In my last blogpost, I wrote about Our Subtle Energies – what are they and why are they important?
Subtle energies are actually very fine energies that we currently haven’t developed the technology to measure. Ancient traditions have described many subtle energies, some in great detail, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Most of us are aware of these subtle energies, at least unconsciously, and many people like me are able to sense them in various ways.
Many ancient cultures spoke of these subtle energies that animate all living things. They had various names for them: in the Yogic tradition, they are called prana; in China, chi or qi, and in Korea, ki.
They may seem rather mysterious at first- you may even doubt they exist – but there are a number of ways that you can discover and sense subtle energies for yourself. In this post I’m offering several techniques that you can try out for yourself. Some may “work” for you; others won’t. And if nothing happens at first, keep practising. That’s always the key to discovery.
Before you start any of the practices, centre yourself. Take a few moments to come into a calm state in an environment where you won’t be distracted by outside stimuli. It is especially important to remove any devices like mobile phones or laptops from your environment. Digital devices take you out of awareness of your body and into a purely mental and emotional space.
Techniques to sense subtle energies
To experience subtle energy you need to be very present – both fully aware of your body and aware of the present moment. And one of the best ways to become present is via the breath.
For this practice you simply observe yourself breathing. It is a concentration exercise, so aim to keep your focus.
Slowly draw in a big deep breath through the nostrils to fill the lungs. With attention, follow the breath into the nose and down into the lungs.
Pause for a moment or two. At first this may feel hard so don’t strain. Later as you gain expertise you can hold for a little longer, again without strain.
Then just as slowly exhale all the air from the lungs out through the nostrils until the lungs are empty. Again follow the breath with your attention.
Repeat this, initially for no more 5 mins. Later you can extend the time.
As you breathe slowly and rhythmically, if you keep your attention focused on what’s happening in the body, you will notice a number of changes.
Almost certainly your emotional state will change. Generally, this kind of breathing is very calming and balancing, and can be used to downregulate a reactive emotional state. *
You may also notice some subtle changes in the body – a feeling of energy moving through parts or all of the body. This may manifest as tingling, heightened awareness in those areas, or a sense of being more “alive”. All these are signs of the movement of subtle energy. With practice and careful observation you can enhance that awareness.
*However, note that sometimes breathing can bring up difficult emotions – ones that have been suppressed in the past. If this occurs, stop the technique and return to a normal easy breathing until you settle. If you continue to feel the emotion, you may be able to release it from the body and return to the breath. But if it’s too triggering, you may need emotional healing or counselling to process this fully.
The following technique of rubbing hands helps you to discern your subtle energy field. It can also help you to sense your aura, or the layer of subtle energy that surrounds your body. Again, start by centering yourself.
Rub your hands together very briskly for a couple of minutes.
Hold your hands a little way apart (about 10 cm or 4 inches) in front of you.
Bringing your full awareness to the palms of your hands, very slowly move your hands closer together.
At some point you may notice a very slight resistance to the movement. Moving your hands closer will feel as though you are moving through a slightly denser medium. When you encounter the resistance and enter the “denser medium”, you are sensing the energy field that you have created between your two hands.
This perception is normally very, very subtle, so go slowly inch by inch. Don’t despair if you don’t feel it at first. Keep practising. It may also be that your subtle sense is not yet developed. Try some of the other techniques instead.
If you can feel the energy between your hands, then try sensing the boundary of your aura. Move both hands away from the body out to the side at arms length. Then very slowly move the two hands in towards the centre of the body. Again you may sense a slight resistance; note where it occurs. You are sensing one of the outer layers of your aura, or energy field.
Above all, have fun with the exercise!
Visualisation is an excellent way to access subtle awareness. We often think of visualisation as a form of imagination – and therefore, it is simply not real. However, you can achieve a great deal with visualisation. Top sports athletes now use it to improve their performance – achieving real-world wins through this capacity. Never doubt its power.
Visualising breathing in light is an excellent way to access the subtle senses. Note that we use light as it’s the highest vibration that we can see, closest to subtle energies which are an even higher, finer vibration.
There are many ways to work with visualising light in the body – and many of them are useful healing techniques too. Here’s a simple one to get started:
As you take in a deep breath, imagine a stream of white light entering down through the crown of the head, moving down along the spine to the heart. See the light collect at the heart.
Exhale slowly and send the white light out through the body – out through the arms and legs – energising parts of the body as it passes.
Continue inhaling the white light through the crown and exhaling it through the body. Notice how this feels as you continue to work with the visualisation.
Another option is to send all the white light to a particular part of the body – e.g., if you have pain or injury at that site – and see in your mind’s eye that the light is easing the pain and healing that area.
Not everyone has a well-developed capacity for visualisation. But perhaps you can feel energies instead. Set an intention to notice them as you work with the breath.
Practices to access subtle states
A number of mainly Eastern practices can really help you to access subtle energies.
In both Tai Chi and Qi Gong you are intentionally working with this subtle energy, or chi as it’s known in those traditions. Many of the exercises intentionally accumulate chi in the body or move it around and through the body. You may be given exercises such as making a “chi ball” with the hands, or drawing the chi in through various portals in the body such as the dantien, an important centre below the navel.
Yoga asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathwork) are other access points. When you hold a yoga pose, be very present and consciously breathe. Pranayama in particular is a set of controlled breathing exercises. The teaching in Yoga is that we are not just breathing in air containing the oxygen necessary for our survival, but subtle energy or prana too. As you do the pranayama practice, notice the changes that occur in your physical, emotional and mental bodies. You may feel more energised and “alive”, or resistance may come up allowing you to process a difficult emotion if you continue with the breathing.
Free and ecstatic dancing can also be an access point for subtle energies, especially if practised in an intentional way – e.g., with 5Rhythms dance or similar types of conscious dance.
Any form of hypnotic beat or drumming can also lead you into altered states where you experience an expanded version of reality, in which our subtle body or bodies are engaged. Dreams and visions are all experiences involving our subtle bodies as well. In particular, lucid dreaming, where you are partly awake and aware that you are dreaming, gives you a clear sense of subtle awareness.
Have you encountered any of these practices?
What has been your experience with them?
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