Your Physical (Biological) and Subtle (Energetic) Bodies

I was fifteen when the practice of meditation came into my life, bringing with it silent gifts and a guiding hand.

My father was an aikido teacher and 5th dan master, and through that practice I directly experienced a sense of spirituality, the importance of inhabiting the physical body, and the sense of a subtle body—an energetic body that surrounds and permeates the physical. I remember the quiet meditation of our sitting before practice, and how easily this resonated with me. I experienced my own being—a quiet, spacious presence and aliveness—and interconnectedness with others, the world and beyond.

In both aikido and meditation, by tuning in to my body sensations, I could feel what in traditional martial arts is called life energy. I also call it life force. Life force is believed to be a principle element of anything living; it is part of the subtle energies of Eastern philosophy, the prana of Indian cultures, pneuma of ancient Greece, and vital force of Western philosophy. The intricacies and maps of the subtle energies, body and physiology, vary from tradition to tradition, yet they share a view of this invisible subtle body—which includes channels, points, and chakras—in which the flow of subtle life force energy (think of acupuncture) determines the characteristics and well-being of the visible physical body. You’ll work with these principles in some of the exercises in ‘The Body Awareness Workbook for Trauma’.

In aikido we refer to this life force as ki (you may know it as “chi”). It’s the basis of all matter, every phenomenon, emotion, sense, will, consciousness, and conscience. It’s part of the makeup of the breath, just as prana is in the yogic traditions. Life force connects our body, our mind, and the cosmos. However, when you have unresolved trauma it’s rather difficult to maintain intimate awareness of life force and its relationship to these connections.

After trauma, life force can become blocked, repressed, or disconnected. This creates rigidity and feelings of being stuck in the body or mind. Healing trauma that embraces body awareness reweaves that life force through you, returning you to a state of harmony and connection. For instance, when emotions are too overwhelming, you may automatically repress or dissociate them. These emotions—your life energy—still affect you, even though you don’t feel them. You’re also using your life force to suppress the emotions below your conscious awareness. It’s exhausting, but most of us do it unconsciously. Rather flowing freely through you, being part of your creative expression and feelings of aliveness, that energy remains stagnant, creating body tension and mental agitation. With this book, you’ll learn techniques for releasing stagnant energy and emotions through the body, so you may connect more deeply to your experience and live with more vitality. You may restore your natural life force flow and realize its distinct relationship to spirituality and a deeper, intuitive way of knowing.

Your life force fuels self-expression, intuition, healthy aggression, sexuality, passions, creativity, and heart’s desire. It allows you to feel alive and joyous. It’s also the energy that allows you to fight or flee to safety in a traumatic event. During a traumatic event you get a natural surge of this life force. Afterward, if this energy is not discharged, or integrated back into the flow of your body, it negatively affects your physiology and psychology, diminishing your aliveness and vibrancy.

In the process of healing trauma, you can access any thwarted or blocked energy, harnessing its power for post traumatic growth. As you do so, your body’s inherent wisdom will naturally move you toward healing—toward connection, a greater sense of aliveness, and your most authentic expression, previously obscured by trauma.

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