Spiritual Burnout?


25%-25%-50% (your own effort, Guru, God's grace). I have been putting out 100% of my effort for many months, making time daily for meditation, working, caring for my family,etc. — taking classes for self improvement and working on personal goals. I am feeling near physical and mental burn out. Even though I am energizing daily. My body feels tired. I am thinking,

—Mary, USA


Dear Mary,

Thank you for your sincere and candid question. I applaud all your efforts.

Everything you’re doing sounds good — and impressive — but the fact that you’re burned out suggests that you’re doing more things than you can handle at this time in your life. I certainly didn’t notice “quality down time” or “quiet, relaxed reading of spiritual books” in your list of activities.

Yes, we want to do 100%, but included in that 100% is that we need to discriminate as to what is not enough and what is too much. I think you’ve gone to the too-much end of the spectrum.

OK, fine, you’ve found (or gone past) your current limit. Now it’s time to pull back a bit. Introspect about what’s happening with you. Find the sweet spot of what can truly fit in your life right now, and what can’t.

And spend some relaxation time with Master — not working at the spiritual life, but rather enjoying it. Be sometimes, instead of doing, doing, doing. Instead of asking him why you’re feeling as you do, ask him often what you should and should not do. Get his help in restructuring your life. If you don’t feel an answer, then experiment: ratchet down your life in some area, and see where the joy level goes. That’s the true litmus test of spiritual striving: If the joy level goes up, then you’re heading in the right direction. And if it goes down, then try Plan B. Follow the joy.

And absolutely, stay at that golden 100% level of effort. Just keep joy in the equation. I suspect that, with all the effort you’ve been putting out, you’ll have a bit of a chore convincing yourself that it’s okay to include relaxation in your life. The feeling that, “I want to do more, but this is as much as I can do right now without getting into tension or exhaustion, and I am content with that” is a very good one to have.

Blessings on your efforts,