Free Press Journal

How to combat exhaustion

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“Thinking you need rest makes you restless.

 Thinking you have to work hard makes you tired.

Thinking you have worked hard brings self pity”


                                                                           —Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

An inquisitive and aspiring postulant of Zen, once asked his teacher, “Master, what does one mean by enlightenment?” The perspicacious Zen monk peered into the eyes of the expectant student and replied, “An individual may be stock or a seeker, when hungry such a human need to eat to satiate hunger and when tired requires deep rest and proper sleep. When afflicted by lassitude an individual is gripped by a state of maximal physical or mental tiredness and exhaustion.” Are there techniques to combat exhaustion or tiredness?

Aeons ago, a tutee undergoing training at a celebrated temple of knowledge proclaimed to an unassuming fellow seeker that his teacher was gifted with divine talents and capable of conjuring Mandrake like magical acts. The Master’s acts of legerdemain included writing in the air with a brush, following which in a cabbalistic manner characters would appear out of thin air on a piece of paper several hundreds of feet away.

In a rather supercilious and imperious manner he questioned the guileless disciple as to whether his teacher was proficient in performing such amazing feats. The modest mentee merely stated, “My teacher sleeps whenever he’s tired and eats whenever gripped with pangs of hunger”. He further elaborated that, “When he sleeps, he sleeps and whenever he eats, he eats.” “Therefore, in this mindful manner my master practices Zen,” added the unmixed disciple who was questioned by his conceited colleague.

“Big deal!” gasconaded the hubristic tutee. “When an individual is hungry, he or she but naturally partakes food and invariably takes rest or sleeps whenever exhausted. Isn’t that what everyone does anyway?” Out of nowhere appeared the Zen Master of the humble tutee and ventured to add, “That is not the case dear child. A vast number of people entertain gargantuan desires while they eat and thus eat in a ravenous manner without truly relishing the food. Besides their minds scheme and plot innumerable strategies whenever they attempt to sleep and thus are never in the present moment.”

“Whenever a person is in a tearing hurry, he does not give hundred percent and thereby inflicts pain to his metabolism. Simultaneously he or she does not provide rest to the physical or mental systems. Consequently, the individual is not aware or mindful,” added the insightful Zen Master. In such a situation a person is caught in the vortex of yearning and hankering, never at peace. The mind, body and soul never experiencing total rest lead to several physical and mental pestilences.

Unabashed gratification and delectation trigger only misery. Such kind of merriment only results in exhaustion and tiredness. This typifies arrogance and lust. Tiredness is a mere shadow of carousing and individuals soldier on, on the path of destruction. However, over a period of time they are filled with remorse and guilt, as they forage for the lifeboat of zeal and enthusiasm. It will be interesting to view the canvas of our lives. As humans grow they become victims of several desires.

As children, we play with one set of toys and hunt for a fresh set. As adolescents we discover our sexuality, various urges and nurture dreams. As youngsters we are fired by imaginative thoughts to achieve the insurmountable. Stepping into adulthood, we are in pursuit of jobs, marriage, procreation, building homes and in the winter of our lives we look back to appreciate the balance sheet of life. Every act/ karma sprung from one desire to another.

Desires only add avoirdupois to our minds and bodies, leading to exhaustion. We were never satisfied, nor can we find solace in the sanctuary of satisfaction and comfort. Humans operate like maniacs and machines and therefore are not in harmony with nature and the universe and continue to remain exhausted and unhappy.

Years ago, in the land of rising sun, a novitiate was desirous of mastering the craft of karate. He approached an academy and was enrolled upon demonstrating some rudimentary skills. The apprentice requested the Master to reveal to him various secrets of the trade and help him hone his skills. The old Master agreed. That night he took the apprentice to the school. While the guards were asleep, he silently led his young frosh into a room that contained the clothes closet.

The Master advised the freshman to go into the closet and pick out the correct apparel. As he went in, the Master quickly shut the door and locked him inside. Thereafter the Master loudly knocked on the front door, thereby waking the guards, and he quickly slipped away before anyone saw him.

Hours later, the strapping tutee returned to the academy, bedraggled and exhausted. “Master!” he squalled violently, “What made you lock me in that closet? If I hadn’t been ingenious and desperate I would have collapsed of asphyxiation and exhaustion.”

The perspicacious Master smiled and gently remarked, “Stripling youngster this was your first lesson in overcoming exhaustion.” The sapient Master, with his vast experience injected fear in the youngster. Through the technique of sink or swim, forced the newbie to extricate himself from the situation.

Human mind, when confronted with challenging situations is able to adapt itself and it acts with amazing speed and dexterity. The fittest survives through such situations and the mind and body transfigure to take the plunge.

The weak capitulate into the phalanx of exhaustion and tiredness while the robust and brawny reinvent and train themselves to learn the hard way. The qualities of alertness, awareness, sharpness, mindfulness and blitheness enable an individual to overcome disquititude, perturbation and exhaustion of the mind and the body to emerge triumphant.