The development of healing energy practices are based on the connections between mind, body, and spirit. Think of how you feel when you are in love.. when you are mad at someone. You don’t just think your emotions—or electrons in motion. You feel it with your whole body and heart or seat of the spirit..
I was spurred on in my interest by my own tragedies and need for inner transformation, and by the interest of my father, Dr. F.W. Barnes. He was a founding faculty member and professor of medicine at Brown University who created classes for medical students to study the psychological underpinnings of disease in dramas with the theater department. This effort reflected the profound shift in cosmological worldview that began with Einstein (E=MC2) and that has been gaining momentum ever since. This famous equation allows for interaction of energy and matter, body chemistry and spirit, and by extension the interconnectedness of all beings together with existence. In Christianity it begins to allow understanding of how Jesus can be both God and Man, and it underscores the importance of consciousness emphasized in eastern religions. We can see both the importance of having a personal face of God and understanding God as a Universal Source. It is two halves of the same coin. It’s a both/and situation, not the dualistic either /or. Looking in Christian scriptures we also begin to see the parallel calls to inner transformation with all faiths— that place where do’s and don’ts (as good as they are) can’t quite carry the day in a struggle against traumas, addictions, grief, and/or the ability to forgive, to name a few examples.
In the western world, we have come from a dominion oriented, God-out-there, each man and woman an island-unto-themselves, survival of the fittest point of view to recognize that life is a fundamentally a cooperative enterprise. This goes way beyond charity, as needed and wonderful, as that is, to see that not taking care of people, or not developing structures and institutions that allow for us all to succeed actually hurts us all. We are not islands. These points of view are consistent with modern quantum physics, which reveals that solidarity is an illusion, and that, at the deepest level of understanding, only relationships and energetic connections within and without are real.
Energy healing practices in the western world have been developing with increasing speed for the last 50 years. Chiropractic techniques of manipulating the spine are based on the need to keep energy paths through the nervous system clear. Reiki, Qigong, meridian tapping (EFT), sound or olfactory healing therapies, and acupuncture are just a few of the modern practices that have become popular.. But they share common grounds with ancient Chinese notions of “Chi” and balancing the “Yin and Yang” of the body, and shamanic practices of native peoples throughout the world. All are based on the recognition that energy is what makes us “tick”. Otherwise, we could not “read” emotions, or intuit events before they happen—even on a minor level. Who has not accurately thought of a friend who calls you the next minute? And DNA, which was once thought of as unchangeable, has proven subject to environmental and relational events. Stress has long been known to change the body chemically. Then too, simple prayer and “laying on of hands” is known to have positive healing effects. Suddenly, the division between hard science and our idea of God or the Source of all Energy is suddenly softened.
Neither is this discovery of energy within and without entirely dependent on a religious belief. Those Buddhists who do not believe in God do believe in an energy connectedness that binds and undergirds the whole world. But in the Abrahamic religions, the re-emergence of a mystic theology in the Christian laying on of hands, the Sufi body dances, meditation/ mindfulness practices and Judaic Kabala teachings combined with the consciousness truths of the Eastern religions has also led to the recognition of energy as the “stuff” of communication between us all and the Universe. Successful healers of all traditions combine insights and knowledge from medical, psychological, and spiritual with an ability to be clear channels of energy for a client. Healers are tuning forks, or extensions cords, if you will, allowing the Universe/Source/God to enter into the healing process and support or advance all professions in the effort to heal. We are not competing for clients: again it is not an either/or situation but a both/and equation: we need each other for the best possible outcomes.
Recognition of that energy platform has also led to some new understanding and interest in primal religions and shamanic spiritual wisdom traditions, healing tactics, and herbal knowledge. Beyond superstition, magical thinking about the right words or rituals, personal ego, or investment in the outcome of healing events, there are several “kernals” of effective energy practices that can be included in modern healing traditions.
Another name for primal religions has been Shamanism. That is a term first applied to the ancient religion of the Turks and Mongols. The word “shaman” comes from the Event language of North Asia, but archaeologists and religious historians suggest that shamanism may have been the predominate pre-religious practice for humanity during the Paleolithic. Mircea Eliade writes that Shamans practice treating ailments/illness by mending the soul. The idea is that alleviating traumas affecting the soul/spirit restores the physical body to balance and wholeness. They also have expert knowledge of medicinal plants in their area, and lead communal rites such as vision quests, birth, marriage and death ceremonies.
In short, we live in exciting times, where the truth of the past heart and soul connection with nature, the Divine, and each other has come back to us as part of the Wisdom tradition reflected in all the modern religions but as yet just beginning to be understood and integrated.
May we move forward together in a new paradigm of connectedness and integration of all the healing professions and practices to find the best outcomes for our clients.
Rev. Susan Waldrop, Interfaith Minister and Spiritual Counselor