Between A Canyon And A Tired Place

As a culture, we are obsessed with energy. We think about it. We crave it. We learn how to cultivate it and stoke it. We drink coffee for it and buy little yellow pills for it. We even watch Ted Talks about how uber cool people who have limitless supplies of it use it to solve the world’s greatest challenges. Call it what you will—verve, spark or get-up-and-go—I cannot go more than three hours without hearing somebody talk about how to wring more of this divine ambrosia out of life.

Believe me, I’ve been on the energy train for years. Most recently it’s been experiments with supplements (all legal of course), coffee with yak butter and the latest pseudo-scientifically based sleep theories, all in an effort to find more of this glorious stuff. But on a recent trip to the Grand Canyon, I started to realize that in my search for energy, I had been overlooking something quite remarkable and altogether life-changing.

In the course of three days, eight ladies and I covered thirty-five miles. We traveled down the South Kaibab one day and up the Bright Angel another, and in between, explored another thirteen miles by foot, all while carrying tents, food, cooking equipment and little plastic bottles filled with Pinot Noir. At the end of each day there was a moment of absolute euphoria when we threw off our packs, sat down and simply allowed ourselves to “be”—a moment that felt like the perfect two minutes of the perfect sunset—where both body and mind are completely at ease. And that’s when I realized that while energy was indeed something worth fighting for, there was something equally important that I had been missing—the gloriousness of being tired.

Most of us would agree that our universe has an innate sense of balance. Yin and yang. Summer and winter. Happiness and sadness. Hot and cold. Even the relationship between delicious little Twinkies and humanely-raised grass-fed steak. For the most part, these things can’t exist without the other. It’s that “equal and opposing force” relationship that we all learned about in school. So the balance between having energy and being tired makes sense intellectually, but I’d be surprised if you’ve heard any infomercials championing being tired recently. I certainly haven’t.

If you’re like most “modern” people, you run around, completing one task while thinking about the next, sometimes in control and sometimes on the verge of frantic. You have a growing list of to-dos that never seem to get done, and you spend most of your important moments contemplating being somewhere else. Phone calls and emails never stop, and even stoplights are moments to be more productive. This all happens because we have energy, and an apparently growing supply of it (thanks to those little yellow pills). But when we’re tired, all this just falls away. We fall into a couch. We let the to-do list go. We forget things. We let our minds float and our jaws relax. We stretch our legs, give our brains and mouths a break, and we remember to breathe.

Think about the last time you were totally and completely tired. Maybe it was at the end of a 12-hour day. Maybe it was the moment you finished your first marathon. Maybe it was just after giving birth. My first guess is that in this tiredness you wholeheartedly surrendered yourself to rest and relaxation, and my second guess is that it felt really damn good.

Do I think the secret of life is being tired all the time? Absolutely not. But I do think we would be well-served if we were a little more tired a little more often. I think we’d find that we would be more present, more calm, more at ease and eventually, even find a bit more of that energy we’re all fiending for.

I’m going to try it this year—to be more tired more often—and if you’re curious about trying it as well, here are just a few of the techniques that I’ve found work wonders for me…

Get your energy out during the day. Put your heart and soul into your work. Do great things. Give each task your full attention. If you’re engaged doing something you love, and you do it fully each day, you’ll find that you need some time to recuperate in the evenings, achieving a good level of tiredness.

Internal training is based on the idea of balance. Fast and slow reps combine to push you to your limits. Plus, it’s just a really good workout. Lace up your running shoes, or get on a bike, and do some interval work until your body is so tired you want to collapse. I promise you won’t die, but if you’ve pushed it hard enough, you will be tired.

Beer is packed full of carbohydrates and the alcohol is great at lowering the natural sugar level in your blood—both of which help you feel tired faster. So beyond being delicious and giving you a great way to relax after a long day, beer can help you get tired faster. I suggest anything over about 8% ABV for maximum effect.

Unless you’re a total political junkie, watching C-Span is a decent way to get tired. It’s nothing like House of Cards and Kevin Spacey rarely makes an appearance.

If all else fails and you’re still tired at the end of the night, run around your bed as many times as you can, completely naked, until you’re totally out of breath. Then jump into bed as fast as you can and let your muscles relax into your mattress as you feel each and every cell go from full speed to a state of complete exhaustion.

Staying up all night is the new juice cleanse. Really. Or at least it will be. Remember the last time you stayed up all night, and that feeling you had when the sun came up the next morning? That’s the euphoria that comes from being really, really tired. Once a year I suggest that everybody gets this tired with a good dose of staying up all night.

If you have any other tips for getting tired, I’d love to hear them. Together we can all reap the benefits from a more tired world.

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