I remember that in my first readings of the Yoga Sutras in my early twenties, I was obsessed with the concept of Pratyahara or “withdrawal or the senses”. Unsure of myself and my way out into the world, I wandered the streets of New York City looking for something to fill myself with. Sometimes it was a new vintage coat, a new music release on Virgin Records, a new flirt, or a delicious new dessert. Without discipline, I literally wanted to try everything and still felt empty.
In search of discipline and longing for true abundance (could there be such a thing?) I began to understand my energy consumption differently. I practiced “withdrawing my senses” by severing my rampant participation in consumer culture in order to become real with what was happening within me. I stopped watching TV, got real about food intake, and stopped spending my money on CDs and clothing.
“By [yoga] Exercise, Prana begins to awaken … “
Then came the hard work of facing my deeper suffering. Because among my consumption habits I noticed a different kind of energy consumption: obsessive thinking that gave way to persistent self-devaluation. I thought I was missing it, and so I experienced that I had to be “full” of something else.
That is no longer the case. I have done the deep dive and have been practicing yoga for many years. I have had the experience of having more energy available every day than I ever experienced in my “youth”.
Ayurvedic guru David Frawley writes: “Through [yoga] Practice, prana begins to awaken … ”This prana is life energy and it“ contains an intelligence that can teach and guide us, ”he says. If we respect this intelligence, we will be guided on a path in which we intuitively invest our energy in activities that benefit us. But we must be careful not to use this precious life force in ways that would exhaust us, warns David. It’s easy to do.
Last week I was thrilled when a patient in the psychiatric department where I work as a drama therapist described her depression as feeling “an empty pot that used to hold gold coins.” Through our drama therapy work, the patient discovered that he had “spent” his energy in his role as a helper, lover and sibling. They felt exhausted.
So we put together a theatrical performance in which we saw where the “gold coins” were being spent. We put them back into those parts of the patient’s life that felt unfulfilled and empty, and we imagined how those parts of their life would grow if they were cared for, guided and cared for. For a moment the patient was able to experience new possibilities for self-sufficiency and became aware of a deeper freedom of choice with regard to energy consumption.
Whether you are feeling physically, emotionally or mentally exhausted, or just want to get a glimpse of your investment and use of your energy, you can benefit from the exercise we did together. This can be done alone or with another person as a witness or helper.
Redistribution of wealth
1. Take about 30 quarters, chessboard pieces, or anything else that reminds you of shiny gold money.
2. First, ask yourself the following question: Which parts of my life have I invested the most energy? Get as specific as you can. Call everyone out loud.
3. When you have identified the different aspects of your life that feel relevant, determine a place in the room to represent each aspect. For example, one corner of the room could represent “Family” and another corner could represent “Job”. Place the number of coins you plan to spend in the various aspects of your life in the physical areas you have mapped. Remember, you only have 30 gold pieces. So be honest about your investments!
4. Examine each investment in detail. Go to the part of the room that represents each aspect and speak out loud about that particular investment. For example, if “job” is one of the investments, talk about the role you play at work, your specific job responsibilities, and how you use your energy in the work environment. Be aware of all the feelings and emotions that arise while speaking. For example, if you give your boss a lot of energy, you will notice the emotional reaction you have when you talk about him or her.
5. After examining every aspect of your life, take a moment to examine the distribution of gold coins in space. Use the next few moments to redistribute the coins as you wish. You can place them in different areas that you’ve created, or you can create a completely new location in a different place in the room. If you want to withdraw coins from an area but don’t know where to put them, hold onto them for now.
6. Take a moment to talk about how you envision putting the coins back on. Make your statements as specific and bold as possible. When confused, speak boldly about your confusion. That way, you are already using your eyesight, your words, and your actions to make a change in your life.
7. Take as much time as you need in this “revision process”. When you feel that your work is done, clear the space for the coins. Take a few moments to log, rest, meditate, or just close your eyes and breathe.
This excerpt is from Joy Radish’s blog with permission. You can find the full article here.
Photo by Stephen McVeigh
Joy radishes is a yoga teacher, pedagogue, singer and theater artist. She has performed in locations ranging from Joe’s Pub to Bam Café to NPR, and has taught yoga in prisons, hospitals, and yoga studios. Joy currently works in a Brooklyn hospital supporting creative art therapy groups in an inpatient psychiatric department. You can connect with her by visiting her website www.RadishYoga.com.