Almost every culture has a word for the unseen energy that breathes life into form. Chinese culture calls this energy qì (or ch’i), Japanese call it ki. What is referred to as prana by Indians, is mana to Hawaiians, lüng in Tibetan Buddhism, ruah in Hebrew and pneuma to the ancient Greeks. Literally translated, qi means “breath”, “air”, or “gas”. In many schools of movement and healing arts, these words essentially refer to our “life force” – the flow of energy in our body and our being.
Each day we weave ourselves into rhythms of actions, interactions, relationships, habits, thoughts and feelings that have varying degrees of impact on our overall energy or life force. While we have an amazing industry of wellness professions devoted to healing and re-balancing the energy that often gets overtaxed in our modern fast-paced life, we don’t often take time to simply look at where our energy is going on a daily basis and how it balances itself in our life. Our to-do lists pull us rapidly into each day and we can go weeks, months or even years without ever asking ourselves which aspects, areas and relationships in our life are currently giving us energy, which areas are currently taking our energy away… and why?
Our Life Force Bank Account
While most traditions see the energy of life as an infinite source, when it comes to managing our own energy on a daily basis, it can be helpful to think of our Life Force like a bank account. There are things that we do each day that allow us to make deposits into the energy bank and there are things that we do each day that require us to withdraw energy from the account. It is normal for the energy to circulate in our life, but our modern world has many demands and we often find that we are being asked to write more cheques than our energetic funds allow. Sometimes the bank may give us a temporary line of credit – but we can only borrow so much before we risk going into genuine energetic overdraft.
So how do we keep an eye on the balance of our Life Force to ensure we are maintaining the balance of what we need to live a thriving, energised life?
The following is a simple and practical exercise designed to help us take an inventory of our life’s endeavours in order to re-align ourselves with habits that positively support, and infuse our life with, energy.
Step 1 – Consider the different areas of your life
Consider the different areas and aspects of your life – your physical body, your thoughts, your relationships, your job/career, home, hobbies and finances. As you think about each of these different aspects, give yourself an opportunity to honestly feel the impact that each of these elements has on your energy.
Step 2 – Make a list
Once you get an overall sense for the energetic landscape of your life, draw a line down the centre of a piece of paper, and on the left side of the paper make a list all the activities, relationships and endeavours that are currently Life Force Giving to you. These are the things you do, and the people you spend time with, that provide you with the sense of feeling energised, inspired and alive. On the right hand side of the paper, list all of those aspects and elements that you feel are currently Life Force Draining – those that are in one way or another drawing away from your energy, leaving you feeling zapped, drained, fragmented or constricted.
Note: You’re not looking for general or politically correct answers here (i.e. I love my job!) but the real answer, and if possible with details based on the genuine energy exchange you experience on a daily basis. And it may be that certain areas of your life are both (i.e. I love the creative aspects of my work, but spreadsheets and my relationship with that guy leaves me feeling drained). This does not need to take a long time, just a few minutes… Go!
Step 3- Awareness is Curative
Once you get the basics down on the page, it’s powerful to go back into the list and get clear about what it is exactly about each activity or area of your life that gives or drains your energy. What is the source of that exchange and how does it make you feel in your body? Often times when we simply give ourselves the opportunity to see a big picture view of where our energy is going, we begin to make natural shifts in our focus and effort.
Step 4 – Discernment and Decisive Action
Once you have a clear view of what aspects, areas and relationships are currently Life Force Draining (and why), you also have a choice to do something about them. Sometimes this involves letting go of habits or activities that are simply not contributing to your life, and other times there are simple actions we can take to unlock the energy of a situation and quickly shift something/someone from the left hand side back over to the right. Often even the most Life Force Draining relationships are just one clear and honest conversation away from being positive contributors to our energy – but the fear of having that conversation keeps us (and our energy) stuck. And occasionally there are habits, behaviours and even people that we may simply need to let go of in order to free up our energy.
Looking at your list, what are 1-2 items that would make the biggest energetic difference to your life in the coming week if you were to let something go, or shift it to the other side? What could you do in the next ten minutes to take a step?
Step 5 – Build on what’s working!
Along with shifting and letting go of the activities and relationships that are currently draining our energy, one of the most powerful ways to build our energetic bank account is to quite simply do more of the things that give us energy on a daily basis. This may sound obvious, but it is astounding to see how often we postpone, delay or procrastinate our commitment to the things in life that actually give us the most energy, in order to feed the demands of the things which take it.
For a few moments, give yourself an opportunity to sit with your list of Life Force Giving activities and consider how you may be able to build upon and commit more time and energy to these areas. In service of honouring the magnificent, fully charged, awake and alive person you came here to be, what activities (new and current) are you now willing to make a priority to engage in regularly – daily, weekly or even several times throughout the day? This can be as simple as committing to stop three times throughout the day to take a few deep breaths. Stand for five minutes in the grass. Smile at five strangers. Take a cold shower. Finish that painting. Write that poem. Do that yoga class. Kiss that girl. What else? List five things that you can schedule into your life in a tangible sense to build your energy this week… and do it.
Trust Your Gut and Follow Nature’s Example
We can’t always explain or rationalise why certain people or activities make us feel a certain way, but if we give ourselves the opportunity to genuinely tune in, we can usually get a sense for whether something or someone is having a Life Force Giving or Draining influence on our energy. Once we know this, it becomes a conscious decision how we respond. Sometimes we may choose to pour our energy into something that seems to temporarily drain us, in order to help initiate, cause a shift or breakthrough. Sometimes we are one simple action or conversation away from moving something from Life Force Draining to Life Force Giving. And sometimes that action may be to withdraw our energy completely from a situation in order to grow, evolve and maintain integrity with who we truly came here to be.
When in doubt, nature is probably our greatest teacher in the realms of energy and Life Force management. Animals exclusively trust their “feel” and instincts to find food and avoid threatening situations. Plants continually store and draw energy from the atmosphere around them and grow in the direction of the most Life Giving elements. They don’t question or try to justify staying in Life Force Draining situations. They simply move, learn, seek and grow continually in the direction which is supporting and sustaining the balance of life.
How balanced is your Life Force right now? What simple steps could you take today to shift or release that which is not serving the balance and begin more powerfully cultivating positive, good-feeling Life Force on all levels, in all areas of your existence?