closeup Glass of water on table in the living roomMy journey to spiritual health began with the oddest concept that I had ever heard. My therapist at the time, Shay, explained it to me like this: “We are all glasses with different levels of liquid inside of us. When you give to others, you are pouring some of your liquid into their glass. When they do something for you, some of their liquid is poured into your glass. It is an exchange of energy that happens each time that we interact with other living things. To remain healthy we must achieve a balance in our relationships.”

I imagined myself as a glass filled with water at Shay’s request. I then imagined every person in my life as another glass of water. I was in the center of a lot of half-filled glasses, but that was all right; I had a lot of water in mine. Shay then gave me various scenarios in which those around me required something of me and I began to imagine my glass pouring water into the glasses around me. I smiled because I have always been proud of being a person that would help others.

In a remarkably short time my glass was empty except for that last drop of liquid that always seems to get caught on the lip of the glass. I was a single mother, I worked with adults with disabilities, and I had a parent whose health was deteriorating. I was helpful. I was needed. I was independent.

I was severely depressed. I gave and gave and gave and would not take. I had a very warped view of myself and the world around me. I truly believed that I was put on this Earth to help others and that accepting anything from anyone was wrong and went against my core belief of who I was and what my purpose was.

Shay had quite a battle on her hands. I understood the concept of allowing the water from the other glasses to refill mine, but the idea was abhorrent to me. I could not imagine taking anything from my ill parent or from a disabled client. In my head that was unacceptable and, well, vile. I dug in my heels and was ready to walk away from this crazy lady who would dare to suggest something so evil. I prepared to climb out of the rather comfy beanbag chair…

“What about plants?” Shay then said. I froze. “What about animals?” She had done it. With six simple words Shay had turned my entire life on its head. I had grown up in a tiny little mountain town and had always felt a connection to the forests and to animals. I was the kid who had various pets and always wanted more. I had a connection to nature yet it had never occurred to me to use it as a source of energy.

It was incredibly easy to turn to the world around me to give me what I needed to continue with my day-to-day tasks. I merely needed to accept the truth that everything in this universe is simply energy, and that I was deserving of sharing in that energy. The fact is, interactions are an exchange of energy and despite our best intentions, those are rarely equal and balanced when we deal with other humans.

The rest of the energy that we need can be easily found in the things that fill the rest of our planet. A long hot bath can ease your aches, yet it can also refill your glass. Pets are a wonderful source of freely given love and contentment, as is watching a herd of deer grazing in the neighbor’s yard. A walk through the forest or prairie is incredibly energizing. Sitting beside a body of water can do amazing things for our bodies and minds. Almost anything that has a life cycle can serve as a substitute for a healthy relationship with another human.

The key is intent. I had to learn how to know when my glass was getting too low and then respond by choosing to refill it. I can’t simply sit down and watch a movie with a glass of wine and draw in the energy that I’m missing. I filled my home with houseplants and adopted pets when I was able to because I can’t always go for a walk in the forest or a have a picnic next to the lake. Life gets busy and complicated sometimes and having something at home, even if it’s just an air fern, is essential merely because it’s convenient.

I still have a slightly warped view of myself and I can only tend to my needs when the house is asleep and I know that no one else is going to need something from me. Like most people, I’m a work in progress. At least now, however, I know that I need to refill occasionally to be able to continue to be there for others – and I know that I can take care of that need without having to sacrifice my absurdly contorted view of what it means to me to be independent.

Aimee Wilshire,

Daily Zen.

Author Bio – Aimee Wilshire lives in western Colorado with her daughter, four dogs, two cats, and various other people that she loves. She is a student of life, a practitioner of spirituality, an observer of people, and an author. Visit her at www.aswilshire.com

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