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Non-Fiction in Review: Positive Energy

Positive Energy
Judith Orloff, MD
2004, New York: Harmony Books

Because of the myriad influences in Goddess spirituality, at times I find myself in a quandary to know precisely what audience I am addressing at Matrifocus. And as a reviewer, I am always inserting my life experiences and biases so that the audience will know the source of my opinionated thoughts on these books. I am a Witch — a name that I very deliberately chose to describe my relationship to Goddess. To me, calling myself a Witch rather than Wiccan, pagan, or Goddess woman, connotes a way of looking at and being in the world. I embrace an intentionally controversial term because to me, being a Witch is not a part-time avocation: it is a term that encompasses my worldview, my cosmology, my foundation, my politics, my way of relating to other people and beings, and my view of healing and the body. And as a Witch, I also intentionally work with and manipulate energy in ritual and magic.

In a succinct and articulate article, M. Macha NightMare explains "The 'W' Word, or Why We Call Ourselves Witches." She talks about the continuum of American practice, and says that:

"Somewhere in the middle, intersecting at different points in individual lives and in the cultural phenomena that comprise contemporary American Witchcraft, are the influences of many other sources. There are Goddess Spirituality women, who do not necessary work magic, nor work within the forms of what we have come to known as Witchcraft. They may not ritualize in the same ways (and the ways are multitudinous) as we Witches do. They may not or may not create ritual at all. For instance, they may not invoke deity. They may have little or no concern for Elements, Quarters, and their correspondences."

And I add, whereas many Goddess women do not consciously work with energy, many of us do. [NightMare, 1998]

I have friends who consciously avoid ritual and raising energy because they find it so overwhelming. Some of these same women are exquisitely sensitive to stimuli (or, in this context, energy), as shown by Elaine Aron's pioneering work on the highly sensitive person [Aron]. Other women (and my cat), revel in energy. No matter where on the continuum we may fall in our personal practice, I believe all of us could benefit from learning more about subtle energy and how to work with it. With better tools in our magic backpacks, perhaps some of the women who think they don't like ritual would find it more enjoyable (or perhaps, with the same tools, the ritual creators would plan better rituals). Certainly the highly sensitive among us — those whom Orloff calls "intuitive empaths" — can find ways to engage and master our own energy with this experiential approach.

In her introduction, Judith Orloff states,

"While Westerners may consider subtle energy esoteric or New Age, it's been central to many healing traditions for millennia. Subtle or universal energy has been called such names as chi, prana, rhua, holy spirit, manna, ether, orgone, biomagnetism, and zeropoint by various cultures that recognize this energy as being equated with both breath and Spirit." [Orloff, p. 7]

A board-certified psychiatrist, Orloff says that "Western science is (belatedly) catching on" to what most of the rest of the world has known for a long time.

This imminently practical book sets forth ten prescriptions, with a chapter devoted to each:

1. Awaken your intuition and rejuvenate yourself
2. Find a nurturing spiritual path
3. Design an energy-aware approach to diet, exercise, and health
4. Generate positive emotional energy to counter negativity
5. Develop a heart-centered sexuality
6. Open yourself to the flow of creativity and inspiration
7. Celebrate the sacredness of laughter, pampering, and the replenishment of retreat
8. Attract positive people and situations
9. Protect yourself from energy vampires
10. Create abundance

Because I think our readership is full of highly sensitive, intuitive empaths, I think Orloff's information is vital. Check out this quiz, a mixture of questions from the book and website, and see where you score:

Are You an Intuitive Empath?

"Ask yourself:
* Have you ever been placed next to someone at a dinner party who seems pleasant, but suddenly you're nauseous, have a pounding headache, or feel drained?
* Are you uncomfortable in crowds, even go out of your way to avoid them?
* Do you get easily over-stimulated by people or prefer being alone?
* When someone is distressed or in physical pain, do you start feeling it too?
* Have you been labeled as overly sensitive?
* Do you get anxious in packed elevators, airplanes, or subways?
* Are you hypersensitive to noise, scents, or excessive talking?
* When you see gruesome newscasts, does your energy plummet?
* Do you get burned out by groups, require lots of time alone to revive?

Tally your responses. If you've answered 'yes'to one or more questions, it's likely you have experienced intuitive empathy. Responding 'yes' to every question indicates empathy plays an active role in your life. If you're still unsure, take some time to notice how you relate to people one-to-one or in groups. It may require slowing such interactions down to become more aware of your style of processing energy. When learning to center yourself, this information is essential." [Orloff, p. 29]

So you scored highly? This book will give you ideas of how you can protect and revitalize yourself.

Just as with each of the prescriptions, this book gives background and very specific criteria by which to judge each energetic situation. An example is Chapter 1, outlining the first prescription on awakening intuition and rejuvenating yourself. This chapter lists signs of positive and negative energy in people. In each of the chapters, this book lists specific instructions and exercises for making changes in one's life.

The book contains interviews from numerous famous people who explain the ways in which they use energy-managing techniques. I found Orloff's constant reminders about her credentials and the stars with whom she works to be somewhat tedious, but otherwise, this is the best book I've seen on taking care of ourselves by using subtle energy consciously and intentionally — no matter what we call ourselves or how we use energy in our practice. I close with a quote from Dr. Orloff that we Goddess women can take to heart:

"Here is a basic law of energy: To realize your dreams, you must give them some breathing room. Do the footwork — but also stand back a little, let the universe work its magic." [Orloff, p. 80]

So be it.


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