Leaky Buckets

We are all just bundles of energy and we have a choice about how we use that energy: we can learn how to preserve it, how to maintain it and increase it, so that we can use it for the good things that we want to do with our lives.  None of us wants to wander through life dead on our feet, strung out, wired, unhappy and with little or no patience for others.  Depleted people have very little to give to others; you need your energy to be your best self.   I believe this wholeheartedly.

My friend has a parking ticket and she is cross about it and wants to complain; my friend has a lot of difficult things going on in her life at the moment and a small child to care for, so I wonder aloud if now is the time for engaging in a battle, which will likely end in having to pay the fine anyway, when she needs her energy for her own life and for more important things.  Someone else I know insists upon a spotless house even though she has just embarked on a new course at university and no longer has the time she used to have for housework.  Another friend lives in almost permanent chaos to the extent that every time she tries to find her keys it takes her an inordinate amount of time and energy just to find them and get out of the house.  Other people can't say no and sit there at parties and dinners and lunches wondering why on earth they are wasting their time there when they could be doing something more personally fulfilling.  My dad could barely take a drive when I was a kid without screaming and hollering at all the 'bad' drivers on the road.  We all have our ways of wasting our energy.  What do I do?  I think I have tried too hard in my adult life to make everything perfect and to be organised for everyone; I find it difficult to say no; and I am not very good at remembering to look after myself; if I don't pay attention to these tendencies, I end up exhausted and resentful and cross and then I end up wasting a bit more energy on being angry.   

Sometimes I break down: I am sad or upset, or I experience a surge of low feelings. Over the years I have noticed how this wears me out and leaves me feeling drained and empty and as though I have nothing left to give. Sometimes I get angry and lose my temper at things that don't really matter, wasting my energy on things that don't serve me (there is nothing wrong with anger, by the way, just anger that doesn't serve you). In the past I have paddled the boat of my life and my family so fast and so hard, trying to keep myself and everyone else afloat and free from pain or disorder, that I have ended up totally exhausted.

Now, the catharsis of being upset can often bring relief; and low feelings can be your body trying to tell you that something is not right and needs your attention; anger is an important emotion, which must not be ignored; and being organised can bring ease to a day.  Energy will be consumed, one way or another and I am not going to suggest that in order to conserve our energy, we all become something less than human, something unreal and controlled and cramped that holds those emotions that we might consider to be 'bad' (or that someone has made us think are 'bad') in. I want us all to be as human as possible, in all of our messed up, confused, generous, loving, beautiful glory. I just hope that more of us can learn how not to waste our energy on things that don't deserve it.

Yoga and meditation have something very profound to offer us as we seek to maintain our energy levels and to use that precious energy for the positive things in our lives and in the world.  First, we cannot escape self-observation in yoga... if you are wasting energy on hidden feelings / pain / insecurity / anger / shame / whatever your thing is; when you sit quietly it will be there waiting for you to notice it and do something about it.  And it won't go away until you do something about it; until you stop using that energy for suppressing painful feelings, you will forever be short of the vitality you need for a vibrant life.  In addition, self-reflection brings you the self-understanding to know when you have wasted time and energy acting a certain way, when you could have chosen a different and more beneficial response.  You can't change what you have already done, but you can work on having the capacity to pause, breathe, and act more wisely next time around.  Second, a big reason for practising yoga in the first place is to open up your blocked energy channels (nadis) so that you can remove all that stands between union with your true self; with your soul.

It's not my idea, but I love the idea of us all being buckets.  My teacher, Mukunda Stiles, said to us once "No one wants to be a leaky bucket" and he's absolutely right.  Some people have holes all over them out of which bursts their energy, wasted on situations, people and feelings that aren't worth it.  Others only feel comfortable using all of their energy on everyone else's happiness, forgetting that their bucket needs to be full, full to overflowing, before they truly will have enough love and compassion to give to others.  It is important that we feel worthy enough to believe that our buckets deserve to be full; if you don't feel worthy of having your bucket filled by the things that bring you joy, then you need to ask yourself, very seriously, why that is so and what you can do about it.

Think of yourself as a bucket.  If something has drained you, then you need to fill yourself up again, without regret and in the full knowledge that you deserve to be cared for by yourself and for yourself.  If you are like me, then you first have to get over the idea that your bucket shouldn't be empty (I should be able to do this without ending up feeling exhausted): you know when it is empty, doubtless the fact that a simple event or act has left you feeling empty is important and deserves some attention, but your bucket is empty!  Don't deplete it further by beating yourself up about it!  Work out what fills your bucket up again and do it.  When your bucket is so full that it is overflowing, who do you think gets the extra?  Everybody else.  The world.  The universe.

I fill my bucket up by being with my friends, by surfing and being near the sea, by visiting art galleries and museums, by walking alone with my dog, in silence, meditation and asana and in teaching yoga.

What do you do?  And how are you going to make sure that you make time for yourself to do it?



  1. Love this. I confess I have never properly thought through how to keep my energy level high. And as for time... Sleep, solitude etc. all help but it's a great question you ask and one worth thinking about. Thanks.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts