• Jim Gilkeson

Why I Switched to Generic Language for Energy Work (CT2)


(This is part 3 of a series called "The Communication Task.")

“If you want to talk to people, you’d better find a language that you share, and if there’s some obstacle, . . . unless you’re indifferent to the problem, well, then you change it.”

Paul Simon,

from an interview in PASTE magazine, August, ‘06

I don’t imagine anyone much cares when I “converted” to generic terminology in teaching and writing about energy healing. But the record will show that it was on the afternoon of August 8th, 2008 after a very dissatisfying walk in the parched hills of Marin County with an established author of books on energywork. I found that we were using the same words, but using them differently. As usual, I was the one who was straying from tradition and running headlong into the unspoken taboo against doing that. All the while, we had been unconsciously relying on some kind of underlying agreement about what all these words mean. It became increasingly clear that we were not on the same page. I also knew I had to do something, like rewrite my book.

At the time, I was writing the final drafts of A Pilgrim in Your Body. The manuscript was basically finished, but full of traditional terminology for the energy system. It all had to go. Thank God for "Universal Search and Replace" in MS Word!

Since the above date, I use rather generic language to refer to things like chakras, energy points, and energy streams, which are among the stable features of the human energy field. For example, in the exercises and treatments that I teach, I use terms like “energy centers” and “energy-active positions” to identify key energetic locations on your body, along with instructions on how to develop your awareness of them. By doing so, my hope is to find a language that works for an experience-based approach to learning energy healing, one that honors the venerable traditions that have fed world spirituality and at the same time allows me to point to ways of using these energy systems of ours to generate authentic experiences that are not unduly burdened by lots of ideas about what’s supposed to happen.

Why is the choice of terminology so important? A teacher of bodywork once told me, “One of the nice things about teaching physiology is that no matter if a person is an atheist or a Christian or an Muslim, an elbow is still an elbow, a knee is still a knee, flexion is still flexion and extension is still extension.” Unfortunately, the study of energywork does not have the luxury of a universally agreed upon language and description of its subject matter. Many people, especially those who are likely to subscribe to this blog, already know what a chakra is, and for the most part, that is a good thing. Paradoxically, though, it is also part of the problem.

We are heirs to a number of traditions when it comes to teachings about the chakra system. When you dip into the readily available lore about the chakras, you will most likely be confronted with updates of classic teachings from yogic, Taoist, or Tibetan sources. Or you might run into representations of the chakra system passed through Western Hermetic traditions. Each of these strands of teaching has its own inflection and serves a different facet of spiritual growth and understanding. While some come wrapped in astrological or alchemical interpretations, others have a strong bias toward stimulating the rise of the kundalini and the movement of consciousness beyond duality.

Therein lies the dilemma. Those of us who would teach about such things as chakras are speaking to a much more informed audience than was the case even ten years ago. With the greater volume of information available, the interested student of energywork inevitably comes with more associations and preconceived notions. As a result, I have found that I need to do something unconventional if I don’t want to automatically trigger a whole array of assumptions drawn from one or another of the various traditions you may already have studied. Hence, my use of the more generic terminology.

As you read this blog and do the exercises and go on the inner pilgrimages described in my books and classes, try to enter each of these inner connections and experiences like a naturalist entering a field or pond. The naturalist knows something about fields and ponds, of course, but doesn’t know what he or she is going to find in this particular field, on this particular day. Similarly, an instruction like this:

  • “Move your attention to the highest point on the top of your head, and then find a position slightly forward of that and slightly up in your hair.

  • Now simply relax your awareness and allow this energy-active position to draw your attention into itself . . .”

is not intended to give you a bunch of information about Crown Chakras, but rather to point you in as simple a way as possible to a trailhead of experiences that are your own—without the limitation or distraction of a prior assumption.

It is my hope that you will enjoy the energy practices offered in this blog, my books and classes with a fresh and open mind. They are an invitation to discovery, and to a pilgrimage to the Source of Life to which we all have access.

>>>I'd like to hear your thoughts on this subject. We have a forum for discussion and you are invited to sign up for that.<<<

In my next posting on the Communication Task, I'll take up the issue of getting "mental muscles" when it comes to talking with others about energy healing topics. 'Til then, be well. ~Jim

Diving Deeper: Resources

This posting has been adapted from “A Note on Terminology” from A Pilgrim in Your Body: Energy Healing and Spiritual Process.

"Tin Can Telephone" illustration by Aimee Eldridge. Used with permission.

Copyright ©, 2017 by Jim Gilkeson. All rights reserved.


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