Mental Fatigue

Fastlane, modified 1 Year ago.

Mental Fatigue

Posts: 20 Join Date: 10/4/14 Recent Posts
I was hoping to have some discussion of people's experiences with and understanding of mental energy levels when it comes to sitting practice - I'm particularly interested in this subject as I have M.E./Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is characterised mainly by very low physical energy, as well as low mental energy/'brain fog' and these symptoms aren't solved by better sleep or anything else and exercise or any physical or mental exertion usually results in increased fatigue.I've been practising for 6 years and had the condition for much longer. Although my mental energy isn't as badly affected as my physical energy - I'm not able to leave the house much and just walking from room to room feels like hard work much of the time - my practice has always seemed particularly difficult due to the feeling of mental sluggishness. I don't know whether others on here can relate at all during times of low energy – I think the type of mental fatigue when having a bad cold or the flu or something may the most relatable – it's not the usual 'tired'/'sleepy' feeling often discussed regarding meditation. I've never actually come close to falling asleep during sitting and I've tried the usual recommendations for sloth & torpor etc.

I have tried sitting at different times of day, not after food, tried open eyes and walking/standing practice, done a bit of qigong in the past but only now am limited to sitting practices only. I've tried various methods samatha, open awareness, metta, TMI, see-hear-feel, somatic practice, noting, recently done the first 50 days of the Waking Up course. It's sometimes recommended to try to use the brain-fog as the meditation object but it's never seemed to be any different from any other meditation object.

I have also always had poor attention generally as long as I can remember, including prior to having the fatigue issue, which hasn't improved since starting practising, so it's difficult to know how much this contributes to the situation.

I'm wondering whether anything can be done to improve things – it's not a huge amount but after somewhere over 1000 hours practice, the fact that I haven't noticed any real change during practice or in real life suggests I should be trying something different. The low energy and poor attention together usually means I notice a low clarity of detail – eg with breath sensations, and there is very frequent drifting in and out of being carried away into thought – possibly similar to how many people's initial experience of practice is, but it's never really improved from there. 

I've looked a little into breathing practices for energy but it's a difficult one – it feels like I don't have the energy for something like noting practice at times so effortful breathing may be difficult and the exertion could make things worse. Otherwise I don't know whether practitioners find they can increase their mental energy levels somehow when they are low.

Please note – I'm not looking for health advice, having looked into sleep, nutrition etc for years, this is just a question on the practice side of things. Thanks.

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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Mental Fatigue

Posts: 5461 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
I used to have fatigue but it never led to a diagnosis. When I started my daily practice a year ago I spent most of my time in bed. I even had to lie down while cooking food. Walking up a flight of stairs would make me lose my voice for several days. This lasted for years. It may not have been the real thing, so I don’t know if any of my advice might be useful to you, but that is for you to decide. In my case, energy practice made a difference. I gradually took up yoga because that was the only way for me to get enough energy and clarity to meditate. Now I practice yoga several times a week. Before this, even the slightest exercise would make me sick, so I couldn’t imagine it possible for me to ever be physically active again. I think yoga and qigong restore energy inbalances in a way that biomedicine doesn’t understand. One has to start very carefully, though. Would it be possible for you to try very mild medicinal yoga in your own pace? That might give you enough energy and clarity to meditate for a short while directly afterwards. There are very soft and slow qigong movements that harness energy from the earth and from the skye that might work, too, without being draining (make sure to choose exercises that fit your level of energy, as you wouldn’t want to do exercises that spread unbalanced energy; I found this test helpful but I don’t know how valid it is: https://www.yoqi.com/test-your-qi). You can find it on youtube, so there is no need to go somewhere, but if somebody can drive you to a beatiful place in nature, it is probably easier to do this kind of energy work. Maybe some pranayama breathing exercises? If restorative yoga is available where you live, that could be an option as well. That means relaxing in comfortable positions that open up energy channels while meditating. I find that it increases clarity.

Very best wishes for your practice!
Fastlane, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Mental Fatigue

Posts: 20 Join Date: 10/4/14 Recent Posts
Hi Linda, I'm glad you found some things that helped. I used to do yoga and a bit of qigong and would like to be able to start again but I'm having to fully rest at the moment to see if things improve enough to start again gently at some stage. I've been looking into energetic breathing but it's another thing that requires expending a bit of energy which can result in a crash so it's tricky. Thanks for the reply. 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Mental Fatigue

Posts: 5461 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
I see. Yeah, that sounds very tricky indeed. I have a friend with severe ME so I know how important it is to listen to one’s body and how detrimental even the slightest strain can be. I’m sorry that I can’t think of any less risky advice. I hope somebody else has more suitable suggestions.

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