People like to think there are certain magical places where universal energies abound. There are many examples. For instance, many people believe that there is a grid of ley-lines that concentrate earth energies in specific areas, connecting these energies to sacred sites such as Stonehenge and the pyramids. Alfred Watkins conceived of the idea of ley-lines, noting that people often noticed these areas of energy convergence by marking them with cairns, stone circles, and sacred buildings such as churches. A similar concept is that of vortexes that consist of swirling earth energy which imparts spiritual and health benefits to those who are sensitive enough to experience it. There are said to be a number of such vortexes in and around Sedona, Arizona. Even without invoking earth energies, outdoor places such as quiet woodlands, majestic mountains and energetic seashores can somehow connect to inner energies to impart a calming and renewing effect. I remember a week-long visit to Alaska years ago during the winter, when there were only a few hours of sunlight each day, and the temperatures were well below zero. During the entire time, I felt a vast looming presence coming from the mountains for the entire time I was there. This presence was both beautiful and terrifying, and I felt as if it were beckoning me to seek it out, despite the cold and the darkness. Toward the end of the trip I ran across a shop that had an Eskimo icon called The Bad Spirit of the Mountain, a tiny mask made of wood, paint and feathers designed to warn children away from the allure of the mountains – the same allure that I experienced. I purchased that icon as a reminder of the presence I felt during that trip, and it still gives me the chills.
Some interior spaces seem to have an aura that can impart an inner sense of calm. Many churches and cathedrals can seem to contain a quiet energy that envelops you are you enter them. If you have ever been on a cave tour when the tour guide turns out the lights and has you stand for awhile in absolute silence, you can experience a sense of oppressive presence in that few moments. They say that people trapped in caves can go insane from the silence, but I wonder if this profound silence can also become a vehicle for deep understanding for those who seek out such places.
There are also places that seem to buzz with creative energy. There are some theatres, artist studios and maker spaces that people describe as magical. Nightclubs can have a vibe in which the entire space seems to crackle with frenetic energy. Whole cities can seem to have a liveliness that is unique to that particular place.
But does this energy really come from the places or does it come from our reaction to those places? When we walk into a room and sense a hum of activity, do we then add our memories and sensations and history to it and assign it to a category in our mind? Two people can walk into the same night club and one will feel energized and excited and the other can find it to be highly threatening. Each may sense an energy, but they interpret it quite differently. And someone who works at that nightclub may actually feel calmed by the environment, because it has become a place he thinks of as his home – a comfortable environment that he knows well and where he feels accepted.
So is the energy we sense in these places actually only a reflection of our own internal energy? Do these places somehow tap into something within, or is the energy we sense – whether a frenetic energy that stimulates us or a calming energy that soothes us – something that actually exists in the environment and is imparted to us be our presence in that place? Or is it some of both?