The Power Within

A belief that people are part of an energy force field that can be
manipulated for greater health and well-being is an old idea. Once thought
hopelessly outdated, this approach to healing is enjoying a renaissance
in hospital settings and beyond.

March 2008

By Patrick Dougherty

Qigong, Reiki, chakra balancing. The healing power of these and many other popular holistic practices and imperceptible energies that cannot be completely verified by science have garnered millions of faithful followers—while spawning new, intriguing exploratory ways of using energy to heal.
Chi, qi, prana, mana, huna and other monikers associated with these practices spanning cultures, continents and millennia may all refer to the same ineffable life force. Across the diverse array of energy-based therapies, the definition of this life force remains consistent: a mystical, unseen power that flows through us; an energy field that surrounds us; and the very spirit that defines who we are.

Far out? Maybe. But as quantum physics advances the notion that even the most solid of objects—including the human body—is in fact pulsing with energy, potential healing applications based on energy manipulation seem even more plausible.

“Historically, western thinking denied the existence of energy and western scientists specifically focused on proving that energy was not real,” says Matthew B. James, MA, DCH, who teaches the ancient Hawaiian energy healing practice known as Huna (www.huna.com). “Today, modern science acknowledges the existence and importance of energy and increasingly recognizes the connections between energy and matter.”

Entering the Mainstream

Modern medicine is only starting to quantify the results of energy healing through standard studies. Scientists believe that therapies such as Reiki, one of the best-known practices, may help ease stress, pain and anxiety, and promote muscle relaxation and wound healing (Nursing Clinics of North America 6/07). One small but intriguing study has even indicated that Reiki may help improve mental functioning among people with mild Alzheimer’s (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 11/06).

Many hospitals and clinics aren’t waiting to accumulate years of research—they’re already offering energy work. “Patients are requesting this type of work,” says Aurora Ocampo, RN, MA, a Clinical Nurse Specialist and Reiki practitioner at Continuum Center for Health and Healing at New York City’s Beth Israel Medical Center. “I use Reiki treatment for all the patients I see. It achieves dramatic results in the hospital setting, especially for pain management after surgery. Even though these

Finding the Force

The term “energy work” covers dozens of practices, some of which are only starting to achieve any public awareness. However some therapies have achieved at least some level of popularity and organization (including, in some cases, certification and/or registration of practitioners).
Three such practices include:

* Healing Touch—Certified Healing Touch Practitioners (CHTPs) use gentle touching to, as their website puts it, “support your natural ability to heal”; contact Healing Touch International (www.healingtouch.net, 303-989-7982).

* Polarity Therapy—Registered Polarity Practitioners (RPPs) manipulate specific points to influence the Human Energy Field, defined by their website as “electromagnetic patterns expressed in mental, emotional and physical experience”; contact the American Polarity Therapy Association (www.polaritytherapy.org, 336-574-1121).

* Reiki—Reiki therapists tap into what the website calls “spiritually guided life force energy” to treat body, mind, emotions and spirit; contact the International Center for Reiki Training (www.reiki.org, 800-332-8112).

patients get medication, they’re so stressed and anxious that the medication doesn’t manage the pain as well as it should. Reiki puts them in a more relaxed state, so the medication works better.”
Beth Israel’s Volunteer Healing Touch Program is available to all patients. And the oncology floor is soon to receive funding for the Urban Zen Initiative, an optimal healing environment project that will offer Reiki and other complementary healing methods.

Plug Into Healing

Energy-based healers assert that all manifestations of physical illness are a direct result of problems that reside in a non-physical energy field. In a healthy, peak-performing body, energy flow is smooth and balanced. However, stressors such as unhealthy emotional states (including anger and fear), toxins and other negative forces are believed to create energy blockages and distortions that disrupt the body’s natural flow and lead to a host of illnesses. “By the time an illness is experienced on the physical body, it’s already filtered down from the soul, emotional life and mental life,” explains Arizona-based energy medicine practitioner Jewel Caara (www.jewelcaara.com). “The physical body is the final expression.”

The goal of energy-based holistic therapies is to help restore a healthy, balanced energetic flow—ultimately halting an illness that’s brewing before it expresses itself physically, or spurring the body’s own healing processes to overcome illness that has already manifested. The means through which energy is coaxed into flowing in a free, balanced manner encompasses acupuncture needles, stretches, focused intention, prayer, distance healing and more. For many holistic practitioners, even herbalism qualifies as energy medicine: “Each healing plant has a vibration, a life force that matches something within us,” explains Caara. “The body knows how to heal itself, as long as you provide it with what it needs. That comes physically—supplements, herbs, proper nutrition—which are equally as important as the emotional, spiritual side of energy medicine.”

Personal Evidence

Clearly, without the benefit of hard scientific evidence, a leap of faith is necessary to both undertake and benefit from energy healing. My first experience with such therapies was an “energy work” session that I scheduled in the hopes that it might allay excruciating shoulder pain stemming from a tennis injury. After two weeks of pain, desperate for relief but wary of pharmaceutical or over-the-counter remedies, I chose to experiment with holistic energy healing. Flopped out on a massage table, the experience was deeply soothing and mesmerizing. As the practitioner lightly massaged, stretched and placed her hands over areas of my body where she perceived energy distortions, I sank deep into relaxation—and a powerful visual floated to my mind’s eye from the depths of my subconscious. I saw a bottle that contained lightning, which bounced around in a frantic chaos. The message was transmitted to me wordlessly: Bottling the energy is unhealthy; the energy must flow.

To free the energy, one can either gently remove the cork from the bottle or break the bottle.
Hours after the session, the image—and its obvious allusion to my own body—stayed with me. The day after the session, the intense shoulder pain had completely disappeared. Encouraged by the experience, I next moved onto a Reiki session, where more empirical evidence amassed: I felt the practitioner’s hands grow warm and then hot as she manipulated the energy around my joints, yielding more pain relief.

Where definitive scientific proof is lacking, such experiences provide individual proof and word-of-mouth buzz that fuels the energy medicine movement. Facing the inexplicable nature of energy work can also be puzzling: “We recognize that we are experiencing energy by different feelings or sensations in the body, but these specific feelings or sensations are a unique, personal experience,” says James. “I ask students to look for certain sensations: a change in temperature (hot to cold or cold to hot), a change in pressure or sensation (usually as a tingling in the body).”

Dropping the Baggage

After my earlier experiences, I was more than willing to try one of energy medicine’s more modern incarnations: an intriguing modality known as Spiritual Response Therapy (SRT). Caara explained that SRT works with what may be the ultimate manifestation of personal energy—the soul itself. SRT postulates that an individual’s soul is like an infinite recorder; it documents experiences in this life and past lives, and transmutes those experiences into energies that it carries for eternity.

While some of the energies our souls carry are positive, promoting joy and happiness, others are negative or limiting, creating blocks. “Physical ailments are chronic issues and are often caused by energies held within the body’s memory from past soul experiences,” said Caara. “Once those energies have cleared and been released from the soul body the person feels relief; they don’t react to things as strongly, [they] don’t come out with anger. They instead experience life more calmly and peacefully.”

In SRT, the tool for energetic release is the practitioner. “My role is to be a clear, accurate and neutral channel,” Caara explained. “I’m like a translator between the client and the soul, which is the sum total of that client’s life but [also] all other experiences; it’s a much more expanded consciousness than the client is aware of.” By tapping into the client’s soul, Caara “reads” what past experiences are causing blocks, and then communicates to the soul to release the negative energy baggage and shut down negative behavior programming. “I access information from the soul, look for things that the soul is ready to release,” Caara says. “I look at past lives so the soul can remember it, and agree to let it go—that’s what ‘clearing’ is.”

After this background explanation, Caara began our SRT session. What ensued was part psychic reading, part counseling session, part energy work—all designed to clear my soul of needless negative energies. Interacting with the spirit itself, Caara delved deep into my soul’s past history—singling out horrors from former selves (one murdered by an apprentice, one betrayed by an evil lover, one whose hands were lopped off for sorcery) that, carried into the present, were no doubt causing blocks in my life.

An avowed believer of unexplained phenomena, even I felt some skepticism at this approach—but as the reading progressed, Caara’s observations grew uncannily precise. With such accuracy in identifying elements of my present life, Caara’s assertions of past life experiences took on greater credibility. With each block encountered, Caara communed with the soul, encouraging it to release stored negative experiences and simply move on—a philosophy equally sensible in the waking world.

After addressing several blocks, Caara moved on to remote healing, tying some physical ailments such as wrist pain and ankle pain attributed to soul distortions. As Caara silently focused on each ache, I recalled James’ comments on energy sensations: I began to feel a pleasant tingling along with the sensation of a damburst of fresh blood rushing in to bathe my joints. Caara felt it too, commenting on the circulatory nature of my aches, and having a quick pow-wow with the soul to let go of any negative programming that might have caused the sluggish circulation. By the next day, the nagging pains in my ankles and wrists had all but disappeared.

So was it mystical remote healing, or merely a placebo effect? In reality it doesn’t matter. For those in pain who swear by healing that works with ineffable energies, physical sensations of healing and positive results are proof enough to take that leap of faith into medicine’s final frontier. By connecting the consciousness to the body’s energy field, Caara asserts that even greater transformative power can take root and begin to grow. “In energy sessions, we discuss ways to support this process at home so that you are empowered to maintain your own energy system,” she says. “One of the side effects of this work is that you come to know yourself better, accept yourself more fully and love yourself unconditionally. With that kind of freedom, imagine the life you can create.”

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