Setting Boundaries and Conserving Your Energy

In our culture today, we don't understand what it means to conserve energy. Our society is built on expending, on energy going out and out. At a global level we continue to drain the earth's resources. The U.S. has a trade deficit of billions of dollars. The health of our economy is defined by how much people spend. We are taught that if we want to succeed, we have to put out energy, work long hours, sacrifice personal life, "give it all we've got." People struggle with chronic fatigue, exhaustion, stress, burn-out. There are few models in our culture for conservation, restoration, replenishment of resources. We are experiencing in our own lives the truth of Chief Seattle's famous statement "What we do to the web, we do to ourselves." We have drained and exhausted the earth's resources and energy, and now we find ourselves drained and exhausted.

We don't seem to understand energy. We don't understand that the flow of energy operates on the principle of exchange: what you take out, you have to restore. I live in a house that operates entirely off the grid -- all our electricity comes from the sun. We have a fairly modest system, and so I learned this principle of exchange very quickly. If I use a lot of power one cloudy day, I may have to wait for a few sunny days before I can watch a movie on my TV, or use my washing machine, or surf the net.

It's so simple. The same principle applies to me. I use my energy every day. I need to conserve my energy, take care of it, restore and replenish it, before I use more. Eating and sleeping alone will not accomplish this, especially since these days so many people eat on the run and sleep restlessly.

Take a moment and think about how much energy you use and expend in the course of a day. Think about the water you use, the electricity. Reflect on how much energy it takes to support your life-style, no matter how simple you may think it is. Do you have an idea how many watts of electricity your television uses every time you turn it on? Or the hair dryer, the toaster, or the stove? You may be appalled at the state of the world, but do you have any specific, tangible idea of how much you contribute each day to the ongoing, constant drain on our resources?

Reflect on your personal energy. Think about the energy that's used up in working, relating to people, doing errands, even having a good time. You may know you feel drained when you come home from work, but what is draining you? Do you have any idea how much of your personal energy you can lose through a chance encounter with another person, a co-worker, a parent, a boss, a spouse, that neighbor who drives you crazy?

In a solar electrical system, there are meters that show you exactly how much power you are using when you turn on a computer, a light, a power tool. Spend a day imagining that you are carrying around such a meter. What makes the needle go up? What experiences give you energy? Where is your sunshine? What makes it plummet to dangerously low levels? If it's a "cloudy" day, one where you're feeling low anyway, a little drain can take you very low. How do you make some space in the sun for yourself? That is, how do you restore your energy?

If you take stock of your overall use of energy, you may find some small ways that you can conserve energy in the outer world. Get rid of a few appliances, carpool when you can, flush the toilet a little less often, buy a few less things, plant a tree.
There are countless small ways of disengaging from the system of energy outflow, unconscious energy loss. These are important, and yet it can sometimes be difficult to experience the effect of such action on the global situation. However, if you also begin to pay attention to your own personal use of energy, you will find that your day-to-day experience of life can change. You will have more energy.

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A great deal of energy gets drained in our interactions with other people. Certainly we have relationships that energize us, where we experience a wonderful exchange of energy. However, almost everyone I encounter also has relationships they experience as draining; it's just a fact of human existence that during and after certain encounters we need to know how to conserve and replenish our energy.

People talk a lot about setting boundaries these days; this is a necessary skill if one is to conserve one's energy and not allow it to be drained by other people. However, few of us have been taught to do this. The following exercise is simple, effective and will teach you how to tangibly create a boundary for yourself in relationship to others. It turns your attention to your energy. It preserves and conserves your energy, keeping it available to support your life. It does not isolate you and cut you off from human interaction; rather it provides a different basis for relationship, one in which you are thoroughly grounded in yourself. Regularly practiced, it prevents others from pulling on and draining your energy. Once you have practiced it for a while it can be done if necessary in about three seconds.

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Sit down quietly, the first few times you do it. Later you can do it anywhere, in conversation, standing on the bus or train, sitting at your desk. For now, sit down, and breathe quietly, calming the energy for a few moments.

Now imagine that you are drawing a line of golden light around your body with your mind. Begin at the top of the head, a few inches out from your body. Bring the line down the right side of the head, down the neck and shoulder and arm, around every finger, back up the right arm, down the right side of the body, the outside of the right leg, around every single toe, back up the inside of the right leg and so on around the body to the top of the head.

This is a single unbroken line. If you lose it, start over. If you notice tension, or obstruction, just continue on. This is not a hazy cloud of light surrounding you. This is a precise, defined line. It outlines the body like a two-dimensional drawing on a blackboard. My experience with this exercise is that it's most helpful to draw the line fairly close, 2-4 inches out from the body. If you have a different experience, feel free to do what feels right to you. Remember, though, that this exercise is not about surrounding yourself with light for protection. (For that, see the chapter on "Psychic Protection.") This is about self-definition -- drawing the outline of your unique self as a cartographer would delineate the borders of a country on a map. If you try to define too large an area in a literal physical sense, you can lose that sense of boundary.

Once you have drawn the line all the around, sit quietly and feel it, imagine it as the border, the boundary, of your unique and personal being. Any influence from the outside may enter only if invited. Imagine that you feel your own personal energy flowing from the top of your head down through the body, into your legs and back up again. It is like the blood circulating in your body. You are experiencing the flow of your own life energy in your energy system, your field. Feel the energy flowing within the vessel you have defined. Do this for as long as you like.

Finally, return to the line of light, re-draw it, ask it to accompany you as you go out into the world. Thank the life energy for supporting you, honor it as it flows within you. It's a good idea to follow this meditation with the "Psychic Protection" exercise given later in the book.

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After you practice this for a short time, you will find that you can call on it quickly at times when you need to set a boundary, prevent energy drain, and connect with yourself. Let's say you're talking on the phone to someone and you start to feel your energy going. You let them do the talking for a few moments, because they probably are anyway, and you close your eyes and take a deep breath. Imagine quickly that line of golden light traveling around your body, setting your boundary. Feel the energy flow once through you. Open your eyes. Most likely you'll find yourself saying, politely but firmly, whatever it is you need to say in the situation. "Let's continue this conversation another time." "OK, I'll certainly think about what you've said." "I really have to go now." When you hang up, take another breath, re-draw the line, and feel your energy. Come back. Don't stay caught in the other person's energy. Draw the line over and over, as often as you need to. If you don't have time to do it right then, do it later, at the first available moment.

Interestingly, some people will tell me they feel selfish when they do this exercise, as though they don't have a right to their own energy. Or fear will arise: if I draw this line I'm separating myself, I'll end up isolated, cut off, alone. Notice what comes up for you as you try this, and know: you have a right to your personal energy. You need it, you deserve it. Focusing on yourself in this way will not isolate you or cut you off or alienate others. It will provide a solid energetic foundation for relating to the world, your life, and other people.

Others have protested that this exercise seems negative; they don't want to see other people as threats. They prefer to love and embrace whatever energy comes their way. Again, this exercise can be done with love: love for yourself, and love for the other. It is helpful for those who are highly empathic, who feel what others feel and take on the negative energies of people around them, who tend to feel overwhelmed by other people and get lost in relationship.

The more you experiment with and reflect on the principle of conservation of energy, containment of energy, the more you will see how energy pours out of you every day. You will perhaps find yourself thinking in a different way. Rather than asking yourself in the morning, "Do I feel like doing this today?" You may ask yourself, "Will this support my energy today?" Rather than saying to yourself, "Oh, no, I can't stand this person, they drive me crazy," you might say, "This person really drains my energy; if I'm going to be with her today I need to be extra careful to conserve and recharge my energy."

You will see ways in which you drain the energy of others, ways in which you pull the plug on yourself. To explore the principle of conserving energy opens new windows on the world, new ways of seeing yourself and others.

A Few Words about Meditation

Following the Breath

Setting Boundaries and Conserving Your Energy

Awareness as Energy

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