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Sunday, April 30th, 2006
11:03 pm
The Healing Power of Touch
In churches and elsewhere, the ancient practice of hands-on healing is being revived.
By Lori Erickson

One warm spring afternoon, a woman enters a small room overlooking the garden courtyard of Trinity Episcopal Church in Iowa City. With a sigh she removes her headscarf and lies down on the massage table near the window. “It’s been a hard week,” she says. “But three more weeks and I’m done with chemotherapy.”

As music softly plays on the stereo, I gently place my hands on her feet as we begin our weekly Healing Touch session. For the next 45 minutes, I visualize divine blessings flowing into her, as I practice the ancient form of healing known as laying-on-of-hands.
I end our session by anointing the woman’s head with frankincense and saying a blessing. Afterwards she slowly opens her eyes. “There’s nowhere else in my life where I can experience this kind of deep relaxation and peace,” she says. “Thank you—I feel like myself again.”

Once again, I am amazed by the sense of quiet grace that blesses these Healing Touch sessions in our church.

My participation in this ministry is the fruit of many years of interest in healing, particularly in the growing research on the mind/body connection and the ways in which spirituality can be a powerful adjunct to conventional medical treatments. So when our church began sponsoring a series of workshops given by the Colorado-based Healing Touch Spiritual Ministry program in 2003, I was eager to learn more.

In our classes I heard about the ancient healing traditions of Christianity. Healing the sick was a central part of Jesus’ ministry and of the early Christian church. The gospels are full of stories about Jesus healing the sick, and Jesus commanded his followers to go and do likewise. But this emphasis was gradually lost over the centuries as illness became solely the domain of physicians and hospitals.

Healing Touch is a modern version of this time-honored practice. Many traditional cultures have recognized that a gentle touch is soothing to those who are ill. More recently, studies conducted at the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute have proven that touch is an essential part of human health. Skin is the human body’s largest organ, containing millions of receptors that send messages through nerve fibers to the brain. A simple touch has been shown to reduce a person’s heart rate, lower blood pressure, and reduce stress levels.

Started by a Nurse, It Became a Ministry
Healing Touch as a form of complementary medicine was developed by a nurse, Janet Mentgen, in 1989, as a way to assist the body’s natural healing process by redirecting and rebalancing its energy fields. During a session, practitioners gently place their hands on or above the person’s fully clothed body. Today an estimated 30,000 nurses use HT techniques in medical settings to reduce tension and anxiety, enhance wound healing, reduce post-surgical pain and use of pain medication, and trigger a sense of relaxation in patients. (The related techniques of Reiki and Therapeutic Touch have many similarities to Healing Touch, but feature different training programs and philosophies.)

In the 1990s, HT practitioner Linda Smith took note of the many connections between Healing Touch and Christian healing traditions. In 1997 Smith founded Healing Touch Spiritual Ministry as a way of reclaiming the church’s early commitment to healing.

“As practitioners of Healing Touch, we are instruments through which God’s healing energy flows,” says Smith, author of "Called Into Healing: Reclaiming our Judeo-Christian Legacy of Healing Touch." “We address the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions of a person. The word ‘heal’ comes from the Old English word haelen, which means to make whole. Healing involves restoring balance to a person’s mind, body, and soul. An abatement of symptoms may be part of a healing, but healing can occur even if the illness isn’t cured in the physical sense.”

Who's Doing It?

A growing number of churches are involved in a hands-on healing ministry, including Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Congregational, and Episcopal parishes around the nation. Among those who are now doing this healing work are clergy, hospice volunteers, parish nurses, chaplains, and members of prayer teams.
Over the past three years, I’ve seen firsthand how churches can support the healing of their communities in body, mind, and spirit. Illness can affect every aspect of people’s lives and profoundly wound their spirits. But a healing ministry can reassure people that they are loved and cared for, no matter what happens with the physical course of their disease.
While some members of my church were initially skeptical, others were intrigued by the idea of making hands-on healing one of our ministries. Some had already heard of HT or had experienced it in a hospital setting. For instance, the Rev. Barbara Schlachter, the wife of our rector, the Rev. Mel Schlachter, had benefited from it when she underwent treatments for breast cancer.

“With Healing Touch, I found that I went through the chemo without any problems, and my energy was much greater than I had been led to believe it would be,” she says. “It was such a caring thing to do and experience, and I realized that it would be good for me to continue with the treatments even after I was no longer going through radiation or chemo. When we moved to Iowa City and discovered that one of the women in the parish offered it, I was quick to sign up. The next thing I knew I was learning how to do it, too. It has become a great joy to offer this prayerful form of healing of body, mind and spirit to people who are suffering.”

Our ministry team now offers laying-on-of-hands at during our Sunday morning services, as well as treatments in our healing room and clinics. There is no charge, though a goodwill donation is welcome, with the money going to support further training for practitioners. Since 2003, the 25 people who are part of our ministry team have given nearly 1,000 treatments to both parishioners and the general public.

Why Do People Try Healing Touch?

Some have chronic ailments such as arthritis and diabetes, while others are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation or are in hospice care. Some simply come seeking relief from stress. While a treatment often brings an easing of physical symptoms, many people say that the emotional and spiritual uplift is its primary benefit.

As a practitioner, I find that giving a treatment is healing to me as well. The wordless connection I experience with my clients is profoundly moving. Giving a treatment allows me to empty myself so that God’s love may flow through me.

I recently learned that the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City—one of the nation’s largest teaching hospitals—is the site of two research studies on the potential benefits of Healing Touch for cancer patients. One is funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, the other by the National Cancer Institute.

While I look forward to the results of these studies, I can already attest to the results of our Healing Touch work all around us. I see people entering our clinics looking tired and worn, only to emerge with a new sense of peace and strength. I talk to former clients who tell me how much it meant to them to receive these treatments. And I see the quiet miracles of grace that often happen in our small healing room overlooking the blooming tulips and daffodils in the church’s garden.
How to Do a Healing Touch Session

In the first level of Healing Touch Spiritual Ministry training, this laying-on-of-hands exercise is taught:
Begin by placing your hands gently on the head or shoulders of the person who wishes to be healed. Center your thoughts and pray that this person many receive God’s healing.
Breathe deeply and visualize divine blessings flowing into the person before you. Fill your heart with love and compassion for them.
As you pray, you may feel a sense of warmth in your hands. Stay focused on the present moment and let the energy flow through you.
Hold your hands in place as long as the Spirit directs.
End with a prayer that the person before you may be blessed and upheld in God’s grace.

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006
1:45 pm
The Ten Teachings Shared by All Religions
1. One God

"Wherefore thou art great, O LORD God; for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears." - the Bible, 2 SAMUEL 7:22

"That all the people of the earth may know that the LORD is God, and that there is none else." - the Bible, 1 KINGS 8:60

"The Lord is our God, The Lord is One" - Shema, Hebrew Prayer

"Allah is One" - Koran, 112:1

"The One is Lord of all that moves" - Rig Veda III.54.8 (Hinduism)

"There is only One God." - Chief Seattle, Dwamish Indian Chief

2. God is Everywhere

"I fill the Heaven and the Earth." - the Bible, Jer 23:24
"The whole world is Brahman." - the Upanishads (Hinduism)
"How majestic is your presence in all the earth!"- the Bible, Psalm 8
"We think of Tirawa (God) as in everything" - Lenape Indian interview

3. God is Light

"God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all." - the Bible 1John 1:5
"All things appear, illumined by Brahman's Light." - the Upanishads
"Allah's light illumines all Heaven and Earth." - Koran 24:35

4. The Existence of the Soul

"Fear not them which are able to kill the body but not able to kill the soul" - Bible, Matthew 10:20
"A soul will not die" - Koran 3:145
"For the soul there is never birth nor death. It is not slain when the body is slain" - Bhagavad Gita
"And it came to pass, as her soul was departing, (for she died)" - Bible, Genesis 35:18

5. God is Inside of Us

"We know that He dwell in us because he has given us of his Spirit." - Bible 1John 13
"God dwelleth in all hearts" - Bhagavad Gita
"The One God is hidden in all living things" - the Upanishads (Hinduism)
"All animals have power because the Great Spirit dwells in all of them" - Lame Deer, Sioux Chief
"The Kingdom of God is within you." - Jesus
"He to whom you pray is nearer than the neck of your camel." - Mohammed

6. Spiritual Knowledge is Obtainable

"Take heed of the Living One while you are alive, lest you die and seek to see Him, and be unable to do so." - Jesus, Gospel of Thomas
"All who dwell on earth may find you" - Jewish Prayer Book
"True knowledge can only be attained by a human being." - Krishna
"Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave" - Mohammed
"The sage who is intent on yoga comes to Brahman without long delay" - Bhagavad Gita
"Search with sincerity and in the end you will find the truth." Buddha
"If thou seekest hidden treasures, thou shall find the knowledge of God" - Bible, Proverbs

7. God's Name: "I AM"

Although all religions have different native languages, most contain similar teachings about God's name. Many of them tell us that God's name can't actually be pronounced, or that giving God a name is like putting a limit on something that is limitless. As well, many of the religions have several names for God. One name that the religions share is the phrase "I AM." This is shown in Exodus 3:14 and John 8:58 of the Bible, and in the Shatapatha Brahmana of the Hindu faith. The sacred word soham for Hindus is translated as "I am that I am," the exact same phrase as in Exodus 3:14.

8. Compassion and Respect for Everyone

"All beings long for happiness. Therefore extend thy compassion to all. He who wishes his own happiness, let him cultivate goodwill towards all the world" - Buddha

"Love your enemies. Bless them that curse you. For if you love only those that love you, what reward have ye? -Jesus

"Judge everybody favorably" - the Talmud (Jewish sacred book)

9. Morals: Don't Lie, Steal, Commit Adultery, Covet

The Ten Commandments, the Ten Precepts of the Buddha, and verse 16:1 of the Bhagavad Gita all clearly state these moralistic teachings. The Koran repeatedly warns The Believer to avoid "exceeding the limits" set by God.

10. All of Humanity is One Family

"God hath made of one blood all nations that dwell upon the face of the Earth" -Bible, Acts 17:16
"All creatures are members of the one family of God" - Mohammed
"Human beings, all, are as head, arms, trunk, and legs unto one another" - The Vedas
"One thing we know. All men are brothers" - Chief Seattle
"All people are your children, whatever their belief, whatever their shade of skin" - Jewish prayer book

www.outdoorfun.com/ 10teachings.htm
1:25 pm
Today's Inspirational Story Weaving Our Lives: Lessons From the Loom
Weaving Our Lives: Lessons From the Loom
A master weaver explains how some of the mistakes in our lives can be rewoven. Others must remain part of our fabric.

Many of the Greek myths contain stories about mortals who dare to claim not only the power, but also the perfection of the gods. Remember the story about the weaving contest between Athena and Arachne? Arachne made Athena mad not just because she claimed to be a better weaver, i.e. perfect, but because the story she illustrated with her weaving showed Zeus, Athena’s father, in his less-than-perfect love affairs. Athena tore the perfect weaving to shreds and Arachne hung herself. Athena, in an act of mercy, changed the rope into a web and Arachne into a spider. So, Arachne would continue to weave but would no longer be a threat to Athena’s eminence.

In other cultures, perfection is reserved to the gods as well. The Navaho, for instance, when weaving a rug, deliberately weave a thread into the rug that looks like a mistake. That “mistake” keeps the rug from being perfect and serves as a path for Spirit to enter.

As women, if we accept our mistakes and failures as a path for Spirit to enter then we might take more risks in our work and in our lives. We could stop worrying about perfection and focus on experiencing life. As a weaver, the ideal of perfection will sabotage my choice of colors, my pattern ideas, and slow down my production if I let it. Mistakes are an inevitable part of being an artist, a mother, a woman. How we respond to mistakes makes the difference between an integrated or tattered fabric…

After I dress my loom with a new warp, before I weave the first weft, I have to weave in a waste yarn in order to evenly space the warp threads at the beginning of the fabric. Sometimes this is a fine thread to create a selvage. Sometimes if I am filling space in warp that will later be fringe, I use bias tape or even toilet paper. This filler is removed later during the finishing process.

The weaving of early adulthood, if we are lucky and have the support and guidance of family and friends, is like that filler. Given the heady experience of making our own choices about what to do after high school, who to date, what job to take, and whether or not to drink ourselves into a stupor at a party, it is not unusual to make mistakes. Some of those mistakes will be like filler at the beginning of the warp—taking up space to help the warp even out so that the weft of the weaving will go smoothly from thereon. Easily removable, yet not really part of the fabric. Some mistakes can be unwoven and rewoven.

Admitting mistakes is a challenge for all of us, requiring that we break old behaviors and ingrained responses. Unfortunately, though we may gather the courage to admit a mistake, sometimes mistakes cannot be unwoven but instead, must become part of the fabric of our lives. The ability to forgive ourselves is strongly tested. Life can change in a moment, and though we often wish for the opportunity to go back, to unweave, often we have only the choice to move forward, to keep weaving. We must fight our way through all the “if onlys,” to a place where we stand in the present moment and answer “What next?”
If we develop new skills, create new attitudes, and pick up new threads of courage and understanding, then we can integrate those mistakes into the weaving. Aspects of the pattern of the weaving may change but, with courage, we are able to integrate those mistakes into the weaving as though they were planned.

Many women experience a relationship that is not healthy for them physically, mentally, or emotionally. The mistake is not the relationship itself, which serves as an important teaching, rather the mistake arises when a woman stays in that relationship, a mistake that can have long-term consequences for not just the woman, but for her children if she has them, and for those who love her. Getting out of a relationship where strong feelings of love once lived is difficult and complicated by economic, parental, and legal concerns.

The biggest difficulty and complication, though, is our own willingness to take the blame for everything wrong in the relationship rather than valuing ourselves enough to feel entitled to change our lives for the better. If a partner betrays us, walks out on us, abuses us, then we mire ourselves in questions of what we did wrong. We try to figure out what we can do to make things better. Once out, we then berate ourselves for choosing to get involved in the first place. Instead, we need to congratulate ourselves for our courage in getting out of that relationship, for admitting the mistake and taking action to change it.

The threads of that relationship are part of the weaving of our life. Like the dark foundational threads of the warp, the threads of mistakes remain part of the fabric of our life. In that way, they remain as lesson and warning for future choices. Can we choose more wisely in the future? Will we pick up threads of love, respect, care, and wisdom to weave into our life, creating beauty once again?

Mistakes are part of being a weaver and being human. Mistakes are an opportunity for learning and growing and compassion. We need to give ourselves permission to be less than perfect—to make mistakes, and we need to give others, our friends, our husbands, our children, especially our children, permission to make mistakes as well.

Mistakes are a place for Spirit to enter.

Excerpted from 'Weaving a Woman's Life: Spiritual Lessons From the Loom' (Nettles & Green Threads Press) (c) Copyright by Paula Chaffee Scardamalia.

from beliefnet http://www.beliefnet.com/nllp/Inspiration.aspx?page=0&date=04-17-2006
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