THE VITAL LIFE FORCE…
Energy is not a tangible thing, not an object that can be seen or touched. Sometimes we can experience it directly and unambiguously: through combustion, the energy stored in fossil fuels causes the parts in a car’s engine to mesh together and its wheels to turn. A sailboat captures the energy of the wind to glide across the sea, and turbines use the power of moving water to make them revolve. Energy also manifests as a force that has observable physical effects; gravity and electromagnetism hold solar systems together but push galaxies apart. Sometimes we experience energy as that which allows everything to move and to change. In fact, cycles of change are a constant part of the rhythm of life—changes in the seasons, day and night, hot and cold, wet and dry, storms and calms, birth and death. Sometimes the changes appear in our moods and emotions: our days have ups and downs, sorrow and happiness, balance and imbalance, love and hate.
But energy is more than just a physical force. Cultures both ancient and modern recognize that there is a universal life-force energy that sustains all beings and, indeed, all of nature. It has many names in many traditions: chi, ki, gi, prana, lung, mana. It connects the physical with a spiritual realm full of wisdom, a wisdom of the mind and body that can motivate all of our actions and reactions. The human body is a miraculous combination of these realms, and they depend on each other to create good health and vitality. Just as the blood flows through the arteries and veins and the nerves send signals to the brain, so too the vital life force flows through a system of energy channels, nourishing the organs and cells of the body. Both are subject to the same kinds of problems: blockages, deficiencies, excesses, disruptions, and imbalances. When the life-force energy cannot flow freely, all manner of dysfunction can appear in our bodies and emotions. When the system is balanced and energy is flowing freely, we are open and eager to embrace all possibilities, floating on the waters of the inner ocean. From this may come physical action, a burst of creativity, a compassionate response to another, and if danger threatens, an almost superhuman ability can suddenly kick in.
Sometimes we surprise ourselves with what we can accomplish or endure. One time, my first mate and I were crossing from the South Pacific to the North Pacific Ocean, a voyage that would normally take about ten days. However, what became known as the “crossing from hell” ended up taking eighteen days because of a number of factors beyond our control. Again and again we were hit with squalls, monsoon rains, doldrums with no wind, variable sea conditions, and even a newly formed cyclone. As captain and the most experienced in handling these adverse conditions, I was often called upon to take action at a moment’s notice, any time day or night. For most of the trip, I got very little sleep, but learned that a fifteen-minute catnap was enough to give me the energy to handle what needed doing. At anchor in our island destination, I slept for a day and a half, but awoke knowing that what I was physically, emotionally, and mentally capable of accomplishing under duress was much greater than I would have guessed. My inner potential had risen to the challenge, nourished by something beyond the physical.
Being on the water has always seemed to recharge my battery, even in situations that could have the potential to drain me. For that matter, a beautiful natural environment does the same thing. Each of us have experiences that seem to give us energy, that lend us inner strength in difficult situations, that allow us to face life—and death—with joy rather than fear. But we must take the responsibility for choosing a path that honors and strengthens this life-force energy. Energy can be bound up by limiting patterns in the body, mind, emotions, and spirit, but energy can also be called upon to liberate us from these patterns and return us to our true nature, a boundless store of love and compassion that we can share with all beings.
When life experiences create imbalances in the vital energy, an assortment of physical and emotional problems and illnesses can develop. Just as pollution interferes with a plant’s ability to grow and wounded animals become so weak they can’t search for life-giving food, when the flow of energy through the human body becomes restricted, our innate potential for wholeness and perfect functioning is obscured. If the restriction becomes pronounced enough to get our attention, it is surely time to find some therapeutic assistance. Energy medicine, or energy-based bodywork, has been recognized through the ages by many ancient cultures and is now rightfully gaining acknowledgment in the modern Western world. Through this work, it is becoming more evident that knowing how to activate and cultivate the vital life-force energy within is essential to our well-being.
Many of the forms of bodywork originated in ancient Asian cultures and other indigenous societies, though some are more contemporary developments in healing. Most of these types of bodywork therapy focus their efforts on the innate life-force energy that manifests in each of our physical bodies. This energy system has its own anatomy—internal pathways, known as energy channels, nadis, or meridians; energy centers called chakras or dantiens; and specific points, such as acupoints, marma points, tsubo, or pressure points—that allow a practitioner to work with the energy itself. Subtle as these seem, there are still more subtle aspects to the energy body: energy fields and biofields. Modalities that can transform them are discussed in the next section.
The primary intention of these energy-based therapies is to promote the balance and free flow of this vital life force. Energy can be influenced by our minds, attitudes, emotions, and beliefs; restrictions or blockages in energy’s flow caused by the accumulation of life disturbances or traumas can prevent people from realizing their full human potential and experiencing the life they really deserve. These treatments most often assist the recipient in awakening, cultivating, restoring, revitalizing, and balancing the energy flow, with the practitioner acting primarily as a catalyst, often a powerful one, for the recipient’s innate abilities to arise and an energetic healing to take place. Energy healing is an ancient, intuitive art with many continually evolving forms, suitable not only for preventing or healing an assortment of limiting conditions of disharmony or disease, but also as a means for enhancing overall well-being and providing spiritual transformation.
Each modality employs a variety of techniques to accomplish the desired result of removing disturbances, restrictions, or blockages within the energy system of the body. The methods can include various forms of diagnostics, affirmations, attunements, bioenergetic and bioelectric techniques, divine interventions, transmission of vital energy, loving touch, point activation and balancing, meridian massage, pattern clearing, pressure-point or reflex holding, psychic energy work, quantum techniques, resonance repatterning, tantric energy work, tonification, breathwork, vibrational sound work, vital point manipulations, and numerous yogic practices. Often the practitioner’s goal is to trigger the recipient’s own healing response.
In addition, some modalities include techniques to balance, tune, and align the seven major chakras or energy centers, which are like spinning energy vortices, each associated with a particular gland, organ, emotion, mental tendency, element, color, and spiritual aspect of a person. Most chakra balancing awakens the universal life-force energies with specific, and sometimes unusual, prolonged sounding (overtones, chants, mantras, sacred vowel sounds, rainbow songs, and harmonics), the breath, colors, light, precious stones and crystals, meditation, invocations, energy awakening techniques, chelation, and prayer. The vibrations of each may be complemented by energy transmitted from the healer’s hands. Although some may include work with the aura and the biofields, the emphasis of most of these modalities is on cultivating energy within the body, clearing away unhealthy energy blocks, charging depleted areas, repairing distorted patterns, and providing more inner balance and harmony. The amount of actual touch, hands-on manipulation, and pressure work used with each of these energy-based modalities may vary from minimal to extensive. But even the lightest touch can have great effect if applied skillfully in the right location and direction.
In most of these methods, it is essential for the recipient to be relaxed while the practitioner, directed by divine guidance, intuitive awareness, or higher sense perception, focuses on the different areas of the body to recognize and help alleviate any blockage in the energy pathways. This profound process often offers the recipient enhanced perceptions and insights that can help to free up energy and heal the body, mind, and spirit.
Although much of the discussion about the many aspects of energy medicine includes things that are hard for the pragmatic or skeptical mind to fathom, recent scientific studies, including those found in quantum physics, have revealed and validated the presence of these ambient fields and have shown that they not only contain light, sound, and electromagnetic waves but also subtle energy and information, all of which have a significant effect on a person’s health. Recent advances in electronic scanning have revealed that all living creatures have both electrical and magnetic properties that show up in the surrounding energy fields, and research has shown that these fields are constantly changing as an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional health change. It has also been confirmed that defects in the energy fields can have a specific effect on the physiological functioning of the body. Some studies of the bioelectric energy fields of psychics and experienced meditators have demonstrated how strongly the mind and energy fields are connected. If you are skeptical about the existence of energy fields and the workings of vibrational energy medicine, you might want to check out the publications of James Oschman and Dr. Richard Gerber, both of whom have compiled numerous records of scientific research that verifies the fields’ existence and their effect on the human body.