I’ve been avoiding writing this particular blog post because, frankly, it’s a big, confusing topic to tackle. However, I think some general knowledge about the energy body is better than none, so here’s my big-picture explanation of how it works and why it matters.
Everyone who lives on Earth at this moment has a physical body that is a solid form that takes up space. The physical body can be touched, examined, and described by various people in the same way. It submits well to the scientific method because the solidness and unchangingness of the matter means we can label and categorize it in ways that other scientists can replicate. This also allows us to figure out exactly how it functions so we can identify and/or resolve dysfunctions when they occur.
Everyone who lives on Earth also has an energy body. The energy body is often referred to as the subtle body because it is everything the physical body is not. It is hard to see, touch, and examine which means it is difficult to apply the scientific method to. Most important, nearly everyone who works with the subtle body sees and interacts with it differently, which makes it challenging to describe how it functions and how to resolve dysfunctions.
Over the course of history there have been various traditions that have worked to systemize the workings of the subtle body so that practitioners could discuss dysfunctions and cures. These systems have traditions for teaching and building on prior knowledge. One of these systems is Traditional Chinese Medicine, which covers practices such as acupuncture and Tai Chi. Another is Ayurveda which hails from ancient India. Other traditions that describe the subtle body are Yoga and Reiki, among others.
There are also many modern energy workers and writers who have created systems around their work. Cyndi Dale and Barbara Brennan both have elaborate systems they teach for working and healing the subtle body. Caroline Myss and Anodea Judith both worked to teach the modernized/Westernized chakra system. These energy workers and many others have contributed significantly to the field of energy work.
Despite this long tradition of exploration and description of the subtle body, the reality is that every system/person sees it a little bit differently. There are definitely commonalities between systems and quite a lot of overlapping information. However, nothing quite lines up completely because of the hidden nature of the energy body.
You may know that there have been many studies done about how no two people in a room see the same incident the same way. Each person’s mind interprets what happens and codes it into memory differently. If the human consciousness is able to skew what happens in the physical world so easily, how much easier is it to do with the subtle world of energy? It would be nice if we all could see the energy world the same way, but we don’t. The reality is there is simply going to be a high degree of variability in how we each interact with it, interpret it, and describe it.
So that’s some background that leaves me with this disclaimer: nothing I say here is set in stone. I’m going to tell you my experience working with the layers of the energy body, but what I say will not agree with every other energy worker or system. It’s the nature of the subtle body to be hard to categorize and explain, so there will be differences in what we see and how we work with it. All our systems are correct while at the same time, none of them are. That’s part of the ambiguity of this work that can be challenging. I have read a lot of information about the subtle body from many traditions, so I will attempt to distill the most universal ideas here.
Of all the systems I have read about or practiced, there are some basic similarities. The most common is that the human body is made up of the physical aspect plus a number of layers of energy that surround and permeate the physical body. The most prevalent number of energy layers you will find is seven, which often (but not always) corresponds to the seven chakras. Of those seven basic layers there is usually a physical energy, an emotional energy, a mental energy, a spiritual energy and a karmic energy layer. Sometimes the order is different and sometimes the names are slightly different, but in general these are pretty consistent between energy systems. In the graphic below I show the first layer of the energy body as a circle surrounding the physical body. The remaining layers are represented by arcs simply to save space. You can imagine each layer as a full sphere surrounding the body.
You will notice that I have more than seven layers in this graphic. As I mentioned, seven is the most common number you see, but there are people who work with 8, 10, or 12 layers. Of the people that work with more than the basic 7, the names of the layers vary greatly so I’m not even going to attempt to label them. I usually work with 12 layers (and call them by their number) and sometimes I do some energy work outside that in areas that aren’t necessarily attached to a specific layer.
It’s important to understand the general concept of subtle layers, though, because they are what make energy work so powerful. Modern medicine works with the physical body only. It is very good at diagnosing function and dysfunction on the physical level and prescribing medications that work on the physical level. But what happens if a physical problem has roots in the energy field? What if the problem is physical, emotional, and spiritual? That’s when people get chronic illnesses that medical science cannot resolve because that system doesn’t have access to all the layers of the energy body.
You could argue that psychology works primarily with the mental/emotional layers of the energy field so that now we have medical access to the physical layer plus psychological access to the mental and emotional layers of the energy body. This is true and I’ve written in this blog post about the excellent work being done to mesh psychology and medicine to help people heal. There are still a few problems, though. Although medical doctors and psychologists are becoming more aware of the interactions of these fields (physical, mental, and emotional) many still aren’t trained to integrate them or work with them all at once. Most often patients end up with a psychologist AND a physician doing two different things at two different times rather than working together. It also completely leaves out all other parts of the subtle body which are also important for healing.
Although the modern world is getting better at recognizing that mental, physical, and emotional components can affect health, they still haven’t opened up to all the other layers of the subtle body that affect your overall wellbeing. If you have energy blocks on layers 6, 8, and 11 then medical science has no explanation for what you are experiencing or what to do about it. The subtle body simply isn’t on their radar.
Which takes us to all the other healing modalities out there. The past few decades have shown an exponential increase in the variety of old and new alternative therapies available to promote healing. You can view this all as quakery, or you can see it as systems of working with the subtle body in ways that medical and psychological science simply cannot. These alternative therapies are essentially filling a gap in which people know they need help. They intuitively know that they need to work with more than just the physical body even if they don’t know exactly what that entails.
As mentioned before, energy workers and systems often interact with specific levels of the subtle body. This is partly due to the energy modalities themselves. Each modality accesses the subtle body a little bit differently and works with different layers. In the graphic above, I’ve listed some common healing modalities and placed them according to the layers of the energy body they can access. Acupressure and acupuncture work with the physical body and the first few layers of the energy body. Yoga and Ayurveda work in this range as well. Jin Shin (a form of Japanese acupressure I’ve just started to learn) seems to work primarily on layers 1-3. Emotional Freedom Technique (the EFT tapping I teach) functions best in the mental/emotional layers (2-3). Integrated Energy Therapy (IET, which I also practice) can work up into level 6. Sound and light therapy are hard to categorize, but seem to work best in the lower to middle layers of the energy body. Reiki (another of the modalities I practice) starts on the physical level and generally extends up into layers 7 or 8 (although I have been able to work with it all the way up through the 12th layer). Meditation and visualizations can be used on all levels as can crystal healing.
Now, I don’t want you to think that the range or level that the modality reaches indicates how effective it is. That is absolutely not the case. Each modality is valuable when it is working on the energy level it is intended to work with. If you are trying to use acupressure to heal something on level 10, you will not have a lot of success. If you are trying to use IET to heal a purely physical problem, it won’t be as effective as using a modality intended to work with the physical level.
With this bigger picture of the energy body in our minds, now it is easier to understand:
Why some modalities are effective for one person but not another.
Why modalities can be effective at one time but not another.
Why using (or practicing) a variety of modalities is useful.
What works for any particular problem simply depends on where your energy blocks lie. Let’s look at this graphic again. It includes the 12 layers of the energy body with a number of blobs that represent energy blocks on various levels that need work.
As you can see, there is a physical problem (indicated by a brown blob on the physical body) that is connected to an energetic problem on layers 7 and 8. There’s a big energy block covering layers 6-10 that overlaps the problem on layers 7 and 8. It’s likely that the big issue in 6-10 will need to be healed before the block on 7-8 can be cleared. There are also energetic problems that span several other layers that may or may not be related to the physical problem but definitely need to be addressed. Because there is work to be done on so many levels, effective energy work for this person may include a combination of acupressure/acupuncture, Reiki, and crystal therapies to address all the levels. The acupressure/acupuncture can help to provide immediate relief to the physical body by clearing energy from levels 1-3 while Reiki and crystal therapies can work on the deeper issues that Acupressure/acupuncture can’t reach.
This is why energy work can be complicated. Some people are lucky, and their energy problem exists on only one or two levels which are easy to clear and heal. Most of us are a bit more complicated than that and need some more work. That is why I encourage my clients to try different modalities (including medical care when needed) because it all works together to heal the various layers of the body. It’s also why I practice several modalities myself so I can flexibly move between them to address energy blocks on various levels. As I mentioned above, I’ve started to learn Jin Shin which will help me to access more of that energy on layers 1-3 and bring more immediate relief to my clients.
This is also why it is hard to try one form of energy work and then declare that it works across the board or doesn’t. Whether or not it is helpful to resolve your issues depends entirely on where your blocks lie in the energy body. You might feel better after a few sessions of sound therapy, but if the root of your issues lie in layers that therapy doesn’t access, they will come back. Acupressure might feel great to relieve your itching, but if the itching is the result of some energy blocks in levels 8 and 9, then you’ll eventually have to do deeper work to clear everything.
Another thing to consider is that physical symptoms may look exactly the same between two people (perhaps you are both diagnosed with Grave’s Disease) but the energy blocks behind that physical diagnosis may be completely different. Any physical or energetic work those people need to heal must be customized to fit the energy needs of the subtle body, rather than the diagnosis of the physical body.
So, what does this broad, very general overview of the layers of the energy body tell you? It explains how and why different energy modalities might work at different times for different people. It is the reason why you may feel better with one modality but not be able to completely clear up the issue. It is also why it is so important for you to trust your intuition and try different avenues of healing. Your body/mind simply might be guiding you toward an energy worker or modality that can access the level you need to heal.
Understanding the energy layers also explains why it is good to find an energy worker who has a broader view of how the subtle body works and how to access various parts of it. When I was working with my naturopath about seven years ago, she knew when my issues reached into areas she couldn’t work with effectively and was able to recommend me to others who could address my issues directly. Rather than getting stuck, accessing other practitioners helped me heal more thoroughly.
I work with a variety of modalities that covers a range of energetic layers. This allows me to offer quite a lot of options to my clients to get to the root of their issues. However, I am also fully aware that no one energy worker can do it all, and there are things others have to offer that I cannot provide. Because of this, I always encourage clients to go with their gut and try different things. If you ever meet an energy worker or alternative health practitioner who claims to be able to do it all, I recommend being suspicious.
I hope this overview gives you some encouragement and information to pursue your healing journey in a new way. Trust your intuition and try something you haven’t done before. Maybe it is what you need to get you unstuck and headed in a better direction.
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