An Introduction to Life Force Energy

Along the path that is our lives, sometimes we feel like we are skating, while at other times we are dragging. When we have energy in the right quantity, we feel great; when we don’t, we may feel we’d try anything to get it back. What foods we eat, how much we sleep, our mental state—these are some of the more mundane factors that come to mind when we consider the question of our energy levels. 

But what about the deeper questions of life force energy? What it is, where it comes from, and how we can tap into it? From religious, spiritual, and scientific perspectives, the quest to understand the life force energy is timeless and ongoing.

What is life force energy? 

In its most basic sense, life force energy is the difference between animate and inanimate, between life and death. Without it, we don’t exist. Like all forms of energy, it has a vibratory quality, and when it is vital, we can feel it coursing through our body.

The ancient Greeks called it “pneuma,” the breath of life. The Japanese call it “ki” and emphasize the flowing quality of the life force energy as it is released. The Chinese know it as “qi” or “chi” as within all things and consisting of yin/yang energies.

In Hinduism and yoga, “prana,” or breath energy, is understood as the fundamental creative power that flows within and outside us as consciousness, as movement, as the regulator of all the body’s physical functions. Pranayama is a yogic breathwork practice that is considered an extension of life force energy.

In Taoism, qi energy set the universe in motion and has sustained life since. It is known as a “bio-energy,” the energy of living beings. This property distinguishes it from inanimate forms of energy such as lightning or from burning fossil fuels. 

The life force energy is associated with the concept of the subtle body, an energy connecting the physical body with the spiritual realm. Not detectable by existing scientific instruments, life force energy has been compared with several other invisible—but measurable—subtle energy forces, including the geomagnetic field of the earth, the strong nuclear force that holds the nuclei of atoms together, and electromagnetism. The “ aura,” the electromagnetic field that surrounds all living things, is considered a projection of the subtle body.

Scientific research on qi and prana has led to a possible connection with biophotons, another measurable subtle energy force linked to communications and control systems between all animal and plant cells. In addition, biofield theory is coming together with quantum biology to suggest the possibility of energetic connections between physically distanced living systems.

Where does it come from?

No one can say where this energy comes from, only that it is within and all around us, and can be tapped or blocked as circumstances dictate. Ultimately, life force energy can be said to represent our highest potential, a transformational power contained in each living cell. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it: “The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.” 

How do I feel my life force energy?

We can feel life force energy through our breathing and by practicing embodied awareness. When we bring attention to the feeling of the breath moving through the body and the sensations in our skin, muscles, bones, and internal organs, we are connecting with life force energy.

Kundalini is another form of life force energy in the yoga tradition. Kundalini is centered at the base of the spine. Breathing and other yogic practices fostering embodied awareness activate kundalini to flow up through the body’s chakra system and connect with the collective form of the life force energy.

What drains life force energy? How do I increase my life force energy?

The stresses and pressures of life stemming from our life circumstance—including family dynamics, socio-economic circumstances, our genetic makeup, and social conditioning—affect how we hold our life force energy. If our energy becomes blocked we may feel depressed or anxious or a deep weariness very different from the kind we get working out.

Energy healing—the restoring and balancing of life force energy—is at the heart of many healing approaches in Eastern medicine. Energizing prana is a central principle of Ayurvedic medicine, and the focus of traditional Chinese medicine is balancing chi. In addition to yoga, acupuncture, Reiki, qigong, and t’ai chi can all help to increase life force energy.

Meditation, spending time outdoors (including forest bathing), healthy eating, and exercise are all energy lifters. The heart practices of lovingkindness and compassion are wonderful means to enhance your life force energy as well as that of others. Tonglen, a Tibetan Buddhist practice, involves breathing in the suffering of others and breathing out lovingkindness; as described by Ethan Nichtern, “Your body is now like a recycling plant, “accepting” pollution and “sending out” clean energy.”

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