How one woman’s search for deeper meaning and connection reveals a key energetic ingredient that she calls CHARGE
What makes us truly alive?
Ever since I was a small child, I’ve been asking some form of that question. What is it that makes people tick? Why do people do what they do? Why do we have good days and bad? Why do some succeed while others fail, even when they’re from the same family, with the same set of genes and socio-economic status?
I have also been a passionate seeker of aliveness in myself, courting it like a lover, embracing its fleeting moments until I could finally establish a long-term relationship. That took years of my own therapy, scores of workshops and trainings, a truckload of self-help books, and a persistent fascination with how the life force flows through us.
I didn’t find my answers in graduate school, even though I dutifully went through all my courses. I didn’t find it in the self-help books, even though I’ve made my career reading and writing them. Nor did I find it searching for the meaning of life.
But when I truly felt alive — fully living through the sensate, intelligent miracle of my body — the meaning of life was obvious.
It was to fully engage with life itself, through our own bodies, here on this earth, in this glorious moment of now. This is as potent a spiritual experience as meditating on a cushion, (something I also do) yet infinitely more challenging.
As I look at humanity, in all its trials and tribulations, I see that our natural aliveness has been diminished. Living disconnected from our bodies, in work that is often meaningless, shut down from our emotions, with so many people in post-traumatic stress, I see a veiled search for that aliveness. Maybe it’s the ubiquity of coffee shops promising that jolt of energy, or the zooming rates of anxiety and depression, trying to manage that energy, or the violence and addiction that comes from the inability to control that energy, but it seems that everywhere, something is terribly wrong. What are we missing?
The gold of my own journey took place through finding my way back to my body.
Growing up in the 50’s, post World War II shell-shocked society of middle America, I suffered the usual slings and arrows of a dysfunctional childhood. Like everyone else around me, I went to school, and learned to curb my life force by sitting still at a desk for six hours a day, mastering small movements with a pencil. And like everyone around me, I had to shut down. But even more, I was oblivious to the fact that I was shut down. It just seemed normal. Finding my way back to my body changed all that.
Wanting to make a difference for others, I became a bodyworker, then a somatic psychotherapist, then a yoga teacher, workshop leader and writer of many books on chakras, energy, yoga, and social change. I’ve traveled the world and taught in dozens of cultures on most every continent on the planet.
Through all of my work I’ve seen a pervasive thread that ties everything together. It is perhaps the unifying force that physicists search for, the quintessential ingredient within spiritual experience, the bedrock of emotion, the energy of love made manifest. Everyone has it, yet we are all searching for it. It is both elusive and obvious, subtle and potent, practical yet profound.
I call this energy CHARGE, my word for the life force that runs through each one of us.
I think of it as an acronym for Consciousness Having a Really Genuine Experience.
When we have a charge about something, we know it.
Whether it’s anger or excitement, pleasure or fear, this energy sharpens awareness, tingles our senses, and animates our body. It is then shaped by our psyche, and either expressed through our words and actions or blocked and stored in our tissues.
The more I examined this mysterious essence, the more it appeared to be what people were seeking, but no one was naming it. We want mental health, but that only describes half the problem. We want physical health as well, and that describes the other half. But how do we put these two realms together?
Just as the hardware and software in your computer can only operate when you send electricity through the system, your mind and body are connected through the energy that flows through you.
In your computer, the programming that’s found in the software basically tells that energy where to go in the hardware and where not to go. It says pick up the letter Q or the color red, or arrange your electrons to browse this website. This creates your experience.
In the same way, the programming in your mind tells your life force where to go or not go in your body. It may say things like:
“Sit up straight, people are looking at you.”
“Don’t open your heart, it’s not safe,”
“Hold back your emotions, or you’ll look weak,”
“Don’t open your mouth, you’ll say something stupid.”
“Smile! You’re supposed to be nice.”
And then that programming shuts down the natural flow of your charge, and locks it up in various parts of your body, your emotions, or your behaviors and habits. And there it remains, locked up and inaccessible. I call that “binding the charge.” It is tied up in knots, like a brown paper package.
The result? Bodies that hurt or put on weight; minds that can’t focus, emotions that are either too numb or leak out too strongly, and epidemic levels of anxiety and depression.
All of this can be addressed by skillfully freeing the charge from its bound up state, sending it through the muscles and tissues of the body, and allowing it to illuminate the mind with insight and awareness.
Throughout my life I’ve helped people find their way back to their bodies and reclaim their power. I’ve helped them activate their chakras, energy centers in the body that receive, assimilate, store, and transmit charge. Each of the chakras handles charge in a different way, from the fight or flight of the first chakra, to the realization and awakening of the crown.
What I’ve found is that charge needs to be balanced for us to feel healthy and productive. We naturally charge and discharge through our day, from the simple act of inhaling and exhaling 20 times a minute, to the rhythms of eating, resting, working and playing. But some people find themselves using dysfunctional ways to balance their charge, such as raging at their kids or spouse or working to exhaustion, while others use drugs or television to stay numb and keep their charge locked up. Some people have too much and are unable to settle or be still, while others barely have enough to get out of bed in the morning.
Once you understand the concept of charge and how it works, it becomes as plain as the nose on your face. You will marvel that you didn’t see it before. Learning about charge is the place to start. Say hello to that life force when it comes barreling through you. Make friends with it. Learning ways to consciously charge and discharge helps you stay in balance. But learning to harvest that charge into your tissues is where the real aliveness takes place. And that is its own reward.