The Observer: Tapping into the energy within and around us

If I were to ask you to give me a synonym for “energy,” what would you say? There are many different directions to go with this challenge. Your mind might entertain thoughts about electric power or fossil fuels, about bodily vigor or athletic ability, or maybe about the capacity for manual labor or demanding mental work.

Or perhaps the Taoist concept of Chi would come to your mind; especially if you are versed in Eastern philosophy. Chi is defined by one expert in the field, Stanley D. Wilson, in his practical book “Qi Gong for Beginners,” as “both the energy of nature and the vital life force that flows throughout the human body.” Chi emanates from the universe, permeates the natural environment and sustains all living things. “Life force" is a handy way to conceive of it. Without it, you die.

Ron McAllister
Ron McAllister

Many different spiritual seekers, philosophers and health practitioners have come upon and tried to understand how to tap into this energizing life force; seeking ways to enhance the link between individuals, human wellbeing and the environment.

Religious and spiritual traditions (e.g., Taoism and Insight Meditation) have done it. Schools of psychoanalysis (e.g. Wilhelm Reich’s work on orgone energy) have developed around it. Martial arts disciplines (e.g., Tai Chi and Qi Gong) depend on it. Alternative health practices (e.g., Reiki) have been developed to make use of it.

The Observer: RISE to the challenge in York

Sometimes I am aware of this life force energy within me — as when I am in the flow of satisfying work. But if I am distracted and inattentive to my environment, I am oblivious. The warmth of the sun can open me to this pervasive energy but most often I have no awareness of it. Yet, as I reflect on it, I realize that this life force is a constant; always there even if I am not open to perceive or receive it.

I have been thinking about energy since I met Sage Clarke, a local yoga teacher and healer whose practice focuses on energy flow []. Clarke’s “Intuitive Energy Work” involves different treatment modalities that promote the flow of Chi within the body. “Many ‘dis-eases,’ (physical, mental, emotional),” she explained to me, “have an energy component.”

My experiences with non-traditional healing have demonstrated this to me; sometimes quite powerfully. In particular, I have found that Reiki can be effective. William Lee Rand, author of “Reiki: The Healing Touch,” says: “Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also produces healing.” The term is an amalgam of two Kanji characters, representing “spiritual wisdom (Rei) and life energy (Ki, the Japanese equivalent of Chi or Qi).

The Observer: York Community Service Association launches housing initiative

During a Reiki session there may be little physical contact between the healer and the patient. It is like massage but also not like massage. And yet, the sensation of energy flowing — even in the absence of physical contact — is palpable. In my experience, this sensation is firstly physical but it also can be emotional and even spiritual.There are times when I can sense this sort of energy flow in my everyday life. Perhaps you, too, have experienced dynamic life force energy outside of any treatments. Consider your social life.

Being with certain people can energize us, make us happy and lighthearted; while interactions with other people can leave us drained and tense. Perhaps you have experienced the flow of Chi when you are with a close friend. Or maybe you have felt its opposite (sha chi) — the loss of energy — when you are in unpleasant situations or with difficult people.

Energy work, Sage Clarke admitted, can seem “a little woo-woo,” suggesting the mystical, supernatural, or as-yet unproven scientific nature of the practice. But I have to say that it makes some sort of intuitive sense to me.

The Observer: I have seen the past and the future

I have had some experience with energy work over the years; from meditation and breath work to Qi Gong and Reiki. I have felt their effects without understanding how any of it works. My most recent session, involving Reiki and light touch massage, left me feeling energized but calm, centered and more emotionally stimulated than I expected to be. Clearly, there can be healing in positive and intentional human contact.

Reiki practitioners believe there are ways of restoring the body to wellness, calming the mind, and connecting with others.

There are many different ways of tapping into the energy within us and all around us. Just ask Sage Clarke.

Ron McAllister is a sociologist and writer who lives in York.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: The Observer: On energy work and wellness