What is Spiritual Healing?
An Overview of Spiritual and Energetic Healing
There are countless methods for spiritual and energetic healing and the following offers some explanation of the different broad categories most healing approaches fall into. Some modalities require many sessions, some take just seconds. Many use different hand positions and specific manipulations, some involve no touch at all, and others are practiced over long distances. Some are designed to treat specific symptoms and some are aimed at changing our very DNA. Some are steeped in religious dogma, ritual and ancient traditions while others are founded in science. Here are a few basic styles of healing and what characterizes each of them.
Energy healing works with an energetic field that permeates and extends beyond the physical body. Signs of illness show up in this field before manifesting as physical symptoms and with a little practice this "aura" can be experienced, even by a novice. While the awareness of an energy field has been an integral part of mainstream medicine in the Eastern hemisphere for thousands of years (with medical systems such as acupuncture being every bit as precise, specialized and effective as Western medical techniques), it's a relatively new addition to Western ways of thinking.
Energy healing generally operates in much the same way as conventional medicine, by addressing symptoms, identifying energy blocks and areas of dysfunction, and moving energy around in specific, mechanical ways. The healer often visualizes transferring or channeling healing energy to the recipient, using energy in much the same way an MD uses medication, surgery and other treatment. Therapeutic Touch, a technique developed by nurse, Delores Krieger, Ph.D., R.N., is a well-known example of this approach that has become increasingly integrated into mainstream medicine since she introduced it into New York University's nursing curriculum in the 1970's. Her book, The Therapeutic Touch is an excellent introduction to the practice of energy healing.
With spiritual healing, instead of moving energy around to address specific problem areas, the healer goes into a powerful state of unconditional love and has an experience of becoming one with the healing recipient. Rather than focusing on illness, the healer joins with the person's spiritual self, where there is no illness. This powerful attention to the recipient's intrinsic wellness helps call it forth. I think of this style of healing as "repatterning" rather than repairing.
Faith healing doesn't require that the healer "diagnose" energetically, direct energy, or be versed in a particular methodology. There may still be a focus on symptoms and on disappearing signs of illness but healing is performed by invoking the power of a higher spiritual source, as in Christian faith healing. Faith healers often describe their work as "prayer."
Attitudinal healing is simply a shift in perspective that assumes illness to be illusionary and the spiritual essence of our being to be eternally whole and complete. Thus, by identifying with our spiritual wholeness rather than our physical dis-ease, we can feel at peace regardless of outer circumstances and often release physical symptoms of illness as well. The term "attitudinal healing" was coined by psychiatrist, Gerald Jampolsky to describe a philosophy he drew from A Course in Miracles and applied in his work with children and adults experiencing illness (there are now many Centers for Attitudinal Healing around the world based on Jampolsky's model—Google "Center for Attitudinal Healing" to find out more) but there are numerous approaches to healing that give attention to attitude rather than illness. Some metaphysical paths even discourage healing practices altogether on the premise that the act of "healing" affirms the reality of illness and is counterproductive to achieving the greater reality that we are already perfectly whole.
The Common Denominator: Healing Follows Intention
All of these methods are very good at facilitating a peaceful state and all have been known to facilitate the spontaneous healing of physical illness, sometimes quite miraculously. Is one method better than another? I tend to think they're like apples and oranges, different and useful in different ways. The key principle that makes them all work, even ones that seem to contradict one another, is that healing follows the intention of the healer. While healers may be using hands or voice in very specific ways to direct energy, invoking higher powers, using elaborate ritual or working within a framework of specific religious dogma, it's their expectations, beliefs and envisioning of the healing process, along with their heart-felt caring, that are bringing about a healing response.
The following are some key elements that facilitate a powerful experience of healing with any of these methods. The first two are aimed specifically at the recipient in the healing interaction but many of these are equally applicable to the healer achieving an effective state for facilitating healing.
- Identifying a desire for healing: Identifying a desire for anything we wish to call forth is a creative act. It directs intention and focus toward this issue and starts healing energy moving in the direction of our intent.
- Identifying and releasing the payoffs of dis-ease: As last week's lesson addressed in depth, as long as we need the payoffs of a painful condition, we will subconsciously hold it in place. Giving attention to how a condition is still serving us makes any form of treatment or healing more effective.
- Living in the moment in unconditional love: When Lawrence LeShan studied a large group of spiritual healers, as described in his classic book, The Medium, the Mystic, and the Physicist, he found the experience of deep caring to be common to all. In the words of one of his healers, "Only love can generate the healing fire." This is also the essence of attitudinal healing which is all about letting go of the past and the future and simply amplifying love in the moment. In Gerald Jampolsky's early experiments with this, he brought seriously ill children togeter with adult helping professionals to relate as peers, practicing these principles of unconditional love. What began simply as an exercise in creating a peaceful state of mind proved to facilitate healing miracles as children defied doctors' prognoses and healed from terminal illnesses. Dean Ornish's excellent book, Love and Survival pulls together decades of medical research documenting the connection between all different forms of love and physical healing. He concludes that, "love and intimacy are among the most powerful factors in health and illness." Quite simply, every time we experience even an instant of unconditional love, inner peace, compassion and forgiveness, we're in a powerful healing state. We heal ourselves and we become a healer to others as well.
- Faith: Faith isn't a hope or wish for a future outcome. Rather, it's the feeling of certainty that the future is going to be fine, no matter what. When we have faith, we're free to be at peace in the present and able to let go of worry about the future. With hoping and wishing, we're focused on what we don't have and attach our peace of mind to a specific future outcome. It then becomes easy to vacillate between hope and fear and, consequently, lose our ability to be present and at peace. Ultimately, faith isn't about trusting in an outcome; it's a willingness to trust God and the process of life. Paradoxically, when we deeply trust we'll be OK no matter what, we begin to attract miracles.
- Surrender: Surrender isn't the same as giving up in defeat.
The kind of surrender I'm suggesting here is a lightness of being, not
about losing the battle, but about stepping out of the fight. So often
we think of ourselves as "battling" a health condition and even use
that very word. (Choose your words carefully as you speak about illness
as they describe the reality we're creating. Would you rather be
battling cancer, suffering from cancer, living with cancer or healing
from cancer? Think carefully of the implications because your words
help shape your experience.) I once knew a woman who "battled" melanoma
for fifteen years and finally became cancer free after weeks of working
with the affirmation, "Thank you, God, for cancer." The first thing she
noticed, just days into this affirmation work and before there were any
noticeable physical effects, was that for the first time she felt at
peace with her disease. Every condition we battle is in some way
serving us. Even if we don't fully understand how, the more we accept
the truth of this, the more swiftly we can release the struggle and
There's an exercise I sometimes do in workshops where I have an
individual who feels hopelessly stuck in some area of life invite
people from the group to represent the various limiting messages she
has going on in her own head. These helpers externalize and dramatize
the person's inner dialogue and what ensues is generally a noisy debate
between the protagonist and her "voices." At some point in this drama I
ask the rest of the group to call to person, now locked in battle with
her own demons, and see if they can entice her with offers of love and
kindness. It's fascinating to see how many people stubbornly hang on to
the fight and find it more compelling than the breath of fresh air
coming from beyond. There's never an end to these battles. They could
go on endlessly if I didn't intervene and, even though fighting in the
same old way doesn't produce any new results, people keep at it as long
as I let them. When I do finally step in, the protagonist typically
says, "Yup, this is how I feel stuck in my life!"
Eventually, many in this exercise discover that as much as they hate the battle, it's energizing and seductively holds their attention. Some realize that battling their own self feels comfortably familiar, and safer than being fully available and intimate with another. Those who break free from this inner war don't do it by "winning;" they do it by losing interest in it. They shift their attention from fighting what's wrong to embracing love. The voices don't go away; they just fade into the background and eventually wither from lack of attention. This is the power of surrender. It requires letting go of stubbornness, of being right, of trying to control the outcome, and stepping back from fighting whatever condition we love to hate.
One last important word on surrender: it's not to be confused with the highly debilitating states of passivity and depression. There are times when achieving a "fighting" state of mind is a good thing and supports healing. "Battling" is a big step up from hopeless despair, and early studies of mental attitude and illness showed that the more "difficult" cancer patients who fought their treatments and medical caregivers had a better survival rate than passive, "good" patients who just gave up and died. Sometimes getting mad is a step toward feeling alive. Surrendering to love is a next step, if and when we're ready.
- Envision healing: Instead of waiting for healing, envision it. Any time your in a healing process and may be tempted to dwell on the evidence of your symptoms still there, vividly imagine them leaving or already gone. Build this envisioning into your daily routines. I knew a young woman with cancer who attached her healing imagery to the unavoidable act of peeing. At every opportunity, she imagined herself peeing out all the cancer cells in her body.
- Group Agreement: The opportunity to do healing work in a
group offers some powerful advantages. Some healers have even noticed a
higher proportion of healings in their group sessions than when working
with people individually. There's a powerful amplification of energy
created when a group of minds join forces. Excitement, faith, and
willingness to believe grow exponentially in groups and create fertile
ground for miraculous outcomes. Individuals are propelled far beyond
where they could go on their own steam alone. Even nonbelievers are
more likely to experience dramatic results as the energy of the group
becomes wave-like, lifting everyone.
Group intention can literally suspend the rules of the natural world as we know them. For example, if you put your hand in fire, do you believe it would burn? Of course you do, and it would! But if you were to attend a fire-walking event and spent a few hours with a group of people convincing yourselves that the fire wouldn't hurt, more than likely you'd successfully trot across a big bed of hot coals, unharmed.
The world-known healer and man who ordained me, Dr. Willard Fuller, defies known reality on a regular basis in his amazing healing services where, each time, numbers of people come away with shiny new fillings and other dental miracles—sometimes even new teeth! (To learn more about his work or to ask for healing prayer, see www.willardfuller.com.) Dr. Fuller has noticed a higher rate of healings in his large services than in his one-on-one healing sessions and I believe this is due to the group-mind factor.
States of mind-over-matter that might take years of dedicated practice for an individual to achieve alone can be realized with phenomenal speed in a group, even by those who feel doubtful of the process or of their own ability to have a positive result. When people join together in an intention that reality is going to work differently, miraculously, it does. This even happens in groups that are separated by space or by time, as with my online classes and phone-in healings services. Quantum science and relativity theory have taught us that the fixed nature of space and time are as illusionary as the apparent solidity of the physical realm.
We all have the power to heal and even if you don't think of yourself this way, know that your sheer intention to help adds power to the whole. As Delores Krieger describes this in the context of therapeutic touch, "...from the moment one turns one's attention to helping or healing another, an energetic interchange between those two people has already begun... The focusing of your intention gives explicit, although perhaps unconscious, direction to your energy flow." So as you participate in a phone-in healing service or listen to a down-loaded meditation, know that you add power to every listener's experience.
Along with the expectation that healing will happen for you, also be open to it taking the form you most need, not necessarily the form you expect. Healing comes in whatever way best serves us and as you prepare yourself for a healing experience, trust that it will happen in the best way for you, not just the best you can currently imagine. Typical healing outcomes include:
- Spontaneous physical healing where manifestations of illness disappear instantly. In my own healing services as well as the distance healing work of my prayer ministry, I've seen many examples of a physical condition disappearing so completely and immediately that surgery or medication became no longer necessary. These occurrences seem to happen as often over distance as in person. On a night when my weekly group was experimenting specifically with dental healing, a woman with a painful dental condition who was unable to be there, just took a moment out from her other commitment to join her mind with the group work in order to receive healing. Not only did her tooth stop hurting, but she kept her scheduled dental appointment the next day just to be safe and the dentist could find nothing wrong.
- Attitudinal shifts such as feeling at peace even though circumstances haven't changed, or seeing new options where choices had seemed limited. For example, a woman who attended a series of monthly healing services with me, first came wanting to heal the chronic pain she had lived with for years. The next month she appeared quite improved and reported that her pain hadn't gone away but she did have an experience during the healing service of feeling happy for the first time in years. This happiness stayed with her all month and so changed her state of mind that her pain slipped from the foreground to the background of her awareness. She felt able to get on with her life in a whole new way and several months later, she reported that the pain was much diminished.
- A slow steady course of growth and healing where results may not be noticeable for some time (like planting a seed that grows invisibly at first). For example, another woman who had attended many healing services with me reported that a chronic condition of asthma had gone away and she didn't even know it until she found herself in a situation that would have ordinarily triggered an attack. As she tried to remember the last time she'd had an asthma attack, she realized it had been many months.
- Circumstantial shifts that bring new conditions, opportunities or people into our lives. It's very common for fortunate "coincidences" to occur within days of spiritual healing work. Jobs show up unexpectedly, money shows up, new relationships form, connections are made to the perfect medical help or healing practitioner, etc. These are things we might not see as directly connected to the healing we want yet they support the totality of our well-being in a way that serves us even more than the simple disappearance of a symptom.
- Relationship healing where specific relationships or relationship patterns shift to create deeper love, compassion, forgiveness and interpersonal harmony. I've often seen this happen with great serendipity, as with a woman whose estranged daughter called her after years of silence, just days after she'd talked about this painful situation in a healing service. Because the connection between love and healing is so strong, as our relationships heal, so do we.
It's important to understand all the forms healing can take because it's easy to come away feeling like nothing happened if we don't get the outcome we had in mind. While we could participate in healing work and receive its benefits passively and unconsciously, it becomes far more powerful when we consciously recognize the positive results. Firstly, as we're able to recognize the tangible results of our spiritual work, we have more faith in it, which makes it more effective. What's more, when we recognize the subtle beginnings of healing, we're more apt to nurture them and allow a small healing effect to grow into a greater one. Imagine if the woman with chronic pain dismissed her experience of happiness as momentary and insignificant and left the healing service disappointed that she still had pain. She might never have nurtured that new state of mind into a more fulfilling life that ultimately resulted in far less pain. Last but not least, any time we give grateful attention to our blessings in any form, we attract more opportunities to feel grateful. Recognizing healing is, in and of itself, a healing act.
God (Goddess, Creator, Higher Power, Universal Spirit),
I turn to You with all my heart.
I joyously realize Your absolute presence.
I see You everywhere—in all places, all people,
all that is.
You breathe life and light into my very soul,
YOU who are Infinite Love.
Yes, I feel Your Presence—You live in me!
Thank you for the Divine Spark within.
God, You have said "Ask and it shall be given."
I come to You now in gratitude and love
for Your assistance that is ever present.
Receive my prayer as an offering of faith that what I ask for has already been given and received.
(Take a moment to bring your prayer intention to mind. Speak it out loud or silently to yourself. Imagine handing all dis-ease and lack over to God, and God lovingly receiving it. Create a vivid inner experience of already having, doing and being your prayer request. And then hand this, too, over to God asking that Divine Will be done.)
Thank you, Divine Spirit!
I have faith in reality of Miracles!
I believe in the power of LOVE!
I release this intention into Your hands.
I surrender to Your will.
May the Divine Design now manifest!
I know I am whole and perfect as You made me.
There is nothing to be healed;
only DIVINE LOVE to be revealed.
Divine Spirit, spark our faith, hope and love into new action this day.
Our lives fill with gratitude, wonder and awe. Miracles happen.
We receive the blessing of Your perfect love and wisdom.
And with this prayer we now embrace the call
You gave us—to be spiritual beings,
in service to each other
and to You.
- We're stilling learning something from the illness/symptom. Perhaps it's meeting a need we haven't found another way to fulfill: for caring attention, time for ourselves, protection from risk-taking, etc.
- Healing it too quickly would shake our sense of reality in a way that would be more uncomfortable than the illness. This level of discomfort may be unconscious until we're faced with it. A healer I know who had successfully healed himself of a terminal heart condition, diabetes and more, decided to grow a missing tooth back after seeing this happen in his work with the dental healer, Dr. Willard Fuller. He set about it in the way he had healed so many other conditions and there was a point in the process where he actually felt a cracking sensation in his jaw, right where the missing tooth had been. Instead of embracing the sign of healing, his first impulse was a big inner, "NO!" He was very surprised at his own response and understood it to be a manifestation of his limiting beliefs: even though he had healed himself in so many other ways, this one seemed "too big!" Fortunately, the more we're aware of these hidden agendas, the more power we have to choose and the less they control us.
- We're focused more on battling something painful than on pursuing something joyful. What we give attention to we magnify. If we're giving a large amount of attention to our distress over the problem, we hold it in place. When we stop battling an illness we free up a tremendous amount of energy that can then move in the direction of healing.
- The pain we know may feel safer than the potential risks of the unknown. If there's a symptom or problem we've been living with for a long time, one that's gotten a lot of our energy and attention, its sudden absence would undoubtedly leave a big empty place in our lives. While on the surface this might seem all good, this change could create significant stress and anxiety if we don't know how to fill the space. A Pandora's Box full of issues, from intimacy to life purpose, may be next in line to be addressed once the familiar struggle is no longer there.
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