“Look for the energy, Jim, look for the energy,” my teacher would say. I was in the midst of coaching training and this was an important matter. I began to see shifts in energy during my sessions with clients. A client would come in confused, stuck and unable to articulate his interests in life. All of a sudden he would sit up in his chair, voice amplified, arms waving and speak with passion. There was the energy, both physical and psychic. There was the focus point.
I began to look for the times and places of energy in my own life. I am a person who has traditionally run at low energy levels. But could I do something to change that? Were there sources of energy into which I could tap? I began a list.
The mountains. Something happens when I go to the mountains. I breathe deeply the force of life. I can be backpacking in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains of New Hampshire or I can be on a tennis court in Waterville Valley. The feeling of fullness is the same.
The sound of water. When hiking, all of a sudden the sound of an approaching stream will filter through the trees. It could be one of my favorites, the Mad River or the Wild River, or it could be a babbling brook. The sounds of fountains energize me. A dam, with clear sheaths of rushing water, will do the trick. Visit the John F. Kennedy memorial fountain near Harvard Square and just feel the energy flow.
The feeling of water. Showers, baths, dips in the lake or the ocean, hot tubs, jacuzzis, pools. The feeling of the water united with my body fills me up.
Music. Folk music is my most certain route into energy. Usually a familiar favorite cut or two from a CD will do it. Other types of soulful music, like Joe Cocker, will also do it. I do not have a lot of experience with classical music, but lately I have been entranced by “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barber. It raises me up and twists and turns me, floating away, yet grounded. It builds layer upon layer until there can be no more and then more, reaching higher, and then surprise, more! It then slowly lays me down.
Dance. I had forgotten about dance until my recent retreat. Our group sessions would begin with three or four dance tunes and we would all get up and get moving. I would be dead tired at about my usual bedtime and yet a few minutes of dancing would completely revive me. I was stunned at my ability to manipulate my energy level. The combination of music and body movement is powerful.
Sex. A powerful energy source, a life force. It combines body movement, tactile touch and loving intimacy in a primal way. It calls me from deep within to be fully alive.
Exercise. I have recently begun running again after a layoff of many years. It seems strange that the exertion of physical energy would produce both physical energy and psychic energy, but it does.
Fierce beauty. I vividly recall walking on a small hill in the high desert of Coyote Springs, Arizona, and coming upon the brilliant red flower, Indian Paintbrush. It took my breath away. Fierce beauty. Alice Koller writes that fierce beauty “wrenches me out of the ongoing hour, immersing me in itself.” She had a particular painting she would go to see in the Gardner Museum in Cambridge when she needed the energy of fierce beauty in her life. For my friend, Bonnie, it lies in classical music. Each of us has his/her own source.
My list is a beginner’s list and I hope to expand it. I believe that I am just starting to scratch the surface on this issue of energy. But more importantly, I hope to use these sources proactively for energy management in my life. Robert Gass writes, “The key to the ‘art of doing’ is human energy. Everything we do in our lives is the result of using or withholding, focusing, relaxing, amplifying or reducing our energy.” I would add that energy is also the key to the “art of being.” With energy our doing and being can flourish.
My challenge is to have the energy to show up fully for life and to use that energy with intention and focus. I recognize that part of the energy flows as a result of “doing” and “being” which is done well. But before we get to that step, we need the basic energy. We need to have sources that we can call on when needed.