How We Cheat at Feeling Energy

by Mike Sententia on July 11, 2012

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I’d like you to try an exercise for me. It’s something often done with beginners in energy healing classes, and it’ll only take a second. It’s to show you where your energy body is.

Hold your right hand open in front of you, facing sideways, kind of like you’re about to shake hands with someone, but closer to your body. Now, extend your index finger of your left hand, and move it close to your right palm, watching as you do it. Do you notice the tingling you get in your palm when your finger almost touches it? That’s your energy body, extending from your finger.

(If you don’t get the tingle, try moving your finger in little circles, almost touching your palm.)

Go ahead, try it. I want you to feel that. It even works with your eyes closed. Once you’ve done it, scroll down.

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Now, here’s the thing: That’s not your energy body. That’s a totally non-magickal feeling called proprioception, which is your brain’s model of your body. It makes you feel weird whenever something is about to touch you because, well, it’s generally a good idea to get out of the way of things about to touch you, or at least to know they’re there.

How do I know it’s not energy? Easy. Repeat the experiment, only instead of touching your own hand, have a friend almost touch your hand. With your eyes open, you’ll feel tingly, but with your eyes closed, you’ll feel nothing. Why? Because when the almost-touch comes from someone else, you need to see it to trigger proprioception. If this really were energy, it wouldn’t be affected by sight. But it’s not.

Most of the things we tell beginners to do are like this. I’m thinking of all the classes and books and workshops where you focus on your elbow until it tingles, or that guide you to breathe deeply until your chest feels different. Sure, those reliably produce tingling, but that’s not because of energy, that’s because of how attention affects the brain and because of how increased oxygen feels.

Don’t get me wrong. Energy is a fairly important part of my model, and it can definitely make you feel tingles. I believe that the sensations most of you felt when you asked my ethereal software for an obvious connection were legit, caused by energy and connections. But, when we’re talking about ways to make non-mages feel energy, I want to be clear that most of the things we do for novices are in fact tricks based in neurology, not magick.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Kol Drake July 11, 2012 at 4:34 PM

heh… done this ‘trick’ for years. Only after reading your blog, specifically the ones about minerals/crystals, that I tried this while having a nice quartz crystal in the right hand. Oddly enough, I could still ‘feel’ a sensation but it kind of went off at an odd angle and the typical sensation seemed to be squirming off at an odd direction.

Not sure what that all means but is was interesting.

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Kol Drake July 11, 2012 at 4:39 PM

Re: ‘tricks’

This is something done by many disciplines; using some ‘trick’ to demonstrate the ‘power’ of their art. Martial Arts demonstrations are as much about it as those doing ‘basic energy sensing’.

And, sometimes it is those same ‘tricks’ which break the typical skepticism / resistance toward an idea or concept and ‘allows’ the person to open to the larger possibilities.

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Mike Sententia July 11, 2012 at 8:19 PM

There has to be an honest way to demonstrate the art, otherwise we are lost before we’ve begun, since we’ll never convince the smartest, most-scientific people. That’s one of the reasons I’m investigating techniques to cause tingling without any trickery.

(The other reply I wrote is becoming tomorrow’s post.)

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Kol Drake July 11, 2012 at 7:11 PM

Sorry, but this just came to mind. Once upon a time, I did an ‘experiment’ with my then wife. Stood face to face and did the old ‘hold your hands out and feel the sensation’… which I guess was what you describe. But, then I had her step back and see if she could still feel anything (it felt like heat to her). Was able to get her all the way across a room (approximately 25-30 feet) and still have her ‘sense’ something.

Does proprioception work that far away from ‘near contact’ mode?

The person was a skeptic for all things ‘weird’ so it wasn’t like she was looking for a result… although, I suppose this might have been one of those ‘using a trick’ (upclose) to reinforce the expectation to feel something far away. *shrugs*

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Mike Sententia July 11, 2012 at 8:32 PM

Was she able to tell what you were doing through her normal senses? Could she see you? Could she hear footfalls and floorboards as you walked around?

It’s tricky. I set out once to test the idea that I could feel a friend’s energy with my eyes closed. And I thought I could: As she walked around me, I felt tingles in whatever direction she was in.

Then we moved to a soft, squeak-free surface, and the tingles stopped.

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Kol Drake July 12, 2012 at 12:42 AM

Guess this is why the Rhine Institute and others researching into consciousness and mind (and ‘energies’) get the grants, etc. to set up well controlled studies. Statistically speaking, their findings are more then concrete but.. until someone consistantly levitates a ball or sets candles aflame… I doubt the general scoffers will accept statistical evidence (even when the percentages are 3-10 times ‘better’ then those same margins working with medical studies versus placebos).

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Mike Sententia July 12, 2012 at 7:58 AM

Yes, it’s incredibly hard to do this. I agree: The only way to convincingly demonstrate magick is to develop impressive, clear-cut techniques so that, rather than getting slightly lucky, you do something that ought to be impossible.

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simon July 12, 2012 at 1:23 AM

I’ve never been impressed by attempts to ‘prove’ energy by tingling sensations for exactly reasons you state. Robert Bruce, in his NEW system argues that you use the body awareness sensations to bootstrap onto the actual ‘energy’ (whatever it is).

I know Bruce makes a lot of wild speculative statements but in this specific case he is not trying to ‘trick’ you into thinking any of the tingling is energy per se – rather that its a useful method of getting some kind of feedback. The ‘proof’ is in the ability to self heal pain etc once profficient with the system- not the tingling in and of itself. He also argues that experienced practitioners don’t feel all this tingling anymore. He claims that this is because the tingling is ultimately caused by a blockage. You state its because there is an initial mis-match in signatures which you don’t need to feel once you’re experienced.

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Mike Sententia July 12, 2012 at 8:40 AM

Thanks, Simon. I stand corrected on Bruce’s NEW.

I find it interesting that both he and I observed the same thing: Advanced practitioners get far fewer tingles. I, of course, think my explanation is better, but it’s neat that we both observed the same thing. Maybe I’ll get into it at some point, probably when I’m talking about matching someone’s signature in the books.

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wsa July 12, 2012 at 4:24 PM

I once hosted a seminar for a martial artist. One of the demonstrations he put on was to show students that they could feel intent and differentiate that from other sensory input. He had the students stand in a circle blindfolded facing outwards. He stood in the middle with a sword. He stalked around the inside of the circle with the sword, standing occasionally behind a student. When he stood behind a student, sometimes he raised the sword when he raised the sword in a certain way he projected intent (energy?) It was the job of the students to raise their hand or turn around when they felt his intent. After the first five minutes or so, most students got it, repeatedly, correct.

Thinking back to the dojo, I don’t think there were other sensory clues that would have cued the students in to his intent rather than his simple movement inside the circle. It’s interesting to note that in his own Sensei’s form of martial art, the final test was to sit zazen, blindfolded, in front of the teacher who held a sword. The candidate had to roll away just in time to avoid the killing strike but not before the Sensi committed to the stroke. You only got three chances to pass in a lifetime. Nowadays, a bokken (wooden sword) is used, mythology says it used to be a live, metal, sword… who knows about that, but it still seems a pretty serious test of the ability to feel an energy projection.

Same martial artist could project energy from his hand across a room that would feel like a breeze; he could get your attention with that even if you were occupied with something else and even when you had your back turned. (He used to like to screw around with his students like that to see how observant they were.) Shortly after I met him, I was talking with him on the (landline) phone and was referring to that demonstration. He said he could project energy over the phone, did I want to see it? Of course! In a second or two, a breeze seemed to come out of the phone receiver.

Here’s another thing that I am less sure is energy exactly, but I wouldn’t know what else to call it. I’ve played with it over the years and can report that it seems to be true. I was at a retreat and met a fellow retreatent who was a former special forces Vietnam veteran. He was relaying how they were trained for long term, deep cover missions. I was really surprised to discover that they were trained in some methodologies that used what I think of as “energy”. One specific, simple protocol was to never look at the enemy if one was in hiding, because they could feel it if they were looked at. I would now think, after many years of training in energy work, it also important to be in the state of Mushin (no mind) as much as possible, so as to project as little energy as possible.

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Mike Sententia July 12, 2012 at 5:22 PM

Very cool. I wouldn’t dispute anything in there, but there’s one item I want to point out: The sensei is presumably an expert energy worker, even if he wouldn’t use that term, and has probably learned a style of energy that is designed to affect the physical body and be noticeable to non-mages, since that’s pretty much a requirement for it to be useful for fighting. If your primary focus is on building energy that non-mages can feel, it’s definitely doable — I stumbled into it with energy orgasms a decade ago, after all.

Just as I’m trying to program my ethereal software so it does something non-mages can actually feel, having an expert produce energy that non-mages can actually feel is a great way to demonstrate that this is real and you can do it. It’s definitely not what I mean by “cheating” at all. My gripe is only with the demos based on trickery, such as doing something non-magickal to cause people to feel tingles, and telling them that it’s energy. But if you can actually make a non-mage feel something caused by your magick, then that’s a legit and awesome demo, and it’s exactly the type of thing I’m working on.

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Ona July 15, 2012 at 5:07 PM

I agree there’s definitely an element in many trainings where big feedback for beginners is helpful. Just like when kids learn to read adults exaggerate the sounds in a big sing-song voice and the books have big bright letters and pictures in them.

Getting big bang feedback in early stage meditation, magick or energy work can be similar – it’s not necessarily relevant later, when you are more skilled, but it helps get your attention, motivate you, and give you feedback as you practice. So some things may be “tricks” in that sense, but are useful tricks you will naturally not need to rely on later.

Meditation can be a tough one that way because there isn’t necessarily a lot of natural “whiz bang” stuff until a few months in, which is where meditating in the context of ritual, with chanting or devotional ceremony, for example, can be a useful training aid. It keeps your attention focused, creates an altered state, and so on. For those who find silent meditation difficult, it’s a handy bridge technique.

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