Recently in group workshops I have noticed that the incidence of tiredness and exhaustion in my students has increased and intensified. Leaving aside my nervousness that I may have been boring my audience to sleep, I set about trying to account for this phenomenon. This is the subject of this short article.
Some group participants’ observations:
I have noted a "different" sensation after attending your weekend courses. It is a sensation I have not experienced before. I have felt physically ill, slightly upset in my tummy, very tired to the point of exhaustion, but simultaneously calm, focused and content. This sensation is different to physical or mental tiredness. In seminar breaks I have experienced intense drowsiness, resembling the condition just prior to sleep, and in the lunch breaks I have dropped easily into a deep sleep (as have the other participants), and awoken refreshed.
My recent experience of tiredness and exhaustion was during a group weekend. I usually find that I am very closely and attentively engaged in the group work, following teacher and group members alike and only fade at the very end of a weekend of work. However, on the last weekend I was surprised to become exhausted and fade on a Saturday for no unusually (sic) accountable reason. I recovered for the Sunday session.
The tiredness started creeping in slowly, slithering gently, especially after a session. Then the slithering became a flood. It was overwhelming. It was impossible to keep awake. For months (seriously months!) all I could do was sleep. I had no energy and my need for sleep was enormous. It was like having come back from a war in which you have to be constantly alert, in which your eyes are never allowed to close, your consciousness is constantly on call, your body always tight, ready to run to skip the bullet. I guess that what happens inside is a bit like being on a battle-field. That is the feeling. The inside is wrecked. You’re hit by an invisible tidal wave that leaves no physical evidence, it’s all inside. There is a big fight going on inside, between your will to change, your conscious desire to change, and all the other voices inside that don’t know how to and don’t want to and which constantly bring up thoughts of doubt, sabotage, murder, darkness and heaviness. It’s a constant, constant, constant struggle. With time, and inner work, it gets better.
After every session I get hit by the urge to lie down and sleep. It is as if my soul needs to go out, needs to go. Or it can be also that the unconscious has to speak, has to express, in its home. And the body lets go, surrenders… slowly.
The sleep is extraordinary; it’s deep, it’s cavernous, it’s transporting, it’s most pleasant, with a primal quality. I truly feel it dragging something of me into another dimension and if I let it happen, if I can lie down and sleep and don’t have to do anything, and give it that half hour, one hour or more, then it is incredibly restoring, clarifying, and healing.
With time and more inner work, the "sleep effect" wanes slowly away and is replaced by renewed energy and clarity. I think this is because some parts of you, some bits and pieces inside, give in and relax.
Inner work is first and foremost the search for truth. When we speak of truth or experience it physically, emotionally or energetically the soul in the body is being released from the rigid confines of early human conditioning. The mind, which has been caught in its usual activities of worrying, planning and imagining, is arrested by a greater concern. This concern - the truth itself - is irresistible to our attention. The truth invites us to liberation and the shedding of pettiness and all that is irrelevant to the present moment.
In the present moment, life is - this is the center of being-ness and existence, where all is vivid, real and free, radiating and communicating brightness and vibrancy. In reaction, the mind recoils, almost immediately, into the darkness of suppression - like when you emerge too quickly from a darkened room into a bright light. Doubt, cynicism and belittling arise in thought, dismissive arrogance and complacency, borne on the fulfillment of hope. Fear masked as knowledge, superiority or unworthiness become the posture that seeks to destroy the truth as it presents itself to us in transparent strength and vulnerability.
When what we are seeking most is present, the organism experiences it as a great shock. First, we feel the chronic patterns of in-turned energy, the emotional-physical power we have turned against ourselves in the form of suppression and self-imposed inhibition as exhaustion, at first dully and later overwhelmingly strongly. This may be sudden or gradual depending on the makeup of a person’s body, mind, or psyche. The faculty or mixture of faculties - physical, emotional, mental or energetic - that we have most employed to command or train ourselves to be subordinate to fear and intimidation is the one we feel first: if physical, we become physically exhausted; if emotional, we become emotionally exhausted and so on.
Second, when we experience the truth, the soul and the spirit awaken in a new way, a deep way. As the inner core of a human being stirs, the outer layer struggles to maintain "the world as it is". Consciously, or usually unconsciously, the person resists the awakening of soul and spirit because of its unfamiliarity, which is experienced initially as radically threatening. Dark qualities in the individual, like resentment, frustration, anxiety, vengeance and stress produce disorientation, confusion and conflict.
Sitting and breathing through these disturbances, we can overcome the preliminary shock and assimilate the unfamiliar, direct apprehension of truth in all of its invigorating, refreshing aspects and effects.
For some of us the revival of soul and spirit is timely and not wholly unexpected. When we have prepared ourselves through thorough, persistent applied work in the inner realms. We may have passed through the stages of awareness, opening and lessening (I have detailed this process in Part 2 of my book, The Flight of Consciousness), which lead to an inner emptiness and receptiveness. We have reached a state of deep preparation in which the meeting with the unknown produces less of a shock to the psycho-physical organism. Receptive and open to truth and its effects, we may meet it with spontaneity and surrender, yielding and natural in the new relationship.
But often the truth of living consciousness has to reel us in to our true heart. And the awakening and reviving in full energy and vibrancy of the soul and the spirit is exhausting and tiring. In reality we are holding on, clinging to denial, to resistance, to expressions of our self-contraction in habit, assumptions and in order to combat fear (or excitement depending on how you look at it), we adhere to all that we know. The known world becomes our sanctuary, as well as our self-imposed prison.
In the restless battle between the two parts of yourself - the one that seeks liberation and the one that is determined to maintain the status quo - we exhaust, tire, wound and disappoint ourselves. We may not go beyond the bounds of character and conditioning which may prove to be beyond our self-capacity or present destiny. Yet even to return from such a magnificent and glorious struggle we may inspire others with our true experiences and the wonders of our self-discovery in the inner realms.
However, when we are truly present, stabilized in our center, committed to our intention with the four strands of physical, mental, emotional and energetic qualities woven together into a plait of extraordinary resilience and strength - as a symbol of our resolve - we are pulled or reeled in by the divine, through the movement of grace to the transcendent field of the heart from which there can be no going back. Now there is no retreat or surrender to the limitations of self-contraction ever again.
In the old Christian terminology we are "saved" and finally risen above the fear of possession, illusion and death. At last firmly rooted in our true heart where soul and spirit interpenetrate, we see beyond a shadow of a doubt the bright certainty that heaven is on earth.
No longer is exhaustion or tiredness an issue or a problem since we are, rather than a spirit in a body, now identified with consciousness itself.
Let’s end with the lovely, encouraging and enlightening observation of a dedicated student of inner work:
I am working on myself and life and I have to say the process is exhausting at times. It's as if my body gets the full impact of a revelation and collapses until it has processed it... then the energy returns afresh and wonderful!
(Thanks to Sophie Paulding, Michael Booth, George Worrell, Angela Dorazio and Dittany Dylan)