Excerpt from Body Intelligence

Just what is this thing we call energy and how does it affect our performance? What can we do with energy to live fuller, happier, healthier lives?

Scientists have been telling us for over a century that all things are made of energy. All of life, from bacteria to trees to the Universe at large, holds and requires energy to exist. In the very first cells that made you you and in all you will do, energy is there—utilized and required.

Even what appears as solid mass is nothing but a form of energy. Even an object at rest has energy stored within. The relationship between the two (energy and solid mass) is conveyed in Einstein’s famous equation, e=mc², which fundamentally changed the way we see and experience our world. His equation provided a recipe, so to speak, for how much energy is necessary to create the “appearance” of mass. As Lynne McTaggart writes in her book The Field, “It means that there aren’t two fundamental physical entities—something material and another immaterial—but only one: energy.”

This corresponds with the idea that even empty space, which makes up 96 percent of our Universe, is seething with energy. In another work of McTaggart’s, she cites Nobel laureate–physicist Dr. Richard Feynman, who remarked that “the energy in a cubic meter of space was enough to boil all the oceans of the world.”

From the perspective of holistic medicine, what this all comes down to is that everything you touch, hear, taste, see, smell, think, say, or feel— essentially, anything you experience at all—is, at its most fundamental level, energy interacting with other energy.

This precious current, which preceded our birth and ushered us into this life, flows with us through all we do in it and keeps on flowing even after we pass. Learning to regulate it will make positive and significant changes in your life because it gives you a tangible way to shape the quality of all you do (as well as help others do the same) by using life’s most plentiful and basic resource. But what exactly can we do with this energy?

Your Body’s Energetic Tour de Force

Energy empowers the body to get things done—everything from having a thought to walking across the room, eating a meal, or writing a piece of music. The energy used by your body comes in various forms, including light, chemical, electric, heat, sound, and mechanical energy. You can use each type to balance or intensify the others, and sometimes, you can even substitute one for another that might be lacking.

Light energy, for example, transferred from the sun and into our environment, is transformed into chemical energy within the foods that we eat and within the body itself. Electrical energy, generally speaking, is generated at the cellular level via chemical (sodium, potassium) interactions within the body. It is another primary source of power for the body— like when your nervous system streams messages, via electrical impulses, which help you regulate a wide range of functions, such as balancing intracellular environments (inside the cell) and intercellular communication (between cells). It is also crucial to the firing of neurotransmitters, which help regulate your heart rate, muscle movement, and moods, and can even guide your thoughts. We use heat, or thermal energy (which is transformed from chemical energy and also derived as a byproduct of mechanical energy), for maintaining body temperature, and helping our body release toxins and alleviate mental and physical stress. Mechanical energy is energy that empowers your movement. With regard to the body, it can be understood as potential energy because of its positioning (like a baseball pitcher’s cocked arm or an archer’s drawn-back bow) or kinetic energy because it is in motion (like the pitcher’s moving arm or the flying baseball). Sound energy is produced when something vibrates and makes sound waves (like the sound of breath passing through our lips or blood streaming through an umbilical cord).

These forms of energy generate an integrated power base that does everything from helping us physically move around to coordinating the flow of information through every part of our bodies.

Energy = Force and Information

In mind-body medicine, when we use the term energy, we are referring to the combination of information and force—what we can define as informed power. (Information refers to patterns, form, structure, and other data.) Information gives design or purpose to force. Force can be understood as the capacity to do work or overcome resistance. From the smallest to the biggest thing you can imagine, whether it is a subatomic particle or an entire universe, everything requires force to exist, as well as to do anything.

As a simple example, when you feel like something in your environment or life is motivating you (force) in a specific way (information) to get up on your feet, to be alert, or to do anything, energetically speaking, it probably is. Perhaps you receive a letter from your grandmother and you then feel the motivation to bake cupcakes. This phenomenon can take unlimited forms and that “something” can be any energy source, from you (or someone else) tapping out a beat with your fingers to bumping into an old friend you haven’t seen in a while.

Each of these energy events involves both force and information to which your mind and body react. As a result, they can change your life, both for the short and long term. You can learn to control this dynamic using energetic changes to guide you in a positive direction, in sync with your needs and goals, or you can choose to ignore it. The choice is yours. Either way, you are subject to it, and as a result, you are ever changing: biologically, mentally, and spiritually.


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