Why Explaining Energy is Hard (And What To Do About It)

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A week ago at Energy Geek, I realized that about half the class wasn’t getting it.

What weren’t they getting? They got the energy exercises and games. They could follow each technique. But they didn’t see why we were doing it. They didn’t get the impact.

Which means I wasn’t explaining it.

For the past year, I’ve been teaching myself to speak: How to explain my work to someone unfamiliar with it. And as I started thinking about how to explain Energy Geek, I recalled a concept that helped it all make sense: Inferential distance.

One inferential step is anything a person can figure out right now, based on what they know, in a single insight. For someone who knows nothing about energy healing, for example, a single inferential step might be, “Living cells seem to emit this biofield energy. Depending on the state of the cells (healthy, inflamed, infected, etc), they seem to emit a different type of biofield energy.”

Anything one inferential step away will be easy to understand. The person might not agree with the statement, but they won’t be confused by it.

A concept that’s two inferential steps away can still be understood. They require the listener to figure out the intermediate step, which takes effort but is usually doable. With a single step, it’s often possible to work backwards and figure out the missing insight. If you’ve ever encountered ideas that were challenging but ultimately graspable, they were probably two inferential steps away for you.

Once a concept is three or more inferential steps away, it becomes inaccessible. The listener can’t work backwards, because there’s more than one insight between what they know and what I said. It just doesn’t work.

The problem is, my concept of energy is several inferential steps away for many energy workers. Here’s why:

When I say “energy,” I mean biofield energy, also called chi or prana, a thing emitted by cells that exists out in the world whether a person is aware of it or not. But most classes teach energy as a combination of attention, emotional intuition, and biofield energy, using all those meanings interchangeably, without even mentioning that they’re different phenomena. It’s all just “energy.”

Exercises where you stare into your partner’s eyes to “feel their energy”? That’s emotional intuition. (I’ve now spent a year exploring how to feel a partner’s biofield energy without seeing their eyes and face, and it’s a thoroughly different, much more difficult exercise.)

Meditations where you visualize distractions, then send them away? That’s attention. (For the past year, I’ve used biofield energy to help friends focus. Again, it’s a thoroughly different, much more difficult technique.)

(All of that seems simple enough, right? But look at the steps: First I explained what “biofield energy” is. Then I explained that the word “energy” often refers to a combination of phenomena. Then I gave examples, and explained my relevant experiences. Skip any of those steps, and people get lost.)

I’m realizing, the word energy means something different to me than it does to many students. From the very start of the conversation, we are too many inferential steps apart to communicate easily.

And understanding that, I feel I’m already halfway to a solution.

(I’m actually partway through listing and organizing all the inferential steps I’ll need to explain. I’m a bit exhausted, but I’m also hopeful at the progress I’m making.)

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