The aura reflects how awake someone is

I usually don’t go around looking at people’s auras, mainly because it doesn’t serve any obvious purpose. If I need to sense something health-related, a more direct energetic sensing (not using the eyes) is often more effective, precise, and can be done at any distance.

The exception for me is spiritual teachers. When I am in the same physical space as a spiritual teacher, I often check their aura to see how awake their system is.


During the initial awakening phase in my mid-teens, I discovered I could see auras.

One summer day, I sat under a beautiful birch tree reading a book. I looked up, and noticed a light around the leaves. I assumed it was an optical illusion.

In the following days, weeks, and months, I noticed this light around more and more beings and things. It was more simple and closer to inanimate objects. A little more alive and extending a little further out around plants. A bit more around non-human species. And it was a bit different again around humans, and somewhat different for each person.

A few years later, I got to check my seeing with someone else (BH) who could see auras. We sat in the main train station in Oslo, picked out people, looked at their auras, and compared what we saw. In each case, what we saw was the same. (With the exception that she also saw colors and I tend to see awakeness/light.)


How is awakening reflected in the aura?

It’s always difficult to describe something visual with words.

If there isn’t much awakening in the system, the aura is mostly visible relatively closer to the body and around the head, and it’s alive and complex but not so bright or conscious of itself.

If there is some awakening, the aura is a bit lighter and more conscious of itself further away from the body.

If there is a “normal” level of awakening, it’s bright, relatively high frequency, conscious of itself throughout, and appears to extend out indefinitely into all of existence.

The few times I have seen spiritual teachers beyond an “average” level of awakening, the aura is high frequency and very subtle, goes indefinitely out into existence, the aura is awake to itself throughout, and it looks more or less the same close to the body as it does far away from the body.

I should mention that brightness is not the same as awakening. We can do certain practices and have a bright aura or portions of the aura, and it doesn’t mean there is much awakening there. For instance, people who do a lot of tai chi or chigong or similar practices, tend to have a very bright aura close to the body.

The awakening is mostly reflected in the aura being conscious of itself, and it’s difficult to describe in words how that looks. It’s reflected in a certain kind of awakeness in the aura, as opposed to dullness or a kind of sleep.


The seed of this article is remembering an instance from some years ago.

I was a member of the Center for Sacred Sciences in Oregon, and one of the veteran students was pronounced “awake” and made a teacher.

I could see that there was awakeness in his system. It was relatively bright and conscious, and the conscious part did go out quite far from his body. I could also see that a lot was semi-conscious or semi-asleep. Over the following weeks, I also noticed that the brightness and conscious clarity dimmed in his aura.

Some time later, he announced that the awakening wasn’t as stable as he had thought and he would step down as a teacher. This shows honesty and integrity, and perhaps even courage.

And, of course, being in integrity in this way is ultimately easier and more comfortable than pretense.


A note about making people into a teacher just because there is some kind of awakening:

In the traditions I am familiar with, and especially Zen, this would not happen. An awakening shift is a beginning, not a reason to make someone a teacher. Awakening is a process and not (just) binary. It’s something that stabilizes and matures over time.

The noticing stabilizes, deepens, clarifies, and matures. The transformation of our human self within this noticing deepens over time. And living from it also stabilizes, deepens, and matures over time.

Being a teacher requires a lot in addition to awakeness. It requires experience, a certain personality, wisdom, kindness, the ability to guide others, a lot of specific skills. It also requires knowledge about the many ways an awakening process can unfold, and how to support people when they experience some of the many things that can happen in an awakening process. Awakening itself is not sufficient.

The reverse can also be the case. Sometimes – in the case of people with a lot of experience, maturity, kindness, integrity, and good intuition – it’s not even required. They can be good guides for many people even if there isn’t a very high level of awakeness in their system.

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When we notice what we are, it’s relatively easy to recognize this noticing in others

When we notice what we are, it’s relatively easy to recognize this noticing in others.


That is one of the things that was clear when the awakening happened in my teens. It took a while, two or three years, before I found someone. That someone was Meister Eckhart in a book I looked at in the main library in Oslo. I could see that he (mostly) noticed what he was, even if his words were clothed in Christian terminology. Later, I suspected the same when I read some traditional Buddhist masters, although here it was partly camouflaged in tradition and traditional ways of talking about it. Later, I met someone where we immediately recognized it in each other, and this was Hanne Bertelsen (then wife of Jes Bertelsen).

It also became clear to me that people who knew about this mostly through books or teachings, thought that was where I came from when I talked about it. Since they didn’t notice what they were, or didn’t notice it very clearly, they couldn’t recognize it clearly in others. They assumed I was coming from the same place as them.


During the initial awakening, I started seeing energy around people, animals, plants, and inanimate objects. (Different types of auras for each rough category.) And that helped me also more literally see what was going on in people. People who were mostly identified as a human being had an aura that was relatively dense, not very awake, and stretched out only a few meters from the body. People who had done spiritual practice generally had a more vibrant and light-filled aura, the aura was awake further from the body, and the aura itself tended to stretch much further from the body. The more awake, the less dense the aura was, and the awake aura stretched out indefinitely – as if it stretched out through all of existence.

Many years later, when I joined the Center for Sacred Sciences in Oregon, one of the long-time members had an awakening and was made a teacher. (I was surprised that an awakening immediately qualified for being a teacher since a lot more goes into being able to effectively guide others, but that’s another topic.) When I looked at his aura, I saw that it actually wasn’t very awake. And sure enough, a couple of weeks later this person announced that the awakening wasn’t stable and he wouldn’t take on the role as a teacher.


I hesitate writing more personal stories like this, and I also hesitate writing about things like auras.


It’s partly to avoid distractions. Personal stories and awakening side-effects like seeing auras can be a distraction for others. This is not about me or the side effects of awakening.

It may partly be because I love academia, and scientific articles are often written in a style where they pretend there is no person behind the writing and research. (I have never liked that approach and see it as misguided and phony, so I don’t know why I am doing it here…!)

It’s probably partly because I have seen that way of approaching it from Buddhism and other traditions. People in Buddhism rarely talk about their own experiences. They talk about these things in a more general and universal way. Again, probably to avoid distractions.

And finally, it helps me not make it so much about myself in my own mind. What I write about here are mostly universals, so by writing about it in a more universal way I keep myself in the background.

And yet, as a friend of mine wrote recently, we ultimately only know the awakening process from our own experience. So why not include the personal? Why pretend there is no person here with his or her own experiences?

There are many good reasons to make this more personal.

The most obvious one is that it is personal. Awakening may be universal and, in a sense, beyond the personal. And it also happens here in this life. So by not bringing in the personal stories, I leave at least half of it out.

Bringing in the personal grounds it in a life and specifics. We already have the universal, so why not also bring in the unique and individual? Both are equal parts of the whole and the process of awakening and exploring how to live with and from it.

Bringing in the personal can resonate more with others. We can more easily recognize ourselves in it.

It fits our modern western culture better. Buddhism and other Asian spiritual traditions come from a more collectively oriented culture, so it makes sense if they tend to focus on the universal and impersonal and downplay the personal. In our western culture, it makes sense to make it more personal, honest, and transparent.

Cellular structure of the aura

New photos shows the cellular structure of the surface of the sun in more detail. I won’t say much about it but it did remind me of something I discovered early on in my explorations, when I was 19 or 20.

I had connected with Hanne Bertelsen (as she was called then), the then-wife of Jes Bertelsen. I had already seen auras for a few years. She encouraged me to look a little closer at the aura and focus more directly on it. And, to my surprise, I saw the cellular structure of the aura.

I could have seen it all along but had focused more on the global impression of the aura – and especially how it reflects awakeness or lack of it – and overlooked the more close-up and detailed view.

The cells in these new photos of the sun are quite similar to the cellular structure of the aura, at least as it looks to me.

It’s not very important in itself but fun to notice. And although different people tend to see slightly different aspects of the aura, this may be something we can more easily check with others – which can help us trust what we see.

The etheric body: how it looks different depending on our practice

I started seeing energies when I was fifteen. And when I started doing tai chi and chigong in my late teens, I noticed that the etheric body – the part of the aura that is closest to the physical body – was bright, strong, and relatively dense for people who had done a lot of tai chi, chigong, yoga, and similar practices.

Now, when I use Vortex Healing for my etheric body, it has a slightly different result. My etheric body is more clear, less dense, and extend a few centimeters further out from the physical body.

One is not “better” than the other. Through movement-oriented mindfulness practices, we become more aware of our physical body and embody it more fully and more consciously, and that’s reflected in the brightness and density. Through Vortex Healing, we clear and optimize the etheric body, which makes it look a bit different.

When it comes to how far from the physical body the etheric body extends, I would say 1-1.5cm through body-centered practices, and 2-3cm after Vortex Healing. That’s just what seems typical and what I have noticed from my own system.

My story with seeing energies (auras)

I have a few of these posts where I talk about more esoteric topics that are less directly related to healing or awakening. 

I don’t remember the exact timeline anymore. When I was 15, something happened for almost exactly a year where I experienced the world as far away. Looking back, I see that the sense of “I” was pulled into or as the observer and separate from what was observed. I didn’t understand what was happening and went to doctors who also could not figure it out. About a year later, there was a more full-blown revelation of reality to itself. Everything was revealed as the divine and experienced by the divine. 

Somewhere in that period – I think it was the summer when I was 15 – I sat outside reading a book. I remember looking up at the trees and noticing a brightening outside of the edge of the leaves against the clear blue sky. I didn’t think much about it and assumed it was an optical illusion. 

Later, I kept seeing this light around plants. And people and animals. And also around inanimate objects. I would have assumed it was an optical illusion if there wasn’t for one thing: The light area around objects was different for different types of objects. It was quite simple and not so alive around inanimate objects. It extended further out and was more alive around plants. It extended further out and was more alive and had layers around animals. And it extended even further out and was more alive and more layered around humans. 

It was, and is, easier to see it against a plain and light background, but it’s not essential. It can be seen independent of background and lighting. 

From noticing the difference in the field around inanimate objects, plants, animals, and humans, I realized that the field reflects the degree of consciousness, self-awareness, and awakeness of whatever or whomever it’s around. 

Over the next few years, I met two women who themselves were relatively awake and saw auras. They both helped me feel more comfortable with it, and less crazy…! One was Hanne Bertelsen (she since changed last name), and she also helped me notice the cells in the aura. When I focus more directly on the aura, I see that it has cells. The other was my friend BH whom I met in a Tai Chi class. I remember sitting with her at the train station, looking at people’s auras, and comparing notes. We saw the same. 

Early on, I realized that people who see energies tend to see different aspects of it. We may tune in to something slightly different. And it can also change over time. (I only once saw colors clearly, and it was in a Tai Chi class.) 

For me, it’s easiest to see how awake the energy field is, how awake it is to itself, and how far it extends. For most humans, there is some self-awareness reflected in the field although much of it can be relatively dense and not awake. In an early awakening phase, after some big openings, the energy field is more awake and can be very bright. Later, as the awakening clarifies and matures, the field becomes more subtle, awake throughout, and it extends out indefinitely

This can be helpful when meeting a spiritual teacher. I get a sense of how awake they are (yes, I know, it’s not a “they” to be awake), how mature the awakening is, and sometimes what type of practices they have used. (For instance, meditation tends to bring the level of awakeness up through the energy field. And more body-oriented practices tend to brighten the layer closest to the body.)  

It can also be interesting to see the effects of certain things on the energy field. For instance, during Vortex Healing classes, the energy level in and around people and in the room as a whole is off the chart. And as I keep doing Vortex courses, I notice a very clear difference in my own energy field – it’s more subtle, brighter, and more awake. 

One of my favorite things about seeing auras is that it’s an immediate reminder that all is divine, and all is the divine. Inanimate objects, plants, animals, and humans are not only divine, but are the divine. 

This is also one of the things I rarely mention and only a few know this about me. (The ones who do are mostly people who see energies themselves.) Why don’t I mention it very often? Because it’s usually not relevant. It’s not necessary. In mainstream society, it’s seen as weird (at best!). And if people know about it they may see people who see auras as special and that too is unnecessary.  

Why do I mention it here? For the sake of completeness and filling out the picture, to normalize it a bit, and it can be helpful for others who just noticed they can see it. 

And can everyone see auras? I suspect it’s something most of us or all of us can to some extent, especially if noticed and trained. I am not sure. 

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Side effects

I usually don’t talk about the bells and whistles that may go along with a process of Spirit noticing itself through a human life. And I also notice it doesn’t feel right to always leave it out, especially since someone may go through those things, happen upon this blog, and benefit from knowing it’s not uncommon at all.

So I’ll say a few things about my experiences here.

Initial opening/awakening phase. During this phase, several things happened. First, for about a year, there was a sense of being absorbed into the witness. The center of gravity shifted into the witness and (seemingly) away from what was witnessed, the content of awareness. This was quite disturbing in a sense, since I had no idea what was going on. I was a die-hard atheist at the time with no interest in Spirituality or God. I even went to the doctor to have tests to see if we could figure out what was going on. (I was 15 at the time.)

Then, there was a shift into Spirit recognizing itself as everything there is, with no exception. Some time into this, I remember sitting in the garden reading a book, looking up at the sky and the trees, and noticing a shine around the leaves on the tree above me. For a while, I thought it was some sort of optical illusion, until I – reluctantly (!) – realized it must be the energy field or aura of the tree. I then saw it in and around everything – inanimate objects (a simple aura at the global level), plants (an aura reflecting the aliveness of the plants), animals (more alive/complex aura) and humans (again more complex). Seeing this energy field in and around everything was yet another reminded that all is Spirit, all is God, all is awareness/awakeness. Along with this came what I later heard was called medical intuition, and the possibility of inviting in healing (getting a sense of what was going on, where it wanted to move to find healing, and inviting in changes at the “blueprint” level of the organism or being.)

Seeing auras has been helpful in seeing where spiritual teachers are at, how and in what way Spirit is awake to itself there. And I haven’t done much with the medical intuition/healing bit, mostly because I rarely talked about it so few asked for it, and also because it was clear that the cause/origin of illness or discomfort is at the level of how we relate to thought, so my interest instead went to different forms of meditation and inquiry.

During this phase, there were also a constant stream of synchronicities, often so others notice as well, and again as another reminder that all is Spirit. It’s a seamless whole, and movements within this whole appears as synchronicities. This too continues.

Diksha. I’ll mention another episode here that may be of interest. Some years back, I explored diksha. My memory of this is a bit fuzzy, so I’ll just mention a few things here. As I stood up after the initial session, there was a sense of something trickling from my head down the body, and of the body becoming translucent. This was followed by some days of a splitting and intense headache. A few days later, I walked in a forest (I was on a sustainability retreat) at night in the pitch dark, seeing the vegetation lit up and the path dark so it was easy to find my way (seeing all as energy was amplified). My companion could see anything and was surprised I could find my way.

A few days later, I was on my bed listening to the radio (Car Talk!) and my body started moving, twisting and shaking. The mechanism that connects intention and movement seemed disconnected, so there was just an observing of what was happening. This went on for 20 minutes or so. Again a few days later, “I” woke up in the middle of the night during a thunder storm, and there was just awareness and what was happening, with no awareness of anybody that this experience belonged to. After a few minutes, there was awareness of a body in the bed, and slowly and gradually, a thought that this awareness somehow was connected to this body, and then gradually a remembering that this was a human and more specific information.

During this time, attention became very stable during meditation. For instance, I would have on music to explore how thoughts tie together images of past, future and present, and it all fell apart. There was just sound, and not even that label, and nothing to tie images/memories of past, present and future sound into what could be called “music”. When I tried the indestructible crash helmet headless experiment, any sense of “I” fell away – apart from as an image not identified with anymore – and this lasted for about six months. My daily life went on as before, just without any possibility of identifying as an I. And this was followed by health problems and a quite dark dark night, showing me what was left at the human level.

Notes. These types of things seem quite ordinary and common in such a process. For some, it happens to a great extent. For others, almost not at all. And for most, it happens  during certain phases and less at other times. I suspect it’s just part of the mechanics of the process. Some of it – auras, synchronicities – is a reminder that all is Spirit. And some of it shows me what’s left. It brings up thoughts and beliefs, I get to see them, and can take them to inquiry. I may think it’s special, or that “I” am special, or it means something special. I may think that others will see me as weird, that it’s better to not say anything about it. I may think it means something is going right, or that something is wrong. And I am invited to question those thoughts, and find what’s more true for me.


A friend of mine recently asked about seeing auras, and I mentioned a few things about it.

There is a lot that can be said about it, as with any topic. And although it’s part of my everyday life, I usually don’t mention it in conversations or here. It’s more in the background, part of everyday experience. So to go contrary to my tendency, I can share a few things I notice.

For me, it’s mainly a reminded that all beings and things are Spirit. Form is Spirit. If the tip of the iceberg is the individual variations in the energy field, the main part of the iceberg is this reminder that everyone and everything already is Spirit.

It seems that different facets of the energy field is apparent to different people, and it may change over time. For me, it’s how aware the field is of itself that’s most obvious. It may be awake to itself throughout from the body and out through infinity, and I have noticed this with some folks like Adyashanti and Byron Katie. It may be relatively unawake to itself, almost asleep or dreaming (most folks). Or somewhere in between (most folks on a spiritual path). Again, this facet of the individual aura belongs to the tip of the iceberg, while the main part is shared and a reminder that everyone and everything is Spirit.

Both beings – animals, humans, plants – and inanimate objects have auras. All, without exception, are Spirit. It’s all awareness, whether it’s awake to itself or not. And it all appears as a form of light. I know this may sound a bit new agey, and it’s also the best way I can describe an immediate experience, how it appears in immediacy. Matter is Spirit is awareness is (a form of) light.

All auras stretch out infinitely, whether it’s awake to itself or not. This is perhaps not surprising since it’s all Spirit. It’s quite dense close to the body, especially for people who do body-centered activities such as yoga or tai chi, and some forms of sensation-oriented meditation. Then, there is a layer reflecting more emotional and mental activity. And beyond that is what’s often called spirit, what awakens to itself when we find ourselves as that which all happens within and as (awareness, capacity). (For me, it’s all Spirit.)

I notice – from myself and others – that during the initial awakening phase, illumination, the aura is often quite bright and luminous. For me, the energy field and my body was golden light during this phase. There may also be an inflow from above through the top of the head. And there is a sense that the energy field has more substance. I assume this helps the human self reorganize. And it reflects an early honeymoon phase. As this matures, sometimes following a dark night, this light becomes more clear, almost as clear air or water.

What’s the purpose of seeing auras for me? As I mentioned, it’s mainly an immediate and direct reminder that all is Spirit. I sometimes use it to check a teacher, to get a sense of where he or she is at. And I sometimes do the same for myself, to get a sense of what’s going on for me. (Using it this way, there is usually no surprise.) It can also be fun to notice the effects of different practices as reflected in changes in the aura. It may get brighter, or more awake to itself, or stabilize or reorganize itself a bit. In my late teens, the biggest surprise for me was seeing the effect of the Heart Prayer on the aura. After even just a brief period of heart prayer, looking at myself in the mirror, I saw a bright “flame” on the top of my head, similar to what’s depicted in some paintings of the disciples after the Holy Spirit descended. It’s perhaps not so surprising since it goes along with a noticeable activity/sensations on the top of the head, and also in the heart area.

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I enjoy noticing the different flavor of auras, especially since they tend to mirror experience.

For instance, when what we are is awake to itself, the aura is uniform throughout (no center-periphery difference), the aura is infinite (as it is for all of us), and all areas of the field are awake to itself. And this mirrors the experience of center dropping out, infinity, and awakeness awakening to itself throughout the field.

When what we are is not awake to itself, there is a clear center-periphery difference in the field, and many areas – including and especially those more in the periphery – are as asleep, dormant, not awake to itself.

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Light – not just a metaphor

At the retreat last week, one of the participants quoted from a book describing seeing people and things as light. Joel said it is a metaphor, but is that really so?

I find that much of what may appear as a metaphor is really the most direct way of talking about certain experiences. Emptiness is really a noticing of the no-thingness that everything comes out of and is. Luminosity is really luminosity. The luminous blackness is really experienced as black.

In these cases, it is experienced quite directly as empty, luminous and a luminous blackness.

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Auras and sense of center

For those who can see auras, this can be a valuable check. Otherwise, it doesn’t really matter. (And can easily be a distraction, if it is seen as something special and/or desirable.)

Our energy system perfectly mirrors consciousness. They are really just two aspects of the same, which is why an wakening can be initiated from either side, and the other side follows.

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