Vitality: Your Healing Potential
There is a reservoir of energy lying just beyond the limits of your perception, and its purpose is to give you life. For millennia health and healing have been a relationship with the balance of this energy, which is a universal force that brings life to everything in existence.
This energy is known by many names across many traditions of medicine and insight. It is called chi in China and ki in Japan, prana in India, and etheric force or the Odic force in esoteric philosophy. Mystical Hebrew traditions refer to it as ruach—the breath of life. And in anthroposophical medicine, which emerged as the Western distillation of Eastern mysticism and theosophy in the early twentieth century, it is called the creative force.
I know it as etheric energy, an energy that exists to bring life to the body and without which the glorious physiological composition of the body would be organized and ready but not enlivened—like a brilliantly designed machine without a power cord. Etheric tells you something of this energy’s elusive nature, for the word ether refers to the subtlest substance in existence, finer than light and barely perceptible by the senses. In the grandest sense, etheric energies pulsate across the vacuum of space, creating a field of creative potential that some know as consciousness, others call the zero-point field, and still others know to be the Om, the primordial sound and light.
Within you, the etheric energy is equally magnificent. It is the subtle energy that animates the physical body, fueling its cascade of functions and quietly vibrating in the empty spaces as an unseen reserve tank—the energy your body draws from to grow, reproduce, and heal. It exists within you, throughout you, and around you as a field of potential energy. Through a harmonious relationship of subtle to physical, your body transforms this potential into physical energy from the moment you are born until the time that you pass.
In homeopathy we call your body’s innate ability to heal its vital force. Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy, referred to it as the “spirit-like” and dynamic subtle energy that drives our biological activity. From my observation and understanding of homeopathy, the vital force is what we were given as our original life force when we took our first breath, and that stays with us until we finish our journey here.
You don’t have to do anything to get a vital force; you have it when you are born, it leaves with you when you die, and in between it is your body’s breath of life.
You don’t have to labor or exert effort to get “more” of it, for the nature of this energy is universal, omniscient, and omnipresent, and as long as you are living, it is there for you.
Yet there is a responsibility that comes with this precious gift, and that is to nourish and protect this subtle energy through the choices you make each day. When you do this, you create a state of harmony within yourself and with Mother Nature. And you create an energetic force field that radiates outward, like a protective interface or shield between your body and the taxing invisible forces from radiation, and environmental pollution.
If the words harmony and coherence remind you of music, that connection is apt. In subtle medicine, they are the energetic states that, along with a third musical term, resonance, help to create the inner conditions from which your vital good health, resilience against stressors and parasites, graceful aging, and recovery from unexpected injury arise. Harmony and coherence on the energetic level of the body keep your instrument in tune and your rhythms humming in sync.
The Nature of Etheric Energy
Throughout time and across all cultures, people have understood that there are natural laws governing the workings of the universe, keeping it in balance, and coordinating its functioning. At the cosmic level, invisible forces keep the planets rotating and orbiting; electromagnetic forces allow our earth to have a field conducive to life—while gravity keeps us grounded here! At the personal level, unseen forces keep our bodies in balance and help coordinate our functions; the primary of these is the etheric energy, the invisible impetus for life.
The world’s many schools of natural medicine—from India’s Ayurveda to China’s traditional medicine and Tibetan medicine to Native American healing, homeopathy, sound and distance healing, and more—have distinctive ways of naming and describing this energy. They have different practices for accessing, balancing, and stimulating it as needed, from physical practices like qigong and pranayama to therapeutic modalities using hands, needles, herbs, or energetic distillations to prayer and nature-based ceremony. Yet they are united around three similar understandings of its nature.
The etheric energy within us is the etheric energy of the whole cosmos. It is the universal life force that flows through all of nature, from flora and fauna to soil, air, water, minerals, crystals, and Mother Earth herself. It is this unifying field that helps us feel connected and not separate.
Etheric energy is the origin of health; and disease results when this energy becomes suppressed, blocked, or incoherent.
The etheric field connects our body, emotional experience, mental processes, and spiritual reality, and is the gateway to our higher nature. As the connector, it is the essence of a holistic approach to health.
Most of us can’t see the body’s subtle energy, or hear, touch, taste, or smell it. But we can detect it with a finer sense of feeling. It’s what we might feel at the end of stretching and expanding our body in a yoga practice, savoring an expansive state in which body, mind, and emotions feel peacefully integrated—no one dominating more than the others, all resonating as one.
It’s what buoys our body and lifts our spirits when we step into the great outdoors after too long inside, because the subtle energy of Mother Earth grounds our body and balances our energy.
You may have experienced this energy if you have ever received a healing massage or acupuncture treatment and felt yourself relaxing deeply into a space of restoration and repair, or if you have taken a homeopathic remedy like arnica after an injury and mitigated the expected pain, bruising, and swelling—benefiting from the homeopathic remedy stimulating the vital force, your body’s healing energy, working in you.
Or you might not feel any of those things. Perhaps, like many people, you are familiar with this energy by its absence; the way it feels when its normal frequency is weak. After days of traveling on planes or living in fluorescent-lit offices, you may feel drained of your normal energy and feel tired.
After being taxed by demands and pulled in many directions, you feel like there’s nothing left to draw from, and signs of sickness begin to show up. In the depleted energetic state, your thinking can turn negative or your mood dip low. These are typical outcomes when the etheric energy is low.
Whether you are savoring it or longing for it, the energy that you are connecting to in those moments is the same. Your etheric energy is your reserve energy—the source that sustains you and that your body draws from to carry out all its functions. In subtle medicine vernacular, it is the unmanifest energy that gives rise to the body’s manifest actions of moving, transforming, circulating, and building. This can be described through the ancient Ayurvedic framework of the five elements, which are the foundational components of all living things. The unmanifest energy is the ether, which is the space from which all matter arises. The ether gives rise to the elements of air, fire, water, and earth, which in varying combinations and proportions express as physical, mental, and emotional functions.
But you can also describe it in more familiar terms. Etheric energy vitalizes the body’s cells, tissues, fluids, organs, and glands in their many efforts: generating and then using or storing metabolic energy from oxygen and food, communicating via the electrical activity of the neurons and the chemical signaling of hormones, maintaining homeostasis (the balance of bodily systems) in innumerable ways every second, and meeting higher-intensity needs like healing, reproduction, and growth. Etheric energy is where regeneration begins, supporting your immune system to kick in when faced with a pathogen or your clotting agents to work when there is a cut. It is the catalyst of transformation—it turns a caterpillar into a butterfly—and the spark of rejuvenation, which determines how you age and evolve from one life stage to the next. The clue to its nature is in the word vitality, which by definition means the power to live or grow. This vital etheric energy is the prephysical energy that activates your body’s potential: When your etheric body (see Your Subtle Bodies on page 24) is nourished and balanced, your body can do its magnificent work of creating the best possible conditions for health; when it is suppressed or taxed, your ability to defend and detoxify yourself and repair and regenerate yourself, plummets. The vital force we were given at birth is sustained by our “etheric energy,” the doorway to health.
The reach and range of this unseen force includes your physical body but extends beyond the physical into your fields of thinking and emotion. Think of it as the invisible wave carrying all of what you are—the substructure from which the material body is formed, the activity of thoughts and pulses of feelings. Because it is the activating force for the body to be well, this force also has a very important quality that connects the physical to the emotional, mental, and spiritual: It is the force of your will to be, to heal, to live better, and to know more of who you are.
When I teach workshops on subtle medicine, we envision our etheric energy to be a river that moves around the body. We know that energy healers use tools like acupuncture needles, reiki, tai chi, or even visualizations to encourage that flow to keep moving, especially if they detect that the flow has become stagnant or slow. Typically we speak of this energy circulating through the body along invisible pathways—known as meridians in Chinese medicine and nadis in Ayurveda. This is true, yet one can also experience the subtle energy from one step subtler still, as a very fine electromagnetic energy that is interpenetrated with every part of the body, existing in every atom, cell, tissue, organ, and gland. At its essence, it is a field of etheric energy that exists in every part of you and radiates beyond your physical edges. Much like waves of light that are propagated in the vacuum of the cosmos, the ether exists in the empty space of our body.
Seen through my Eastern-trained eyes, this space of potential is the ether, the element of emptiness that all the other elements fill. Seen through a physicist’s eyes, it is the subatomic space, the fabric in which electrons dance. The words to describe it do not really matter; but the awareness that there is subtle energy radiating through, in, and around us does. Though it is true that its balanced flow is key to having health, what few realize is that flow describes not a linear movement from point A to point B in the body but the vibratory rate of the energy itself.
Evaluating the Vital Force: The Vibration of You
Almost four decades of working with women, men, and children of all ages has taught me a simple truth. Our vitality and healing potential comes from electromagnetic energy at the cellular level. In evaluating a patient, it is important to also evaluate their energy field. I want to know if the etheric energy is strong or weak and whether the body is utilizing this subtle energy. This is a very pragmatic and preventive approach to energy medicine—and not nearly as esoteric as some might expect! Your body is a vehicle that requires care on the physical level and subtle energetic level. This evaluation is a little like running a diagnostic test on your car. It lets me look into the unseen to measure basic functioning, and see where the blocks may be that are causing the body to struggle. To do this evaluation, I go right to the source of the healing potential and check the electromagnetic frequency of the cells.
If you could suddenly see your cells through subtle eyes, you would discover something fascinating. They have a physical makeup of chemical components that can be studied with a microscope, and they have a subtle energetic makeup that is an invisible double to the physical. At the chemical level, the cells have walls, mitochondria, and a nucleus of proteins and DNA that help them make fuel, communicate, grow, and reproduce. At the subtle level, the composition is purely energetic. Your cells are like little batteries or magnetic resonators with two poles, one electric and one magnetic, and these generate an oscillation of electromagnetic energy that is your body’s creative force and is held in reserve in your etheric body (see Your Subtle Bodies, p. 24). Your physical body uses the etheric energy to run, just as a car uses its battery.
We are electric and magnetic beings at our very essence. The relationship between these opposites is a reflection of the balance and reconciliation that happens at every level of life. In much the same way that sages have described the creative force of the universe being born from the polarity of yin and yang—or in yogic terms, the primordial Om born of Shakti and Shiva—our essential life force arises from the pulsation of electricity and magnetism across a field of space.
When I measure etheric energy, it is the frequency emanating from the patient’s cells—a little like a metal detector picking up the frequency of gold or silver!—and then evaluate the frequencies of the interferences that exist at the prephysical level. One of my tools in this endeavor is a ferromagnetic pendulum, a simple device that has a long lineage in energy medicine. In a similar manner to a reiki master tuning in to the qualities of the energy field through their hands or an Ayurvedic doctor taking the subtle pulses in the wrist, it allows me to contact the etheric field of the body, and is scientific and analytical—a testament to the brilliance of my mentor Dr. Parcells.
In radiesthesia, we measure the etheric energy field through a blood spot from the patient’s finger. As long as the patient has a life force, the crystalline structure of the minerals in their dry blood spot will emanate an electromagnetic field. Like tuning in to signals of a quartz crystal in a radio, we can tune in to this field and measure the etheric body of the person. Furthermore, the life force can be measured remotely, from anywhere on the planet. It is because the earth has an electromagnetic field and we are one in this field of the earth.