Image credit – Visionary Art by Jetter Green ~ ‘Entwined’
I suppose I have always known this, but as I travel I notice even more so that I am very sensitive to the energy of the places I go and the people I meet. Everyone is to an extent I believe, even if you don’t pay much attention to it. There is a completely different energy for example in a hospital than there is in a nightclub, or a church versus a shopping mall. Equally, some people or groups of people you meet give off a ‘good vibe’ while others might make you feel uncomfortable, threatened even, or conversely, uplifted and inspired.
As I’ve been learning more about energy, in particular the energy systems in our bodies (the chakras and subtle bodies), I’ve developed a better understanding of where this stems from (if you choose to believe it). A book I’m currently reading explains this very well: The Chakra Handbook by Shalila Sharamon and Bodo J. Baginsky. It explains that “although many consider the material world and physical body to be the only reality that exists”, one of the laws of physics states that “energy is never lost in the universe, it is merely transformed. The power at work behind the body’s material appearance with all its functions and capabilities consists of a complex energy system without which the physical body could not exist.”
This energy system is broken into three components: (1) the subtle or energy bodies, (2) the chakras or energy centres, and (3) the nadis, or energy channels. I won’t explain all of this in depth now; however I highly recommend reading this book or other literature on the chakra system. Anyone who practises yoga or meditation will probably already have an understanding of this and find it a very helpful to their practice and in general life as a way of understanding how our bodies and selves play a part in the physical and energetic world around us. If you find the concept of energy difficult to get your head around though, just consider how or why a particular place or person can make you feel so differently to the next. I was thinking about this while sitting on a beach in Thailand. How can one beach feel so different from another? The landscape may look almost identical and the elements are all the same – ocean, sand, palm trees, blue sky… But each can have a very different feeling to it.
I’ve experienced just a few places on my travels where I’ve felt something extraordinary just by being there. Jericoacoara in Brazil was one. The energy there was so powerful that I upheld it as my favourite place that I visited during a six-month trip in 2012, travelling in South and Central America, during which I visited fourteen countries and countless beaches. The same goes for Goa. There is just something about that place – something in the ground, in the trees, in the air… I don’t know how to explain it but testament to its positive energy must be that dozens of people I met return there religiously every year, many of whom having done so for years, even decades. What is it that gives it such magnetism?
I think it must be a combination of the people who occupy a place and the place itself that manifest to make the energy so powerful. You can see this in places of worship for example. When a group of people gather regularly over time, to the same place, and are all focused on the same ‘goal’ – their thoughts aligned to a common interest – that creates a powerful effect on the atmosphere. My experience of visiting ashrams in India illustrated this. Meditating on the stage amongst the famous Indian guru Amma and her devoted followers, for example, was a powerful experience, where I felt the energy itself in the room enough to propel me into a deep meditative state. Sharamon and Baginsky also cite the example of sporting events. Consider a football match, for example: everyone in the stadium there for the same purpose, their minds ‘ tuned’ to the same thought – it causes a electrifying atmosphere which can not be denied but neither really explained, scientifically at least.
Sharamon and Baginsky explain this phenomenon on our energy fields or auras, which, when in contact with one another, are sensitive to each other’s energy. The vibrations being radiated by a person’s aura have a subconscious effect on us, impacting how we feel in their presence. It is primarily the astral or emotional aura that is responsible for the ‘signals’ we send out via our energy vibrations. The astral body is the carrier of feelings, emotions and character traits and its aura is every-changing, radiating our emotions around us wherever we go. All emotions, past and present, get stored in our astral body and help determine the messages we transmit to the outside world. Fears, insecurities and anger are stored there, and unless addressed, can remain over time, causing blockages in our energy centres that radiate through our aura to the external world.
This helps explain the ‘gut feeling’ judgments we make about people for what may seem like no apparent reason. In fact, just being in the presence of another’s aura has exposed us to his/her energy vibrations, positive or negative, and affected how we perceive them and how we feel in their presence. You may feel tense or uncomfortable or even have the sensation of everything inside contracting, the book explains, when in the presence of someone emitting negative energy. More intuitive people may be able to discern even more detail about the person’s character by sensing their emotional blockages. Really advanced human beings can actually see the auras of everyone around them. Personally, I think I’m a pretty good at ‘reading people’. I can sense quite early on whether his/her energy is good for me or not. Although I’m also good at ignoring my gut instincts, which is what gets me into trouble!
As with people, places store and give off energetic vibrations, which affect our mood. I’ve noticed for myself there is a big difference to my feeling of wellbeing when I’m in cities compared to when I’m surrounded by nature, in particular by the ocean in hot climates. I’ve always been a sun worshipper and looked forward to my one or two foreign holidays a year above everything else. Living in London I would annually fall into a depression in winter, feeling low and despondent, sleeping more, not wishing to socialise as much. Then as soon as the sun came out I’d be up early, out and about, my mind buzzing with ideas for the future, my creativity that had been hidden dormant suddenly flowing freely again. )I’ve always said I should live in a hot climate. Perhaps now is the time to make it happen…)
One way of explaining the effect of the sun on my mood, according to this belief system, is due to the fact that the ethereal body (described as ‘the bearer of the powers that shape the physical body’s, the vital, creative energy of life, and all physical sensation’), draws energy directly from the sun via one of our main energy centres (the solar plexus chakra) as well as from the earth, via the root chakra. For me, this helps explain a number of things, including why I find the sun so vitalising, and why I feel so nourished by walking around barefoot, especially on the beach or natural ground, and much prefer to be on ground-level rather than in high-rise buildings, and by nature rather than in cities. Perhaps this is all because I want to feel my connection to the earth beneath my feet and the sun through my head.
What is also interesting from reading the book is that different places may be more healing for different people, depending on the development of your chakras and potential blockages within them that have occurred at different stages of your life. Again, I won’t go into too much detail here; what I take from it all is really just a confirmation of what I already knew about myself. If I really listen to my own needs and desires, not influenced by external expectations (societal, parental, professional, etc.) – then I know what, who and where is good for me.
So, as I travel now, I am in search of places and people who inspire, motivate and energise me. I believe that trusting in my intuition about this will be an important factor in directing my path of personal healing and growth. That was one of the reasons I left Thailand and returned to India – for me the former just didn’t have the right energy for me at this time. And I already know that I want to return to Goa, next time for a longer period of time, so that I can really immerse myself in it, absorbing and giving back to it positive energy, because I feel that it’s a place that will stimulate my creativity and nurture my soul. If I’m to learn to really love and trust myself, then I owe it to myself to honour my intuition and live my life accordingly. If I follow my path and no one else’s, then it will be the right one. And whatever will be, will be.
When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid. You’re able to keep your eyes open, your heart open, and your mind open. And you notice when you get caught up in prejudice, bias, and aggression. You develop an enthusiasm for no longer watering those negative seeds, from now until the day you die. And, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities to start to do things differently.
– Pema Chodron