Science – Part 2 – Thoughts on Evolution

Like so many debates, the one around how we came to exist is a victim of the ‘false dichotomy’ problem between “Intelligent Design” – another way of saying “God did it” or a godless, random process where it’s total chance that we ever ended up existing at all. Even the “Giant Spaghetti Monster” hypothesis is really just another version of Intelligent Design.

We are not limited to these two choices in understanding how life in general and humanity in specific came to exist on Earth.

In college, I used to get in fierce debates with my science-major friends about the non-randomness of evolution; arguing that I strongly believed in evolution, I just didn’t think it was random. This was something they seemed unable to understand. For them, if I didn’t believe in Random Genetic Mutation (RGM) coupled with Sexual Selection, I was a Creationist.

For my part, I thought this was a vast underestimation of the data that gets exchanged at a biochemical and energetic level among organisms in the world we live in. Everything we take into our body – whether breathing, eating, or absorbing through our skin – has an impact on us.

Consider the pheromones given off by many creatures (including humans!) when they seek to mate. Pheromones are a chemical substance that communicates more powerfully then any pick-up line could.

I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to believe that our bodies could take in environmental information at a cellular (or atomic / energetic) level and use it. Granted, maybe not in the current generation, but perhaps in future generations. For me, this meant that it wasn’t a random genetic mutation driving evolution, but a very targeted one.

It seems like the very core of evolution to argue that a species genetic code can be modified based on the data that came in from the environment.

Reflecting back, I can understand a little bit what the resistance of my friends might have been. Targeted genetic modification sounds a lot like ‘someone’ is making a ‘decision,’ and that sounds an awful lot like “Intelligent design.”

However, I associated this behavior on a cellular level as a more fundamental example of what we readily observe on an organism level. For example, when a plant grows in the direction of sunlight – is that a decision? When a tree (or plant) gets too much sunlight and flips it’s leaves over so that the more reflective backside of the leaves slows the absorption of sunlight – is that a decision?

No.

It’s a stimulus and a response.

Missing Pieces

Interestingly enough, it was a college Ecology class that really galvanized my belief that evolution is not random. (And before you ask, I went to college at a large public university). We were discussing the evolution of evolutionary theory; gradualism, random genetic mutation, sexual selection, etc. One thing the professor said really sparked my interest. She said,

“The one big mystery of evolution from a random genetic mutation perspective is that you would think – if it’s random – the fossil record would be littered with bad mutations – ones that didn’t work out, but that’s simply not the case. We don’t have a record of all these failed random mutations.”

We have records of organisms both large and small that have gone extinct, even organisms as old as stromatolites. But we don’t have examples of animals that have mutated in unsuccessful ways. Isn’t that interesting?

Now, one could argue that all those fossils have disappeared into the Earth – or that the fossils we do have aren’t really a representative example of all the iterations of creatures that have existed. Or it could be argued that the fossils we do have may have had failed mutations that aren’t visible in their remains.

The lack of fossil evidence of random genetic mutation is not a smoking gun by any means, but it is a data point that’s worth paying attention to.

A few years later I stumbled on Olivia Judson’s book Dr. Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation, a pop-culture evolutionary biology book that bolstered my developing belief that evolution is something less than random. Here is one interesting quote (of which there are quite a few) to illustrate what I mean;

“an experiment with yellow dung flies…has shown that testes size can evolve in response to sperm competition in as few as ten generations.” (pg 23)

So first of all – I hope you weren’t eating. If you were, I apologize 🙂  Secondly, though, ten generations?  That’s not millions of years, that’s evolution happening in weeks and months. Also, worth noting, if we were talking about random mutation in response to an environmental stimulus (here: sperm competition), one expect flies to turn pink maybe or grow extra legs or maybe their wings change size, but that’s not what happened here.

Maybe it’s easy to miss, but here we see (and I did do a quick skim through the source studies for this one) that evolution is happening in a very targeted way for the animal– one that corresponds to the area where adjustment is needed.  That makes perfect logical sense, but it’s definitely not random.

This is not to say that there are no random mutations. That surely happens. My argument is merely that random mutations (even ‘coupled’ with sexual selection) are not the primary driver of evolution.

Of course this may all seem like ‘old news’ now as I know there is a “new-ish” field called Epigenetics that studies modifications to the genetic code based on environmental conditions.  Still – it’s worth considering that evolution may be a bit “smarter” than we thought without needing to imagine a single, high god tinkering with every plant and creature.

Off the Deep End

I’m now going to take a leap in a completely different direction – I think it’s only fair to warn you.

Above we’ve discussed evolution of organisms from the perspective of ‘matter’ – that is, bodily, but we haven’t really touched on the idea of consciousness. Consciousness in general is possessed by most subjects in the Animal Kingdom. We can all tell that there is a difference between the consciousness of a plant and that of a puppy.

But, as an observable phenomenon, there seems to be a categorical difference between the operation of human consciousness and any other known life on this planet. We may talk about dolphins and whales as intelligent animals, but we do not mean by this that dolphins can work with complex mathematical algorithms, nor do we evaluate the complex narrative structure of a whale’s song compared to a work like War and Peace.

The human ability to create and self-reflect, to understand diverse perspectives and craft narratives based on complex emotions and motivations; all of these are representative of the uniqueness of the human condition. Also notable, is the human ability to build on what came before – not just over tens of thousands of years, but year over year. We don’t really see that with any other known species.

Now, some may argue that we simply don’t know enough about the inner life of a whale or dolphin (or ant for that matter) to judge. This is true. We should allow that that’s possible and avoid dismissing the argument outright. However, on the other hand, we should not let that argument stop us from thinking about the difference between human consciousness and that of all other life on Earth as we presently understand it.

It is partly this difference, of course, that sparks our speculation on the human soul. In the face of the human experience from the perspective of this difference, it is perfectly logical and rational to wonder why it is so. Why can fruit flies evolve sexual adaptations in ten generations, but in the 60,000 years of human existence hasn’t another species evolved a consciousness like ours?

Based on the current evolutionary debate it seems like we are at an impasse here – that we must choose between believing in a human soul and believing in evolution. Fortunately, that is actually not true, we are not required to believe that our bodies and our human ‘sense of self’ came about in the same way. People have certainly been wondering over the mind-body connection since Descartes and probably a long time before.

As a person who believes in both evolution and reincarnation, I feel compelled to be open-minded about how these two parts of our existence (both as spirit and as body) might have come into being and changed over time to result in our current experience.

In closing I want to note that I am clearly not a geneticist or an evolutionary biologist. It is not my goal with this post to try to convince you that the ideas in this post are right. What’s most important to me is that you take away this; we don’t have to ‘choose sides’ between a ‘godless’ evolution and a creationist myth that clearly ignores the evidence we do have on record – the more possibilities and options we consider, the better our chances of making a real breakthrough in this area.

Science and The Spiritual Path – Part 1

“Science is not a perfect instrument, but it is a superb and invaluable tool that works harm only when it is taken as an end in itself.  Science must serve; it errs when it usurps the throne… Science is the tool of the Western mind, and with it one can open more doors than with bare hands.  It is part and parcel of our understanding, and it obscures our insight only when it claims that the understanding it conveys is the only kind there is”

— Carl Jung, from Psychology and Alchemy / Collected Works

Some topics in American discourse are what’s known as ‘sacred cows.’ Defined by Google as, “an idea, custom, or institution held, especially unreasonably, to be above criticism,” sacred cows can be so controversial that even wanting to have a conversation about one is viewed as suspect.

Vaccines, for example, are a sacred cow in this country. Very few people I’ve encountered want to have a discussion about vaccines. People tend to fall into one of two camps – either they tell you you’re crazy if you don’t get your child vaccinated or they tell you you’re crazy if you do. The very fact that I’m writing this paragraph lands me squarely in the ‘crazy’ category for some simply because I’m not decrying the ‘anti-vaxxers.’

This post-series isn’t about vaccines though, it’s about science. Not only is the concept of “science” itself a sacred cow, but there are dozens of ideas associated with science that are also sacred cows. In this series we’ll touch on how science is funded in America and why. We’ll take on one of the most inflammatory scientific sacred cows, evolution. (I can already feel your hairs standing on end 🙂 ).

We’ll talk a little bit of how the cutting edge research in physics may be providing the foundation to explain how co-creation works. And if that isn’t enough, we’ll cover how computer science driven research into neural networks may have unlocked part of the answer to how existence transitions (or persists) from one moment to the next.   We’ll wrap up the series with a brief discussion of where science fits in walking the spiritual path.

Before we get there, though, this first post in the series takes a step back to discuss the term “science,” itself, and it’s use in common discourse.

The Search for Meaning

A quick google search defines science as, “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” (This is identical with the Oxford English Dictionary definition and a near match of the Cambridge Dictionary)

Merriam-Webster says science is, “knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation.”

A little bit of an infinite loop occurs when I look up the word ‘experiment’ as it is often defined as ‘a scientific procedure’ – So here we have science defined by conducting experiments and experiments defined by being scientific.

This recursion is not all that surprising, though, as in common discourse the term “science” is used to mean something apart from ‘following the scientific method’ to test a hypothesis. In my experience, the term is typically used to shut down a conversation that is venturing into strange and unknown territory.

What do I mean by that? Let me try to answer by way of analogy. Right now I’m reading an excellent book by Jeff Patton called User Story Mapping (it’s an old one). At one point in the book Jeff talks about the word “Requirements” in Software Development. (Requirements are a documented description of desired application functionality.)

Jeff’s style is to initiate more of a conversation about what the client / customer needs rather than rely too heavily on copious documentation written by someone who doesn’t actually use the software or have the need.

In relation to this, Jeff mentions an encounter that brought him to a fundamental realization about the way people thought about requirements;

“As the company grew, we added more traditional software people. At one point the head of a different team came to me and said, ‘Jeff I need you to make these changes to the product you’re working on.’

I said, ‘Great, no problem. Tell me who they’re for and what problems this solves for them.

Her response? ‘They’re the requirements.’

I replied, ‘I get it. Just tell me a bit about who they’re for and how they’re going to use this, and where it fits into the way they work.’

She looked at me like I was stupid and said to me with an air of finality, ‘They’re requirements.’

“It was at that moment that I learned that the word requirements actually means shut up.”[1]

This matches my experience in how people use the term ‘science’ in discourse today. When someone trots out a scientific study (or the lack of one) it means ‘shut up.’ Here’s a recent example from my own life that mirrors the Jeff Patton example.

Recently, I was reading some excellent posts listing scientific studies on the benefits of meditation.[2] In the comments section on one of them (I can’t remember which right now) one commenter brought up our ability to influence reality via thought / intention / meditation and I added a few corroborating notes of my personal experience with this.

Another commenter’s reply? “That’s very nice for you, but I prefer to live my life on a more scientific basis.”

Such use of the term “science” or “scientific” is very common and seems to be stuck in a level of confidence and understanding that comes about only after experiments have been conducted. Yet, ironically, it’s often used to reject topics where little to no comprehensive experiments have even been conducted so the field of possibility should be wide open not shut down.

For a more real-world example, see Kiera Butler’s Mother Jones article “Enough Already with the Bone Broth Hype.” This article (which reads more like an editorial) frames itself as a point-by-point refutation of health claims about bone broth. Each claim is paired with a negative ‘answer.’

For example, in the article we find, “Claim #4: Drinking bone broth will make you look younger. False” yet nothing in the paragraph below the ‘false’ statement actually proves this claim false. Butler, herself, admits that “the only actual study on bone broth is form 1934.” Which – again – should suggest that the field of possibility is wide open.

I can understand wanting to protect people from a ‘snake oil’ phenomenon, but if that were the main goal – a much more helpful way to frame the article would have been something like this;

We hear a lot of claims about the healing properties of bone brother, such as: <insert claims>. Here’s the scientific studies we do have on bone broth. The only other evidence we have are anecdotes from proponents such as <insert some anecdotes>. As there are no lab studies that corroborate these claims, readers will have to determine themselves how seriously to take them.

The way the original article reads it seems like personal anecdotes are unreliable as a source of information. However, when we don’t have scientific studies to corroborate a claim (which is quite common), the only thing we do have are anecdotes. Anecdotes are not inherently false or untrue – in fact, witnesses to the scene of a crime share their anecdotes of what happened in court and this is considered evaluated by the judge / jury in relation to the case (although some people think it shouldn’t be). There are things that can discredit a witness, but merely being a witness or providing an anecdote of your experience is not automatically ‘incredible.’

What’s most unhelpful about this use of ‘science’ is that it cuts off discussion instead of allowing more ideas to percolate around in our brains and spark new ways of thinking. ‘Open’ thought is the creative climate that allows the generation of hypotheses for the scientific method to test – if we don’t allow ourselves that, it’s a wonder we ever discover anything new.

Presidential Science

Additionally, before we get too ‘high-minded’ about the objectivity of scientific research and experimentation we should consider that a significant percentage of scientific research in this country is undertaken with the ultimate goal of creating a profitable product. Is the intention to make people’s lives better? Yes, at a price.

An East Bay Express article reprinted on alternet.org noted an increase in corporate funded research at UC Berkeley and at many Universities across the nation. The article comments, “For decades, much of the research on campus was federally funded and driven primarily by scientific curiosity. The results of this basic research allowed the public to better understand such concepts as genetics, the origins of humanity, and the laws of physics. It also won UC Berkely numerous Nobel prizes”

The article goes on to assert that, “The rise of corporate funding… has spawned a dramatic increase in the amount of applied research on campus. It’s typically funded by industry and aims to develop products that can be quickly brought to market – and create corporate profits”

These days, unless there’s a demonstrable commercial application for research, it’s unlikely to get funding. And yet, on the flipside, it is the people who have bucked tradition and –in some cases – scrounged together studies, data, and experiments in the face of skepticism and discouragement who have made some fantastic breakthroughs.

A great example is the discovery that ulcers and gastritis were, in some cases, caused by the microbe Heliobacter Pylori. As Discover magazine put it in a April 2010 article, “The medical elite thought they knew what caused ulcers and stomach cancer. But they were wrong – and did not want to hear the answer that was right.”[3]

The article further goes on to describe that physician Barry Marshall strongly suspected that ulcers were caused by the bacteria, but “unable to make his case in studies with lab mice (because H. pylori affects only primates) and prohibited from experimenting on people, Marshall grew desperate. Finally he ran an experiment on the only human patient he could ethically recruit: himself. He took some H. pylori from the gut of an ailing patient, stirred it into a broth, and drank it.”

And before we think that we’d be ‘in the dark ages’ without our rigorous scientific experiments under lab conditions, let’s not forget the number of important discoveries that were made by accident. No less than plastic, the microwave, x-rays, matches, gunpowder, nuclear fission and, of course, penicillin. The stories behind this list and seventeen more discoveries like it can be found at Mental Floss

Those discoveries did not come from “science” as the ironclad authority by which all ‘crazy’ ideas are judged and found wanting – they represent the Hermaion – the ‘accidental find’ brought to us by the powerful influence of the Trickster. (To read more about the Trickster see the post Trickster Makes this Road)

How, then, should we think about ‘Science’?

I vote that we take a new look at an old way of thinking about science – which is merely to treat it as a process by which knowledge is gathered and ideas are tested. This does not mean we should ignore scientific studies on a particular subject; by all means we should examine them rigorously with the goal of enhancing our own understanding.

If we internalize the wisdom of the Jung quote that started this post we can see science as a useful and important tool for understanding our world, but not the only one.

There are probably hundreds of aspects of our daily lives that haven’t been ‘scientifically proven’ under lab conditions and yet we feel no need to decry them as false and unsubstantiated because they are present to our regular experience.

In my high school anthropology class I learned that Eskimos have more than a dozen words to describe snow and ice. At the time that sounded incredible – as far as I was concerned the only word for snow was “snow”! Over time and observation, however, I learned that it’s possible to differentiate between varying types of snow – even here in Chicago.

Have all the various types of snow been scientifically studied and classified under lab conditions? Probably not. The difference is subtle, if we’re not paying attention, we’ll miss it – but that there are different types of precipitation that could be categorized as ‘snow’ is an observable phenomenon. I would argue the same way for “Energy” (as previously discussed on the blog in this series) – it’s subtle, and takes a little effort to experience, so our tendency is to say ‘it doesn’t exist.’ However, it can be as present and observable in our regular experience as snow.

If you only feel on safe territory discussing and absorbing ideas where copious amounts of study and research have already definitively weighed in, challenge yourself by considering why that might be? Why put such a barrier between yourself and the unknown? Are you afraid of being wrong? Looking like a fool? That others will make fun of you?

In quoting ‘science,’ how scientifically rigorous are you? For example, when you read an article quoting scientific studies, do you dig through the studies themselves to determine whether the conclusions drawn in the article are, in fact, supported by the study? Or do you, also, take some things on ‘faith’?

Is the mystic’s report really any less credible than the journalist’s? Both are people reporting their present experience.

When the reports of many show such similarities (as is the case with the mystic experience), we may not have scientific studies that provide documented and detailed understanding, but we run the risk of missing out on something important if we simply ignore.

In dealing with the vast unknown, it is natural and understandable to want the safety and security of repeated results obtained under lab conditions. However, I have found that the most transformative instances of discovery and growth in my own life have come from walking in the direction of uncertainty and discomfort.

Check back in next week – the next post in this series will tackle one of the most controversial topics – evolution.

 

[1] User Story Mapping, Jeff Patton kindle loc 466, O’Reilly

[2] 76 Scientific Benefits of Meditation by Live & Dare and Neuroscience of Mindfulness on MindfulnessMD

[3] Discover Magazine Article, “The Dr. Who Drank Infectious Broth, Gave Himself an Ulcer, and Solved a Medical Mystery.” By Weintraub, Pamela, published Thursday April 8th 2010.

A Few Words on the Concept of ‘Allowing.’

A couple years ago, my husband came across me reading Michael Newton’s book, Destiny of Souls and asked me incredulously, “Do you really believe that stuff?” I paused, a little taken aback, since I hadn’t even thought about it. I was reading the book, it was interesting, but did I believe it? In the moment I couldn’t really answer him, but I also couldn’t explain why I couldn’t answer him.

The answer wasn’t ‘yes, I believe it,’ but it wasn’t ‘no’ either. I grappled with how to explain. The moment passed awkwardly, but this question bounced around in the back of my head for quite some months before eventually colliding with another concept that had been germinating over a number of years; the concept of allowing.

Periodically there are concepts that bounce around in the ‘connection space.’ What does that mean? 🙂  Well, basically, a concept will come and it will seem like our ‘own’ (in this case, allowing seemed like ‘my own.’), but then the concept will start to pop up everywhere. I started hearing the word “allow” in the language of various figures in the spiritual space and realized it was one of those concepts that was coming into general consciousness for all of us together.

Allow Me

When the idea of allowing originally occurred to me, personally, however, it first manifested in noticing that we can sometimes fall into patterns of behavior with each other. I experience this with my birth family. In general, my attitude and behavior towards others is fairly consistent between work, home, and social engagements. But I noticed that, when I visit the family I grew up in, especially when we were all together, I unconsciously reverted to outmoded attitudes and behaviors.

I found myself getting riled up about things that would never faze me at work and, somehow, we’d all end up having the same old exchanges; if not the same-in-subject then the same-in-type. Although we had all grown and changed in the years since we lived under the same roof, we treated each other the same.

We often want people to change, and in some cases maybe they do, but our actions towards them, the limiting beliefs we have already set towards them, do not always allow space for them to behave differently with us than they always have.

The co-worker that we think never has anything useful to say walks down the aisle and already our defenses are up – What does he want? Can’t he see I’m doing something important? Why does he always waste my time with inconsequential things? What we do not see is how our own feelings impact the way we communicate with them.

The look on our face, the impatience in our tone, the other person may pick up these subtle emotional (or energetic) nuances and it may consequently affect their behavior towards us. Our co-worker may be thinking, she never listens to me! She doesn’t even try to understand what I’m saying. I can tell just by looking at her face that she wishes she were somewhere else. Why do I even bother?

Thus we may find ourselves going round in circles, each silently blaming the other for the way the exchange is going.   We think they never change and they think we never do. If we treated every exchange as the opportunity for something new to happen, one day it actually might.

Sit Back and Relax

Allowing is a very passive activity. We tend to think more highly of taking “ACTION” than being passive, but sometimes we can miss important things by being too active in our thinking. In our rush to action, we may be too quick to either accept something or reject it. In contrast, to allow is to put an idea in a suspended space where it can still be of use without having to commit to it.

One good symbolic aid to the concept of ‘allowing’ is to think of a house. If you invite a guest into your home then they can come in, but they can only stay as long as you allow and then they are required to leave. Having a guest over does not mean they are going to live with you forever.

We can act like houses when it comes to information. If it isn’t something we understand or if it doesn’t fit into our belief system, we may not even allow it to visit – or bump around in our conscious or unconscious mind (although the unconscious mind will often make its own decisions about these things).

If we do not allow things to come into our space, then we cannot use them to make connections later, we cannot use them to create new things or build a new understanding. A wonderful example of this shows up in Lewis Hyde’s book, Trickster Makes This World related to discovery of Pluto’s moon.

“In 1978, at the US Naval Observatory, James Christy was working on describing Pluto’s orbit. One of his photographs showed an elongated image of the planet; he was about to discard it when he came upon another photo in the archives labeled: ‘Pluto image. Elongated. Plate no good. Reject.” Christy made a collection of such plates and in this way discovered that the elongation was not an accident. Pluto had a moon.” (page 99)

The previous scientists who discovered the orbit irregularities that pointed to Pluto’s moon simply did not allow themselves to consider the discrepancies they found to be meaningful. They discarded something that would have led them to a new discovery simply because they could not allow for their own findings to be true in the face of what they had previously been taught.

Impossible or I’m possible?

It was this tension that I was struggling with when my husband asked me if I believed the reports of Michael Newton’s subjects. The tension between defaulting to what is ‘commonly accepted to be true’ and opening myself up to something wildly different and new-to-me.[1]

I believed that Newton’s subjects were reporting honestly – at least, I didn’t think anyone was trying to ‘pull the wool’ over the readers’ eyes. Did I believe they were reporting actual experiences of life between lives? I wouldn’t say that I believe it, but I could allow for it to be true.

I could allow the possibility and thus I could take all those reports in and let them bump around in my consciousness and connect up with other ideas to build new and interesting pictures and since my reading of those books that has certainly happened. Ideas and concepts from those books have sparked several of my best blog posts.

Creativity and innovation flow from the space of allowing. The more ‘locked down’ our concept of reality is, the less we can dream a different world into being. About ‘80%’ of what I write about is in this “allowing” space for me. The things I truly believe are minimal, but there are all these ideas floating around that I allow for and can therefore write seriously about.

I wasn’t always this ‘open-minded,’ however. A decade ago I found myself on the other side of the coin. 🙂 At the time, the director of our small credit department at a mid-size company said, “Wouldn’t it be great if, when we got a phone call from an incoming customer if the computer would automatically bring up the customer’s account so all that information was there when we needed it?”

Voice over IP was only coming on to the scene at the time, certainly I wasn’t familiar with it, and I thought, “This crazy old guy – he has no idea that telephones and computers operate so differently that that would never be possible.” And yet, that technology was probably possible even then and it’s certainly here, now.

When I started to see examples of what he was talking about come into use, I realized that it had been me who was dreaming to small. I had rejected the idea outright, instead of allowing it to come into my consciousness and build. In this particular case it’s doubtful that anything tangible would have happened differently if I had acted differently, but it represented a pattern of behavior I would not have recognized in myself otherwise.

The next time you hear a new idea that sounds outrageous and impossible, see if you can avoid rejecting it outright. Try putting it in a suspended place where it’s perfectly okay for it to remain ‘possible’ until there is definitive evidence proving that it is not. You don’t have to believe it, but avoid rejecting it outright. (This holds true even for ideas we don’t like! 🙂 ) Over time you will find that these ideas will take on a life of their own and lead you to more interesting ideas and experiences!

[1] I mention allowing as one of those concepts that comes through connection and starts to inform general consciousness. “Tension” – as in balancing the ‘tension’ between holding two opposing ideas to be true or possible – seems to me to be the next germinating idea that is going to become relevant within the next 5-10 years…

One Quick Exercise to Start ‘Feeling’ Your Own Energy

I know I said the last installment was the end of our Energy series on the blog. However, I don’t feel right dropping a post series making elaborate claims about the nature of Energy and the Universe without providing at least a little bit of ‘how-to.’ (if you haven’t read any of the other installments in this series it starts <here>)

I’m tempted to write that it’s better to have some meditation practice before you start trying to feel your own energy, but my own history reminds me that my first introduction to energy came without any previous meditation practice. In fact, it was the informal study of my own energy that led me to meditation – not the other way around.

Becoming energy sensitive is an exercise in developing comfort with subtlety. Too often we think something doesn’t exist if it doesn’t hit us over the head. Or my personal favorite, “if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.”

That may be true for commercial purposes or a graduate thesis… but there are plenty of stars and galaxies and all sorts of things in the Universe we can’t measure with current scientific technology that very much do exist.

As I mentioned in the second installment of the Energy series – there are certainly times where I have struggled with my own energy sensitivity; doubting it.

A few months ago, though, as I quietly worked at my desk in the office, all I could hear was the ticking of the clock on the wall. It was so loud I couldn’t concentrate. I actually had to get up and walk away for a few minutes. In a moment of association, it struck me that the clock was always ticking – just that loud, just that way. It had been for years and years, I just didn’t always hear it.

Energy sensitivity is like this. When we’re distracted, when our attention is full of other things, we don’t notice our energy, even if we are familiar with energy-sensitivity. For people who are unaware of their energy, then, it’s fairly easy to ignore. We shouldn’t mistake subtlety with non-existence, however.

Most people actually do have experience with energy sensitivity, they just don’t think of it that way. The pain in our heart from a terrible break-up or loss of a loved one, the tingly feeling that comes with a new romance, gut feelings, some types of anxiety – the physical sensations associated with all of these are expressions of what’s going on in our energy field.

If you’re interested in starting to develop your own energy-sensitivity, I recommend the (fairly standard) exercise below.

Okay, So…. How do I do it?

Allow yourself about fifteen minutes in a quiet place (where you will not be disturbed) to try this exercise. That’s fifteen real minutes not five ‘this-feels-like-forever-surely-it’s-been-fifteen’ minutes.  🙂

If you’re the type of person to be constantly checking the clock or be worried that you should be spending your time doing “more important” things, set a timer on your phone or stove or whatever so that you are able to temporarily release the clock-anxiety.

It is critical to success of this exercise that you be able to ‘get out of your head’ – if you’re worried about how much time you have, all the things you need to do, or re-hashing some event at work, home, school, etc – you are unlikely to be able to do that.

The easiest way I have found to developing initial energy sensitivity is to stand or sit (whatever is going to be less distracting) with your palms about three-to-five inches apart in front of your heart.

Some recommend rubbing your palms together until they get all tingly and warm. This can be very helpful in the beginning as it will get your attention out of your head and into your palms – where it needs to be.

Try to move your palms as close together as you can without actually touching. Hold them there. Does it feel as if the surface of your palms or fingers are pulling together? The initial sensation to ‘feel’ for is an almost magnetic attraction between the palms of your hands.

Now slowly pull them apart… what happens to that magnetic sensation as you pull? Stop at about eight inches apart – keeping your concentration on the insides of your hands only – start moving your hands close together again.

Do you feel any resistance? (Keeping to the magnetic imagery – it may feel like you’ve flipped two magnets so that they are ‘like-to-like’ and are pushing back against each other).

Once you’ve developed some initial ‘magnetic’ sensation¸ slowly move your hands towards and away from each other, as if you were clapping in slow motion. Focus acutely on the sensation between your palms and how it changes. You should start to feel as if the air between your palms develops a ‘taffy-like’ quality.

Don’t worry if you don’t feel anything the first time you try. Spend fifteen minutes really trying this exercise every day for a week and I’m fairly certain you’ll feel something by the end of the seven day period.

The people that I’ve recommended this exercise to usually get so freaked out the first time they feel something that the minute they become cognizant, it’s gone.   If this happens to you, don’t worry. If you’re interested, keep trying. As with anything in life, practicing will help your energy sensitivity to develop. Soon you’ll be able to ‘hold’ the sensation with full cognizance.

Once you’ve developed a high degree of confidence working with the energy between your hands, you can move on to exploring the energy around your full body and in your chakras. I will post some exercises for those a few months down the line.

It’s important for me to disclose that I am not an energy master, by any definition. I have become familiar with my own energy and that of the “Universe” in various ways at varying levels across a number of years of casual observation and lay practice.

Energy-sensitivity is indispensable in walking the spiritual path for a number of reasons, but it is not synonymous with the spiritual path (ie – simply developing your energetic abilities does not equate to ‘walking the Spiritual Path’).

Resources for further study

If you’re looking for some teachers who specialize in energy development, you may want to check out the following resources;

Sonia Choquette – On the surface, Sonia Choquette’s work is about intuition, but get just a bit more in-depth and it’s all based in energy and vibration. I have taken some incredibly helpful, fulfilling online classes with Sonia Choquette. I’ve enjoyed a few of her books and I’ve twice gone to her for personal appointments at key junctures in my life.

Barbara Brennan School of Healing – I have never personally taken any internet or live classes with Barbara Brennan, but her book Hands of Light was the first book I ever read about energy back in 1995.

Deborah King – A well known name in the world of energy healing.  I have taken some online energy classes from her website – fascinating stuff!