Feel you have nothing left? 3 Practices to replenish

BL00 - Feel you have nothing left-Max-Quality

By Joy Reichart, guest contributor, New Ventures West

“I have nothing left.”

It’s a sentiment that’s been in our shared consciousness for a long time, and recently I’ve started to hear folks actually name it. Maybe you have too. 

World events have taken their toll, and many of us find ourselves with very little energy, resources, spirit left in us. The pandemic fomented a sudden shift in pace and orientation that revealed much of what is outdated and imbalanced in our lives, and in the world. Though effects of the virus itself are becoming less severe, much of what began in the pandemic has actually snowballed. Generations-old wounds open as we deal with individual and collective shadow. Polarization widens as we each grip desperately to what we’ve always thought we’ve known was true. 

And so more wars break out in the world between countries and people. Greed is even more transparently evident. Rights are being taken away. We wear our pain on the surface of our skin.

Flecks of solid ground fly off into space, no longer held by gravity. 

We feel this loss. We feel it as trauma, as exhaustion, as bafflement. We run desperately around to piece it back together, to keep ourselves and our loved ones alive and cared for. 

It is not sustainable. We are running low on resources, outer and inner. For many, the tank is empty. There is nothing left. 

How to replenish? 

In Integral Coaching one way we have of viewing human beings is through the Three Centers of Intelligence: mind, heart, and body. Some of why many of us are so drained is that at the moment all three are being taxed, if not besieged.

How might we tend to each to begin to replenish? By way of invitation, let’s start with this poem by David Whyte. 

Start Close In

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To find
another’s voice,
Follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
listening
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

- David Whyte

Mind

A big stressor on many minds these days is a longing for things to be ‘normal’ again. The challenge here, of course, is to accept that nothing will be how it was. There is no ‘normal’ to return to—in fact, there never was. Anyone who has experienced significant loss will tell you this. Pouring all our effort into reviving dead or dying systems so we can rely on them again is futile. Instead, what if we put our attention on what is calling to be built anew? 

Start close in…

Look just at your own life. What beliefs, assumptions, habits, are automatic, from a time that has no relevance here and now, and that are simply draining your energy? What newness, what possibility exists behind and beneath all of that? 

Practices like meditation, journaling, and focused movement can help greatly to bring our awareness back to what life is asking of us right now. 

Keeping our attention on news and social media will not help. This is by no means a novel idea, yet it persists in hijacking the collective mind. It’s where anxiety is seeded and proliferates. Limiting the attention we give these spaces is a loving act for our mind: the center of intelligence that works so hard carrying out the will and wisdom of our hearts and bodies. Can you hold this as an act of replenishment, of genuine self care for your precious, depleted mind?

Heart

Early in my Integral Coach training I was warned about something called ‘compassion fatigue.’ The idea being that, when we are so present with someone, we can become overloaded with their struggles. Our hearts grow heavy with a range of emotions—our own as well as theirs. 

Similarly, right now in the world there is too much for us to feel. This feels very strange to say, but it’s undeniable. Our hearts are overwhelmed by grief, concern, love, fear, and a thousand other emotions. Many of us are nearing or past our limit. We have nothing left.

Go-to responses are to numb (and no one can be blamed for doing that from time to time), or to spend time away from others to avoid having their emotions augment our own. 

Interestingly, though, the heart is most readily re-filled in the company of others. Replenishment comes through coregulation—by being seen, held, mirrored. By looking into faces and feeling touch. By letting ourselves dissolve a bit into the care that surrounds us, making it safe to feel what we’re actually feeling, allowing the emotions to move all the way through. 

We can replenish our hearts without making it a monumental affair (unless you’re an extrovert who loves being around lots of people). 

Start close in…

… perhaps with a short visit with family or a close friend or two. Or by making eye contact or exchanging greetings with passersby. By volunteering, perhaps, or by simply being kind to strangers. By spending time with animals or trees (who are alive and compassionate as any human being). All of these foster the kind of connection that can re-open and start to fill our hearts.

Also, the simple, open-ended question “how are you doing?” can free a person in unimaginable ways. A recent article by NVW faculty member Cynthia Luna is a powerful invitation to connect to one another with sincerity and compassion, even just for a few moments. 

Body

With so much occupying our minds and hearts, our bodies tend to get left behind. Sure, it could be that we feel physically depleted because we’re overspending our energy by running between commitments, or after children, or in the opposite direction of our pain. But even in all the running, it is actually the lack of attention to our bodies that runs us down, makes us sick. Exercise for the sake of exercising may not be a loving act toward our bodies, especially if what we need is rest. Hunching for hours in front of a screen filling up on information, or trying to be productive, or trying to forget, is neglectful. And so forth.

What’s needed to replenish our bodies, then, is not an elaborate spa day, or more exercise, or the right supplements. Instead…

Start close in…

… by simply paying attention. Do a body scan. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and beginning with the soles of your feet, move your awareness slowly up, giving full attention to every inch of your physical form, inside and out. Say hello to organs, to ligaments, to the bumps on your skin. Notice what is tight, or numb, or warm, or in some other way asking for you to linger just a moment longer and reconnect with it.

If you can do this once a day, you’ll start to connect to your body’s wisdom to tell you what it needs, what is true, and the right action to take. When we are in alignment with our physical being, that unity and integration goes a long way toward replenishment.

Exercise: replenishment, starting close in

Get comfortable, close your eyes. Now imagine three fuel gauges on the front of your body: one between your eyes, one in the center of your chest, and one just below your belly button. 

Taking your time, check out each one. Notice if the needle is leaning more toward Empty or Full.  How far? Let your mind, body, and heart show you. Don’t catalog all the reasons why any of them might be a certain way. Just watch as the gauges move and settle where they are right now.

Once you have a sense, whichever is closest to empty, start there. 

Start close in. 

Journal or draw for 10 minutes in response to these questions:

  • Where is there the greatest need in me? 
  • What is behind that need? Perhaps it’s an emotion you don’t want to feel, a delayed conversation, a feeling of missing someone, a longing you can’t quite name. It’s absolutely fine if you can’t contact any of this. Just stay with the need. 
  • What is one thing I can do (or not do) today to nudge the needle just a millimeter closer to full? 
  • What might get in the way of my doing this?
  • Who can support me? 

Integral Coaches meet clients where they are by tuning in to what is needed in the moment. Learn some of these fundamental skills in Foundations of Coaching, NVW’s virtual introductory workshop, next happening September 14-16. Take $100 off tuition using the coupon code MINDFULLEADER.

Joy Reichart is the Communications Director at New Ventures West, an Integral Coach training school in San Francisco.

1 comment

What a lovely article, anchored in a favorite poem. Thanks for this gift. 

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