“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
—General George Patton (from War As I Knew It, 1947) and
—Vince Lombardi, coach and general manager of the Green Bay Packers football team.
How fatigued am I? Let me count the ways:
I am tired of the long Dark Night of this seemingly endless winter. (I imagine my friends in the Southern Hemisphere have their version of summer fatigue, courtesy of climate change.)
I’m tired of the polar vortex’s bone-chilling days when the sun is a distant memory, when our starkly bare trees no longer seem beautiful, when the magic of newly fallen snow is marred by sand and goose poop.
I’m tired and restless when cabin fever takes me over the edge.
I’m ashamed that I’ve allowed unkind words, volcanic eruptions over who loaded the dishwasher incorrectly, sulky moods and crying jags to be heaped upon my poor spouse.
I am exhausted by witnessing our top political leaders attempt to hypnotize citizens into accepting as “normal” acts of corruption, greed, outright lies, questionable ethics, contempt for the rule of law, bullying and name-calling.
I am worn out by the hypocrisy and injustice of—go ahead—just fill-in-the-blank__________________.
I am weary of the trivia and slime that dominates social media and tries to weasel its way into my mind.
I’m too tired to continue this list!
Recently, and I hope temporarily, I’ve succumbed to fatigue with a capital F. General Patton and Coach Lombardi would call me a yellow-bellied sapsucker of a coward who whines and complains all the day long. Lately I’ve not been the balanced person of peace and equanimity I aspire to be.
Fatigue is The Number One Cause of Spiritual Malaise!
Why? Because Fatigue causes Forgetfulness. (In Sanskrit, Forgetfulness is called Avidya or ignorance or unwisdom.)
Fatigue causes me (you/us) to forget that I AM NOT MY THOUGHTS.
Fatigue causes me to forget that it is a serious error to identify with the thousands of emotional thought-forms constantly rising and falling in my consciousness. Depending on how tired I am, chaos and confusion result.
Fatigue makes me forget my beloved mother’s mantra, “Honey, this too shall pass.”
Fatigue seductively lures me toward the chasm of my own discouraging thoughts. And on top of trying to ward off my own discouragement, it takes great mental discipline and strength NOT to join with the countless external forces dedicated to feeding discouraging emotional thoughts of doom, gloom, conspiracy, finger pointing and polarizing.
THE PRACTICE OF REST
So what’s the medicine for Fatigue and its toxic side-effect, Forgetfulness? What’s the practice?
Start with the basics. Rest!!!
Maybe your mom, like mine, would say, “Get some rest, dear. I promise things will look better in the morning.” And sure enough she was right!
Years ago, during a time of great fatigue and discouragement, my wise therapist prescribed 30 days of Being At Rest. I was instructed to do the bare minimum to support myself—go to work, come home, eat, have a warm bath, get in bed and read myself to sleep with happy books. No volunteering to take extra clients or working overtime; no working my 2nd job; no negative input like watching the news or reading the newspaper (today that would include no looking at my phone or computer); no doing favors for others; no writing columns or reports for professional journals.
My therapist utilized Carl Jung’s principle, What we resist, persists. She knew I’d come out of a decade of 18-hour work days. I resisted adequate rest and self-care, oblivious to my pattern of denying my fear and loneliness by escaping into busyness. Being “forced” to rest for a month brought me an unfamiliar experience of spaciousness in which I was able to witness current reality clearly. Rest was the medicine my soul badly needed. Slowly body, mind and spirit were restored. My optimistic nature returned. I stood on solid ground once again, armed with the clarity necessary to solve my problems, and get the help I needed to make a new dream for myself.
Cultivate mindfulness. Become aware of your level of fatigue and how attached you are to it. In America, in some quarters it’s quite fashionable to brag about how busy and tired one is! Watch out for the false benefits you ‘earn’ from being the most tired in your crowd! I never thought I was a workaholic. I just thought I was serving others. Be mindful of where you get a lot of attention for exhausting yourself.
Next observe all the mental/emotional/physical side-effects of Fatigue. They are legion and can be serious: irritability, blaming, shaming, anger, rage, muscle weakness, changes in sleep and appetite, poor motivation, concentration and memory. See a medical professional if you have these symptoms for more than a week. They may result in impaired, life-threatening decision-making.
Just as importantly, ask a trusted meditation teacher or spiritual guide for help in addressing the toxic effects of Forgetfulness. Understand that Forgetfulness is a serious problem because the Ego gets confused and identifies with the mind-stuff, the thoughts that temporarily float across the mind. That can be crazy-making and lead to poor decisions and other errors in thinking.
Two Practices are vital in countering Forgetfulness and in helping you remember your true nature.
First, start with the practice of Witnessing. Click here to learn more. State of Being called the Witness.
Next, establish a regular time and place of quiet when the body and mind may be still. Start with 5 minutes of simply following your breath. After a while, you will crave more than 5 minutes and return to this time of quiet with great joy. You will find fulfillment in bringing this peaceful vibration into your day and sharing it with others. This page has more suggestions about meditation. At work, your coffee/tea break may transform into 5 minutes of quiet breathing, where you simply rest and like Paul McCartney, LET IT BE.
This is now. Now is,
all there is. Don't wait for Then;
strike the spark, light the fire.
Sit at the Beloved's table,
feast with gusto, drink your fill
the way branches
of jasmine and cypress
dance in a spring wind.
The green earth
is your cloth;
tailor your robe
with dignity and grace.
~ Rumi ~
(adapted by Jose Orez from a version by Coleman Barks in The Soul of Rumi)
Gratitude to Linda Arigi
I dedicate this essay to my beloved Sangha-mate Linda Arigi who transitioned on January 20, 2019 during the Full Moon Eclipse. Linda danced through her life with mucho gusto up until the very last moment of her incarnation. I am grateful our paths crossed and for Linda’s example of being present as she served all she encountered with wisdom, joyful humor and lovingkindness.
May you remember the beautiful Light of your true nature, dear friends. May you walk in Beauty today and all the days of your life.