An Excerpt from Positive Energy
Introduction to the Positive Energy Program: Claiming Your Energetic Power
Are you forever in a rush, staving off exhaustion? Are you desperately overcommitted, afraid to say “no”? Do you have fang marks from being bled dry by energy vampires? Does the onslaught of violence in the news leave you drained?
A hidden energy crisis threatens our world. Our high tech, volatile society thrusts many of us into chronic physical, emotional, and spiritual depletion. With information overload, we sink into techno-despair, the burnout of being enslaved by beepers, email, faxes, and phones. Meanwhile, geopolitical realities grind us down. We’re confronted with hostile forces on a global scale. No surprise: our energy suffers. Most alarming, we come to tolerate tired, joyless states as normal. We must shift this socially condoned pattern of madness, no matter what external threats are looming. Using extraordinary solutions to liberate energy, I’ll show you how to alleviate tensions that can do us in and design a life that nurtures.
In this book I want to introduce you to Energy Psychiatry, a term I’ve coined to describe a new kind of psychotherapy I practice which addresses the subtle energetic underpinnings of health and behavior. It’s a subspecialty of Energy Medicine, which views our bodies and spirits as manifestations of subtle energies, what indigenous cross-cultural healing traditions revere as life force--a concept that’s missing in mainstream health care. This is a travesty: there’s no way to fully grasp who we humans are without it. Energy Psychiatry mixes traditional medicine with how the mysteries of our life force functions in everyday ways. It distills a broad body of knowledge about subtle energy, and specifically applies it to psychiatry, an increasingly prescription-dependent field that could use a little re-invention. All the healing arts can benefit from my approach too.
As a board certified psychiatrist and Assistant Clinical Professor at UCLA with twenty years in practice, I now believe that the most profound transformations can only take place on an energetic level. I’ve met a slew of people who’ve spent lots of time and money in intellectually-oriented therapies hoping that rational insights alone can bring the joy they seek. It’s true, the mind will set you on the path, and the depth of emotional healing can be phenomenal. However, as much as I encourage and work with both, my approach coordinates them with a conscious rebuilding of subtle energies--learning to wield the raw power of your life force itself.
My style has never been to play it safe just to satisfy some status quo. To offer my patients all that’s in me, I’ve pushed the envelope of what a physician can be. Along with my conventional training I’m also an intuitive (from a long line of intuitives--including my grandmother, mother and aunts, including Aunt Bertha, the Tarot-toting undertaker.) That is, in Energy Psychiatry I integrate non-linear messages from images, knowings, and reading energy fields to help patients--a potent alchemy strengthening my practice of medicine. (My struggle to blend intuition with the academic world of science is described in my books Intuitive Healing and Second Sight.). What I do isn’t just a job. It’s my life’s passion. I consider sessions with patients sacred time. For fifty minutes, each one becomes my world; my attention is total. With all systems on “go” I listen to what they say, and what they don’t say. It’s exhilarating to track my patients with both intellect and intuition, to function as a finely tuned instrument, a medium offering surprise prescriptions to what often seems unsolvable.
The problem is, we physicians weren’t taught the full story about energy in medical school. I’ve always been incorrigibly curious with a rebellious streak, have no qualms rejecting what doesn’t ring true. (Like my female predecessors, I shot out of the womb stubborn and strong!) No wonder that as a student the conventional dull take on energy never jibed for me. Professors, who looked bored themselves, taught that energy was like gasoline: we fuel up with a healthy diet, sleep, and exercise, then set out to face the world. (Even these basics were mentioned as a tag on to the “hard core” sciences.) Our energy level is gauged by how much we accomplish. As deeply grateful as I am for my medical education--I consider it Mystery school training--I’ve come to realize the traditional model that’s still touted, is stuck in the Dark Ages. It grasps energy only in its crudest form. To plug into a far vaster source we must also draw on the dormant, subtler energies that lie beneath. In most people they remain only potential.
This book is a call to activism, an imperative to claim your vitality using the methods of Energy Psychiatry I’ll share. It’s dedicated to people under stress who may have low energy or only so much to give. You’ll find it pivotal if you’re a workaholic, if you have a job that devours every last minute, or if you’re a parent balancing family and career. You’ll sigh with relief, suddenly finding answers to “psychosomatic” symptoms such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, depression, and anxiety. The book is also for those inundated by the upheaval of our times, struggling to keep themselves together. You’ll learn ways to protect yourself from draining people, and also how to counter feelings of helplessness or doom about societal tumult. Further, you’ll benefit if you feel good but want to feel better. All of us can soar with higher energy.
We live in a world of violence, selfishness, an erratic economy, and scary diseases--as well as a world of love, miracles, and healing. All this affects our energy, while ours affects people around us. We are part of great swirling invisible energy fields, positive and negative, that shape personal and planetary health. The formula for expanding energy you’ll apply is to both build the positive and turn negativity around--a calculated tact requisite for our peace of mind and our survival. In the words of Helen Keller, “To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”
This book is your guide to this unseen realm. It’ll give you a new mastery of your energy so you’ll be clear where it goes and how to recoup it. We all know that energy comes from diet, sleep and exercise. But we’re also influenced by an extensive network of energy fields undetectable to our five senses. Think of gravity, the force of attraction to the earth’s center, which holds us to the ground! Or magnetic fields: you remember those metal filings mysteriously drawn toward the magnet in grammar school science class. Similarly, there’s an energy field or “vibe” emanating from everything we encounter, from food to friends to current events. Our response to these vibes is manifested in our energy level. What we usually think of in physical, emotional, and sexual terms--using words like “My heart’s racing,” “I’m afraid,” or “I’m aroused”--are different expressions of subtle energy. Particularly, if you’re a sensitive person who frequently experiences weakened states, this information can make the difference between an exuberant life and one you’re constantly recovering from.
This book gives you tools from Energy Psychiatry to access this unseen realm. Energy isn’t some vague phenomenon. I’ll show you how to break it down and make it work for you. To begin, envision energy as conveying two qualities--either positive or negative. You must become acquainted with each to take charge of your health and moods, especially in response to a sometimes unsettling outer reality.
You’ll learn how to harness the power of positive energy--loving and nurturing forces within us such as compassion, courage, forgiveness, and faith. (Being the best people we’re capable of being brings wholeness to a broken world.) Or from without: supportive friends, creative work, a hilarious joke, or vibrant sexuality. It comes from an honoring of the Earth and all its creatures, a deep human instinct for tolerance, as well as our passion to achieve a peaceful civilization. These are as central to our sustenance as food or oxygen.
You’ll hone skills to combat and reverse negative energy, which enfeebles us, causing dis-ease. It includes everything that keeps us small, unhealthy, or alienates us from our best selves. We may generate it with our own fear, self-loathing, rage, or shame--an emotional terrorism we inflict on ourselves without realizing the toll. Unless we’re committed to identifying and healing these forces, they will enervate us. Worse, they’ll inevitably get acted out in the social and political spheres, wreaking destruction. The stakes keep getting higher. We, as a nation, have no choice but to deal with negative energies: international terrorism (“a virus in the human community,” says a Navy friend who coordinated ‘Special Ops’ in Afghanistan), racism, global pollution and denigration of women. Or take our daily lives. Toxic people, traffic, sexual harassment in the workplace, and techno-despair are as insidious as second hand smoke. We must each pinpoint what zaps us, large and minute; the causes may differ. For example, in O Magazine, Oprah Winfrey said, “Television has its own energy field--it’s sending energy, but it’s also taking energy. So I read.” Similarly, you need to eliminate influences that diminish you. Or if unavoidable, discover how to both protect yourself and transmute it. For every luminous moment, there’s always some outer or inner force ready to bring us down. When you embrace the positive and say “no” to the negative, high energy and optimism become a choice.
Without a conscious strategy, I understand how brutally difficult honoring our energy can be. For years, I’d vacillate between intense weeks of speaking tours from Manhattan to Montana to bouts of exhaustion at home. I know too well what it’s like to drag home zombie-like after a long day, collapse on my bed, leaden. Or to be unable to decline “irresistible” opportunities. However, the minute I’d recover, I was off and running again. Another drastic energy swing. Here was my quandary: I trusted my intuition, was personally and professionally committed to living by it. But in recent years, I was forced to admit my blind spot. Successful as I was at helping others trust their intuition and lead high energy lives, I stubbornly disregarded dire warnings about my own energy crisis. Even though I knew better it was terrible battle to honor my body’s rhythms. Finally, my fatigue was so profound I had to change. My commitment to writing this book is that I’m no longer willing to do violence to my capacity for passion.
My path has always been to live what I teach. I’m not type who sails through life. I trudge. I fall. I pick myself up. I keep going. With each challenge I become wiser, freer, more in love with the precious days we’ve been given. Maybe you’re like me: when I had energy, I assumed I’d always have it. But when it bottomed out, and then I regained it, I felt utterly reborn. Utterly grateful at having been spared. Whether your crises is mini or, like mine, brings you to your knees, this program treats energy as a sacrament. You’re going to experience how mind-blowing it feels to run on full capacity--how this involves simply being as well as doing. Your energy is more mystical, more sexy, more ecstatic that you’ve ever imagined.
While Westerners may consider subtle energy esoteric or New Age, it’s been central to many healing traditions for millennia. I liken our society’s response to the proverbial elephant in the living room; it’s right in front of us, but we can’t see it. In Chinese medicine subtle energy is called chi or qi. It’s mana to Hawaiian kahunas, prana to Indian Yogic practitioners and in Ayurveda, ni to Native Americans, num to African shamans, biofields to American scientists, and morphic fields to a growing renegade breed of international physicists and biologists. Australian aborigines believe that people attuned to subtle energy can heal and telepathically communicate. For me, there’s something deeply amiss in a culture that utterly lacks a power word for the multi-faceted energy so many belief systems presume we are.
Belatedly, Western science is catching on. We’ve all seen Einstein’s famous e=mc: energy and mass are interchangeable. Only now is his universal law of physics beginning to be extrapolated to our personal health. Energy Psychiatry recognizes the importance of balancing our bodies (mass) and spirit to prevent disease. Though the structure of subtle energy isn’t yet fully defined, increased photon emissions and electromagnetic readings have been recorded around practitioners who generate it. Most revolutionary, though, is Cambridge University physicist Stephen Hawking’s “brane theory.” It proposes that the world we experience is perched on a thin membrane separating us from other vast energetic realms. The irony is, our limited perception stops us from seeing these realms which exist right under our three dimensional noses!
Also delighting me, the National Institutes of Health is funding reams of new research on energy therapies--from how yoga helps insomnia to how qigong is an adjunct to cancer treatment. Therapeutic touch (hands on healing) has already proved to accelerate wound healing and immune response, and relieve pain. At New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, energy healers have even been utilized during open heart surgeries! Still more cutting-edge, though, is distant healing, the scientifically documented ability to positively effect enzymes, plants, and humans by sending subtle energy from afar. It recently hit the headlines when both Time and the Western Journal of Medicine reported a landmark study showing distant healing reduced debilitating symptoms in advanced AIDs patients. All this indicates we’re at the forefront of discovery in the field of human energetics. I’m enormously excited both by what’s already been found, and by all that seems imminently forthcoming.
My approach of Energy Psychiatry immediately engages you in mastering your energy. (It differs from the field of energy psychology, which also honors the subtle realm but has chiropractic origins; it emphasizes acupressure techniques and muscle testing.) My focus is heavily experiential, not “in the head.” I don’t just sit there detached in a white lab coat and say “Uh-huh Uh-huh.” I’m not asking my patients (or you) to take my word that subtle energy exists. It’s mandatory to feel it. I really work my patients! To begin, I teach them to sense the energy that penetrates and surrounds the body in a capsule-like field. Also, to experience the mid-line centers called chakras.
This isn’t just the territory of mystics; it’s for gloriously ordinary people too. In this learning process, I’m a guide for my patients. When they say, “I can’t do it,” or “I don’t feel anything,” I don’t let them stop there. For instance, I hold my palm close to theirs, but not touching. Then I walk them through what energy passing between the palms feels like. I explain that we can’t analyze our way to such insight. To detect energy’s gradations, I train my patients to hone their intuition. A potent inner wisdom not mediated by the rational mind, intuition allows us to sense beyond the physical. The payoff is practical. For example, knowing if someone’s vibes feel good or not-- critical in making smart choices.
Though our culture’s worship of the intellect has caused our intuition to atrophy, I naturally weave it into every aspect of Energy Psychiatry: I read my patients and counsel them how to tune in too. I’ve long since concluded that it’s ethically irresponsible to sit on some pedestal of authority and read people, without also mentoring them to develop their own intuition. Hogwash that it’s only for some gifted few. With practice, everyone can be taught to do it. I love to watch my patient’s elated faces the first time they intuitively sense energy--a rite of passage as memorable as the first kiss. What an electric awakening! (My first time, the energy was numinous, like heaven. I felt I’d found what I’d always been looking for.) Once patients get a taste of this, I help them further delineate what’s positive and reverse negativity, including unlodging traumas in their subtle fields which cause chronic drain. Many of us are at a loss without such basic living skills.
Frequently, patients come to me skeptical or confused about subtle energy. I can’t blame them. It’s hard to make sense of this area. As I reviewed the literature, the language intimidated me. It was either obscured by Western scientific jargon, psychobabble, or Chinese medical terms. In the spirit of essayist John Rushkin’s words, “the greatest thing a soul ever does...is to see something and tell what it saw in a plain way,” my job is to be a translator. I give all patients, new or experienced, a simple way to frame energy on a human level. I avoid buzz words which trigger resistance. For instance, I prefer using the phrase subtle energy instead of chi or aura. For some, chakras sound woo-woo, but when I explain them as energy centers people are more able to embrace the idea.
It’s not my aim to cater to the converted. I want all my patients to be at ease with subtle energy. Especially the more linear minded appreciate hearing about its history and science. I ground chakras in Western medical research, currently in a very early stage: how light frequencies are measured from them which match colors that sensitives have reported for centuries; how chakras are theorized to be the basis of nervous and immune function. Also, I stress that ancient traditions including Egyptian, Hebrew, Chinese, Greek, and Native American describe the equivalent of the Yogic chakras. As civilizations fell great libraries were burned filled with esoteric wisdom about energy considered subversive, dangerous. (Suppression of any kind makes my blood curdle, but book burning has always seemed particularly diabolical). Still, truths so potent can never die. The beauty of putting energy work to use is that we’re reconstructing lost wisdom in modern times.
Other patients come to me already familiar with subtle energy. Even so, they find Energy Psychiatry different, compelling because of its hands-on application in psychotherapy and self-empowerment. Though they’ve been introduced to “qi” in yoga classes, martial arts, or acupuncture, they’ve never practiced a daily energy program unifying spirit, emotions, and the body. I’ve always felt claustrophobic with the narrow psychological boundaries of traditional therapy. In Energy Psychiatry sessions, I first enlarge it by teaching intuition and the sensing of energy fields. Then I help patients take a microscope to their patterns of energetically relating to all aspects of life--responses to people, thunderstorms, places, food, noise, movies, smells, light. I train them to notice the constant interplay with their environment: what brings peace or agitation. Then I guide them to pinpoint healthy coping mechanisms and alter dysfunctional ones.
As an Energy Psychiatrist I don’t minimize my patient’s perceptions. From personal experience, I appreciate how exquisitely--sometimes painfully--sensitive to energy we can be. One extremely shy, waif-like artist-patient had a nose like a hound dog; she was perennially beset by noxious odors. To defend against them she used inordinate amounts of energy to wall herself off. Worse, she felt ashamed of her sensitivity. As we worked together she learned that though it was harrowing to speak up, she had to request that friends not wear perfume around her, and ask her boyfriend to get his teeth regularly cleaned. With such changes by sympathetic others, she could begin to let her guard down and her energy increased.
Because our medical system doesn’t acknowledge how subtle energy affects health, I’ve seen many patients suffer. For years, they run from doctor to doctor with no relief. Energy provides a missing piece that can lead to miraculous breakthroughs. I’ve helped agoraphobics (who panic in crowds) overwhelmed by energy fields in congested malls get off Valium by using shielding techniques. I’ve treated compulsive overeaters, who’ve put on hundreds of pounds to buffer themselves from the energy of others, loose weight when given tools to stop being a sponge. I’ve provided tortured “crazy hypochondriacs” with centering exercises to stop absorbing other people’s symptoms. When how we react energetically--particularly with global atrocities that can demolish highly receptive people--is not named, a crucial component of behavior is ignored.
We each have own energetic style. Some serve us, others don’t. As my patients do, you’ll become aware of ways you’ve learned to process vibes. For instance, intellectuals tend to contrict energy, whereas intuitive empaths give too much away. My goal for patients and for you is to find a comfortable style of navigating life which balances vulnerability with emotional security.
Like me, you may be an intuitive empath: a person who’s so sensitive that we often unknowingly absorb energy from others and are drained by it. To cope, we escape into solitude to ward off overload. In Energy Psychiatry I emphasize empathy because it aggravates disorders such as chronic fatigue syndrome, sexual shutdown and obesity. Empaths are so uncannily attuned that we feel what’s going on inside people emotionally and physically, making it hard to distinguish whether it’s us or them. We get struck down, and don’t know what hit us. As a child, I’d arrive at packed shopping malls feeling fine and leave exhausted, depressed, or with some new ache or pain. Dismayed, I’d tell my physician-mother, who loved to shop. She’d respond, “Sweetheart, you’re just overly sensitive.” My mother doted on me, wasn’t intending to be unkind. She (and my father, also a physician) just didn’t realize crowded places heighten an empath’s experience of energy, can overwhelm.
My own healing path required reconciling intuitions such as empathy with medical science. Knowledge is power. If you’ve ever been accused of being “overly sensitive,” an appreciation of the mechanics of empathy will enlighten, transforming it from burden to asset. Empathy can eat at you until you learn to work with it. Now that I have tools to center myself and not take on the world’s woes, empathy has become a gift. When I’m both grounded and responsive, it intensifies my sense of aliveness, compassion for others, and balance to withstand our sobering times. I want to share these specific, everyday tools with you.
I’ve devised the Positive Energy Program, based on my practice of Energy Psychiatry, because I know how life saving it has been for me and my patients to maximize our energetic power. My emphasis is on action and technique, passionately practical: improving your life, your health, your relationships. If previous wellness plans have failed, despite the best intentions, you may have picked ones that were counter-intuitive to your body’s needs. I’ve watched intelligent, aware patients battle horrible constipation while on a high protein regimen for weight loss. Their bodies scream for a balanced diet, yet they persist until they get sick and have to quit. Other patients hire trainers who push their bodies so hard they suffer serve injuries. One actress, obsessed with being thin for roles, ignored her body’s signals until a torn knee ligament put her out of commission for months. I understand the desire to lose weight and be fit. But we don’t have to martyr our bodies.
This program helps you find a regimen you’re in harmony with. It’s based on compassion; hurting yourself in any way becomes abhorrent. Using intuition to sense what feels right isn’t about slacking off. It means trading a culturally acceptable masochism for a wellness approach that makes inner sense. Doing so prevents burnout and fosters enduring success.
The Positive Energy Program is based on ten prescriptions, one per chapter. They are:
- The First Prescription: Awaken Your Intuition and Rejuvenate Yourself
- The Second Prescription: Find a Nurturing Spiritual Path
- The Third Prescription: Design an Energy-Aware Approach to Diet, Exercise, and Health
- The Fourth Prescription: Generate Positive Emotional Energy to Counter Negativity
- The Fifth Prescription: Develop a Heart-Centered Sexuality
- The Sixth Prescription: Open to the Flow of Creativity and Inspiration
- The Seventh Prescription: Celebrate the Sacredness of Laughter, Pampering, and The Replenishment of Retreat
- The Eighth Prescription: Attract Positive People and Situations
- The Ninth Prescription: Protect Yourself From Energy Vampires
- The Tenth Prescription: Create Abundance
Following each chapter I’ve included an interview I’ve had the privilege of doing with heroes of mine, public figures from Quincy Jones to Rosa Parks who illustrate how they use a particular prescription to increase energy in their lives. I hope these interviews inspire you as much as they have inspired me.
The program has two sections. Part One, “Building Your Energy,” presents prescriptions one through seven. It offers simple vitality- boosting strategies to follow, from how to overcome weight gain that’s energetically based to how to connect with your intuition and inspiration. The secret to kindling energy is to get beyond the cerebral. You’ll do this by practicing exercises I give patients. For instance, to revive sensuality after a long day, a federal judge jumps into a jasmine scented tub filled with rose petals. (Water is a purifier.) Or to shake off negative vibes from back-to-back pitch meetings in his office, a film executive burns sage. You’ll also learn pleasurable options to unwind. Most of us are pleasure-deprived. Subtle energy quick fixes are a remedy. When introducing skills that require more effort, I’ll start slowly, make each task achievable.
Part Two, “Creating Positive Relationships and Combating Energy Vampires,” presents prescriptions eight through ten. It zeros in on energy as the missing piece in the puzzle of human relationships. Here I’ll give strategies to help you identify the energy flow between yourself and others. You’ll learn how to evaluate who gives you energy, who saps it, and how to generate the positive energy that will attract nurturing people and situations. I’ll teach you to recognize the energy vampires that can suck you dry, and how to protect yourself. You can use this knowledge to gain a new openness in the world and to create more loving connections. Finally, this section explores abundance and generosity from an energy perspective. You’ll understand the difference between codependent giving, which leaves us spent, and giving from the heart, which summons up positive energy and creates intimate ties with others.
The purpose of this program is to be of service to you--to make your life easier. I suggest focusing on a prescription a week, completing the program in ten weeks. (However, if a specific energy topic calls to you--start there.) Then, you can keep deepening the themes. I assure you this isn’t just hard work or “another thing to do.” Tapping into subtle energies feels divine! The exercises, including a “Treat Yourself” section at each prescription’s end, will be compatible with your schedule and lifestyle.
This program and Energy Psychiatry begin with the individual, but the goals aren’t simply personal. Beyond self-regeneration you’ll gain a profound feeling of collective communion. There is an energetic bond between everyone on earth. This life-changing realization is missing in our world. Once it becomes real, very real, our sense of separateness dissolves; discriminations of class, race, and gender are obliterated. Until we recognize each other as brother and sister it is still night. To achieve planetary peace, the illusion of Us versus Them must transform into the wholeness of We: one global union honoring commonalties, united by love.
Use this program to fashion a passionate, self-styled life and worldview. The changes I suggest won’t force you to revamp your old life, merely change your focus. I’ve seen everyone from stressed out moms to hard charging executives benefit. Let my prescriptions be champions of inspiration, an antidote to conformity and complacency. Gaining more energy doesn’t only mean you’ll be ultra-productive at work, excel at time management, or run a marathon in record time. It also means you’ll be able to breathe in the sweetness of night-blooming jasmine, marvel at the sight of storms converging in the twilight sky, or giggle unpredictably at the silliest things. It means that you are committed, personally and politically, to not leading a life tyrannized by fear--rather guiding your actions by the heart and intuition.
The Postive Energy Program is about slowing down time to match your natural rhythms so you can be fully present for your life. What has this done for me? Colors are brighter, the scent of the sea more pungent, my lover more mine. And I more his. Our stay on Earth is far too short. If you’re like me, you won’t stand for missing a single moment. Recovering your energy means recovering your most impassioned self--a revolutionary process that subverts all people and situations seeking to keep you small. My deepest wish is that you join me in this practice and quest.