Dear Feminist.com readers:
I am very excited about writing my column "Positive Energy for Women." It is devoted to women who want to lead vibrant, empowered lives but may often feel worn down by the many daily stresses we encounter. It is for everyone who is forever in a rush fending off exhaustion, or desperately overcommitted afraid to say no. It'll teach you how to deal with draining people, and also how to maintain a sense of calm centeredness to face a busy life.
I am a psychiatrist in Los Angeles who specializes in listening to intuition and building energy. As much as I respect the analytic mind, I also know how important it is to use intuition to stay in touch with our body’s signals, and trust our instinctual feminine impulses. I also believe that tapping into spirituality, a power greater than ourselves, is essential to maximize our energy and deepen our connectedness to others and the world. Women have powerful, intuitive natures. When our sense of intuition, spirituality and energy is awakened, enormous positive energy will flow from this. I hope you enjoy my upcoming columns, and my book Positive Energy!
Judith Orloff, M.D.
Judith Orloff M.D. is a psychiatrist and energy expert, author of the new book Positive Energy: Ten Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear Into Vibrance, Strength, and Love. She is also author of the bestsellers Guide to Intuitive Healing and Second Sight. She is Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at UCLA, has a private practice in Los Angeles, and leads workshops on the interrelationship of intuition, energy, and medicine. For more information on Dr. Orloff’s books and workshops visit drjudithorloff.com.
(Excerpted from Positive Energy: Ten Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue, Stress, and Fear Into Vibrance, Strength, and Love by Judith Orloff, M.D.)
Imagine an unlimited supply of energy at your fingertips. A powerhouse that never wanes. It’s an experience I want you to get used to having. A spiritual practice makes it real in an ingeniously simple way. How? You tap into love, the most irrepressible source of positive energy in the universe. Untainted by guilt, conditions, or fear it’s pure power we can wield as individuals and collectively. Even the biggest baddest demons within or without ultimately shrivel in the face of it. Love is our destination. It is waiting just for you.
Many paths lead to the heart--the antithesis of extremist “spiritual” ideologies based on hate. A wise Sufi teacher once said, “Love is the religion, the universe is the book.” The type of practice is a matter of choice. It can be traditionally religious: church, synagogue, or mosque. Or like me, you may be more private, prefer meditation or communing with nature. (One patient’s Christmas mass is spent at midnight stretched in a God-lit meadow overlooking the Pacific.) For some it may be nameless, the silent place within. Mary Oliver, a poet who’s a beacon for me, sanctifies the details of our humanness. In one poem she writes:
Bless the fingers,
for they are darting as fire...
Bless the eyes
for they are the gifts of the angels,
for they tell the truth.
Guidelines To Discovering Your Own Sense Of Spirit.
1. Questioning is healthy.
Feel free to question everything you’ve ever learned about spirituality, and continue to do so. No one to satisfy but yourself. As I do, sniff out hypocrisy or the inauthentic. If something sounds good, but falls flat, it’s not for you. People can talk until the cows come home about how spiritual they are, but if you can’t feel their heart, all that rhetoric means nothing.
2. Permit yourself the freedom to explore what moves you.
This is not necessarily what your friends and family follow or condone. You may link Spirit with God, Goddess, Allah, the Universe, or the wildness of a wind-blown sea. To begin exploring, get your hands on books from William James’s classic “The Variety of Religious Experience” to the Dalai Lama’s “The Art of Happiness” See what descriptions of spirit intuitively resonate and scrap the rest. A part of you will feel curious, wake up, or affirm “Yes!” If, however, you’re bored, untouched, or offended keep on exploring.
In the same way, gauge your intuitive reactions when trying out different types of services. For instance, I’m consistently stirred by the low-key, non-dressy Jewish High Holiday services at the Los Angeles Zen Center. (I attend these in addition to my Taoist path.) There’s no pretense: we all sit on wobbly white plastic chairs in an outdoor garden. The rabbi is also a Zen roshi--and as it happens, an old college boyfriend! At the Passover dinner, celebrating emancipation from Egyptian slavery, I just melt watching a glowing monk punctuating the traditional “Four Questions” by striking a gong. Why is this night different than other nights? GONG. Why do we eat only Matzoh? GONG. Who’d believe it? We can’t not giggle. And so it goes. We’re a quirky conglomeration, and that suits me fine.
Similarly, you’ll find an open-minded environment where you can connect.
3. What a Spiritual Connection Feels Like
Don’t convince yourself of anything. Go for where the energy is. How? You’ll sense this connection in your body, whether it’s slight or an epiphany. Expect to feel warm, comforted, uplifted. Intuitively, it feels like a “coming to,” a clearing. While meditating, I sometimes get shivers, goosebumps, or be moved to tears. Two specific subtle energy centers (chakras) drive this experience. The crown or “halo,” at the top of your head, and the heart in the mid-chest. You might feel a growing heat in these areas, an opening, or sense a cap lifted from the crown. As you experiment with different practices notice: Is something in you stirred? Do you feel more centered? Compassionate? It may be an instantly positive reaction--as Tennessee Williams writes, “Sometimes there is God so quickly.” Whereas other practices may just feel wrong. With some though, you may intuit a vague affinity, so stick with it a few weeks; see if the energy grows. There are also cycles of connection, times when we feel spiritual energy more or less. This is natural. Don’t expect the peak moments to be sustained. Even if you never have one, don’t worry. Bottom line, with a successful practice you’ll feel more energy and love.
4. What a Spiritual Connection Doesn’t Feel Like
There isn’t a mystery to this. Lack of spiritual connection is evidenced either by no energetic response (what I call spiritual flat-lining) or an off-putting one. Your mind--or your mother!--may be trying to convince you of the merits of some path, but nada is happening. A positive energetic bond never needs to be coerced, nor does it make you feel worse about yourself. Guilt, judgment, and condemnation are all man-made--not a byproduct of a compassionate intelligence.
5. Flush Out Your Resistance
Opening to spirituality requires vulnerability, which can make you resistant or afraid, particularly if you’ve been disappointed by this topic. It’s important to articulate resistance and fears so they don’t stonewall your energy. I want my patients to express the whole diatribe to me--an energetic purge that’s necessary to find their own way. Common fears include that spirituality is elitist, dogmatic, repressive, abusive, saccharine, wishful thinking, not scientifically based, confined to conventional religions, or too “fire and brimstone.” Whatever your fear, I honor it, but urge you to not get mired there.
For years, one of my resistances was attaching myself to any spiritual tradition. I feared loosing freedom, perhaps because of being raised by conservative physicians who very much wanted me to conform to the mainstream. I’ll never forget one night as a teenager when my father, furious at me for sneaking off with hippie friends, chased me down our street like madman literally waving a yardstick! (How a yardstick was in his possession at that moment I’ll never know!) Understandably, to this day, I loathe anything that smacks of measuring me.
Be honest with your resistances. List them in your journal, and read them to someone you trust. Get ready to revamp or eliminate dated notions. A common theme for our age seems to be transcending what didn’t click spiritually in childhood, and reinventing a new way that works. Spirituality can make massive energy available if we’re willing to remove obstacles that stunt our liberation.
Copyright © 2005 by Judith Orloff, M.D.