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Personal Energy Crisis: Old Paradigm Problem, New Paradigm Solution
The Quest for More Energy: Are You Winning or Losing the Energy Game?
The search for energy is the American Dream that never sleeps. Everyone wants more of it, and most people feel like they can’t get enough of it. In our pursuit of energy we may take up—for a while—demanding diets, exercise programs, and expensive vitamin and supplement regimes.
But the path to abundant energy is not product related. It is not achieved through extreme efforts or eccentric programs that prey on your fears or promote obsessive concerns about fitness, diet, and health. It is a path of balance, sanity, and intelligent self-effort that supports the most complex and demanding life and leads you into simple and direct relationship with your self and the Source of life. Health and vitality require proper energy management and are a by-product of it.
In nature, the basic life processes occur without confusion or dilemma. For most life-forms, managing energy is as simple as breathing fresh air, absorbing sunlight, foraging for food, resting, reproducing, living, and dying within an interdependent web of life.
Ancient shamans observed these natural processes and extracted simple principles that allowed them to acquire and conduct far greater amounts of energy than the average person. By understanding and managing the simple life processes and natural forces to which all creatures are subject and using their own bodies and minds as laboratories, they achieved personal energy mastery. And they shared their knowledge, or “medicine,” with their village or tribe.
But in our modern world, with its stressful pace and complexity, the basic life processes have become complicated, confusing, and riddled with dilemma. The body operates 24/7, waking and sleeping, without our effort. Disconnected from nature and alienated from our natural or “indigenous self’ that intuitively knows what it needs, simple functions like diet, exercise, sex, and breathing may seem like near-impenetrable mysteries. So we turn to experts to understand, and hopefully meet, our most basic human needs.
We’ve acquired remarkable scientific knowledge about diet, exercise, sex, the brain, meditation and prayer, and more. But what are the fundamentals of human energy that, if applied, allow us to become revitalized energy beings? Here traditional shamanic wisdom is still relevant to modern life. The shamanic energy principles presented in this book confirm insights in modern psychology, modern physics, and modern scientific research. And no matter how complex the world becomes, our bodies, our minds, our relationships, and our vital energy systems will always operate on the same timeless principles.
The modern rush-hour lifestyle leaves millions too depleted to get sufficient exercise, relaxation, play, or even spend quality time with their families. This energy-depleting lifestyle can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, fatigue, high blood pressure, depression, insomnia, a weakened immune system, and a host of serious physical and psychological ailments.
Energy depletion is an inevitable result of unresolved life stress combined with common neglect. In our often anxious efforts to keep up the pace, we fail to do many simple, basic things that maintain our vital connection to the source of abundant energy that sustains us. And this matter of stress and anxiety is key.
The Wages of Fear
Today, frequent “orange alerts” and scare reports send anxiety rippling through our culture, increasing our stress, depleting our energy, and undermining our health and well-being. But even before the shocking events of 9/11 inaugurated an “era of terror,” nearly two-thirds of Americans were chronically under stress and sleep deprived, 40 percent experienced significant daytime tiredness, 60 percent suffered recurring fatigue, 65 million experienced anxiety, and 17.5 million adults experienced depression.
We are encouraged to seek energy and health in a cup, a serum, or a pill. Two of America’s top-grossing drugs in 2003 were the popu-lar antidepressants Zoloft and Prozac.
Natural energy- and health-supplement sales are up by 15 percent. Consumption of artificial energy boosters is at an all-time high. And coffee shops spring up across America like mushrooms after rain. But quick-fix energy substitutes and symptom-suppressing drugs cannot solve our long-term energy and health needs.
The cause of most enervation, depletion, and fatigue illness is not a lack of energy, but a life lived out of balance. This is true for an individual, a family, a nation, or a planet. To a shaman, depletion and fatigue are signs that we are habitually disconnecting from the limitless supply of energy that sustains us, or we are habitually obstructing or “leaking” the energy we have.
Call it chi, manna, spirit, prana, vitality, or Light; view it through the lens of shamanism, ancient spiritual teachings, modern medicine, or quantum physics—energy is the stuff of life, the ultimate medicine, the Holy Grail we’re all seeking. No one knows exactly what it is, but everyone knows it when they feel it. We know instinctively that our health, vitality, happiness, productivity, clarity, creativity, sexuality, longevity, and more depend on how much energy we have. And we know that the more energy we have, the better we feel.
Energy level is an indicator of our general health. A Yale University study found that energy levels had the highest correlation with general-health status and were the best predictor of both physical and psychological health over time. Energetic people, the study showed, are generally healthy, whereas the enervated are often ill, becoming ill, fighting off illness, or struggling with their low-energy condition. Illness, apathy, fatigue, anxiety, chronic stress, depression, and the like are all signs that we are losing the energy game.
The Western Fallacy of Pharmaceutical Healing
Nearly three decades in the trenches of Western medicine and a personal health crisis taught me firsthand that medications and operations do not cure fear, generate energy, or produce vibrant health. Those suffering chronic low energy and poor health who look to conventional Western medicine to restore their full vitality and aliveness are doomed to disappointment for the following reasons:
Conventional medicine is typically passive and remedial rather than dynamically proactive. Doctors give you things to take, and do things to you. But vitality is a result of a dynamic, proactive lifestyle.
Conventional medicine views the body mechanistically and treats it in mechanical and chemical terms, rather than in energetic and holistic terms. The body is an admittedly marvelous biochemical machine. But energy is not generated through mechanical or chemical medical procedures.
Conventional medicine generally ignores or denies the spiritual dimensions of sickness and health. And many recent scientific studies demonstrate that patients with deep spiritual beliefs tend to be healthier, happier, and better at dealing with stress.
Conventional medicine has tended to be remedial rather than proactive. Doctors give you things to take and treat your body to make you well after you are sick. Now forward-thinking clinicians are beginning to recommend lifestyle changes, knowing that health and vitality are a result of a dynamic, proactive lifestyle.
Not long ago we entered the era of holistic medicine, the consideration of the whole person—a big step. Now it’s time for holistic medicine to join up with energy medicine, spirited medicine, which is the medicine of the future.
Psychopharmacological prescription medications have helped millions of people with serious emotional or psychological disorders, but they can hardly be said to have healed them. These medications can seem to be a godsend, offering quick relief by suppressing, diminishing, and even eliminating painful or debilitating symptoms. But in our pharmaceutical culture, too many doctors prescribe these medications, and too many patients reach for them, in knee-jerk fashion.
Pharmaceuticals temporarily diminish anxiety, panic, and depression; decrease our emotional and physical pain; or kill hostile germs in the body. Yet they leave the root causes of our ailments untouched and diminish our capacity to feel. And our feelings contain vital information that is essential for our health, well-being, and peak functioning.
The containment, suppression, or elimination of unpleasant symptoms does not produce vitality or health. The real healing solutions lie in the realms of spirit and nature. To heal an unbalanced, stressful, or fragmented life, we must consistently access the life-sustaining sources of spirit energy.
Most preventable illness is a by-product of energy-depleting habits and behaviors that are driven by unhealthy thinking and emotional patterns. So healing also necessarily involves a change in consciousness.
By focusing primarily on symptoms and pathologies, Western medicine, even at its breathtaking best, remains an exalted science of damage control that cannot produce the radiant aliveness that most of us experienced in childhood. And that is what we instinctively long for.
We Are Nature’s Most Advanced Energy Conductors
Human beings are sophisticated organic energy systems participating in a complex relationship with the ultimate energy system of Life, which includes all of nature and the entire cosmos. All living things expend and receive energy with every breath, bite, movement, impulse, perception, and sensation. Everything that exists and all actions and events in the universe are energetic phenomena. Psychologist Carl Jung’s assertion that every experience and event in our life and in our psyche has an energetic value and impact confirms a principle shamans have long known.
Shamans view all states as energy states and see all interactions between us and the world as forms of spirit energy exchange. They know that our healing and vital aliveness depend on our relationship with the natural, vibrant, regenerative processes through which we conduct spirit energy. This worldview is compatible with current quantum physics’ views of the universe as a vast, interconnected, living sea of subatomic particles and waves of light and energy at times appearing as matter.
Yet if we are literally made of, and are living within, a limitless sea of light and energy, how can we suffer chronic low energy, fatigue, or poor health? Shamans say the root of illness and enervation is a subtle, primal fear, which they call susto. And they treat it like any health condition. In the next chapter we’ll look at fear from both shamanic and contemporary Western psychological perspectives, which are surprisingly parallel.