In China it's called chi, meaning life force. In India it's referred to as prana or shakti. In Japan it's ki. In the Khalahari desert, the aboriginal Kung call it num. In the Christian tradition it's known as the Holy Spirit. In the Jewish mystical tradition, it's known as nefesh.

The concept of a radiant subtle energy and spirit underlying the physical world is almost universal. So is the idea that this energy can be harnessed for profound transformation and healing. More than two thousand years ago, the Chinese created acupuncture, a system that uses needles to influence the flow of chi through the body's energy meridians. In India mystics have been transmitting prana or shakti from master to student, changing consciousness, for at least as long. The Khalahari Kung raise num through ecstatic all-night dances, in which they perform healings and receive visions.

These and other spiritual traditions perceive subtle energy as affecting both the mind and the body. For instance, if you improve the flow of chi or shakti to a person's physical heart, that person may also feel more "open-hearted" or compassionate. If you are suffering from a liver ailment, part of the cure in Chinese acupuncture or subtle energy healing might require you to release stored-up anger so your energy can flow. If you have a hypo-active thyroid, you may need to work on speaking up for yourself to open all the energy channels.

If this all sounds too fantastical, I can relate. When I began investigating subtle energy and healing more than a decade ago, I was a skeptical journalist. I didn't know if subtle energy could exist. It was quite a shock to discover that not only did it exist, but that the energy--something I couldn't then see and scientists still can't directly measure--could nonetheless have a profound effect on my life.

The first experience I had with subtle energy didn't make me a believer. For a magazine assignment, I sat in on a healing by Barbara Brennan, a one-time NASA scientist turned energy healer. To begin she asked the 150 students in her sophomore class at the Barbara Brennan School of Healing to focus and enhance the spin of their chakras, vortexes of energy located along the spine. These chakras are said to feed energy to organs and glands in the body and also regulate our emotions, thoughts and beliefs. Looking and feeling like energy whirlpools, they bring in energy and information from the environment.

The class started, in unison, with the first chakra, located at the base of the spine and climbed to the second chakra, located at the navel, then on to the 3rd chakra at the abdomen and the 4th chakra, at the heart. But I couldn't see or feel anything. Then Brennan had everyone bring his attention to the fifth chakra. All of a sudden, my throat began burning up. I thought I was going to choke to death. Then I recalled that the fifth chakra was located at the throat. With that thought, I could breathe again. Afterwards, the teacher sitting next to me told me that the "energy" had hit a "block" in my throat. I didn't buy it.

Later, to test the theories, I tried a few sessions with a graduate of Barbara Brennan's healing school. It didn't seem like much happened and I decided my fifth session would be my last. At that appointment, the healer told me that I had an energy blockage in my throat in the shape of "quills." (Blocks in my throat, again!) Furthermore, she asserted that the quills were there because of "barbs" that had been thrown when I tried to "speak my truth." As you might imagine, this sounded ridiculous to me. I lay down on her healing table with a "show me" attitude. When she got to my neck, even though she didn't touch me, I felt the most irritating sensation. The power of suggestion, no doubt.

A week later, my brother and I got into a heated argument. Suddenly, I heard the nasty edge in his voice. "Don't ever speak to me like that again," I told him in a calm, quiet voice. Only a few days later did I recall the "quills." My brother had thrown a barb at me; this time I didn't let it lodge. The healing had worked, after all.

Since then, investigating healing for my first book, I watched many different healers and also experienced many healing sessions. I even tried healing techniques just to prove they couldn't work-only to find they did work. I also looked at the scientific record.

More than 177 controlled studies of energy healing had been done by 1998 and of those 72.9 percent found significant results. Since then, more studies with findings of significant results have been completed, including at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, where the results of a study of healing and end-stage AIDS patients was so dramatic that the National Institutes of Health is currently funding two large follow-up studies. I now work as a subtle energy healer, using ancient Yogic, Tibetan and Kabbalistic principles, and also teach people to experience their own subtle energy.

You may think you can't taste, touch, feel, or smell subtle energy. But you're using your subtle energy all the time. The more conscious you become of it, the more you can use it to enhance your life, deal effectively with others, gain insights and create radiant health.

One way to start experiencing the subtle energy in your body is to try this simple exercise: Rub your hands together briskly so that you generate heat in your palms. Now bring the palm of one hand towards the back of your other hand. As you come close, do you feel a subtle resistance in your palm? That's your energy field. Or rub the palms of your hand together. Then separate your hands and slowly bring the palms towards each other. Do you feel resistance as you come close? Again, that's your energy field you're experiencing.

Another exercise that's fun and easy to do involves pairing up with a friend. Do a few jumping jacks or tai chi exercises or yoga poses to get your energy moving. Then, while your friend remains standing still, walk towards her with your palms extended. As you come close do you feel a subtle resistance or thickening in the air? That's the outer boundary of your friend's energy field.

Of course, subtle energy isn't just a force inside of us. It's permeating everything. Just think for a minute of how you feel when you walk into a loud, trendy restaurant. Now think of how your body feels when you walk into a church. Do you notice a difference in your body's reaction? That's how you are reacting to the ambient energy around you.

You can also feel other people's energies. In fact, you do it all the time. For instance, think of someone who makes you feel great every time you see them. Notice how you feel inside yourself as you think of this person. Now, compare that experience with the way you feel around someone who seems depressed. Does their energy "bring you down?" You are sensing each person's energy. Your best sensing mechanism for other people's energies is often your own body and emotions.

When we sense a person's energy, we are reacting to many subtle vibrations at once. Everything a person thinks and feels affects his or her "vibration" or range of subtle frequencies. In fact, thoughts and emotions are part of the spectrum of subtle energies. Also on the spectrum is what we often refer to as "spiritual" light: the higher, refined frequencies generated by prayers and acts of devotion, worship, meditation, selfless love and service. If you become very sensitive, you may even see a subtle light all around a person who does a lot of spiritual practice.

You can modulate your energy by watching the thoughts and emotions you experience. If you are having a negative emotion, such as "No one likes me," you can change it to "I love my Self" and you will automatically change your vibration. Or if you are feeling down or "blue," imagine yourself filled with white light. You may notice an immediate shift in your mood.

You can also learn a great deal about your energy just by noticing where you have pain in your body. For instance, if you have a problem with one or both of your legs, ask yourself if there's an area in your life where you don't feel supported. Of course, your body "language" is unique to you. Two people can have the same physical problem, but with somewhat different root issues. For instance, I once worked on rebalancing two people with torn hamstrung muscles in the same day. The man was literally "hamstrung" because he could no longer express his love for his ex-wife. The woman was "hamstrung" in expressing herself creatively.

If you tune into any pain you have in your body, you can ask it what it is trying to communicate to you. Stay in a state of openness, and just see what rises to the surface of your consciousness. Then contemplate it over the next few days, and see where it leads. Many times, one pain can have many different messages. But start with the first message you get. If your body is telling you to slow down, try slowing down. If your shoulders are telling you to not take the weight of the world--or your office--onto your self, try to follow the advice and see what happens.

If you can tune in to what your body is telling you, it will help you achieve or maintain radiant health. Likewise, watching the way the energy runs through your life may help you live in a state of ease and grace.

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