What is the Soul – Part 1

“A child’s heart is broken by misfortunes we consider trivial. It identifies completely with each incident, being unable to see it against the backdrop of a whole, variable lifetime.” Huston Smith, The World’s Religions (p25).

Myth and Existence

Sometimes there is so much in a subject we have to try several different ways to approach it before we find one that allows for ease of explanation and has wide resonance. Understanding the dual nature of the soul and how it impacts our embodied existence on Earth is one of those subjects. This subject is too full to cover in one post, and probably in a thousand posts, but I am going to try to do the subject some justice in four.

For me, mythology is a natural starting point for this exploration since it represents the earliest stories we’ve told ourselves about existence.

In her book A Short History of Myth, Karen Armstrong says, “… all mythology speaks of another plane that exists alongside our own world, and that in some sense supports it. Belief in this invisible but more powerful reality, sometimes called the world of the gods, is a basic theme of mythology… it informed the mythology, ritual, and social organization of all societies before the advent of our scientific modernity, and continues to influence more traditional societies today”[1]

Thus, from the very earliest, we have evidence of some sort of knowledge of an existence that is categorically different from the Earthly, embodied, existence. Because we have been guided for centuries now by the philosophy of empiricism and the scientific method, we tend to have a hard time accepting a truth we cannot perceive. Thus, instead of seeing this very clear, repeated theme amongst human stories everywhere as evidence of a discarnate world, we look at it backwards.

We consider it a ‘peculiarity’ of the human brain and look to biological processes to help us understand something that has nothing to do with biology. It’s probably the biggest misinterpretation of how things work since we thought the Sun revolved around the Earth. We just don’t understand enough of this process to see it clearly from a scientific point of view.

One of the earliest lines from Armstrong’s book is, “The Neanderthal graves show that when these early people became conscious of their mortality, they created some sort of counter-narrative that enabled them to come to terms with it.”[2] Here the obvious implication is that the Neanderthals couldn’t possibly have had a true knowledge or understanding of an existence beyond the body

The arrogance of empiricism is obvious in this statement. Not that Karen Armstrong, herself, is arrogant, just that the statement itself hides an assumption we’ve taken for granted to such an extent that we don’t even recognize it as an assumption anymore. How do we know that the Neanderthals manufactured a counter-narrative? Perhaps they had a true understanding of the holistic experience of existence which they struggled to express using the tools and communication they were constrained to in a human body.

The truth is that we don’t know, we have no idea what they knew or understood – we can only assume their level of knowledge based on how we think about our own knowledge – a perception heavily influenced by empiricism and the scientific method.[3]

“It is highly significant that these myths and rituals of ascension go back to the earliest period of human history. It means that one of the essential yearnings of humanity is the desire to get ‘above’ the human state. As soon as human beings had completed the evolutionary process, they found that a longing for transcendence was built into their condition.” (27) A Short History of Myth, Karen Armstrong

But what if we were to flip this idea on its head? What if our mythological stories and the core of our spiritual beliefs do not express merely our ‘yearning’ for some greater narrative, but instead speaks to a deep, subconscious understanding of an underlying truth we can’t consciously make sense of?

In that respect, mythology and folklore could be viewed as the way our subconscious, soul-mind tries to bridge the gap between the long-view of our existence and our current, individualized, embodied, incarnation.

The Contrast – Our Soul Self

For the sake of argument, let’s allow ourselves to accept that this might be true; to consider a ‘long-view’ not just of humanity or society, but of our own, personal existence. Essentially, this would mean we live an incarnated or embodied life on a physical plane (Earth) and then transition through death to a disembodied existence, we then transition again through birth into another embodied life, and so on.

If we can allow for the possibility that we have a disembodied existence in addition to our embodied existence, we might wonder what this disembodied existence is like. In previous posts, I have referenced the Newton dialogues on the life-between-life experience. Although I would stop short of calling these ‘evidence’ because information garnered under hypnosis conditions can be highly suspect, they do offer an example of what a discarnate existence might be like in contrast to the embodied one.

“Dr Newton [“N” from now on]:,,,[4]Will you please describe to me the exact sensation you feel at the time of death? Subject [“S” from now on]: Like… a force…of some kind… pushing me up out of my body,,, I’m ejected out the top of my head. Dr N: What was pushed out? S: Well – me! Dr. N: Describe what “me” means. What does the thing that is you look like,,, S: (pause) Like a…pinpoint of light…radiating… Dr. N: How do you radiate light? S: From… my energy… I look sort of transparent white,,, Dr. N: And does this energy light stay the same after leaving my body? S: (pause) I seem to grow a little…as I move around. Dr. N: If your light expands, then what do you look like now? S: A…wispy…string…hanging”[5]

Contrasted with a “wispy string hanging” or a “radiating pinpoint of light energy,” the physical body must seem a heavy burden to carry. While it’s certainly probable that being a pinpoint of light comes with its own set of challenges, it’s unlikely that our string-self ever has the sniffles during allergy season, or has to throw-up or has to eat at all, or – by extension – poop.

Operating in a physical body must be an unfathomable experience for the disembodied. How would you describe what it’s like to have a body to a being that doesn’t have one?

Some people who champion the hypothesis of a disembodied existence refer to us as energetic beings or beings of conscious thought. Since even the heart of physics supports the idea that everything in the universe, including us, is made up of energy that seems plausible. Conscious thought could be one part of our existence that persists into a disembodied state. But, what about personality? Or imagination? Or memory? Are these qualities intimately tied to an embodied state or could they persist before and after death of the body?

My own experience with past life impacts and the field of past life regression in general suggest that some of these qualities at least carry over from body to body, which suggests they persist into a disembodied state. The Newton dialogues provide some examples that support this idea;

“S [different from before]: I’m hearing sounds. Dr. N: What sounds? S: An… echo… of music… musical tingling… wind chimes… vibrating with my movements… so relaxing.,,, I have a memory of scent and taste, too. Dr. N: Does this mean our physical senses stay with us after death? S: Yes, the memory of them…” (loc 313) – Journey of Souls, Michael Newton

The natural question that arises, of course, is – if memory persists through death – why don’t we remember our past life or life-between-life memories in the current life? It would certainly be a lot easier to accept the existence of a ‘soul’ if we did…

Next week we’ll talk about why we don’t remember our Soul’s existence apart from the body.

[1] A Short History of Myth; Armstrong, Karen; pg 4

[2] (1) A Short History of Myth, Karen Armstrong

[3] This is not, by the way, an argument that we should go back to the dark ages where we take everything on Faith.

[4] The original text is peppered with “…” ellipses, which makes it hard to use them to indicate that I’ve “skipped” some text not relevant to the discussion for the sake of brevity. Where I omitted text, therefore, I’ve used commas instead and kept the ellipses from the original text.

[5] (loc 180) Journey of Souls – Michael Newton

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!

What is Energy – Part 4 – A Side-by-Side Comparison between Energy and The Force

Please note: “The Force,” “Jedi,” “Star Wars,” and a host of other related terms are trademarked by LucasFilm / Disney. Additionally, the opinions and views expressed in the below article are the author’s own and not associated or endorsed in any way by LucasFilm or Disney. Lastly, the goal of the articles in this series is to intellectually compare an idea from the fictional Star Wars universe with a concept from our actual universe – not to imply that these two things are the same.

Welcome to the next installment of our side-by-side comparison between The Force from the Star Wars universe and Energy from our universe. J This week we’ll tackle the first half of the below quote from the Wikipedia article on The Force.

“A number of other paranormal, psionic Force powers are demonstrated in the film series, including telekinesis, levitation, hypnosis, and mind control, as well as extra sensory perception based abilities such as telepathy, clairvoyance, and enhanced empathy.”

Let’s take these one by one;

Telekinesis

Have I ever been able to call a lightsaber to my side just by reaching out my hand? No. However, before we move on from the subject of telekinesis, let’s dig a little deeper into this idea.

Google defines Telekinesis as, “the supposed ability to move objects at a distance by mental or non-physical means.” If we consider the Universe to be made up of energy – whether fixed or fluid (Ie, in a fluid energetic state or fixed in matter) and, if we recognize that it is possible to influence that energy in the future through our own energetic connection, that – in a way – is a type of telekinesis.

Also, I have had a couple of odd experiences in my life where it seems almost as if I have ‘called’ things to my side. In one example, I was sitting in our family living room meditating on the middle of the carpet and thinking about this small Turquoise rock I had lost. I had lost it months before (maybe even more than a year) with no idea of what happened to it.

When I opened my eyes at the end of the meditation, and looked down at my hand on the carpet, there was the rock! I had been meditating in the middle of our living room – one of the most high-traffic rooms in the house, so it’s fairly impossible that the rock had just been sitting there all this time. I could imagine that someone walked by and ‘dropped’ it – but no one in my family is really big on carrying small rocks about. This is still a mystery to me, but it’s a ‘data point’[1] in the direction of being able to move objects energetically.

If we accept this broader view of telekinesis, this ‘power’ could be a similarity between Energy and The Force. However, if we focus only on the specific telekinetic actions of the characters in the series; literally moving objects through space in the moment, I have never witnessed nor experienced that directly… so that would be a difference between these two elements.

Levitation

Levitation is certainly something that mystics have claimed to be able to do. I have never levitated, nor have I ever seen anyone levitate.   On the other hand, sometimes during meditation I have felt this incredible ‘lightness of being,’ an intense pull upward that made it feel like I could levitate if I just went a little further along that path. I could see how that feeling, alone, would suggest levitation may be possible using energy. I have never personally achieved it, though, so let’s leave this in the ‘difference’ category for now.

Hypnosis & Mind Control

A further quote from the Wikipedia article; “They are also able to influence and control the minds of others by making use of the “Jedi mind trick”, or using the Force to implant suggestions with which the subject is compelled to comply.[8]

I have a strong negative reaction to the word ‘control.’ However, Energy can definitely be used to influence others. I have certainly ended up accidentally influencing co-workers, loved ones, and friends. The idea of deliberately influencing another person energetically feels a bit unethical, though, so I honestly have not tried to do that.[2]

On the other hand, I do believe I’ve been on the receiving end of such influence. In January of 2013, I found a meditation center that I briefly considered attending / joining. At the time, I was searching for a Spiritual Path mentor, and I had hoped to have found one there. After a couple of visits, though, I came to believe that the leader of the center was (however purely intentioned) trying to manipulate my energy.

The first time I visited, I could feel him digging around in my heart chakra. I’m not familiar enough with the mechanics of energy work to know whether he was just ‘opening up’ old trunks and closets and things I had closed off or whether he was deliberately wreaking havoc, but I came out of the experience feeling deep heart chakra pain and crying the whole drive home.

Unsure of whether I’d had a deeply cathartic energy experience or a deeply wounding one (hey, sometimes pain is good for you, right?), I went back once more. This time, when asked to wait in a private waiting room, every chair I sat in caused an intense energetic reaction (I’ve written about this experience in more detail in the post “Out of My Mind“). I concluded that some very intense energetic influence was happening at that practice. Already out of my depth and unsure how long I’d be able to hold my own, I withdrew.

Based on that (and other) experiences, I could definitely imagine that an unscrupulous energy worker could heavily influence or ‘control’ a person who is unaware of energetic influence and in a vulnerable place emotionally. Would it be as obvious an influence as when Rey, in The Force Awakens, says “You will release my restraints” and the storm troopers comply? It’s hard to say.

I imagine that a master energy practitioner (which I am nowhere near) would probably be acting enough in harmony with the flow of energy that they would be able to avoid getting into a situation where they would need to push that hard. If they needed to, could they? Probably. I would sort this ability into the ‘similarity’ category.

That rounds out our discussion for this week – in our last entry, next week, we’ll cover telepathy, clairvoyance, enhanced empathy, and a few miscellaneous items.

[1] See the post “Sink or Swim” for more on the significance of data points in spiritual path work

[2] I imagine if I or my family were ever in danger, however, all those scruples of “not influencing someone energetically” would go out the window – I would definitely try.

What is Energy? – Part 3 – A Side-by-Side comparison of Energy & the Force

Please note: “The Force,” “Jedi,” “Star Wars,” and a host of other related terms are trademarked by LucasFilm / Disney. Additionally, the opinions and views expressed in the below article are the author’s own and not associated or endorsed in any way by LucasFilm or Disney. Lastly, the goal of the articles in this series is to intellectually compare an idea from the fictional Star Wars universe with a concept from our actual universe – not to imply that these two things are the same.

What About All the ‘powers’ associated with The Force in Star Wars? Does working with Energy come with those also?

In the previous two posts, we explored Energy, at a high level, in comparison with George Lucas’ concept of The Force and we covered my personal discovery of Energy as an initiation point on my Spiritual Path. In this next installment, we will do a side by side comparison of the ‘powers’ associated with The Force from the Star Wars Universe compared to those associated with the concept I refer to as Energy.

Initially I planned for this to be one long post, but it topped out above 3,000 words and I have since decided to break it up into three sections; parts 3,4, & 5. Using the Wikipedia entry as our guide (I know that’s hardly exhaustive if you’re a Star Wars aficionado, but it provides an acceptable entry point) let’s look at some of the features of The Force;

“As the Force connects all living things, Force-sensitive individuals may feel what is called a “disturbance in the Force” when death or suffering occurs on a massive scale

Force-sensitive individuals may be able to sense each other’s presence and emotions across distances, as Luke and Princess Leia do in The Empire Strikes Back.”

I’m going to take these two together because my experience with them has been fundamentally related. I do tend to feel pain or ‘a disturbance’ in my heart chakra when someone I love is in trouble. I have also noticed this sensation in my heart chakra during times of extreme distress on a national and global scale; September 11th 2001 specifically comes to mind.

It’s hard to parse out whether this feeling is attributable to mere ‘fear’ on my own part or if it’s triggered by the energetic connection. Additionally, I’ve had a number of apparent ‘false positives’ – where I feel this disturbance with no readily identifiable cause. My ability to process what I get through my energetic connection into ‘sensible’ information is still developing so sometimes I feel things without knowing why.

Theoretically, if we are all energetically connected and we are mindful of that connection, we could certainly ‘sense’ things via that channel. Based on my own experience and understanding, this is a similarity between Energy and The Force.

“In A New Hope, the Force aids Luke in launching proton torpedoes with precision into a two-meter-wide thermal exhaust port on the Death Star.[3]

We could say that Luke uses his ‘intuition’ to help him launch the proton torpedoes. However, as much as I appreciate intuition, I don’t think the term itself is very self-explanatory. Another way to look at the situation is this; Luke’s energetic self is connected to all the other energy of the universe and therefore is more informed than his brain.

When he trains himself to listen to his energy body without his logical mind interfering he’s able to use that energetic information to gain more accuracy in hitting his target. The energy body informs the physical body more quickly than it informs the cognitive part of the brain.

The body is not interested in processing information, it leaves that to the brain. The body acts on information. On a personal note, I associate this ‘power’ with the ‘art of finding.’ When I go into ‘finding’ mode, I deliberately bring down my logic mind and visual dominance and let my energy field direct me. Check out the post on this subject for more detail.

Another exercise I have tried related to this is walking through narrow hallways with my eyes closed (slowly!) to train myself to feel with my energy where the walls are. Thus, I consider this ability to also be in common between both Energy and The Force.

Count Dooku, Emperor Palpatine and Yoda, despite age or size, are able to competently fight younger or larger opponents than themselves in the Star Wars prequel trilogy of films.[4]

This one is not that much of a stretch. Anyone who is familiar with the Martial Arts will probably have heard stories about smaller and – perceptibly – weaker individuals defeating larger or younger opponents. Martial Arts are heavily based in the concept I refer to as Energy – in Chinese based martial arts, the root is ‘chi’ or ‘qi’ which means breath, but is essentially synonymous with my use of energy (If you read last week’s installment, I mentioned that Tai-Chi was my entry point in discovering and practicing with my energy). In the Japanese tradition this translates to ‘ki’ as in Hap-ki-do or Ai-ki-do.

When the energy body and the physical body are in harmony and allowed to move without the logical mind interfering, truly amazing things can happen. I vote this as another one in the ‘similarity’ category.

Next week we’ll compare Energy and The Force on telekinesis, levitation, hypnosis, and mind control. Although all of the ‘powers’ we tackled this week seem to be similarities, next week we’ll find some differences. As a reminder, the purpose of this post and all others in this series is to intellectually compare Energy with The Force, not to imply that these two are the same thing.

What is ‘Energy’? – Part 2 – My Journey

In last week’s installment we introduced the concept of Energy and focused on a high-level comparison of Energy and the Star Wars concept of The Force. This week I want to take a step back and cover this topic on a more personal level because it is my own personal experience of Energy that has driven my desire to understand it, explore it, and share about it.

Twenty years ago, I had my very first awakening to this energy that connects us all.

Barely seventeen, I attended a Tai-Chi workshop run by one of my high school English teachers. She instructed us to rub our hands together to generate some heat (and presumably electricity) and hold them a few inches apart facing palm to palm.

We were then instructed to move our hands towards and away from each other to see if we could ‘feel’ anything. I gasped as I felt the air thicken between my palms into a substance like magnetic taffy. Other gasps in the room suggested that I wasn’t the only one having an otherworldly experience. What was this?

I went home and spent hours just playing with this substance. Could I feel it without rubbing my hands together? What happened if I hovered the palms of my hands over other parts of my body? Could I stretch it to be ‘bigger’ or condense it? Little did I know that I had awakened to a whole new way to experience my own existence that would permeate the rest of my life thus far.

The next day I went to school and excitedly approached my fellow students from the Tai-Chi class. To my dismay, each one I spoke with insisted that they hadn’t felt anything. Disheartened and thrown into doubt, I began to question what I had felt. Had it all been my imagination?

My initial enthusiasm and desire to share gave way to a quiet, individual exploration – the most dangerous kind. When I got home that evening I again spent hours ‘playing’ with ‘my chi.’   I practiced ‘sharing energy’ with select, trusted friends always focusing on deepening my awareness of how the energy moved and changed.

Although my friends said that they could feel it too when we shared energy, they didn’t seem to have nearly the same drive to understand it that I did. I felt confused, weird, and alone. It’s difficult to fathom this experience today because we are all so tapped into the internet that it’s fairly easy to find other people or sources of information wherever our interests lie. But in 1995 & 1996 the internet was still in a very raw state and only starting to seep into home use.

The summer of my eighteenth year my heart chakra ‘opened’ or ‘tore’ or something. Of course, at the time, I had no idea what was happening to me. I didn’t even know what a chakra was.

On the recommendation of my English teacher I picked up the book Hands of Light by Barbara Ann Brennan. The book was both exciting and disheartening. Exciting because the work validated my own experience (at least I wasn’t totally crazy). Disheartening because her location in New York seemed a ‘world away’ to a high-school student in Chicago.

Playing With Fire

Based on a section where the author discusses the energy of plants, I decided to try ‘sharing energy’ with some plants. My hope was that they would grow better with the addition of my energy into their field – or, if not that, that maybe I would feel more ‘connected’ to the natural world.

Growing up, there were always plants around. My mother was always growing things. In our breezeway, I found a table full of potential energy-sharing subjects. I chose one larger (but still easy to carry) houseplant and then a smaller plant among a dozen of the same kind obviously waiting to be transplanted.

Late at night, before bed, I took each plant individually (of the two) to my room and sat on the floor sharing energy with the plant for fifteen minutes. I then returned each plant to exactly the space on the table where I found it. I did this every night for about a week, but after not seeing any dramatic changes or results within those days I lost interest a little bit and stopped for a few days.

One day, shortly after I had stopped my energy ‘experiments,’ my mom came down into the basement, obviously distracted. “Two of my plants died” she started, “And it’s the weirdest thing. They’re not dried out or yellow from too much water. There is no sign of a disease, and they were fine a few days ago.  They’re still perfectly green, but brittle like husks – it’s as if whatever made them alive is just ‘gone.’ There are at least a dozen other plants on that table, but none of the other plants were affected. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

As she spoke, I felt a growing dread and I raced up the stairs. In my heart I already knew which two plants it would be. Sure enough, as I looked at the two plants I had been sharing energy with so recently, I could see what my mom meant. I had never seen anything like it either. If I had to describe them, I would say it was like the plants had been ‘flash frozen’ except they weren’t cold and it was the height of summer.

To be fair, it could have just been an incredible coincidence. My home could hardly be equated with ‘lab conditions.’ But the timing and effects were highly suspicious. Two other incidents that happened roughly around the same time cemented my concern that I was ‘messing’ with something I didn’t understand at the risk of potentially disastrous consequences.

We use the expression ‘playing with fire’ for a reason. All the energy forces we know of are similar in this regard – indispensable in a small or moderate quantity, but highly destructive in vast and uncontrollable quantities; like a wildfire, flood, or hurricane. This is not to say that my energy is vast, but I certainly couldn’t control it and it may have seemed quite vast to a houseplant. I decided to stop experimenting.

Where to go From There

Despite my departure from actively ‘practicing’ with my energy, I continued to meditate and I continued to have energy-related experiences. I had psychic flashes where I suddenly ‘knew’ things I shouldn’t know. I started spontaneously ‘manifesting’ or ‘co-creating’ – meaning, I suddenly and unexpectedly started getting whatever I asked for, even silly things.

One of the oddest, my junior year in college I had a surreal experience when I was working in a warehouse as part of a summer job. I was standing next to a bunch of wooden pallets which were stacked to near shoulder-height. Another worker approached me quickly with a stack full of pallets piled high. Behind me was the drop-off for the loading dock. I was about to be crushed by the pallets and there was nowhere to go!

I remember moving. I remember lifting one leg and making a twisting movement and putting my foot down and lifting the other leg and twisting. I know it happened fast, so fast that the motion was a blur, even for me. But I remember the movement, kinesthetically. My next full conscious moment I was on the opposite side of the pallet stack. My co-worker looked at me and said, “How did you….?” And then he freaked out yelling, “Did anybody else just see that?”

I started to explain, to show him how I had done it, but when I tried to lift my leg the way I remembered doing, there was no way I could have gotten it high enough to get even my leg over the pallets, nevermind the rest of my body. I was struck silent and confused, I had no idea how I got from one side of all those pallets to the other with the loading dock drop-off right behind me (there was nowhere to step where I had thought I put my foot down.)

That was just one of the dozens of ‘energy’ experiences I have accumulated over the last twenty years. I know I am not alone. There is a relatively silent contingent of people out there who have had experiences just like mine, maybe the experiences are not exactly the same mechanically, but they are the same fundamentally.   One of the important things to take away from this story is that every person I ‘shared’ energy with could also feel that energy. This is a capacity we all have if we’re interested in pursuing it.

My hope is that sharing this part of my story has communicated that – when I talk about Energy on the blog it comes from what has been a deeply personal, tumultuous experience for me. I am constantly grappling with this concept; vacillating between skepticism and devoted faith, struggling to understand it without becoming so attached to the idea that I hang my whole identity on it.

I believe that the Universe is made up of Energy, that that energy is connected, and that the direction and flow of that energy is open to influence not as a result of reading or studying some new-age theory, but because that has been my personal experience in the last twenty years; over and over again.

How does this  Energy I refer to on the blog compare to the concept of The Force in the George Lucas Star Wars universe? Next week we’ll start a side-by-side comparison between the powers exhibited by Star Wars’ characters and the phenomenon that I have experienced with Energy.

What IS this concept I call Energy and How Does it Compare to The Force from Star Wars?

Please note: “The Force,” “Jedi,” “Star Wars,” and a host of other related terms are trademarked by LucasFilm / Disney. Additionally, the opinions and views expressed in the below article are the author’s own and not associated or endorsed in any way by LucasFilm or Disney. Lastly, the goal of the articles in this series is to intellectually compare an idea from the fictional Star Wars universe with a concept from our actual universe – not to imply that these two things are the same.

“I put The Force into the movies in order to try to awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young people. More a belief in God than a belief in any particular religious system.” George Lucas as quoted in the Wikipedia Article on The Force

A long time ago, in a post far, far away[1] I noted that the Universe is made up of Energy. I then went on to say that I wasn’t going to dwell on the subject since there are many other works in both the spiritual and scientific space that explain this better than I can. Perhaps as a result of seeing the new Star Wars movie The Force Awakens in the theatre a couple months ago, though, I feel an awakening desire to discuss this topic in a little more detail and on a little more personal level.

I started out writing one long post, but now that I’m on a weekly schedule, I’ve decided to break the topic up a bit. The first installment (this one) is a high-level comparison of The Force and Energy with a minor discussion of dark side / light side, the second will detail my personal story related to Energy, the last three entries will feature a ‘side-by-side’ comparison between the powers associated with The Force as depicted in Star Wars and those associated with the concept referred to as Energy on this blog.

So what do I mean by Energy and how does it compare to The Force concept in Star Wars?

To explain, I’ll return to the starting statement from that previous post and we can unpack it a little bit. First, the Universe is made up of Energy. Acknowledged, there is disagreement in deep physics about what form this Energy takes. For example, is the smallest unit of energetic existence a particle? Or a vibrating string? Or something else entirely?

To participate in our everyday existence, the form this fundamental ‘building block’ of Energy takes is not that important. When I use the term Energy on this blog, I am simply referencing that fundamental ‘building block’ of the Universe which is at the heart of all existence. Whether we talk about atoms or quarks or neutrinos or strings, we, and everything we know to exist, is rooted in some kind of energetic substance.

According to the Wikipedia article on The Force, “In the original Star Wars film (1977)… The Force is first described by Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi [as] what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.[1]

Although The Force is an “energy field created by living things,” when it comes to ‘Energy’ the category is much broader, it’s all existence. For example, when I drive, I tend to extend my Energy into the car such that it becomes like part of my body. This doesn’t mean that my car is ‘conscious,’ but that, at an energetic level, my car is available for me to tap into. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Racecar drivers, for example, have this same experience at a more intense level where they may feel, in a way, one with the car.

Although things made up of energy appear widely dissimilar to us on the ground (ie – a tree and water hardly seem the same energetically), because of the energetic connection on a fundamental level, it is possible to ‘tap into’ this energy for information or influence. In fact, I believe (and this belief is not that uncommon in the spiritual space) that there is some base level of communication and connection possible among all existence on an energetic level.

Reach Out and ‘Touch’ Someone[2]

If it helps, think about a wireless network. There is data around us all the time that our devices can process into content which we are able to use via our phones, computers, televisions, etc. Imagine that we could tap into and process that information directly.

We probably could, although this wouldn’t be as awesome as it sounds. You might not care, for example, that your neighbor is searching the latest sale on a children’s clothing website or that the person sitting next to you on the train is watching an old slasher film. If all the information in the wireless networks around us came crashing in at once it would be overwhelming, and certainly not very useful.

To make matters more complicated, the Energy I refer to is broader than that of wireless networks, because it is the Energy of all people, all animals, all existence (living or not). When we tap into this Energy and process its content into usable data – we have potentially unlimited information available to us.[3]

One secret to using this ability wisely, however, is being able to consult the energy in such a way to get only the information you need – not everything. Unfortunately, when we add all our fears, insecurities, and filters into the equation – it can be highly challenging to process and interpret the information we receive from energetic connection without putting an interpretation on it.

One of my favorite quotes from Sarvepalli Radakrishnan (in reference to the mystical experience) puts it this way,

“…there is no such thing as pure experience, raw and undigested. It is always mixed up with layers of interpretation. The alleged immediate datum is psychologically mediated.”[4]

We can tap into this Energy source for information, but once our brain starts processing it into thoughts, interpretations and judgments start to sneak in. This is one reason why doing deep self-cleaning is so important.

If we review the Wikipedia article on The Force it notes that, “The Force is naturally stronger in some people than others, and some who are not significantly gifted can still be sensitive to The Force in varying degrees.”

This quote makes me think of psychics. Based on my own personal experience working with Energy, I believe that people we think of as ‘psychic’ have a particular talent connecting with and processing this Energy into usable material. While we don’t all have such ability in equal measure, we can all develop our skills in this area. I have had a number of ‘psychic’ experiences although I would never call myself ‘psychic’ because (to me) the term implies an amount of control over this ability I simply do not have.[5]

Obviously, there’s a big gap between what most people think of as a ‘psychic’ and a light-saber wielding Jedi. However, I want to save the ‘side-by-side’ comparison details of “powers” associated with The Force versus Energy for the third installment of this series.

Dark Side / Light Side

We can’t complete a comparison between The Force and the concept I refer to as Energy without touching on the dark side / light side concept.

According to Wikipedia, “The Force has a negative and destructive aspect called the “dark side“, which feeds off emotions such as fear, anger, greed, pride, jealousy and hate. Jedi Master Yoda explains to his pupil Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back (1980): Anger, fear, aggression! The dark side of The Force are they … a Jedi uses The Force for knowledge and defense. Never for attack.[2]

In the Star Wars films The Force is highly polarized, is the same true of Energy?

The similarity or difference here depends on the answer to a simple question about The Force. Is it The Force that has a dark side or is it that powerful Force-sensitive individuals, who retreat into their ‘shadow’ selves, use The Force in dark ways? To put it another way, is the apparent polarization of The Force a projection of the perceived light side / dark side dichotomy of the human psyche?

The above quote from Yoda seems to indicate that a key element of The Force is how it is used. Does the dark side of The Force “feed off of” negative emotions as the Wikipedia article suggests, or is it that those emotions lead to using The Force in ways that are destructive to life and love?

The Universe is a place of creation and destruction. At the most fundamental energetic level, it is impossible to create without destroying. Thus, I believe, that the Energy of the Universe itself is amoral; defined by Merriam-Webster as, “lying outside the sphere to which moral judgments apply.”

Some believe that there is an inherent morality built into the Universe, I do not think that is true, per se. However, our actions do have re-actions, energetically, and our own feelings and interpretations of our actions at a soul-level[6] based on our own (and others) understanding of morality can cause karmic consequences that we interpret as ‘the Universe’ itself having a morality[7].

In other words, we perceive certain actions as ‘good’ and other actions as ‘evil.’ These perceptions influence the action / re-action karmic sequence. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want anyone to hurt the people I love – I’m not ‘above’ making moral judgments of my own and others’ behavior, but I recognize that my own concept of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ has a lot to do with the people, ideas, and things that I value.

Thus, it is certainly possible to use the Energy of the Universe for purposes most would consider nefarious. The Universe itself would not ‘stop’ this, but, interestingly enough, just as one of the biggest blockers for us tapping into and processing this Energy into usable data is our own psychology, on the flipside, one of the biggest blockers of using this Energy for destructive purposes is our own “conscience” being unwilling to do so.

I believe this is the same with The Force and that this is why we find Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens agonizing over the assignment to kill his own father. He is not battling with The Force, he is battling with himself. His use of The Force is a reflection of his own internal state.

I hope you enjoyed this high level introduction to what I mean by Energy on the blog and the comparison to The Force for illustrative purposes. In next week’s installment, I’ll cover my own journey of discovery and understanding this concept of Energy. I would love to hear your thoughts related to these two concepts (or how you think / refer to it. 🙂 )

[1] The Double Agent of Change

[2] Insert reference to the telephone ad

[3] It’s possible that, at the most fundamental level, the Universe is re-creating itself every single moment based on the ‘instructions’ from the moment before. Did that just make your head blow-up? It makes my head blow-up when I think about it. However, even though there is broad understanding that the only moment that actually exists is the now, I think we still haven’t worked through all the implications of that. If there’s no tangible past or future that actually exists, for example, how does existence persist from moment to moment? How does the new moment relate to the previous moment? One possibility could be spontaneous regeneration of the universe based on the instructions of the prior moment. If that is true – then we have the possibility of a very high amount of influence on the next moment based on the current moment. As you can see this idea is still very raw, I may work through it more in a future post… depends on how things develop.

 

[4] A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy, Radakrishnan, Sarvepalli and Moore, Charles A., pg 623

[5] I discuss this in more detail in one of the earliest posts on this blog ‘What does it mean to be Psychic?’

[6] We’ll talk more about ‘what the soul is’ (From my perspective, of course) in an upcoming post

[7] The flipside of this would be to assert that – if the Universe is God (as I believe) then its actions determine morality, but as such this is really the same thing as being ‘outside’ of morality. In either case, the element in question operates by its own rules and is not subject to our human notions of morality.

Why I Am Not a (Insert Religion Here)

Sometimes, one size doesn’t fit all

While my husband and I traveled in Japan, we had the opportunity to try on yukatas (Japanese summer traditional dress for festivals and ceremonies,etc).  It was great fun to put them on and I loved the style and feel of the garment, but ultimately I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing one on the street.  It’s beautiful, but on me it felt like a costume.  In contrast, while we toured the temples in Nara (outside of Kyoto) I saw a couple wearing traditional dress, including yukatas, and it looked so right.  The clothing was a perfect fit on them, not only bodily, but holistically.  This is how I feel about organized religion.  For some people (and, truly, I have met people like this) it works beautifully.  They find comfort in its structure and it acts as a vehicle for them to bring love, kindness, and understanding into the world. As long as a religion remains true to it’s roots (which are usually based in love, compassion, understanding) and avoids setting up false dichotomies of “us” and “them” to facilitate conflict, I think it is a wonderfully helpful institution for many people.  Often, I have lamented that my life would be so much easier if I was one of those people.  Unfortunately, on me, religion feels like a costume.

I was raised Catholic (as so many of us wanderers were), but I can remember questioning church dogma from a very early age.  As a child, I believed in reincarnation, the church didn’t.  That was the main discrepancy, I know there were countless others.  My memories of early church education are mostly of well-meaning volunteers scaring the living daylights out of me with dire warnings about evil lurking around every corner. (One particular instance that comes to mind was of a youth educator who told us we needed to be careful about hand position while praying, because if we held our hands the wrong way, regardless of our intentions, we were actually praying to Satan and not God.  Can you imagine?)  We shouldn’t have to be scared into believing something, the positive aspects of the religion should be strong enough to stand on their own; to make us want to believe.  As soon as I was old enough to control my own destiny, I distanced myself from the church. My parents were never really critical about it and managed to convey a type of support by not being outwardly against the idea.  I think they, too, we’re struggling with their faith.

The Hindus have a concept of the “seven layers of reality.”  It is important to note that these layers are all reality – one is not more real than the others. As humans, we are singular and unified beings, yet we are also simultaneously a collection of cells and even further a collection of atoms.  All of these layers of us are “real”.  I have come to a place where I think of religion along similar lines.  Truth is at the heart of all religions and they have developed a symbology to represent this truth.  That doesn’t mean the imagery is false or wrong; like any visual aide it can be tremendously useful for providing an understanding of the divine.  What I struggle with most about the imagery of any religion is that it often becomes, at heart, a projection of aspects of the self.  Again, this does not mean it’s wrong, in fact, I think it has quite intentionally evolved this way.  However, projection is an outward form of expression and can sometimes distract us from looking inward.  Also, religious imagery is often “pure” or relatively one dimensional, representing supreme good – like Jesus, or supreme compassion and peace – like Buddha, or supreme evil – like Satan. But, in reality, we are incredibly nuanced individuals – we risk losing something of ourselves in the projection.  Over time we may come to see those aspects of ourselves that don’t neatly fit into the imagery we want to emulate as “bad” or “wrong” and therefore to be “oppressed” or “eliminated” rather than explored with openness and understanding.

In January of this year (2014), I had a whirlwind experience with a Christian Mystical church in the area.  It was a small group, only five, including me, at the service I attended. On the altar, a pair of pictures rested; one of Jesus with hands in the teacher position and one of Mary looking both serene and seductive.[1]  The pictures were of equal size and it was clear they were meant to represent the divine masculine and feminine energies.  When we had brunch and discussion together after the service, the reverend inquired on my feelings about the images. I noted that I was still chewing them over to see how they fit with my personal beliefs.  He then said, “Well, it’s not really about the imagery, you know, it’s about the energy behind the imagery”. See, and that right there is what I struggle with.  At heart, I believe that energy is the root of everything. If you believe it’s about the energy behind the imagery, why not go straight to that? It seems limiting and unnecessary to have to go “through” graphical representations to get there. According to Daoism – In the beginning there was the Dao which separated into the yin and the yang[2] and from that came forth the myriad of things.  Why not start with Source and back into differentiation?

If you don’t go to church or aren’t part of an organized religion, people tend to think that you don’t believe in God.  This is true for some of us, but not all. One holiday seven or eight years ago, my family was playing the game “Loaded Questions”.  If you’re unfamiliar with it, basically all players confidentially answer a personal question and the ’reader’, which rotates, has to read the answers and guess which answer belongs to which player.  The question came up, “How many times were you in a place of worship last year?” The answer bubbled up from deep in my soul, “I am always in a place of worship”.  It sounds like a clever answer, but is a true expression of how I feel.  Just because I don’t go to a particular building to worship God doesn’t mean I’m an atheist.  As is true for so many of us, my beliefs in God are personal and complicated.  Actually, to clarify, my beliefs are incredibly simple in my heart, but difficult to explain. But my beliefs inform and direct so much of my life that it’s heartbreakingly laughable when I get criticism from a relative for my ‘non-religious’ behavior.

I don’t have a lot of interest in getting into a theological debate with anyone.  I’m happy with what I believe.  If you’re happy with what you believe – great! Let’s just both be happy instead of trying to convince each other why one view is better than the other. :). And if you’re confused, lost, or unhappy in your relationship with the divine – relax, you’re not alone – we’ve all been there at some point. Keep walking with an open mind and heart and you’ll find your path.

 

[1] I won’t lie – seeing Mary looking about the same age as Jesus and looking somewhat seductive (she had her fingers clutched to her shawl as if about to take it off) was very disconcerting.  I mean, I get it – Mary represents mother, maiden, wife, and all the feminine roles (at least I believe that is what they were trying to suggest), but perhaps some Catholic concepts are too firmly embedded in my psyche for me to feel comfortable seeing “Mary” cast in such a way.

[2] yin representing the divine feminine (among many other things) and yang representing the divine masculine (among other things)

Musings: Is food really our only source of energy?

Does the sun do more than light up our lives?

I have sometimes wondered if we (and by that I mean human beings in general) can absorb different types of energy for use.  Typically we think of getting “energy” (and by energy here I mean that feeling that gets us going / keeps us moving) from food.  But is food really our only means of picking up energy?  Some studies have shown that prolonged separation from sunlight has a negative impact on the mood and I wonder if these are pointing at a more fundamental influence that sunlight has on our energy levels.  On a personal note, I remember that when I was meditating multiple times a day in direct sunlight, I had tons of energy even though I was barely eating and I wasn’t losing any weight.    I know there are some groups out there, such as Inedia (see wikipedia for more), who maintain they can live on sunlight and water alone.  Even if it is possible to absorb energy from the sun, I don’t think sunlight is a replacement for food.  The body needs the nutrients we absorb from food to function, and although we get some vitamins from the sun, certainly not enough to sustain a healthy, active lifestyle.  Even plants, which we know get a substantial amount of life energy from the sun, cannot live on sunlight alone and require nutrients from soil or water to thrive.

Why does music make us want to dance?

Returning to the idea of absorbing alternative forms of energy (ie – not just food energy), when I listen to dance music I also feel an ‘energy boost’.  Is this just a perceived increase in energy or are my energy levels really rising?  I have read somewhere that listening to high energy / upbeat music makes the heart speed up and this is what causes the burst of energy.  That makes some sense, however – if this is the case, I would think that I would feel tired after listening to music; the way I do after a hard workout.  Conversely, though, I feel much more energized.  Perhaps my workout just isn’t getting the heartbeat thing right – but let’s look at the flipside of this argument.  How exactly is the music making my heart speed up if I’m not absorbing the energy from it to do so?  Is my body expending food energy to do this?  If that’s the case – listening to music should cause us to lose weight?  Have we ever wondered why music makes us want to dance?  Dancing is a very high energy expenditure for the body.  I don’t want to dance when I’m on the phone, or when a teacher is lecturing at me in class, nor when I sit at my corporate desk at work.  Those types of sound do not trigger the desire to dance.  So why does music do so?  I also believe there are studies out there about music affecting mood – I don’t think the idea of music affecting mood would surprise anyone.  But like sunlight, does this hint to an effect on a more fundamental, energetic level.

How can sunlight and music tangibly affect?  By which I mean, what is the `by which one thing has an effect on something else?  Usually for that to happen there needs to be some connection between the two things by which the change can be effected.   I would argue that, in this case, energy is passing from the one medium (sunlight / music) to the other (us).  And if that is the case – then is it possible that we are actually able to use or expend some of that energy?  I charge my ipod with energy from the wall outlet, the ipod uses that energy to ‘play’ my music, the music and sound waves go directly into my ears – is it impossible for me to be converting those sound waves into expendable energy?  I mean – the energy has to go somewhere right?  Is it just turning to ‘heat’ in my eardrums?

How could we test this hypothesis?

So let’s pretend you agree that the above is fairly logical and interesting.  How could we go about measuring this type of energy in the body?  It seems like you would have to start with finding a way to measure ‘usable’ energy before you can determine whether we can convert other types of energy besides food into a usable form.   I guess one way to experiment with this concept – informally – would be to have a few groups of people who all eat the same exact meals let say for breakfast and lunch (maybe you have them fast for 12 hours before then?  I don’t know how far you’d have to go back… but, this is a thought experiment, not detailed lab instructions) and after lunch then you have one group lay out in the sun for let’s say 30 minutes, another group sit and listen to high energy music for 30 minutes, and the control group can do whatever they want for 30 minutes as long as they’re not expending much energy and aren’t performing the other two activites (read a book? sit quietly? watch tv?) then you have all three groups hop on an exercise machine; treadmill? elliptical? Gazelle freestyle?  I imagine you might be able to tell if there is some differentiation in the energy output of the individuals on these machines over a period of time (high-school science project, anyone?).   Along those lines – it would also be interesting to study the energy output (by effort exerted on machine or maybe endurance) of people who are watching TV while exercising, listening to high energy music while exercising, exercising in direct sunlight (?) or doing none of these supplementary activities and just working out.  One experiment we could all try at home is measuring how long we can sustain the energy to dance without music vs. how long we can sustain the energy to dance with music.  Is there a notable difference?

I don’t mean to suggest that this is only a factor for sunlight and / or music – their could certainly be other sources of energy we might be able to ‘convert’ and use.  Obviously even if there were some studies out there that suggested this was possible there would still be lots of unanswered questions.   For example, does everyone have the ability to do this – or just some people?  Also, I would imagine lower-energy music (like ballads, etc.) requires just as much energy to play on a device for a minute as high-energy music.  However, low energy music does not have the same perceived, positive, ‘energizing’ effect on our mood or energy levels. (So there goes my wall-outlet argument, right?).   I recognize that there would need to be a scientific approach taken to this question in order to determine whether it is possible for humans to absorb and convert / use energy from sources other than food.  However, there is so much we don’t understand about even our own energy levels that I think it is a question worth exploring.