Have you been to a concert hall before the concert? Did you notice how somber the room felt before the show? How charged it felt during? How did it feel after everyone left? That’s energy!! It can be as subtle as silence or as bracing as an ocean wave.
Most people can tell when someone is angry or joyous. A smile, laugh, scream, or shout alert us to these things, but we may also feel a radiance or pushing away. I believe we all sense energy, if only at a subconscious level.
In magic we learn to sense this energy on a much deeper level. We don’t control the energy, but we try to direct it. In ritual this takes the form of setting an intention, raising energy, and containing that energy until we are ready to release it to be transformed by the universe.
In ritual, where do you find yourself? Are you close to the center (fire), out toward the edges, or maybe somewhere betwixt? How do you perceive the ritual? Are you into the story, focused on the group, or thinking about the grocery shopping? These are all things to be aware of as they shape your view of the ritual. This becomes more important if you wish to become deeply involved in the work, rather than a casual attendee.
There are several skills you will need to acquire before beginning deeper energy work. You should have a firm grasp on grounding and centering and ritual basics. You want to have the ability to observe the circle as if you were outside looking in. For this skill I will refer you to “The Earth Path” by Starhawk. Specifically, you want to be able to drop into what she calls “dropped and open.” What you are doing is dropping your focus from your conscious mind into your heart or solar plexus. This gets you out of ordinary reality, but not deep enough that you can’t function or act. From there you can do various jobs in ritual. You can move around the circle and sense weak spots in the container and send energy to try and shore up those spots, sit and sense the energy tides, move around the circle helping to carry the chant that builds the energy, help “stir” the energy as the cone begins to form, or an endless number of other things.
A few words of warning from someone who’s had to learn the hard way: Your first time sensing energy shouldn’t be in a dark place. So no underworld or healing rituals (or - shudder - both at the same time). There is another station in ritual known as anchor/deep witness/aspecting. I won’t go into detail, but it’s not something I’m comfortable with, so I certainly wouldn’t recommend it for the beginner. If you’re interested, a Google search will turn up information.
I can’t reiterate enough how comfortable you need to be with grounding and centering. When you start working with energy your perspective shifts. What you didn’t notice before, you will. When you start trying to shore up holes in the energy container, you will likely lose the ability to concentrate on the ritual. Your focus goes entirely to patching, and it may feel like the world is sitting on your shoulders. Chant was what got me through this and gave me the focus and energy to send. I also don’t recommend trying to stay in this state for an entire ritual until you get used to it. 5-15 mins. is plenty to drain you.
It’s important that you are self-aware. Know your strengths and weaknesses and keep things as aligned as you can. For this I highly recommend doing work with the Iron Pentacle. This is difficult work. It’s taken me many years to get to where I sense anything, so be patient with yourself. Don’t be afraid to stretch beyond your comfort zone a little. Know where you are going, what you are doing, and have a plan to back off if things become too intense.