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The Department of Veterans Affairs uses it in their Hepatitis C treatment program. Fort Bliss' Warrior Resilience program -- the same one Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey believes should be replicated throughout the military -- uses it as one tool to help soldiers strengthen and recover following combat.

Military OneSource's Health Library says it can increase wellness and "treat diseases of all types."

And it's the reason given by New Zealand's champ cyclist Hayden Roulston for bouncing back from a serious heart condition to claim both Olympic silver and bronze medals this past week in Beijing.

What is it? Reiki [pronounced "Ray-Key"] energy healing...

While I've heard of it in the past (in fact, I have a sister who is a Reiki Master and had used the touch therapy in her past massage therapy practice), it seems to be bubbling up to the mainstream surface more and more these days. That the military and VA are incorporating it, is another positive sign that mountains can be moved even in mammoth bureaucracies -- as long as you believe it can be so (and add a little action into the mix to help it along).

A couple of weeks ago, I received another nudge to report a bit more on these developments in my PTSD Combat: Winning the War Within email bag:


My name is Gretchen Freeman.

I've been reading your blog for some time and love the information I get there.  I have a loved one that just did a 15 month tour in Iraq and it has changed my life.

I have a passion to work with warriors and veterans that have been affected by PTSD, TBI and other ramifications of the war, and their families and loved ones.

My work is alternative alternative healing in the form of Reiki, etc.  I've worked with several people in person and do a lot of remote (distance) work with people whom are either referred to me by doctors or find me themselves.  I don't do my healing in place of traditional medicine and psychological treatment, but currently with it.  And it works wonders.

In light of the military and VA's embrace of Reiki and other energy treatments like Qigong and distance healing, I asked Gretchen if she would educate me a bit on this sometimes hard-to-understand (or even believe) form of complementary therapy making its way into the military ranks.

First stop:

Just for today, do not anger.
Just for today, do not worry.
Be humble.
Be honest in your work.
Be compassionate to yourself and others.

-- Mikao Usui (1865-1926), founder of Reiki

Reiki is a biofield therapy said to reduce tension and stress while promoting self-awareness and healing. It is considered complementary health care, i.e., valuable as an addition to, not substitute for, traditional health care. Here's what the VA has to say about Reiki on their National Hepatitis C Program page:

Energy healing
Energy healing is based on the concept that the human body is surrounded by various kinds of energy fields--electrical, magnetic, and subtle. In this healing-based tradition, practitioners are consciously aware of their client's imbalances of energy, and claim they can alter it to improve the overall sense of well being for their clients. The concept that unseen energy flows through and around all living things is a belief that comes from many cultures since ancient times.

Conventional medicine concerns itself with health on a very physical and cellular level. Viewing the body as having other dimensions requires a shift in thought. The concept of subtle energy fields continues to have slow acceptance into our traditional, Western medical approach. ...

Reiki is [a] type of energy healing. The Reiki practitioner's hands are either lightly touching the patient's body or are held slightly over it. Energy is thought to flow through areas most in need of healing. In Reiki, the energy is thought to come from the Universe, and the practitioner helps to transfer this positive, healing energy to the recipient. The concept is bizarre to some, but people who receive Reiki often have positive experiences.

Practitioners claim Reiki can aid in healing at a physical, emotional and mental level. Most recipients of Reiki report a peaceful sense of relaxation, and some people have reported reduction in pain, anxiety, fear and anger. There is no scientific evidence to confirm the effectiveness of Reiki.

The federal National Institutes of Health is funding research on energy healing therapies.

Not only is the NIH funding research into Reiki, so is the U.S. Army, doling out $4 million to research more holistic ("whole picture") mind-body-spirit treatment methods including spiritual ministry, transcendental meditation, yoga and bioenergy therapies.

While the VA says there is "no scientific evidence to confirm the effectiveness of Reiki," it's not for lack of trying [a partial list]. But, overall, the reasons for the difficulty in measuring the therapy's efficacy stem from a variety of present-day research hurdles. One is the difficulty of testing Reiki's treatment dosage in double-blind clinical trials and determining the results that might follow within today's current scientific framework.

From "Reiki – Review of a Biofield Therapy History, Theory, Practice, and Research" [pdf] in the March/April 2003 issue of Alternative Therapies:

Biofield therapies, including Reiki, are generally accepted as low-risk interventions. The widespread use of these therapies, coupled with anecdotal evidence of efficacy, indicate a need for further study of this important category of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

Because of their foundation in subtle energies that as yet lie beyond technology’s ability to consistently measure, biofield therapies present a special research challenge. ...

"An Integrative Review of Reiki Touch Therapy Research" by Anne Vitale MSN, APRN, BC, appeared in the July/August 2007 issue of Holistic Nursing Practice; it reviews some of the latest clinical Reiki studies and further explains the difficulty in testing its results in a clinical setting:

Reiki is an ancient energetic healing practice believed to have originated thousands of years ago in the Tibetan Sutras, and then lost, to be renewed in the 1800s by Dr Mikao Usui, a Japanese monk.3 In recent years, professional nursing is a leading discipline in the exploration of the benefits of Reiki.

Nurses and others report clinical observations that the use and practice of Reiki has relaxation effects, stress management benefits, lessens pain, and promotes inner healing, however, with little empirical evidence on just how it works.21,25–31 Within the last 10 years, the use of Reiki has increased among nurses and others, such as physicians, and rehabilitation therapists who practice this modality in patient care in hospitals, hospice care settings, emergency departments, psychiatric settings, nursing homes, operating rooms, family practice, and many other settings.21,32 ...

Confusion in what constitutes credible CAM explorations and the lack of empirically based investigations is a common criticism challenging Reiki use within our Western, allopathic model of healthcare. The field of energy research does not readily lend itself to traditional scientific analysis or strictly linear research methods because paradoxical findings are common.  ...

Entwined in this debate is the issue of whether the randomized controlled trial design considered the "criterion standard" in medical research is the optimal methodology for capturing the efficacy of energy work. ... [W]hen planning randomized controlled trial investigations to evaluate subtle energy work such as Reiki, it is difficult to know whether sham Reiki used in placebo controlled trials is truly inert or just another confounding research variable.44 According to Shiflett et al 37 and Lee,52 benign touch may have treatment effects beyond placebo, which was discussed in early Reiki research recommendations presented by Wirth and Barrett,48 Dressin and Singg,45 and others.

Vitale touches on the second large research hurdle: Whatever Reiki's benefits may or may not be, how can one know if the results are due solely to the energy work itself? What if the "placebo effect" is what's really operational here? Gregg Braden discusses the potent power of this effect in his book "The Spontaneous Healing of Belief: Shattering the Paradigm of False Limits:"

In May 2004, a group of scientists at Italy's University of Turin Medical School conducted an unprecedented study investigating the power of belief to heal in a medical situation. It began with administering drugs that mimic dopamine and relieve patients' symptoms [the patients were suffering from Parkinson's Disease].

It's important to note here that the drugs have a short life span in the body and their effects last only about 60 minutes. As they wear off, the symptoms return. Twenty-four hours later, the patients underwent a medical procedure where they believed that they would receive a substance to restore their brain chemistry to normal levels. In reality, however, they were given simple saline solution that should have had no effect on their condition.

Following the procedure, electronic scans of the patient' brains showed something that's nothing short of a miracle. Their brain cells had responded to the procedure as if they'd been given the drug that originally eased their symptoms. Commenting on the remarkable nature of the study, the team's leader, Fabrizio Benedetti, stated, "It's the first time we've seen it [the effect] at the single neuron level."

The University of Turin findings supported studies that had been conducted earlier by a team at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. In that investigation, it was reported that placebos could actually raise the brain levels of dopamine in the patients who receive them. Linking his studies to the earlier ones, Benedetti speculated that "the changes we ourselves observed are also influenced by release of dopamine." [pages 43-44]

Reiki practitioners, however, are clear about one thing: Their clients don't necessarily have to believe that the treatment will work (although having any negativity towards it may "block" its healing properties); therefore, it's not merely the placebo effect here that's doing the healing. Patients simply need to be open to the therapy; the energy will do the rest, they say.

"People can think themselves sick, and they can think themselves well," my Reiki Master sister says. "The mind can get in the way of or assist with our healing."

Another element to ponder: Today's research methods don't allow us to scientifically prove the existence of God, for example, yet many Americans wholeheartedly believe in the presence of such a being or force in their lives. Perhaps our present limited logic- or mind-based methods for testing such things might also fall short in testing Reiki's spiritual energy realm as well.

But the studies continue (see NIH-supported clinical trials, which are currently recruiting patients to test the efficacy of Reiki, including distant Reiki). A few examples from The Reiki Center:

  • Autonomic Nervous-System-Changes During Reiki Treatment: A Preliminary Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine Volume 10, Number 6. This study revealed a significant reduction in diastolic blood pressure and heart rate in the Reiki group that didn’t appear in the placebo group or the control group, thus tending to indicate that Reiki created an important effect that was not caused by suggestion.

  • Both hands-on and distant Reiki treatments resulted in statistically-significant decrease in the symptoms of psychological depression and self-perceived stress, and the treatments had the long-term effect [Shore, A.G., "Long-term effects of energetic healing on symptoms of psychological depression and selfperceived stress", Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine].

  • The nature of psychological effects arising during a Reiki session were studied, and anxiety was shown to reduce after treatments [Wardell, D.W., Engebretson, J., "Biological correlates of Reiki touch healing", J. Advanced Nursing].

  • Certain physiological changes were associated with receiving Reiki treatments, including decrease in systolic blood pressure, increase in salivary IgA levels and decrease in salivary cortisol after treatments, increase in skin temperature and decrease in electromyographic activity during treatments [Engebretson, J., Wardell, D.W., "Experience of a Reiki session", Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine].

But let's jump back a bit to the beginning and lay a foundation to our exploration into Reiki energy healing itself. What's it all about? First, a look at the human energy field from Dr. Caroline Myss' book, "Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power Healing:"

Everything that is alive pulsates with energy and all of this energy contains information. While it is not surprising that practitioners of alternative or complementary medicine accept this concept, even some quantum physicists acknowledge the existence of an electromagnetic field generated by the body's biological processes. Scientists accept that the human body generates electricity because living tissue generates energy. ...

Practitioners of energy medicine believe that the human energy field contains and reflects each individual's energy. It surrounds us and carries with us the emotional energy created by our internal and external experiences -- both positive and negative. This emotional force influences the physical tissue within our bodies. In this way your biography -- that is, the experiences that make up your life -- becomes your biology. [pages 33-34]

Recent research backs this connection up.

For example, veterans suffering with PTSD (a psychological/internal condition) are at a higher risk for heart disease (a physical/external condition). [Even stressed military kids with a deployed parent have been found to suffer higher blood pressure and heart rates.] And veterans with PTSD also have more autoimmune diseases such as arthritis and psoriasis, and a strong link between PTSD and asthma and migraines has also been found.

One more powerful example of this internal energy/external outcome link: Those diagnosed with PTSD have a physically detectable, smaller hippocampus -- the region of the brain tasked with storing and retrieving memories -- than people without PTSD.

Another portion from Myss' book:

Positive and negative experiences register a memory in the cell tissue as well as in the energy field. As neurobioligst Dr. Candace Pert has proven, neuropeptides -- the chemicals triggered by emotions -- are thoughts converted into matter. Our emotions reside physically in our bodies and interact with our cells and tissues. ...

As Dr. Pert said on Bill Moyers' "Healing and the Mind, ..."Your mind is in every cell of your body." Moyers: "...You're saying that my emotions are stored in my body?" Pert: "Absolutely. You didn't realize that? ...There are phenomena that we can't explain without going into energy." ...

[E]ach area of the body transmits energy on a specific, detailed frequency, and when we are healthy, all are "in tune." ...This way of interpreting the body's energy is sometimes called "vibrational medicine." It resembles the most ancient medical practices and beliefs, from Chinese medicine to indigenous shamanic practices to virtually every folk or alternative therapy. [pages 35-36]

Let's look at another recent study having to do with the neuropeptides Dr. Pert mentioned above.

Just last year, researchers studying soldiers going through Ft. Bragg's survival training program were able to "identify a specific brain chemical that appears to influence how well you’ll perform under stress and how emotionally resilient you’ll be after a critical incident. The more you have of this powerful ingredient...the better off you’ll likely be when your life is on the line."

What's the ingredient? Neuropeptide Y (NPY).

We can see, then, that stress and the internal thinking that drives it can do a lot of good -- or it can do a lot of damage not only to our mind, but our body as well. Those coping with PTSD and TBI have an understandable amount of negative energy coursing through their systems due to their past and present trials and experiences. Enter Reiki as one element to combat that gradual erosion of internal energy and external health.

Gretchen Freeman is a Massachusetts Master Reiki healer who has turned her focus to helping returning veterans and their families. She believes that trauma is the main source of physical and mental disease and distress in the world today. It, especially the kind sustained in combat or even by just being in the war zone, "cuts through to the very core," she said.

"In my belief it wounds the soul."

Our bodies have many levels, four of which are the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels. Injuries sustained to the mental, emotional and spiritual levels can result in symptoms in all the other levels of the body, Gretchen said.

"For instance, a spiritual wound can result in mental, emotional and physical symptoms," she said. "On the other side of the coin, a physical injury can result in mental, emotional and spiritual ramifications."

"Reiki healing encompasses it all – mind, body and spirit," she said.

According to her, Reiki provides deep relaxation, heals and releases mental and emotional stress, relieves aches and pains, quickens the healing process, works on the causal level of disease, reduces discomfort from surgery, helps reduce depression, and rebalances the system, creating clear mindedness and greater mental and physical balance.

"Reiki is non-invasive and can be used either hands on, hands off or remotely from a distance," she said. When asked what drew her to becoming a Reiki healer, Gretchen said having a treatment herself made her a believer.

"The funny thing is," she said, "at that time, I thought Reiki was a form of massage!" After having a treatment done, she said it turned out to be nothing like what she expected. In fact, even better than she expected. "I felt calm and light after the treatment," she said. "The cloud around me at the time just disappeared. I felt more balanced and comfortable with myself. That was just after one treatment."

Gretchen explained during our email interview that trauma is the main cause of energy blockages throughout the body, mind and spirit. While traditional medicine and psychiatric care work effectively, "sometimes an alternative and gentle approach, such as Reiki or other energy modality, is needed, too," she said. But combat veterans aren't the only ones feeling the stress and strain of years of steady and solid war.

"The deployment of a loved one touches everyone," she said.

"Spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, close friends and children can all develop their own PTSD, just by virtue of having their loved one in the war," she said. Gretchen, who has a BA in Psychology and is a member of a group called A Journey Home, a healing place for veterans and warriors dealing with PTSD and other ailments, speaks with personal knowledge and experience on this point.

A year and a half ago, her boyfriend was deployed to Iraq.

"That brought the war into my reality and straight into my face," she said. It also fueled her desire to do something for other veterans returning home. She read and learned as much as she could about the issues concerning returning veterans, about the war and it’s mental health ramifications. During that research, one incident stirred her desire to help even further.

"I heard the story of the young man who went to the VA for assistance, was put on a waiting list and subsequently committed suicide," she said. "That story horrified me straight down to my toes and deep into my soul."

Attempts to contact VA officials about the use of energy healing didn’t get anywhere, she said. She also wrote to several veterans’ representatives in each town in her area, but received no response.

"Short of taking out an ad in the newspaper, which I wasn’t sure I wanted to do," she said, "I developed my website ( last April and launched it in May."

Presently, Gretchen works "remotely," otherwise known as distance healing, where the recipient on the other end sits or lays in a meditative or restful state. They could also be out shopping, watching television, etc. while she sends Reiki (or Luminclear) energy their way.

"They will still receive the healing," she said.

While this seems to be the stuff of science fiction (how can she send healing energy to someone else "out there" somewhere?), quantum physics research is proving that such miraculous possibilities do exist in our world on a particle level.

So, why not on a human level, too?

Again, from Braden's "The Spontaneous Healing of Belief:"

In recent years, scientists have developed the technology that has made it possible to document the strange and sometimes miraculous behavior of the quantum energy that forms the essence of the universe and our bodies. For example:

  • Quantum energy can exist in two very different forms: as visible particles or invisible waves. The energy is still there either way, just making itself known in different forms.

  • A quantum particle can be in one place only, two places at once, or even many places simultaneously. The interesting thing, however, is that no matter how far apart these locations appear to be physically, the particle acts as if it's still connected.

  • Quantum particles can communicate with themselves at different points in time. They're not limited by the concepts of the past, present, and future. To a quantum particle, then is now and there is here.
These things are important because we're made of the same quantum particles that can behave miraculously when given the right conditions.

This is all cutting-edge stuff, only now being revealed through scientific experiments over the past decade. So, if you haven't heard any of this before, don't're not alone. It is a bit of a mind-bender, and I certainly don't have it all down pat, either (then again, neither do the scientists).

Thank you, Gretchen, for sharing yourself and your work and knowledge with me and the others who read this blog. I hope that, moving forward, more is learned about the usefulness of Reiki and other alternative therapies in treating pain -- be it emotional, physical, or spiritual -- for veterans and the rest of us, too.

In closing, I thought the following YouTube video might be a good overall introduction to Reiki:

Related Posts

Originally posted to Ilona's Ramblings on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 11:28 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's been a while! (23+ / 0-)

    Thought I'd cross-post this one from my blog to share some of this with you today.

    Hope you're all doing well!

    •  Been Awhile (9+ / 0-)

      There kiddo, Glad to see ya, just was over at your site, left a message in the post about the Government Workers, or not workers but paid to be.

      •  Thanks, Jim... (5+ / 0-)

        Saw, and have not had a chance to say thx, yet. Will definitely take a look at Biden's wife as well a bit more; thank you so much for all that you do.

        How are you doing otherwise?

        Busy, I know, you've been...but I hope you've had a good summer.

        School starts for me on Monday, and I'm just trying to get my mindset ready for that Wurlitzer again. There's a reason why one should complete their studies in their 20's.

        I'm getting pooped just thinking about it again!:o)

      •  Btw, Jim... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        side pocket, llbear, old wobbly

        Have been meaning to tell you that your words (via your comments when I interviewed you for my book) were used in a university Peace & Justice Capstone research paper, Killing in Combat: The Psychological Impact on Self and the Struggle to Obtain Healing [pdf link], written by student Emilie Gidley back in May.

        Here's the snippet (from page 27):

        Because of the story of Nick Madaras, my community does an exceptional job of welcoming and supporting all of our returning soldiers, whether we agree with the war effort or not. We realize that our personal feelings about this awful war must not be taken out on our troops. We are in the minority, however, and it is questionable if we would be so sensitive to the needs of our soldiers if a young member of our community hadn’t been killed in Iraq.

        Does it take a personal experience such as this to make society appreciate what our men are doing for our country when we send them off to war? All evidence thus far supports that indeed may be the case, as depressing as that reality may be.

        Society as a whole quickly puts things such as that out of sight, out of mind. Society doesn’t want to pay to repair what it’s created – if it can even be done. We have lost valuable time, not to mention lives, because of the denial and our being an apathetic society to issues such as this. (Meagher 127)

        Wanted to share that with you.

        Your words and eactions resonate far and wide, much more so than even you may know, Jim. Thanks for all you do to help your battle brothers and sisters.

  •  Hmph (10+ / 0-)

    Entwined in this debate is the issue of whether the randomized controlled trial design considered the "criterion standard" in medical research is the optimal methodology for capturing the efficacy of energy work. ...

    That's awful.  So basically if the alleged phenomenon fails to happen under controlled experiment, proponents argue that maybe the scientific method is wrong.

    But no, there's no reason we can't test Reiki and therapeutic touch in double-blind controlled experiments.  And given the extraordinary nature of their claims (e.g. distance healing,) its efficacy definitely needs to be established by experiment before we start forking over the remnants of veterans benefits to self-proclaimed practitioners.

    •'s a catch 22, isn't it? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      side pocket, llbear, old wobbly

      They do seem to be learning how to better test for its efficacy. So, we'll see in the next few years where it goes from here. I think that it's beneficial to consider all types of stress-reduction and offer troops and veterans tools to better deal with their stress from the get-go -- rather than letting it fester for years and decades when real damage to the body takes place, too.

      I'm just happy to see that the military (and the rest of Western culture) is finally getting a bit more open-minded about these things. I'm not a proponent here of any one thing -- Reiki included, since I've never had a treatment done myself and can't personally vouch for it -- but I don't think it's beneficial for us to toss things out just because we can't find a way to test the benefits properly in a "test tube."

      •  I think you will find nothing here... (7+ / 0-)

        ...beyond the placebo effect and the generalized comforting of any sort of "laying on of hands."

        Some years ago, I did a doctoral dissertation on the early history of Chinese cosmology. The various schemes that were proposed for the interaction of qi (ki in Japanese) were clever science for the fourth century BCE, when they really got going. But they still belong very firmly to the prehistory of science, vast schemes erected on a framework of a few observations and an awful lot of guessing. They correspond to nothing in the physical world.

        There is no such thing as "Western" science. There is science, which has had a good run in the West for the last couple of centuries, but which was hardly born there, and was never exclusive to there. "Western" science grew from Asian and Arab roots, among others. And there are the historical leftovers and oddities, which have excused themselves from the sort of testing that could undermine their extravagant claims, and which continue partly through inertia and partly through the human capacity for faith.

        My Chinese contacts at the time were quite frank that very few approaches based on ancient cosmology could stand up under modern double-blind testing. Some of them who worked in hospitals added that the spectacular acupuncture demonstrations that were a feature of early Western visits to China were mostly faked. Not that acupuncture itself is a fake, of course (it was used in the medieval West as well), but it works through stimulating the nervous system in very undramatic ways. The system of meridians and the elaborate proliferation of acupuncture points are more or less decorative, and the efficacy of the whole is strictly limited.

        Finally, am I the only one to wonder how the approval of the military has somehow become a seal of truth here?

        "And if you vant a second opinion -- you are ugly too!"

        by sagesource on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 12:59:31 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good points... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          side pocket, llbear

          ...and thanks for sharing them.

          I'm not a medical researcher or professional, so I only report on what others are saying and doing. I don't have much to add to the conversation in that context.

          Finally, am I the only one to wonder how the approval of the military has somehow become a seal of truth here?

          It's not about "seal" of truth or approval.

          The news element is that they're doing the looking into and using of Reiki and other forms of alternative healing.

          The goal with this piece isn't to sanction it all, now that the military is on board a bit. What you may be picking up on, however, is the slight green-light their action has given me personally to want to dip into reporting on what I agree is really mystical -- and perhaps not scientifically strong in your definition of things -- stuff that I don't even have a full grasp on!

        •  I wholeheartedly agree with you (5+ / 0-)
          I studied Reiki for a while, I even got myself to the level where I can call myself a Reiki master (with diploma and all that jazz), and there is nothing else to Reiki than placebo effect.  Now  don't get me wrong, placebo effect is great, wish I could bottle it, but getting excited about Reiki as something more unique is totally uncalled for.

          Acupuncture, on the other hand, is a powerful technique that does not get its effectiveness from the placebo effect.

        •  Right. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ilona, llbear

          There is no such thing as "Western" science. There is science, which has had a good run in the West for the last couple of centuries, but which was hardly born there, and was never exclusive to there.

          "Western" is often used as a disparaging term for closed-minded and insulated ideas or paradigms.  For a while in certain academic circles it was fashionable to call anything you didn't like a wholly Western concept.    Numbers, logic, medical treatment, objective reality, basically anything that has fallen out of favor among postmodernists.
          I don't think people realize what an insult this is to Eastern cultures, who gave us much of that supposedly closed-minded math, science and medicine.    For example, the "linear, Western" statistical analysis we apply to data was originally invented by Islamic theologians trying to establish authenticity of passages in the Quran.  

          •  You guys are going off on the "western science" (5+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Caj, side pocket, ladybug53, llbear, old wobbly

            ...thing, and I want to clarify who brought that in here.

            I never made mention of "western science," in my post or in my comments. In my comment to sagesource I wrote "western culture."

            There's a difference there.

            I was pointing to western thinking, just as you are here; our culture has been slow in embracing eastern/native/earth philosophies. sagesource went off of my comment and took that to mean "western science."


      •  asdf (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ilona, ebohlman, Focusmarker

        They do seem to be learning how to better test for its efficacy.

        I don't see what would be better than the double-blind test protocols people have already used.  Except, of course, more and larger tests, collecting more data with more people.

        I think these quoted articles betray a deep assumption that Reiki must work, and that if it fails double-blind tests then we need a better kind of science, presumably one that confirms the belief in distance healing.  One of the articles you cite even refers to the failed experiments as "paradoxical results" --- a disturbing way to describe findings that contradict a belief.  

        I argue the opposite:  that we don't need to "better test" for efficacy, that the existing tests worked just fine---they just happened to show an utter absence of the phenomenon under test.

        I've never had a treatment done myself and can't personally vouch for it

        Arguably, even if someone had a treatment done they still couldn't personally vouch for it.  

        After all, the claimed phenomenon is apparently so subtle that it is impossible to detect even in larger studies with multiple people.  If it had an effect so significant that you would notice it, then it would clearly have showed up in tests.

        This, I think, is a common paradox among some purported alternative therapies:  on an individual level, practitioners claim real and very significant effects in healing disease.  But once the conversation turns to scientific testing, practitioners speak of their powers as very weak, capricious and subtle, too subtle to detect with "traditional" science.

        It's a bit like telling you that I have a grown bull elephant in my apartment that fills the living room; and when asked to prove it I say that I probably won't be able to find it amongst all my folders and cubbyholes.  The phenomenon just seems to waver between huge and tiny, depending on the scrutiny placed upon it.

        •  I understand your reasoning... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          zett, side pocket, Dianna, old wobbly

          But let me ask you: Before we were able to scientifically detect the rings of Saturn with a telescopic lens -- did that necessarily mean that they did not exist?

          Our view that we have arrived at the end of the scientific exploration road -- and that our science (and the tools used to do its research) is done growing and expanding and changing is what I can't buy into.

          I'm not saying that gives a pass to these types of alternative therapies; but, if we haven't arrived yet at a point in our technology to measure or see something absolutely with certainly -- it doesn't automatically make it not so.

          Our science is still open to growing. We are not done learning new things, is my view.

          •  LOL (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            side pocket

            ...I meant to write rings of Jupiter. D'oh!

            Saturn's rings have been detectable with the naked eye for eons! :o)

          •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            There are plenty of things we weren't able to detect until science advanced---and there are still many theories that remain untestable until we make bigger leaps in our ability to measure things.
            However, here we are talking about phenomena alleged to have a very significant healing effect.  According to these claims, Reiki isn't some subtle phenomenon too weak for science to even detect.  Instead, people claim that it is highly effective, that it treats real medical conditions, etc.
            So we're not talking about some subtle force that is presently beyond our ability to detect; we are talking about claims that are significant enough to test directly in a controlled, double-blind experiment.

            This would be analogous to someone saying that a star has as-yet-undetectable extrasolar planets, and that those planets exert a strong enough gravitational pull to aid someone's heart condition on Earth.

            •  The key here (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Sharoney, Focusmarker

              is that many proponents of "alternative medicine" make specific statements about entities that are supposed to be (currently) unmeasurable or undetectable. You can't measure qi, but you can say that it's "flow" is "blocked" in someone, or that it's "out of balance." Such statements are nothing more than expressions of doctrine; they have everything in common with religion and nothing in common with science.

              Too much of "alternative medicine" relies on the ability of a proponent to emotionally connect with his audience. But making that kind of connection is a well-understood, widely taught skill used by salespeople. The fact that something feels right often means little more than that someone's telling us what we want to hear. Humans have a vastly overdeveloped ability to fool themselves (and intelligence is no defense against this; smarter people simply use their intelligence to construct more complicated rationalizations for their ungrounded beliefs).

              Before Jupiter's rings were discovered, nobody was making specific statements about their nature. Not so with most "energy healing" systems.

              I do like conducting hearings in an actual hearing room -- John Conyers

              by ebohlman on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 04:53:18 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think it's far more than that (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                ebohlman, Focusmarker

                ...many proponents of "alternative medicine" make specific statements about entities that are supposed to be (currently) unmeasurable or undetectable. You can't measure qi, but you can say that it's "flow" is "blocked" in someone, or that it's "out of balance."

                Practitioners don't merely say these things:  they also claim their therapy is highly effective, and they credit it with successfully treating real and serious diseases.  That much is definitely measurable and detectable:  do the unblocking or whatnot, and see if people are better.

                The only way out of this is to argue that the therapy treats a disease in an unmeasurable way---e.g., that the condition is still the same by every objective criterion, but it is in some way "balanced" or "treated."  But if that were the case, it certainly shouldn't be something we spend veterans' benefits on.

      •  To my logical mind I'd like to scoff , in fact (7+ / 0-)

        I do...
        But scoffing is harder when I see it work. I am a reluctant sometimes practitioner of Therapeutic touch. I even got training "against my will".

        As a past mommy of little children I was a boo boo healer, mommies are. Probably because when the skin is broken you don't rub the open wound I'd "rub" the air above them. I'm not sure when that became the common way I'd "massage" sore areas for them and their friends and my friends. They'd say how good it felt, how much it helped. I never thought much of it.

        Then someone's mother had a bad knee and offered my services to her. As I worked on her she was asking about the sensations I was feeling, asked me to describe what I felt on her bad knee compared to the other knee. She had me "scan" some of her friends and talk about what I was noting.
        Making the story shorter she signed me up for a nearby workshop on Therapeutic touch, swearing that was what I was doing. She'd paid for it, it seemed insulting not to go.

        One thing I at the training that I couldn't dismiss as coincidence (I am the queen of saying things are coincidental) was that areas that have something wrong "feel" different when you scan them. (I don't know if that was the right word. It's when you go over their whole body, not quite touching) We all had to scan everyone. I felt stupid but when an area would feel different...could be colder or hotter or feel uneven or knotted...I would say so and it was always an area of injury or pain. I got some the the trainers had missed...and according to the people I didn't miss any or have any false calls.

        It didn't make me a believer, hey I was a chemistry major. I am very logical.
        I continued doing what I'd always done only with the extra steps taught in the workshop. People continued to say the same things about what they felt and how it helped. I continued not to think much about it...It's like they think of me as healing so they think it works so they feel better.

        Than my tomato plants got some soil disease and wilted. A friend tested and told me what it was (v something)?) and there was nothing to do nut pull the plants. Having nothing to lose and being too lazy to pull them up that day I did Therapeutic touch on them.
        To shorten this part early on they needed a couple of sessions per day, then daily, then every other day and it could never go longer than 3 days before wilt returned.
        It also didn't work the few times I was just weary and couldn't get that ball of energy going in my hands. But after their session they wilted plants were strong again the next time I saw them...just started to rewilt as noted in the schedule above.

        I don't know if my gardener friend diagnosed them correctly but I know this wilt wasn't water or feeding or heat related. I know if I skipped doing TT they remained wilted until I did. That was last summer. They made it through. At the ned of the season I quit, they wilted up.

        Happened again this year, tomato plants in the garden wilted (not potted ones). Same experience. I was busy with other things though and decided to let them go. I cut off most of the plant and left tomatoes on to ripen. One day I did Therapeutic touch on a friend. When we went outside I vaguely did it on the most of the cut down tomato pants...and they got better again. The remaining branched became turgid leaves and stems (branches?) grew, flowers came, tomatoes formed and are growing. I do have to keep up the TT but now I feel obliged to since they want to grow.
        The one plant I ignored that day and since, though it was between two that came back, did not get better.

        This troubles me. What, the plants just think they feel better? So I don't focus on that part. I focus on how my wounded parts get better when I do the Therapeutic touch on the plants, clealy it's the placebo effect.

        I don't talk about this a lot because I am a logical person but if there was ever a time I had to share it than this thread was it.

        I am logical but in time logic tells you it is illogical to refuse to believe in something because you don't understand it.

        I did read about some testing that showed TT practitioners couldn't tell when the person's hands were over their hands on the other side of the divide. I found that hard to believe so we did the experiment here. When my hands were still and theirs passing over I sometimes missed it. When we reversed that and their hands were still and my hands trying to find them it was 100%

        But it was probably a coincidence.  

        •  I am, I guess, what you'd call a (6+ / 0-)

          semi-skeptical person.  But I have had Reiki treatments and I definitely felt something.  The first time I asked to have it done, I was all like, "It probably won't do anything, but I feel bad, so what the hell".

          It wasn't just like, "oh I feel better" in some vague way, I felt sort of like a gentle electrical current or maybe like I had iron filings inside and a magnet passed over me - it was a definite wave of something.

          Yeah, I know, no double blind studies...normally I am all for preaching the double blind studies...but I am not going to knock something I experienced, either.

          Kucinich did NOT bankrupt Cleveland. Feingold didn't vote to impeach Clinton, either.

          by zett on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 06:21:56 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks so much for sharing your experience... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          •  not sure what to say about this... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ilona, ladybug53

            but it's a great post.

            Well, for me I had an experience, anecdotal to be sure but for along time my legs really hurt and ached, especially at night, for years.  I found out about RLS and I guess that's what it was.  This is embarrassing but I used to have my boyfriend sit on my calves with all his weight until they were numb.  It felt good for a while!

            Anyway, he believed in "Chinese medicine" ardently and I used to argue with him because I felt he had no skepticism and he just simply couldn't believe everything.

            So he takes me to this acupuncturist, a Chinese fellow who was very well-recommended.  So I go and I am a person who did not believe in acupunture at all, and still am quite skeptical.

            So I tell the guy I had this problem and it's been building for like several years and he tells me it will probably take about 6 months to get rid of it.  I so DID NOT believe him.  But still I decide to go once a week.

            I found it really meditative and I liked his music and when he left me there in the dimly lit room for about a half-hour or so I thought the meditation itself was good.  I'm pretty type-A and I found it relaxing and thought it would do me good.  Actually, I loved it and if nothing helped me I liked simply enjoyed going there.

            After the second week the feeling in my legs disppeared, and it was over just like that.  I couldn't believe it.  I would lay in bed at night and just couldn't believe it, after having to move around my legs for years.

            So anyway, maybe it was placebo.  It really doesn't matter because it stopped my legs from hurting at night and driving me crazy.

            For a long time I would lay in bed scared and convinced it would come back, but it never has.

            That was a few years ago.

            Ultimately I believe in acupunture now, at the same time I think it was placebo or maybe in my mind, maybe the RLS was all in my mind (yeah 6 years or so) and at the same time I don't believe in it.  But ultimately who cares, just do it, you know.  Sometimes these things work, who cares why.  Have a open mind to try things, you might be surprised

  •  If Reiki works I am all for it... (7+ / 0-)

    ...however un-scientific it sounds.

    Is acupunture sanctioned too?

    Great to see you back Ilona.; an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action -1.75 -7.23

    by Shockwave on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 11:42:05 AM PDT

    •  Hi Shockwave (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shockwave, ladybug53

      (...and I left you hanging again, didn't I with out email conversation? Can you send specifics on what resources your friend needs/how they wish to be helped?)

      I haven't look deeply into acupuncture yet.

      Just starting to research this stuff right now, and the Reiki post was my first deep look into it (fascinating...) Sure feels like it's all finally coming together; since the military is using and testing these treatments, it does make it easier to write about it myself.

      Although there's no reason why we can't push the military culture in directions that they're currently not moving in -- in fact, I think that's one of our responsibilities as citizens -- it's easier to report on these new, (old) emerging therapies in the military framework when they are also using and testing them as well.

      It's a great blessing to see it happen, and I do hope that they will continue to embrace all types of reintegration tools for veterans.

  •  I've been wanting to vist a Reiki practitioner (5+ / 0-)

    for some time after a brief exposure to it in SLC.  I know several people who have had very good results with it.

    It's not so "out there" for many people who's faith believes in the laying on of hands.  The first Reiki practitioner I met was an Episcopal woman who also used the laying on of hands ceremony one night a week at church.  

    There are two kinds of people in the world, those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don't. -- Robert Benchley -5.75, -7.18

    by Rogneid on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 11:43:37 AM PDT

  •  Hell of a diary ilona... (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, ilona, side pocket, marina, ladybug53, KenBee

    and it's always good to see you.  Welcome back.  :-)

    "The truth shall set you free - but first it'll piss you off." Gloria Steinem

    Iraq Moratorium

    by One Pissed Off Liberal on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 12:05:11 PM PDT

  •  The military wastes a lot of money. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, RonV, ilona, ladybug53, old wobbly

    This particular waste doesn't seem so egregious.

    •  At least it won't KILL anyone..... n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      "And if you vant a second opinion -- you are ugly too!"

      by sagesource on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 01:00:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But taking money from veterans benefits? (4+ / 0-)

        Of all the ways someone could waste DoD money, this seems the least humane.  Vets need that money for medical treatment.
        I agree that it doesn't actually hurt anyone's health to do this, and the placebo effect just may be beneficial.  Provided that the people who call themselves practitioners are essentially doing it for free; if they are taking money from vets to do aura-adjusting or whatnot, that crosses the line from innocent to unethical.

  •  Excellent, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ilona, ladybug53, llbear

    as always, ilona.  I've missed you and hope you're well.

    I've forwarded this to my son (and his girl).  


    "Ancora Imparo." ("I am still learning.") - Michelangelo, Age 87

    by Dreaming of Better Days on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 01:15:00 PM PDT

  •  Great diary! (6+ / 0-)

    It's about time that energy work is recognized as an alternative and adjunct to Western medicine.  Keep up the good work!

  •  Hello (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo, ilona, KenBee, llbear

    Just wanted to say hello and lend my support - I'm an advanced EFT practitioner who will hopefully also be able to help returning Vets with PTSD.  EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is an energy healing method as well which uses the fingers to "tap" on meridian points on the hand and upper body to eliminate trauma held in the body/subconscious.  I love EFT because it is highly effective and can be done over the phone.   I need to find a way to reach returning Vets so if you have any suggestions, I would be very open to hearing them.  My ad just came out on which is the Journal news online.  Please check out my website if you want to learn more about EFT

    Many thanks for letting me share your space!

    Dissent is Patriotic

    by mwjeepster on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 01:28:19 PM PDT

    •  Thanks for the information, Melissa (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      side pocket, KenBee, llbear, old wobbly

      I've been contacted a lot over the years by others who swear by EFT, as well.

      I haven't looked into it myself or covered it in any way; but, plan to look into these alternative therapies more in the coming months.

      In fact, a comment posted with this piece at my blog today had this info:

      From Tapas Fleming, developer of TAT (Tapas Acupressure Technique) who along with three other TAT trainers, did a workshop for combat vets on Aug 1, 2008 in Columbus GA. Sarah Bird, a trauma specialist and one of the guest TAT trainers, flew in from Dublin, Ireland, to work with the soldiers.

      See Columbus, GA newspaper article here.


      " Brian Davis came to the workshop for combat veterans just to prove that we were wrong. He planned to call us down for offering something that wouldn’t help soldiers. The first night of the workshop, he decided to work on the very worst trauma that ever happened to him in combat. Right after he returned for the second night, he told us that he had dreamed of his children for the first time ever and that he’d slept well for the first time in years. He explained that previously, he’d typically wake up 15 times a night in one combat situation or another, pace through his home, sleep restlessly again and finally greet the day in a torn up bed. . ."

      We’re grateful to the local community for supporting this workshop. It was a privilege to join the soldiers, their spouses and children in this life-changing journey.

      This email with announcement on EFT – from developer Gary Craig.

      Free help for our vets: In March of this year, myself and 5 EFT experts did an EFT intensive with 11 veterans and their family members. We gathered data on their levels of PTSD before and after the event. The results were spectacular, with their PTSD levels dropping by an average of 63%. We've followed their progress for the last three months, and they've maintained most of the ground they gained during the intensive.

      Now, the Iraq Vets Stress Project, which offers EFT to ALL veterans free of charge, and which many of you have supported with your donations, is launching a nationwide study of vets with PTSD (whether or not they served in Iraq). If you know of a veteran who is suffering from nightmares, health problems, flashbacks, insomnia, or some of the other symptoms of PTSD, please encourage them to apply for the study. Help is available in many cities, as well as over the phone. Go to for details.

      I haven't taken a look at any of this, yet, so take it with a grain of salt...but happy further researching for anyone interested.

      Thanks for all you do, too, Melissa.

  •  I'm off, now... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    llbear, Unknown Quantity, old wobbly

    Thanks so much for the great conversation, everyone.

    Have a great weekend!

    I Want YOU to Care About PTSD

  •  great diary ilona (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ilona, Dianna

    i'm a massage therapist, and for the first 2 years of practice, thought 'energy' work was entirely placebo syndrome.

    then as my skills and sensitivity improved, i started to become aware of micro currents in my hands, and also became sensitive to treatments from others that did not involve physical pressure, but rather communication on some other level than the purely physical.

    i was surprised, but recognised the value, and it led me to cranio-sacral therapy, which i've found powerful, gentle and effective. it's a middle ground between purer energy work such as reiki, and normal massage.

    c.s. therapy uses pressures as light as 2 gms per sq inch, for example.

    sometimes it works without touch at all, though it doesn't attempt long distance work.

    my partner is a reiki master, and when she uses it on me, it works about 50% of the time. when it does work it's very peaceful and balancing.

    i add this to show that sceptical attitudes can only change with direct experience, and no matter how sure we think we are of certain things, there will always be more than meets the eye to any situation, and what we don't know will always far exceed what we do...

    good luck with your work, it is very inspiring.

    why? just kos..... *just cause*

    by melo on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 09:08:48 PM PDT

  •  Until recently, people scoffed at the whole idea (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mnemosyne, ilona, Dianna

    of meridians, the pathways in the body that the Chinese believe exist and are used during acupuncture treatment.
    But as medical technology has gotten better, we can now see the pathways with our technology. Right where the Chinese said they were thousands of years ago.
    We can now see energy that extends outward from the body, surrounding it, in the place where people have said the aura existed for centuries.
    Science will catch up one day.
    I second the question above about the rings of Saturn. Do you only believe in things you can see? Taste? Feel? Smell? Do you only believe in the things you can understand?
    Or do you know there are tons of things in this world we don't yet understand?
    In the Middle Ages, doctors cut open blood veins and "bled" people to get rid of the bad blood they believed people had.
    We know now bleeding people who are already weak and sick is not a good idea.
    I think we'll know someday that the so-called alternative health treatments are exactly what we need.  

  •  Thanks for this diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    well researched, lots of good links. I'm glad to see conventional westernized "medicine" taking a closer look at things other than chemicalized, quantified systems.

    My experiences with that kind of dehumanized medicine have been so bad that years ago I became willing to investigate alternatives. Reiki does work, as does acupuncture. And probably a number of others, as well.

    The degree to which you resist injustice is the degree to which you are free. -- Utah Phillips

    by Mnemosyne on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 09:25:42 PM PDT

  •  i dated an ilona (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    who was very good at touch therapy. she was a biology major.

    always liked the name.

    --plays well with otters

    by jeepndesert on Sat Aug 23, 2008 at 09:57:52 PM PDT

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