Over the years I've been to a number of energy therapists who've used methods ranging from their hands to acupuncture needles to tuning forks to cure whatever's ailed me (and it usually did). But the last time, when an odd pain kept me from traveling to a practitioner's office, the ache was vanquished over the phone.
That was more woo-woo than even I could handle (even though I've written about various forms of energy healing for years), which got me wondering, how is it that a therapist -- using nothing more than thoughts and energy -- can help someone improve their health?
So I put in a call to Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., author of the books "The Biology of Belief" and "Spontaneous Evolution." Lipton is no flighty New-Ager; earlier in his career he worked as a cell biologist and professor at the National Institutes of Health, Stanford and the University of Wisconsin, among others. It was actually the experience of scientifically cloning cells that convinced Lipton that the way we view healing is wrong. When he separated genetically identical stem cells into three Petri dishes, he says, the cells in each dish grew to be totally different than those in the other dishes -- even though all were genetically the same. That set Lipton on his lifelong quest to uncover the role the environment and other factors play in cell restoration and growth.
Here are excerpts from our fascinating conversation.
Q: Is it possible to scientifically explain energy healing?
Bruce Lipton: Absolutely. There's a concept in quantum physics called "entanglement," which is when one energy source entangles with another so that they interfere with each other. This interference can be positive and harmonious, as with energy healing, or it can be negative.
Physicist Amit Goswami published an article in a physics journal showing that entanglement affects people. He had two people meditate together and then separated them into two chambers where they couldn't see or hear one another. When one person had a light strobed by his eye, it caused the firing of a certain frequency in the brain. Remarkably, at the same moment, the other person's brain also fired, even though he never saw the light. This proves what we intuitively knew, that the energies of people can affect one another.
Q: Are there examples of entanglement in other things?
Bruce Lipton: Sure. If you have pendulum clocks on the wall and start them all at different times, after a while the pendulums will all swing in synchronicity. The same thing happens with heart cells in a Petri dish: They start beating in rhythm even when they're not touching one another.
Q: What exactly happens in an energy healing session, then?
Bruce Lipton: What Goswami's study demonstrated is that when two people become entangled, one person will conform to the energy of the other person. When one of them is a healer whose cells are vibrating at a higher level, the client's cells become entangled, and their energy is lifted. That's why that old saying, "physician heal thyself," is so important, even though most don't understand it: If the physician's energy is going to influence or, in scientific terms, "entrain" the patient's, the doctor's must be higher.
Q: What causes a person's energy to be lower in the first place?
Bruce Lipton: This is where environment comes in. And by that I mean of course diet, exercise and stress, but also your sense -- or lack -- of optimism. Each of our cells is a living entity, and the main thing that influences them is our blood. If I open my eyes in the morning and my beautiful partner is in front of me, my perception causes a release of oxytocin, dopamine, growth hormones -- all of which encourage the growth and health of my cells. But if I see a saber tooth tiger, I'm going to release stress hormones -- cortisol, histamine, norepinephrine. Those chemicals change the cells to a protection mode. I don't even have to see these things: If I'm worried or afraid, my blood will fill with the same harmful chemicals. People need to realize that their thoughts are more primary than their genes, because the environment, which is influenced by our thoughts, controls the genes.
Q: So you have to change the environment -- including your thoughts -- if you want healing to be sustained?
Bruce Lipton: Yes. If your environment keeps draining your energy, it's like having a leaky bank account, where any money you're putting into the bank, such as by seeing an energy healer, keeps slipping out. You have to change your environment, including any harmful beliefs, before the energy can stay high.
Q: Does a person's expectation about a healer play a role in whether they improve?
Bruce Lipton: Absolutely. Your cells don't see the environment directly; they take as their truth what the brain tells them. That's why the placebo effect is so powerful for every type of healing. If the brain expects that a treatment will work, it sends healing chemicals into the bloodstream, which facilitates that. And the opposite is equally true and equally powerful: When the brain expects that a therapy will not work, it doesn't. It's called the "nocebo" effect.
I once developed Bell's palsy, which is a paralysis of the face. One morning I put a coffee cup to my lips, and the coffee started running down my shirt. The standard treatment is medication, but I was determined to be over it without drugs in one week. I went to an acupuncturist and chiropractor, both of which are forms of energy healers. Seven days later it was gone. I know it could have resolved even faster if I hadn't chosen a week as my goal.
Q: What about healing over a long distance? That's a hard concept for people -- including me -- to wrap our heads around.
Bruce Lipton: It's freaky, but it works, because energy isn't limited to a set spatial distance.
Meryl Davids Landau is the author of the new spiritual women's novel, "Downward Dog, Upward Fog," which was recommended by Yoga Journal Buzz Blog and the Science of Mind national newsletter. ForeWord Reviews calls the novel "an inspirational gem that will appeal to introspective, evolving women." Read excerpts at www.DownwardDogUpwardFog.com. Meryl also writes for O: the Oprah Magazine, Whole Living, Reader's Digest and other national magazines.
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