What the heck is an energy field?

I once got fired from an empath course because the instructor insisted that I invade her field. Since I was at the time a PhD student trained in science and not a medium trained in new-age phraseology, my deepest heartfelt response to that was “What?!”.

Electromagnetism? Potatoes?

So should I bring rubber boots next time?

I didn’t know what a field was, much less what I was supposedly doing to invade it.

A Reiki story

I didn’t receive a satisfactory explanation until several months later I needed a couch to surf and it turned out the person offering me one was a Reiki healer.

I offered her a massage session in return for Reiki; she was puzzled as to why during the massage session she felt every kind of electrical sensation and at the end she had regained mobility in a shoulder that had been frozen for years (the shoulder is fine to this day). I had not intended that (not even knowing there was a problem) and had no clue I had done anything in particular. So we started to talk.

We spent the summer experimenting.

The story repeated – often I was able to locate knots of pain and blockage in the body without being told about them, and respond to them in a way that felt to the other person like a release.

After one such instance, the person who had now become my Reiki teacher insisted in asking me how I knew for example that her posture was unbalanced in one particular way, and what I needed to do to improve the situation.

As usual I didn’t know what to say – in my perception, I was just looking at her and … saw it. I didn’t really understand what she’s asking about. But she kept pushing.

Finally I had an “aha” moment and said something like: Well, in a way I superimpose my body over yours; and then I can feel where the tension is, and I also sense which direction it needs to move to rebalance.

This baffled her; to me it still seemed relatively banal and mundane. She asked me how I do that; I said well, that’s just what usually happens when I look at someone.

The person was shocked. In a way, I was too – if this wasn’t the usual thing, we figured, and I do it automatically pretty much everyone time I look at someone, maybe that’s why after an hour of riding the train in a compartment full of people I need an hour of Reiki to peel me off the floor?

That’s how we got back to fields. The Reiki healer explained to me that what I’m doing there is entering someone’s field.

It took me even more experimentation, exploration and discussions to slowly come to an understanding of what people mean by that. The problem was that this was like explaining water to a fish. It still took me weeks or months to be able to come into contact with someone without entering their field.

Here is the understanding I’ve come to (for now; it’s evolving). 

1. The body is a field of experience. This is a quote from my somatic bodywork teacher, who probably quoted it from someone else.

But it’s true: feel into your body; check how you feel in your feet, in your heart, in your gut, in your hands. Do you feel blood, bones and tendons? No; at least if you are an empath, you probably easily feel a “field of experience” (at least that’s what I did on my first meditation retreat).

2. This field of experience has many layers.

The surface layer may be as simple as whether your heart area, for example, feels “good” and comfortable, or painful and contracted. But once you get a basic feel for that, you can start playing with it: perhaps you sense a colour there; perhaps warmth. Perhaps, if you focus for a while, you see an image, or a face pops up before your mind’s eye; or a memory awakens; perhaps, as you tune (with your soft attention) into that aching sensation in your heartspace, suddenly you feel yourself transported to a different place, with its smell and atmosphere; or perhaps you sense any number of “atmospheres” and “qualities” that can be described in words only with difficulty.

The more you explore this, the more you can get a feeling for all the chapters this book contains and how to move between them. Speaking of books, sometimes I feel it’s actually more like a multi-sensory, felt version of the internet: by mousing-over a particular feel, form, sensation with your attention you can often not only zoom in, but also travel through cyber-links to other related contents.

So you can easily surf your own field. You are doing it constantly, but you can become more aware of its shape, taste and colour in meditation, contemplation, rest; as well as creativity, somatic bodywork, mindfulness; and anytime you simply focus on the aliveness filling and surrounding your body and what it feels like.

3. Just like you can sense and surf your own field, some people can also sense and surf the fields of others.

For me it was easier to sense the fields of others than my own. In fact, a major step in getting a grip on my empath overwhelm was to consciously practice logging into my own field; and staying logged in.

That alone in my case was more effective than the various techniques I’d come across that ask you (in various guises) to shield from, tune out, or otherwise send back the energy of others.

Rather than fighting what was “coming in” from others, I started to realise that in a sense, my mind was traveling to meet them in their territory. So rather than push back or fight or isolate myself from that information, all I needed to do was to bring my mind back to home base and focus there: surf my own field. Because once my psychic attention is occupied with that (essentially, with being in touch with myself – tracking my feelings, intuitions, sensations and needs), it doesn’t feel unemployed, unsupervised and encouraged to take random flight.

An added bonus is that now I notice when I get hungry or whether I like or dislike something, and it’s easier for me to know what I want – where previously these questions were easier to answer about others.

In my case it seems that giving this field-surfing skill useful work to do works better than trying to turn it off.

So, bottom line, what is a field?

I’d say it’s a fancy name for the totality of all that you can sense and feel (note: less emphasis on thinking here), especially as you turn your attention to you – to the patterns of vitality, memory and potential that you sense as you focus inwardly. In a way, it’s a more subtle body (ya, maybe that’s what Yoga and other traditions mean by the subtle body) which can be accessed as your body awareness grows more subtle.

And in my experience, body awareness is actually a good starting point to access it; starting with the crude (my toe hurts) moving towards the delicate (my belly today holds a slight heavy sadness, like an autumn evening … and as I tune in my inner eye traces back to a memory flash of an unresolved scene held there).

By the way, I think it’s also each person’s personal portion of what scientifically-minded philosophers call qualia and can’t figure out (sorry, my BSc thesis was on that).

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