We all have the potential to experience, manipulate, and learn from our own subtle energy. The incredible thing is that it doesn’t matter if you believe in subtle energy or not, you can still benefit from familiarizing yourself with your own. You can think of it as accessing your higher self, a higher power, getting familiar with your subconscious or the subtle workings of your body. Once you’ve gotten on this path, your potential to thrive becomes limitless. It can also be a fun and exciting process, so become a scientist of your own experiences.
The term “subtle energy” is the modern label for an energy that goes by many names within several ancient traditions. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this energy is called, “chi…, [it is called] prana in Ayurvedic teachings, [it is also known as] Paracelsus’ archaeus, Newton’s cosmic aether, Mesmer’s ‘universal fluid’ and ‘animal magnetism,’ the Odic force of Reichenback, Brunler’s biocosmic energy, and Reich’s orgone,”¹ and that’s just a partial list. The term “subtle energy” is also sometimes used in physics to mean certain kinds of energies that are very weak, but that is not the type of subtle energy that we’re talking about here.
Are you skeptical about subtle energy? Good. If you’re skeptical, that means that you’re open. I’ve been listening to William Bengston’s book, Hands On Healing, which, as far as I can tell, is only available as an audiobook.² In it, he explains that the true definition of a “skeptic” is a person who is open to all possibilities, and a “believer” is someone who is sure about something. That could mean that the person is sure that something is or that something isn’t. If you’re on the fence, you’re in good company.
If you’re a believer one way or another, I’d like you to try to be a skeptic for these exercises, even if you are a total believer in subtle energy. One thing that Bengston points out in his audiobook,² which I have also experienced myself, is this: strong and immovable beliefs retard the flow of energy. Not just beliefs against it—beliefs either way. He speculates (and I agree with his speculation) is that a strong belief means that an individual has a stake in the outcome of any situation, that stake creates anxiety, and the next thing you know you’ve just disrupted your flow of energy.
Subtle Energy Exercises
Anytime that you feel like your mind is racing, your heart is beating too fast, and you need to get focused quickly, imagine your energy in whatever way is meaningful to you, and start sending it down away from your upper body and into the spot just below your navel. If you have ever practiced martial arts, you are probably familiar with this exercise. Take a few slow deep breaths and observe your body and note any changes. Since most of us lead really busy and overwhelming lives, you will probably have plenty of opportunities to try this one out.
This one takes a little bit of time and practice, but if you keep with it, you will reap benefits!
1. Sit and relax your muscles as much as possible while remaining upright. Let your shoulders drop. Muscle tension blocks the flow of energy. If you have knotted up muscles, chances are that your subtle energy is stagnant in that area. Stay sitting up because that will help you remain alert and observant.
2. Let go of any words, stories or thoughts that are floating around in your head. This is the hard part. I like to imagine my thoughts turning into a balloon and floating up and away.
3. Once you have discarded the words, you can let out your feelings. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling without looking for reasons, justifications, or logical conclusions. Respect your emotions as entities of their own, not accessories to the material world. If you are someone who habitually holds back emotions, it may take some time to convince yourself that it is ok to let them out. Holding in emotions also tends to cause subtle energy to stagnate.
4. Identify the place in your body each emotion is stored. Explore the quality and texture of those feelings in the context of your body.
5. Many traditions link subtle energy to the breath. You can try imagining energy flowing in and out with your breath in whatever way feels most natural to you (for example, through your skin, through the top of your head, through your heart, through your lower abdomen). Note how that flow of energy interacts with the physical aspect of your emotion.
6. Give it time and observe. If you have never done this before, this is the beginning of you learning how to focus on and recognize your bodily sensations.
7. Once you start noticing the sensations, it helps to link them to images. You might feel a hot emotion coming out of the top of your head, or feel pressure building up in part of your body. What does it look like to you?
8. If you fall asleep or start to feel an extreme desire to sleep, then sleep (if you have no time to sleep, then get on with your day and then make plans to get more sleep later). If you continually fall asleep while doing this exercise, this is an indication that you are sleep deprived. If you keep giving yourself sleep, your body will eventually catch up, and you’ll be able to sit and observe without feeling very tired.
9. Have patience. If you’re struggling, think of it like those old stereogram posters; superficially, they look like a boring pattern, but when looked at in the right way, a new image pops out from the pattern. The first time it might take some time, but the more we see it, the easier it becomes. Pretty soon, it becomes nearly impossible not to see it. It’s kind of neat like that. It takes longer for some people, but if you keep trying, eventually, it will reveal itself to you.
You may find that a sensation that you commonly experience suddenly makes a lot of sense when it’s viewed in terms of subtle energy. For example, when I meditate, I often get the strong sensation of something pressing on my forehead between my eyebrows. Before I had any knowledge of subtle energy, I would get annoyed thinking that something wasn’t right. It was distracting and I’d wonder, “Why must my forehead constantly make itself known?” Now that I understand and accept it as a stimulation of my third eye chakra, I have much more awareness and control over it.
There are dozens, maybe hundreds of instructional videos on youtube for either feeling or seeing subtle energy. I haven’t tried most of them, but if that interests you, give them a try and see if any of them fit or resonate with you.
Now go forth and observe yourself! You are your own best teacher.
¹Rosch, P. J. (2011, September). The Health Effects of Subtle Energies. Health and Stress, (9), 1–10.
²So, I can’t reference a page, and I don’t want to re-listen to the whole thing in order to find the exact time he says something before I can present his ideas.