The poet David Whyte, in Crossing the Unknown Sea, describes a transformational moment. Harried and worn out from the deadening schedule of his corporate life, he met with his friend, a Benedictine Monk.
He said to his friend:
“Speak to me of exhaustion.”
And his friend replied thoughtfully,
“The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest.”
And David repeated it back to him flatly:
The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest.
To which his friend said,
“The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”
They went on to talk about how a lack of passion creates exhaustion, pointing out that a halfhearted approach toward career endeavors or relationships flattens us. The pathway to rediscovering that passion, the wholehearted “cure” to exhaustion, is to be engaged and alive… to be awake and present to what we are doing and why we are choosing to do it. No longer on autopilot—mindlessly going about our lives based on old habits.
Mindfulness practice is a path to awakening to everything in our lives. It is a practice of being present to what’s happening in a specific kind of way, without the harmful judgments that have often become mental habits that prohibit wholeheartedness and cause exhaustion. Mindfulness teaches us to be present: present to everything in our lives. We spend most of our time in a mental movie of the past and the future. When we focus on the past we often feel depressed. When we focus on the future, we often experience anxiety. Few of us know how to be present. But as we stay in the here and now, we start to wake up. We are less and less controlled by our thoughts, bodies, or emotions. Our anxieties and depressions decrease. We experience increased concentration, equanimity, awareness, connectedness,and tolerance.