Energy drinks, power bars, food supplements, and ever more rigorous exercise routines are all designed to increase our vigour and strength we are told. It seems that the search for energy is sought from outside ourselves at every turn. And many businesses are eager to capitalize on our search.
It is important to eat healthy food and to keep oneself active. But is it really necessary to reach for that next perfectly balanced carbohydrate-protein bar or caffeine soaked snack or to add one more day of demanding exercise to your routine? I learned some time ago, there’s another way to view and experience energy.
At one point in my life I cross-country skied quite a lot, and one year found myself training for the Birkebeiner ski marathon in Norway. It’s a 2000-metre ascent over about 50 km of mountain terrain. I’m glad I didn’t know how tough it was going to be before I started! At the top of the mountain, in whiteout conditions, wet and feeling very alone, it would have been so easy to quit. I was certainly tempted because many others had already quietly dropped out – but I didn’t. Was it human will – or something else? More on that in a minute.
Many athletes, whether amateur or professional, now accept that a healthy mental approach to their sport is a huge part of their success. They understand that thought plays a role in their energy levels. However, for some, this mental approach is part of a spiritual practice. For example, the Japanese Buddhist marathon monks of Mount Hiei are famous for their discipline of walking consecutive marathons for 100 days, without exhaustion or any physical injury. Nor do they need drugs or supplements to give them strength and endurance. The monks, in pursuit of enlightenment, begin their training with seated meditation, rather than physical training. The demanding marathons are considered a pilgrimage, during which the monk can commune with nature and thus find his inner nature.
Their spiritual practice gives us a glimpse that there might be a source to energy that is not found in the body.
Though my marathon was nothing close to the extreme feats of these monks, finding myself exhausted on a mountain-top in Norway, spurred me to spend time pondering the meaning of one of Jesus’s statements –“..Lo I am with you alway, even unto the end..” I didn’t think of Jesus as literally there with me, but rather of that divine energy that each of us reflects. It’s always there – an inexhaustible, energizing spiritual resource that each of us can access. Drawing on this idea that my energy was not so much personal as it was spiritual, was so inspiring and revitalizing that I finished the race with ease.
Though not as extreme as the monks, Eric Liddell, the much admired Scottish athlete, forever famous as a result of the movie “Chariots of Fire,” believed his energy had a divine source. Because of his Christian faith, he refused to run on Sundays. During the 1924 Paris Olympics this was a problem for race organizers, who finally arranged for him to run in both the 200 and 400-metre races instead – the latter being a distance for which he had never trained. Yet, he won them both, setting a new world record in the 400-metres. He is quoted as saying:
“Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within.”
Everyone, as Liddell noted, can find this divine source of energy that never fails or runs out – whether it is just a demanding day or an athletic event. And finding it enables us to transcend a humanly limited belief about energy. Drawing on this source allows us to finish every task with inspiration and vitality, whether it’s a race, a work assignment or any other of the many demands in life.