“The antidote to exhaustion isn’t rest. The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.” –David Whyte

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A man in suit looking forward to go to work

There are at least two kinds of exhaustion. The “good” kind is when we feel well-used, like at the end of a full workday, or any activity, when we’ve been fully engaged, where our intentions and actions are mostly aligned. I usually feel great and tired at the end of these days and love the feeling of being “well spent” – a good kind of exhaustion.

The other kind of exhaustion is when your intentions, feelings, and your activity are out of alignment. It’s interesting that the word that is translated as “suffering” in Buddhist texts is the Pali word “dukkha” which literally means “a wheel out of alignment.” A wheel out of alignment results in the journey being more difficult and extremely unsatisfactory. A journey with a wheel out of alignment can be exhausting and stressful. Stopping and resting can provide temporary relief but doesn’t solve the essential out of alignment problem.

Wholeheartedness may be a more practical and actionable way to practice with or adjust alignment. Of course, this practice begins by noticing where we are out of alignment, where we are not feeling wholehearted in our work, relationships, or any part of our lives.

How can we cultivate alignment, and more wholeheartedness?


Start by noticing. What activities feel wholehearted and what could use more alignment?

Listen. See if you can listen without distraction and without reacting or blaming. I invite you to check out the upcoming Mindful Changemakers Summit for a series of inspiring conversations that focus heavily on the power of listening as a means to cultivate greater understanding and healing, while also inspiring compassionate action. It’s got an incredible line up of speakers – learn more here.

Meditate. Mindfulness and meditation practice could be described as the practice of cultivating wholeheartedness. The activity of stopping and sitting, and simply noticing the breath with a sincere effort is itself wholehearted activity. What does it feel like when you bring yourself fully to just being with your body, breath, and feelings?

Work. Our work can be a useful and important place to practice wholeheartedness. A good place to start is noticing where we are out of alignment or not wholehearted. At work this can show up as cynicism, blame, stress, and many other forms of dissatisfaction. These can all be signals that there’s work to do to be more aligned or wholehearted.

The beautiful thing about the practice of wholeheartedness is that it’s always available, everywhere. We can be wholeheartedly grumpy, grieving, joyful, bored, or loving. We can be wholeheartedly resistant, afraid, or inspired.

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