Every once in a while, most of us slip into a low energy phase or mood. This is characterized by lethargy and a somber or a melancholic mood. It doesn’t feel good – at all. In extreme cases, it feels totally draining and even as though one is dying. Such low energy moods are different from ‘feeling bad’ because somebody said something to us. This ‘feeling bad’ tends to be linked to a specific event, a thing or a person. But the low energy mood is a depressed state of feeling which need not necessarily be linked to any specific external event. We just don’t feel well, we just don’t feel right. Often, this ‘mood’ sets in in the evening times, during sunset and can extend well into the night. Sunday evenings can be especially bad.
What most of us do during this time is distract ourselves. We head out. Meet friends. Watch a movie. Call someone up. Get onto the computer or the internet. Some of us just go to bed. These ‘distractions’ are sometimes effective. They change the ‘energy’, and can elevate the mood. But what if none of these opportunities are available? What if your friends are busy? What if you are in the midst of the pandemic and have limited opportunities to venture outside the house? In extreme cases of this depressive mood, we do not even have the energy to get out of bed. We feel heavy and tired.
How can we begin to address this?
First understand that this low energy is not you. It is extremely important to recognize this low energy phase as a modulation of the body / mind energy system. What most of us do, is to become identified with this. And once we are identified with this low energy state of being, we harbour and encourage deep, dark, negative thoughts. Low energy creates negative thoughts. And once we get stuck in these thoughts, it becomes exceedingly hard to get out of it. Often, the thoughts are self-deprecating or self-pity thoughts. Our minds tell us how bad we really are, how useless we are, or how unfair life has been to us.
In order to not identify with this, I usually sit down in a comfortable spot, close my eyes and am with the feeling. We need to sense how this low energy feels and not think about it. Whenever thoughts come about – usually in the form of commentary about the situation – such as “God! I feel so sad, heavy” – observe it and bring your attention back into the body. Start scanning the body from head to toe and feel it. This is a usual practice before any meditation. Employ this method. Once you have spent some time scanning the body, feeling each part of it, you begin to sense the body’s energy field – the prana. And there you may detect a heavy, downward pull. When you feel this, it is important not to raise the energy through any specific breathing pattern. Just allow the energy to feel heavy. Feel as though you are a stone and go with the flow as opposed to trying to defeat it, or change it. When you allow the energy to flow down. almost like a downward flow of gravity, something interesting happens. You will notice that the outward breath becomes pronounced. The inward breath is extremely short – even non existent. Encourage this by exhaling deeply and going downward with the breath.
You may also notice that one of the nostrils is blocked – usually this tends to be the right nostril. This indicates that the body’s energy system is severely compromised. In Ayurveda, this is a Tamas dominated state. Our task is to accept the low energy, realize it is in us and not ‘us’, assist it in it’s downward movement and rest in that feeling. We do not force anything onto this state. We allow it to go down. At this juncture, we may become fearful. This feels terrible and even as though we may die. Here we need the courage to persist. And this courage comes about by watching the feeling. When we bring awareness to this sensation, we realize we are a little away from it – we are not it – but can watch it.
As we begin to dwell on the emphasized exhalation, slowly, very gradually, the body begin to take deeper in breaths. When the body begins to take in deeper in-breaths, you gently push it to get deeper. Over the course of the next five minutes, the in-breaths begin to slowly and gradually extend. This is the beginning of the change. Continue to observe and stay with the sensations. If thoughts come in, bring back the attention to the body sensation and the energy sensation. As time progresses, you will begin to sense the energy change. Suddenly, the clouds begin to clear and the thoughts change. First thoughts of doing something – a desire to say, eat or do begin to rise.
When these desires begin to arise, there is a general tendency to open one’s eyes and satiate the desire. At this stage, know you are also not those impulses to get up and do something. See if you can bring your awareness to that too. And as you stay with that, the desire begin to convert itself to pure energy within the system. And we begin to notice greater clarity, joy and a feeling of well-being. Observe the nostrils at this stage. Most likely, both nostrils will be open and the breath flowing freely in both.
For the next few minutes, rest in awareness of this energy field of well being. Just observe and just be. You will notice an expansion of yourself, like a balloon to the extremities of your body (and perhaps even beyond). You might notice a tingling sensation in your arms, in your nostrils and cheeks. And you feel energized and peaceful. The whole exercise takes anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour depending on how low your energy was in the first place.
So what is really happening here?
We need to understand that our energy system determines the way we feel. This is why Yoga incorporates breathwork (pranayama) as an essential part of well being. Using the breath to alter the mind is the basis of pranayama. We do not fight with the energy system using rigorous breathwork. We just sink into the feeling and then gently uplift the energy and then the mind.
Understand that while distractions may work in the short term, we miss out on the ability to develop the skill to manage our own mind. While a movie, a friend or something else may give us short-term relief, it merely pushes the underlying cause deeper in us. This low energy is our minds way of saying ‘pay attention to me’. It is our psychology’s way of wanting to come home to rest. Think of it this way, when you have a bad tummy, it is the body’s way of saying ‘Enough of eating out and eating junk. Give me some rest’. Similarly, the mind asks for rest though mental discomfort. Our task it to heed this calling. Movies, friends and heading out, is like taking a painkiller to temporarily numb the pain. This leads to long-term consequences.
Therefore, face the pain. Face the low energy. Be with it. And by using these techniques, we can begin to gain mastery over who we are. Through this, we move towards freedom, which is not the ability to do whatever we want, but to be okay with whatever happens. We become free from the grip our own mind places on us. Isn’t this something to aspire for?