I’ve been thinking a lot about energy lately. Which immediately makes me a little concerned, because my background tended to involve a lot of rigorous analytical work, and anytime someone started talking about “energy”, that meant it was time to let my eyes glaze over and start thinking about something more interesting.

Fifteen years ago, I was concluding a career in software development, and pursuing a keen interest in skepticism. I was really enamored with the skeptical movement and pursuing it not only as a way of life, but also a possible career path. I loved good, rigorous critical thinking, I loved debunking myths and shoddy thinking, and so I thought this would be a pretty good career path for me.

From that stance, the energy I brought into the world was that of a skeptic. When I talk about “the energy” I brought, I’m really talking about the way of being underneath everything I did.

That energy of skeptic manifested in a bunch of different ways. For example, my forehead often displayed a frown, and my left eyebrow was often raised up in scrutiny. To this day, I have a wrinkle in my brow ridge that is a mark of that energy, like a mountain eroded away by the energy of a river.

Emotionally, I manifested that energy by being fairly neutral. Emotions don’t make a great deal of sense on an analytical level, and they could easily be manipulated, so I was fairly placid. If people were being charitable, they might say I was stoic. If they weren’t, they would describe me as cold, aloof and distant.

I remember once walking downtown, and a woman approached me. She told me I was an attractive looking man, and asked if I was interested in hearing about a project she was working on. I listened, patiently, and then asked her what she was trying to sell me, since I knew there was always a catch.

She paused, and then let me know that if that was the way I was relating to her, it was okay, I probably wasn’t the person she was looking for, and continued on.

I left that interaction proud of myself for standing my ground. Maybe she was out to get something from me. Maybe she had a genuine offer. Whether she was trying to fleece me isn’t the point — the point is that the energy I was embodying left no room for any of that to get in. I couldn’t be taken advantage of, but I also couldn’t receive anything. I was immune to the world, but also impervious to it.

My energy was closed — it was one of scrutiny, criticism, and looking beyond what was presented to the “truth” I was certain lay underneath.

Our energy shapes our physicality, the way we interact with the world, and the way the world can interact with us.

If you carry with you the energy that you are unlovable or unforgivable (for whatever transgressions you’re holding on yourself), your physicality will take on that shape.

Your eyes will reflect the harsh judgment with which you hold yourself. And because that’s the way you hold yourself, that will also become the way you hold the rest of the world. Unable to forgive yourself, that becomes the lens you relate to everything through. Unforgiving, unrelenting.

What is the physical shape of someone that is unwilling and unable to forgive themselves and others? We could imagine the weight of someone carrying that kind of burden all of their lives. Their shoulders may start to slump. It may become harder to hold their heads up tall and straight. Their chest may cave inwards.

Perhaps their body may hold a lot of weight, as a form of punishing themselves, or even as a means to avoid having to feel the unforgivable guilt they’ve imposed on themselves. (Overeating can be an excellent numbing agent.)

As you can see, there’s no rule here. For one person, the manifestation of a particular shape of energy may be carrying excess weight, for another person, it may look like a lack of nutrition — excessively skinny.

What’s interesting isn’t some kind of rule that tells us what lies beneath, but rather, the personal journey to explore that (which is kind of antithetical to having a rule to follow).

If the energy you carry with you is that you cannot trust your own impulses and desires, then we could imagine seeing that energy manifested in a number of ways. Physically, your body may be stiff and locked up — held in rigid control, in order to ensure that your lack of trustability is never given too much free reign.

You may look over your shoulders a lot, or have eyes that dart to and fro, maintaining vigilance for whatever you don’t feel safe around, or to ensure that no one sees the places where you’ve given your impulses some freedom and are worried they are going to come back and bite you. Your thoughts may do the same, constantly monitoring your thinking for that which may be dangerous, and quelling it before it can get out of control. You may find yourself anxious or busy-minded.

You may exhibit habits like drinking, or substance abuse, because they provide the only access to the freedom you yearn for internally (and have imprisoned through all your control).

The interesting thing is that our attempts to change ourselves tend to be focused on the external manifestation of the energy that lies within. We go and see chiropractors to straighten out our spine and bring us back into alignment, but we never get down to the root of the energy that has us slumping in the first place.

We create rules and regulations to follow so that we don’t abuse substances anymore, failing to see that this is just yet another manifestation of the same energy that got us to abuse our vices in the first place.

Using all of this to diagnose someone else is missing the point. The opportunity is to look within, and notice the manifestation of the energy you carry within and bring to the world.

The heart of the work starts when you practise loving and being okay with the way you show up, because only then can you start to get genuinely curious about the energy that lies beneath. As long as you hold that the way you show up is wrong and needs to be changed, you can never truly be curious — your curiosity is secondary to discovering how to stop doing what you think is wrong about you.

Love yourself, and the shape you currently bring into the world — and only then, start to get curious about the energy underneath that might be shaping these patterns.

That’s where transformation lies.