What is meant by inner energy? Where does it reside and how can you access it?
When spiritual traditions talk about inner energy, they may call it by different names (e.g. Chi in Chinese medicine, Shakti in yoga, Spirit in the West), but they are referring to the same thing: the subtle energy that’s drawn from the inside of your being. Inner energy is always available to you if you don’t block it.
Keep reading to learn about the source of inner energy, what happens when it gets blocked, and what you can do to unblock it.
What Is the Source of Your Inner Energy?
Inner energy behaves by surging and receding, depending on the condition of your spiritual heart. When the energy flows, you feel supercharged and able to take on the world. When it doesn’t, you feel drained and depressed. You can know its current state within you by paying attention to your relative level of vitality, joy, and inspiration.
This energy has laws and follows patterned behavior just like physical energy in the outer world. It’s an underlying field, analogous to the field of atomic energy that underlies the physical realm. The energy’s movements create your mental-emotional patterns and your inner drives and instincts, such as the survival instinct shared by all living species. Over the course of human evolutionary history, the survival instinct has largely shifted from physiological protection to psychological protection. We defend not our physical lives but our egos, our self-concepts. Instead of outside threats, we struggle against inner ones in the form of fears, insecurities, and damaging behavioral patterns.
Inner energy’s source is different from the calories in your food. You draw on inner energy from the inside. It doesn’t depend on your age or moral behavior. Like the sun, it shines on everybody.
Your body contains centers or nodes of this energy, like spiritual valves that open and close. Yogis call them chakras. Energy focuses, distributes, and flows through these centers.
Your Spiritual Heart
You can better understand inner energy, and how you unwittingly shut yourself off from it, by paying attention to the heart chakra or spiritual heart. This is the chakra that you’re most familiar with from daily life. Your spiritual heart is an exquisite regulator of your experience. It governs your life because it opens and closes in sync with human relationships.
- When your spiritual heart is open, you can fall in love, feel inspiration, and feel enthusiasm. When it’s closed, you can’t.
- When your spiritual heart gets hurt, you get angry.
- When you feel you’ve lost touch with your spiritual heart, you sense a desperate emptiness.
Why Your Heart Closes
The only reason why you don’t feel inner energy all the time is that you block it by closing your heart and mind. You block it because you choose to—but unconsciously. To you, it seems like the opening or closing happens on its own, outside your control.
How Your Inner Energy Gets Blocked
Your spiritual heart closes because it stores up and becomes blocked by unfinished energy patterns from your past. Your sensory experiences of external events are an intake of energy patterns. Your senses are like electronic devices that transmit these patterns into your inner world. Ideally, we would all live completely in the present and experience the flow of these incoming patterns as a gift, like a wonderful movie. We would let them flow through us without clinging or resisting. But instead, we get hung up. Our thoughts and emotions call some patterns desirable and others undesirable. We resist the former and cling to the latter. Both responses create a block inside us.
Put differently, you close because your past programming (as evident in your inner roommate’s neurotic chatter) tells you the lie that your inner state of openness or closedness depends on what happens to you.
For example, you may close if you lose your job and your programming says you should feel sad about it. But then you find a new job, and you’re happy about it, so suddenly you’re open and energized again. In reality, the external events didn’t cause these reactions. Rather, you unconsciously allowed your mind to use those events as triggers.
Another example: You’re feeling fine as you drive down the street, but then you notice a parked blue Mustang. It looks like your girlfriend’s. You see two people hugging in the front seat. Your past programming for jealousy kicks in: Was that really your girlfriend hugging someone else? You’ll never know, you’ve already driven past. But now you’re hung up on the thought and booted out of the present moment. Instead of seeing the street as you drive, you’re fixating on the emotionally charged memory of that one visual impression.
What Blockages Do
Blockages make you hypersensitive to imagined injuries. Consider your survival instinct again. Despite its evolutionary shift from bodily to psychological protection, this energy pattern still produces the same physical response. When our ideas or identities are attacked, we experience the same fear, the same adrenalized fight-or-flight reaction. This protective response is tremendously unbalanced; we worry about insubstantial non-threats such as what people will think of us or how we sounded to them. We’re like psychological hypochondriacs.
A buildup of blockages affects your entire life. Once a block is established, your present experience will always be polluted by it until you release the block and allow the free flow of experience through your consciousness again. Remember your crazy inner roommate and its neurotic hangups? Now you have a vocabulary to describe your roommate’s problem: Its heart is filled with blockages. In fact, you could say that your inner roommate is just one, giant blockage.
How to Remain Open
You don’t have to live at the mercy of circumstances. You can choose to reject the lie that there’s any energy you need to block. How much inner energy do you want? How much love and enthusiasm? It’s yours for the taking.
Realize that you’ll never become free by trying to protect yourself. Self-protection will only lock you inside with your darkness. Instead, become conscious of the part of you that’s devoted to self-protection, and make the decision to give that up.
Learn to relax and release. Handle Samskaras by letting go of the old, stored energies whenever they come up in the course of daily life.
- First, notice your energy flow starting to tighten into anger, jealousy, or whatever it is.
- Second, relax and remember yourself as the self, as the objective witness of the disturbance. Remember that your spiritual heart isn’t you. Rather, you’re the one who experiences your heart.
- Third, use the opportunity to release the negative energy through non-reactiveness. Just let it flow through you and out of you.
To return to the previous example of the blue Mustang: Be happy and grateful when the sight of a blue Mustang brings back the old jealousy. Recognize this as an opportunity for healing. Allow yourself to fully experience everything that wants to flow through you, without clinging or resisting.
Cultivate this process of spiritual purging and cleansing until it becomes your automatic, default approach. Learn to let your entire psyche surface. Accept anything that wants to present itself, no matter how unpleasant it feels at first. It might be helpful to initially practice this discipline with small upsets, like accidentally locking your keys in your car. Then progress to bigger ones like broken relationships and the death of loved ones.
Ultimately, the best and simplest method for staying open is never to close. Closing is just a habit that you can break through training and discipline—for example, through meditation and the practice of awareness by asking the master question, “Who am I?”
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