Definitions, energy work

What is Energy Work?

Definition of Energy Work

I was so surprised when after I had been practicing energy work for 10 years, my sister (a medical professional) asked me, “What’s energy work?” I was even more surprised when I looked on Merriam-Webster online and Collins dictionary online to find no entry for the term. Again, there was no entry under the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine or on Encyclopaedia Britannica online. It’s no wonder people don’t know what energy work is, when there’s no readily available reference for the topic! So let me start by saying, if you haven’t heard the term itself, you’re not alone; and it’s quite possible you’re already familiar with energy work, having likely heard of, or experienced, one of its practices (more to come on this subject later!).

In short, energy work (alternatively spelled energywork) is an umbrella term for any practice that works with the body’s energy field.

Sapta Chakra, 1899

The seven-chakra system is just one type of mapping the main energy centers in the HEF, shown here in a yoga manuscript.

“Works” here can refer to anything from seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, feeling, draining, replenishing, moving, to an instantaneous knowing. By the “body’s energy field,” I am referring to what is also known as the Human Energy Field (HEF), aura, or subtle bodies, etc. Typically there is a shared understanding among all practices within this category that the HEF both surrounds the physical form and permeates through it. In turn, changes to the physical body can affect the human energy field and vice versa.

Understanding Energy Work

One way to understand energy work is to consider the physical form a piece of electrical hardware with lights. As you send current through the board, the bulbs light up. In other words, when you send sufficient energy through, the hardware works well. Too little current, and the bulb goes dim. Damage a wire, and no matter how much current you send through the wire, the light cuts in and out. Are you starting to get the picture? We need both a well-working physical body and both sufficient and smooth energy flow to function optimally.

But, Is the Human Energy Field Real?

For some, this concept of the human energy field is challenging, because it’s not readily apparent. To sense it takes practice, and a certain willingness to be open to what’s not readily seen or felt by the ordinary senses. I found this image taken by NASA of the Orion constellation that I thought made a good analogy. To the left, this is the image viewed in visible light. To the right, is the same image, but viewed in infrared light. Can you get a sense looking at this image of how much is not readily apparent to us in our lives? Imagine how differently life could look in different light!

Orion const IR visible

More Importantly, Is Energy Work Helpful?

Personally, when I reflect on what I know and what I don’t know, I don’t particularly care to contemplate whether something is “real” or not. I think, “Fundamentally, could I answer that question?” Unequivocally I answer, “No;” I understand my current perception sees only part of the big picture. What I can say for certain is whether I find something helpful or not. I invite you to ask yourself the same question, “How could energy work be helpful for me in learning about myself and how I experience the world?” This is a much more fruitful journey!

Your practice this week: Call up an energy worker in your area or drop them an email; and find out how they’ve found energy work to be helpful for folks. You might be surprised by the answers you get! Want to share your story? Leave a reply in the comments here!

Energy Work, Reiki, Self-Care


The different 'faces' of confidence.

Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about confidence. What is it? How do we get it? How is it dashed? How is it different from self-esteem, if at all? Even searching for a photo to go with this post, I was struck by wide range of images people associated with confidence on Flickr (see above): children, smiling faces, knowledge, and sexual body language. Shouldn’t be too surprising, really — Merriam-Webster cites confidence as everything from a “quality or state of being certain,” to “faith or belief that one will act in a right, proper, or effective way,” to even simply the “feeling or consciousness of one’s powers.” Still the fact that a child’s face and a topless man’s bicep can be used to impart the same sentiment is kind of mind-blowing to me, in this case.

Alright, so we’re starting to get a sense that confidence can range from a quality of being, to faith in one’s ability, to a feeling or awareness of one’s own power. And when don’t we feel our own power? When we give it away! Even in the dictionary we find opportunities to lose our sense of self: What does it mean to be right, or proper? To be effective? Right here it would be easy to insert, “what other people deem” before any one of these assessments. For example, confidence is “a faith or belief that one will act in a [way that other people deem is] right, proper or effective.” Yikes! That looks like a recipe for disaster. We could spend our whole lives running around trying to be and do what we thought other people viewed as right or effective. Obviously, I’m not encouraging anarchy here – everyone for his/herself!! No, there is a way to be one’s own self and yet remain harmonious in our actions; we can always find and choose strategies that are effective in getting everyone’s needs met.

Is confidence the same thing as self-esteem? Some people talk about confidence as the facade, and self-esteem what exists under the veil. But I think we find something much more interesting when we go back to good ol’ Merriam-Webster; they define self-esteem as “a confidence and satisfaction in oneself,” a synonym for “self-respect.” Wow!! Alright, now we’re talking!! Here find the sense that “I know my strength, my power; and I am enough.” Powerful stuff! I suppose it would be completely possible to be in touch with one’s power [read: confident], and to still have the false belief that it isn’t enough [read: low self-esteem]. So, how can cultivate a sense of abundance, a sense of our own subjective-and-harmonious strength and effectiveness as we navigate our way through the world? We can work with our physical, mental and emotional bodies.

Our Navel or Solar Plexus energy center holds our sense of Self.

Our Navel or Solar Plexus energy center holds our sense of Self.

In energy work, personal power is associated with the 3rd chakra, or ‘Solar Plexus’ energy center. This center is located between the umbilicus and the lower rib cage. It makes sense, then, that when we feel most ashamed or disempowered, we feel “hurt in the gut.” We also tend to gain weight when we feel vulnerable in this way, especially around our abdomen, as a way to physically create distance between us and the world. (This is not to say that everyone who is overweight has these feelings; this is simply an example of possible outward expression for what we feel internally.) This is our physical body reflecting our emotional experience. We can work to build confidence right here, from the outside-in. Simply strengthening our abdominal muscles can help translate to a stronger sense of one’s own power.

From the inside-out, we have to work to release old stories of how we’re not enough, how we’re undeserving of the very best in life, how it’s not safe to be our self. And we have to find confidence¬†[read: certainty] in the knowing that we can create conditions of safety for our self; that we are deserving simply through our being, not our doing. Ultimately, we must come back time and time again to the unwavering truth that we are enough. Affirmations are very helpful for this practice.

Louise Hay talks about anger and fear as the root of ailment. To cultivate true confidence and self-respect, we must let go of these energy drains. We have to forgive and to step into our truth. Return the center of power to your person; be the active agent. See how it feels to know you are enough; how do you perceive people differently? Do you find your interactions with others reveal more about how they are feeling than about your worth?

In going back to the Flickr photos, do you see self-satisfied confidence differently now? Which images convey “I am enough, just as I am;” and which convey, “I am just what you want me to be”?

ps. Want to learn more about your energy body and how to support it? Join us for our next Reiki I class April 17 – Jun 12, 2013.