We’ve been exploring questions we can ask ourselves to enrich our lives. ‘What am I cultivating here?’ has lots of aspects to it, and our gardening metaphor enables us to understand the nature of skillful inner exploration.
One of my students said that she noticed she was feeling down, but instead of succumbing or getting into a battle with the emotional cloud as she was prone to do in the past, she went for a walk, meditated and then felt sufficiently up to going to an uplifting movie. Now that’s skillful!
Like a gardener who sees there’s perhaps some overcrowding, a plant not getting enough water or a drab spot that needs a bit of additional color, she noticed what was going on and made some adjustments.
There’s a big difference between this kind of shifting the energy and other unskillful reactions like indulging in mindless distractions and addictions or ignoring the situation, hoping it will go away.
Choosing a skillful way to shift your energy is an individual choice, depending on what kinds of activities amp up joy for you.
Meditation is always good, even if only in five minute doses.
Music — listening to it, making it, dancing to it — is a powerful way to shift energy. Have your favorite music handy! I remember my mother used to put classical music on and do her version of ballet around the house! It worked wonders to lift her mood.
A walk — Try to choose someplace away from traffic or the lure of shopping. No time for a walk? Shift the way you are walking through the grocery store. Notice the sensation of walking as if you are doing a walking meditation — only not as slow, probably. Notice all the colors of the boxes on the shelves and the piles of fruits and vegetables. Perhaps see it all as a painting you have walked into!
A hike in nature, a run, a swim, a bike ride — all of these can be skillful as long as you stay present with the experience rather than ambitious about getting anywhere.
Laughter is powerful in changing energy. It may not feel like something you can just do, but it’s been found that even forced laughter will activate real laughter, and that laughing helps the immune system. And if you have people around you, all the merrier.
Meaningful conversation that stimulates the intellect or deepens empathy can change the energy. This one can be tricky because many of us engage in conversation that drains energy. What is the difference? Notice for yourself: Are you and your companion complaining, venting, gossiping? Or are you exploring, being playful, collaborating in creative problem solving?
Creative expression in any of the arts can change the energy, but only if we stay in the process rather than focusing on the end result, which only activates tension and fear of failure. Not exactly the shift of energy we want! An example of artwork I did in 2006 is shown here. It was fun!
Volunteering shifts the focus, brings balance and cultivates empathy and connection.
What are things you do in your life that switch things up when you’re feeling in a slump?