There are moments powerfully laden with thought which compress time a hundredfold. Such compression can happen with a glimpse of a most inconsequential gesture, as it did to me one midsummer morning quite recently. The gesture caught my eye as I leaned against a tree while surveying seven former students, each of whom was teaching a small cluster of workshop participants how to do Therapeutic Touch, a method (derived from the laying-on of hands) of using the hands to direct human energies to help or heal someone who is ill. At that particular moment each of the teachers was using her hands in an attempt to translate to her group something of the interior experience one has when playing the role of healer. As I scanned the seven group teachers, these gestures froze in my mind as a progression of living statues, and for a moment I felt a sense of déjà vu. Each gesture was intimately known to me; each gesture called to mind an aspect of the working out from within of the highly personalized human interaction that is the healing act.
By turning my head slightly, I could see Mary and her group sitting on a log pile at the campfire site in the maple grove where we all were. She was teaching them how to center, how to reach deeply within, become aware of the facets of one's self, and then effortlessly bring those facets into alignment with each other. Deeper within the woods, Eloise was also teaching her group to center. She was talking about the importance of knowing and recognizing one's self in order to avoid the pitfall of mistaking all one's own problems for those of the healee's (patient's), or vice versa. In a clearing in the grove, Nancy was discussing the need to learn to put self aside and to give priority to meeting the needs of the healee. On the other side of the campfire site, Marianne was demonstrating to her group how to assess a person's field by becoming aware of energy differences without contacting the body with the hands. Sally was sitting against a tall silver maple tree; she was describing how she allows associative ideas to well up within her during the process of assessment. Farther in the woods, Janet was demonstrating Therapeutic Touch on a student who was sitting on a makeshift chair of logs. She was showing her group how to "unruffle" a person's field, or the area just beyond his skin, and how to clear seeming areas of congestion in this field until one feels a movement or flow of energy. Anna Marie, sitting with her group on the forest floor, was teaching them how to build up a localized field between the hands and then use it to transfer energy to the healee.
It happened that all of the teachers that day were nurses; however, I thought of the many hundreds -- actually, almost four thousand at this writing -- of students I have taught at universities and professional organizations around the country during the last five years. Although the majority of them were nurses, since touch is intrinsic in almost all phases of nursing practice, well over a thousand of those I had taught came from other professions or were laymen. Over the years, I have realized that only about four-fifths of those I've taught have gone on to incorporate Therapeutic Touch into their health care practices and that the other one-fifth treat the information as an intellectual exercise. However, of the larger percentage, I've only known of four persons who, when properly taught, were unable to do Therapeutic Touch. It does indeed seem to be a natural potential that can be actualized under the appropriate circumstances; and so as I looked at the students in the groups below me listening intently to their teachers, I realized that, if they were willing to give themselves adequate opportunities for practice, they would have this unique method of man caring for man literally at their fingertips in a short while.
Later on in the afternoon, my dog and I followed the headwaters of a nearby river to the cool shade of a gorge overhung with ancient hemlocks and large beech trees. As I recalled the morning's events with the intention of picking up anything that might need elaboration in that evening's workshop discussion, I thought again of the students and reminisced over the days of my own beginning knowledge about the therapeutic use of hands.
My interest in the therapeutic use of hands came originally through research and, very importantly, from a lady, Dora Kunz, who has been a very significant person in my life. Dora, as she is affectionately known, was born with a unique ability to perceive subtle energies around living beings. From the time she was a child, she studied the function and control of these energies under the tutelage of Charles W. Leadbeater, one of the great seers of the twentieth century. Through the years, she has studied these abilities in depth so that they have become like a fine instrument in her hands which she can turn on or off at will. During this time, she has worked closely with many medical doctors and scientists, sharing with them her special point of view. When I first met her, she was studying the processes involved in the healing act with several of them. They were studying many healers, among them Oskar Estebany, a world renowned healer.
Oskar Estebany had been a Colonel in the Hungarian cavalry. He loved horses; and one day, when his own horse became ill, he stayed all night in the stable with the horse. He knew the horse would be shot if it did not recover, and so he did everything he could think of to help the horse: He massaged it, he caressed it, he talked to it, he prayed over it. The last, in particular, he did not do lightly, for he was a man of deep religious beliefs. In the morning, to the surprise of all, including himself, Estebany found that the horse was well.
After that incident, when other horses became ill, the cavalrymen would bring their horses to Estebany and he would help them as he could. In time, the children of the cavalrymen would bring their sick pets to Estebany to be healed, and he became very well known for this ability.
Mr. Estebany thought he could heal only animals, he once told me, until one Sunday morning when a child in a neighbor's house became very ill. The family was unable to contact a doctor for some reason; and finally, in desparation, the father grabbed up the child and ran with him to Estebany's house to ask him to do to his child what he was able to do to horses. At first, Estebany refused because he did not think his method of healing would work on humans; but the father persisted in his request, and finally Estebany treated the child. The child got better, and Estebany continued to work with people until he retired from the cavalry. Upon his retirement, he decided to offer his services for research purposes; and so, after a chain of events that saw him leave Hungary and take up residence in Canada, he joined the group with whom Dora was studying the process of the healing act.
At the completion of that study, Dora, Estebany, and a medical doctor, Otelia Bengssten, M.D., decided to do a further study on a large sample of medically referred patients. Since I am a nurse, and since I had just received my Ph.D. degree, I was asked to join them. The study took place in the foothills of the Berkshires where the facilities could handle not only all of us but also the patients in residence.
My duties were actually peripheral to the study per se; and in retrospect, I realize that this was a good thing, for it gave me both an opportunity to observe Estebany close-up and the time in which to observe him. It is almost funny to recall that what I saw was not much of what I had anticipated -- incantations, the waving of arms, and a hypnotic glare in the eye of the healer was what my occasional readings had prepared me for. Instead, I found that Estebany was a well-built man with cheery blue eyes and a frequent smile. His healing ability carried with it a deep sense of commitment, and he did not spare himself in its practice: He frequently worked on the healees sixteen hours a day; more often than not he worked until Dora took away his patients and made him relax. Even then, he would take with him rolls of cotton batting to "magnetize" for the healees, and in the morning he would be up before sunrise, ready to start healing again. He would distribute the magnetized cotton to the healees after having it near his person during the night; some of these patients have told me that, even after nearly a year, they could still feel an energy flow from the cotton.
During the healing sessions, Estebany was very quiet; he would sit next to the healee and do exactly what he purported to do -- lay his hands on the patient. Although he made every effort to put the healee at ease, there was little conversation, for his command of the English language was limited, even though he spoke several other languages fluently. He would most frequently sit on a small stool either in front of or behind the healee and put his hands wherever he felt they were needed; occasionally Dora would suggest that he put his hands over a particular area that she could perceive in need of being energized. At times, he would make a little joke to put the healee at ease, but other than that he would remain with his hands on the healee, occasionally shifting position or placing his hands on another area, the entire treatment lasting for about twenty to twenty-five minutes. The healee would then leave the room, to come back the next day if his or her condition warranted it.
Estebany's actions seemed so simple that I began interactional sketches and behavioral profiles of both the healer and the healees, thinking that I would capture some of the subtleties I felt must be going on. As I carefully tried to record the physical activities the healer engaged in and the nonverbal as well as the verbal behavior of both healer and healee, it soon became apparent to me that the postures were but gross outer expressions of what appeared to be an intense interior experience for both of them. When pressed, Estebany would say that he felt that he was a channel for the spirit of Jesus the Christ; and when questioned, his patients would say that they felt heat from Estebany's hands and that they felt relaxed. The healees did indeed seem relaxed, and there was a noticeable up-welling of vibrant energy that seemed to come from his person as the days went by; and, in addition, a felt energetic intensity built up in the rooms in which he did his healing, so that it was quite perceptible upon entering the house.
I was impressed with Dora's descriptions of her perceptions of the healees' pathology descriptions, which might well have been taken out of Spalteholz-Spanner's Atlas of Human Anatomy or Guyton's Textbook of Medical Physiology, both classics in their field and neither of which she had ever read. It was as though she were perceiving directly the inner functions and dysfunctions of the patient. In actuality, she went further than either Spalteholz-Spanner or Guyton in her perceptions; but more often than chance could account for, her logic was irrefutable, and the consequent history of the patient bore her judgments out. On the other hand, if she didn't know or wasn't sure, she would say so, flat out. It was this precision that made her so invaluable to the scientists and doctors she worked with, and I myself learned a great deal from her wisdom.
Over the course of the study, some of the patients reported that they felt better; but there were no miraculous cures except one that could be termed "instantaneous," and that cure occurred in a seemingly mundane fashion. One of the participants in the healing sessions was a well-groomed attractive lady in early middle age. She was a nice lady, but there was little about her that one would recognize as being unusual. I believe that she came because a friend was coming to the sessions; and she did the kinds of things the other people did upon coming out to that part of the country -- walk down to see the falls, chat, play bridge, plan to go antiquing. For several years, she had had a boutique on a luxury liner that plied the Caribbean Sea. One day, during a heavy storm, she was thrown against a bulkhead and sustained injuries to her head. She was left with an inner ear syndrome that seriously interfered with her sense of balance. In the intervening years, she had had exhaustive work-ups from fifteen medical personnel, including six medical specialists who now felt there was nothing more that could be done; and so she had come with her friend to see Estebany.
Her first treatment was late in the afternoon, and I remember her coming into the house somewhat hesitantly. She was soon made at ease, and Estebany treated her for about twenty-five minutes. After her treatment, she sat on the lawn and chatted, had dinner, and went to bed somewhat earlier than usual. In the morning, she came down to breakfast and said quietly, "I think I feel better." The medical doctor reexamined her and had her try to precipitate the feelings she had previously had, but to no avail; she was indeed cured and has remained so over the past nine intervening years.
For the rest of the healees, this was not the case; however, in the weeks to come I was to be astounded by the number of medical reports or first person reports that told either of an amelioration of symptoms or of an actual disappearance of symptoms. Part of my surprise was based on the complicated nature of the medical diagnoses of the healees in the sample. These diagnoses covered all known systems of the body: Pancreatitis, brain tumor, emphysema, multiple endocrine disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, and congestive heart disease were but a few. There was nothing in either my previous education or experience by which I could rationalize these results. I went back to my behavioral profiles and interactional sketches and reexamined them. After considerable analysis, I realized that the only thing that importantly intervened between Estebany and the healees was touch by the laying-on of his hands, and I decided to do postdoctoral research on this healing process.
The discussion of my subsequent studies and those of others I will leave toga later chapter. At this time, I will only mention that I found that when ill people are treated by the laying-on of hands, a significant change occurs in the hemoglobin component of their red blood cells. The healing sessions continued over several summers with Estebany, and during this time he was the healer in my pilot study and in two of the subsequent large-scale studies I did. The point I want to make here is that, as I learned to tighten the control of my studies, my appreciation for the validity of healing by the laying-on of hands also increased, and I became interested in learning whether I could do it too.
Estebany did not feel that people could be taught how to heal; rather, he felt that they had to be born with the gift, and he never responded to persons' requests that he teach them. Dora thought differently and, therefore, began a workshop which she opened to all who wished to learn how to heal, and I was one of those students.
Dora was a tough but very good teacher. She was not afraid of experimenting. She would have two or three of us work together while she would perceive how the interaction went. If we ourselves did not understand what it was we were doing or the effect we were having on our healees, we were free to question her as we went along. Dora would describe her perceptions to the best of her ability and the limits of our understanding. This last was most important, for, although we engage in interrelationships with others constantly, we are not always aware of our unconscious involvements and motivation -- of the projections of our shadow that lurk behind the mask of the persona -- nor are we aware of the potent effect these behaviors have on others. Dora's point of view always stemmed from an utterly honest ethical base, and so she made us look at these hidden aspects of ourselves and recognize their involvement in our motivations to play the role of healer. On the other hand, she was never adamant that we do things one way or another; she always emphasized that she was experimenting in this kind of healing too, and that we had to make individual decisions for and about ourselves. Dora also helped us sensitize ourselves to our human frailities and limitations. For instance, at one point when we were experimenting on the use of mantras (sounds which convey specific vibrational effects), we all felt uncomfortable at the sounds of our first expressions, which were by no means melodious. Immediately after our first attempts, Dora's comment put us at ease so that we could bear these initial efforts with impersonal equanimity: "Of course," she quietly said, "Psychologically, you first have to get used to making the sound -- that there is a unison in the emotions as well as in the sound itself....I think it is nice to do it all together; after all, it's the opportunity for coming together in an emotional unity that is important."
Similarly, we experimented with the use of the hands in the transfer of human energies. I think that in this case also it was through the model of Dora patiently accepting us as we were that we learned to tolerate, then to accept, and finally to help each other in our first clumsy attempts at healing. We found that our combined efforts could be synergistic in helping people who were ill, and so frequently two or more of us would work simultaneously as a team on the same patient. In learning to link up with each other in this mutual undertaking, we found that we also exercised our innate sense of timing, both in reference to each other and in reference to the healee. I have since come to appreciate the centrality of this increased acuity in timing during the healing act, for the sense of timing is crucial throughout the process and is, I think, a major factor in making the process of healing an holistic act.
Dora fostered these group activities, and she usually directed her remarks to us as a group, rather than individually, except at our own request. One morning toward the middle of the first workshop, she happened to be telling us that we were not doing something correctly. At that time, we were blindfolding the healees so that they could not tell who was working on them. One of the healees suddenly spoke out and said, "No, Dora, that isn't entirely so. I always know when Dee (myself) is working on me. I can tell exactly where her hands are from the deep heat that is generated inside my body, and I can feel the energy flow she transmits to me." I was amazed by what Helga said and realized that I was so intent on what I was trying to do that I had no idea of whether what she said was so or not. The subject turned to something else, and we went on; however, Helga came up to me later and described more explicitly what she had experienced when I was working on her. This feedback was most helpful for me to understand the experience in which I was involved in the healing act.
I began to draw on this understanding by trying to sensitize myself to any changes occurring in the healees I worked with and by listening carefully to any verbal feedback they offered me. I also availed myself of every opportunity that presented itself to exercise the therapeutic use of hands, and I began to gain a repertoire of experiences from which I could draw a deeper understanding of the healing act per se.
In retrospect, I see that I was very lucky to be engaged in both research and teaching at the same time that I was learning clinical applications of the therapeutic use of hands, for the research and teaching fostered an objectivity that stood me in very good stead during the practice of this highly personalized human interaction. I developed a method of looking over my own shoulder, so to speak, so that I could consciously understand the subtle dynamics of my practice; and this was very useful a few years later when I developed a curriculum for the first course on the therapeutic use of hands to be squarely included within a university master's level program in this country.
I had a second opportunity for reliable feedback about nine months later when Dora and I were invited to a conference in Council Grove, Kansas that was cosponsored by the Menninger Foundation and the Association for Transpersonal Psychology. It happened that about eight or nine of us were into healing of one kind or another, and so Elmer Green, Ph.D., Director of Research at Menninger's and the prime mover in the Council Grove Conferences, asked us if we would be willing to take part in a small study. Dora, Jack Schwarz, who is a well-known psychic, and I volunteered, and a core of five medical doctors made up a panel to evaluate us.
By prearrangement, a patient was brought in from a hospital in Topeka, together with his physician. Each of the three of us was assigned a person to act as scribe and given fifteen minutes to be alone with the patient. The protocol allowed us to do anything we wished to the patient except talk to him. Both while in the room and afterward, we dictated our impressions about the history and condition of the patient to our individual scribes. In the meantime, the panel of medical doctors met with the patient's physician and reviewed the patient's medical records. When we were finished, the panel then took our scribes' reports; matched them against the medical findings, laboratory reports, and so on; and evaluated each of us. Dora and Jack were correct in their impressions, and each received a 100% rating. I received 80% as my rating, which was considerably beyond my expectations. I learned a great deal from this experience, and it served to bolster my self-confidence considerably.
As my interest in healing deepened, I began to realize that healing offered a rich source for the study of man. I found myself challenged by the question: Why is touch therapeutic? -- a question which has stimulated a continuing quest. I had always read omnivorously, and I now redoubled my efforts, but with discretion. My research and the healing act itself served to channel the direction of my search, but this search nonetheless covered a very broad scope. Happily, Fritz L. Kunz, Dora's husband, was one of the first persons in education to recognize the need for an integration of concepts in this day of mounting floods of facts; and over the years I learned from him how to draw relationships between isolated facts as I read and so to integrate large bodies of information. I had had a very good background in the life sciences, particularly in neurophysiology, which I had taught for several years, and this was very helpful as I began to look into the health practices of yoga and at the readings in Aruvedic medicine, Tibetan medicine, and, more recently, Chinese medicine. The alternate views these bodies of literature held from those I had learned in my formal education became understandable on my own terms only as I gave myself to in depth explorations of the nuances and overtones with which the apparent meanings of terms or phrases used in these cultures were clothed. One such instance is the subsystem of energy which is called prana in Sanskrit, which my research had led me to believe to be at the base of the human energy transfer in the healing act. It does not have an adequate translation in English, primarily because our culture does not understand energy within the same context as does the Eastern world. Most often, prana is translated as vigor or vitality; however, an analysis of the literature indicates that the term really pertains to the organizing factors that underlie what we call the life process. Prana, therefore, is responsible for such phenomena as regeneration and wound healing. Further, one begins to find out that prana is related to the element Vayu (Sanskrit), which is concerned with air but, more importantly, also with motion. It is thus that one begins to see that prana is not related to the respiratory act in a simple breathing-in and breathing-out fashion, but that it is a principle underlying the rhythmic movement that makes breathing imperative, whether it is the breathing that occurs in the lungs or the chemical reciprocity that goes on at a molecular level in the rhythmical interchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide during the respiratory process at the cellular level while the organism is alive.
As one goes deeper into the study of prana, one finds that the literature of these ancient people makes statements that can be in consonance with some of the most contemporary theory of the West. The literature of the East, for instance, says that prana derives from the sun. This statement is not at all at variance with our current recognition that the crucial chemical base of the life process in man is dependent upon sunlight, for the photons coming from the sun set off the process of photosynthesis, which is the driving force for the primary synthesis of organic matter. When one considers that the process begins with inorganic matter, the statement sounds more like a miracle than do the ancient texts of the East!
The Eastern literature also says that normally healthy people have an excess of prana. Again, I find their statement acceptable, for the best of our Western texts on physiology tells us that there is a great deal of redundancy in the human body. If the body is damaged in any way -- let us take the instance of a heart attack -- many compensatory body mechanisms come into play: Within thirty seconds autonomic circulatory reflexes begin to compensate for the failure of the heart muscle to function properly; concomitantly, the body chemistry begins an holistic adjustment of fluids and electrolytes directed by the adrenals as well as other endocrine glands, and structural changes occur in the blood components, stimulating and being stimulated by principles of repatterning as a new collateral blood supply starts to position itself into the space of the damaged tissues (another "miracle" for which we in the West do not give ourselves credit). To go a bit further: In the East they say that persons who are ill have a deficit of this energy, prana; and the lassitude that accompanies illness would seem to give evidence to support this` Another statement, that prana can be transferred from one individual to another, may not be so readily apparent to us unless we have gotten into the practice and literature of hatha yoga, tantric yoga, or the martial arts of the Orient. We can, however, in these clays of potent theatrical and television personalities, recognize this phenomenon as charisma and give it credence in that guise. If one is willing to go so far and, in addition, is willing to accept one basic assumption -- that man is an open system -- then it is not difficult to consider the following model seriously: Conceive of the healer as an individual whose health gives him access to an overabundance of prana and whose strong sense of commitment and intention to help ill people gives him or her a certain control over the projection of this vital energy. The act of healing, then, would entail the channeling of this energy flow by the healer for the well-being of the sick individual. If we posit an open system, then we recognize that the healer, like every man, is in constant energetic flux -- that is, energetically, he is in a constant state of energy in-put, through-put, and out-put. All of this is actually a continued constant flow, a process, rather than separate states: He/she is what Sherrington called "...but an eddy in a constant stream." Following a logical deduction from this model, one can also recognize that, although the healer projects this energy, prana, for the use of another person, the healer himself is not depleted or deprived of energy unless he identifies himself too closely with the process. This last has complex psychodynamic implications that we shall explore more fully later in this book, but it is well to look at this rationale now. Where one stands in relation' to the personal question, Why do I want to play the role of healer? is crucial to what one does with the process of healing and -- importantly -- to what the process of healing does to the individual so engaged.
As I sat with my dog, Jocko, that day at the bottom of the gorge and recalled the incidents I've related above, I watched the river swirling about the rocks in midstream. Thoughts of Sherrington's analogy to man as but an "eddy" came to mind, and once again I wondered -- I still wonder -- Why do I want to play the role of healer? Like the river's waters swirling at my feet, I realized that this question had many levels of expression and, similarly, that its answers are equally multifaceted and probably dependent upon the psychological depth at which one can confront one's self. However, the act of importance is to be willing to begin the confrontation; and so I invite the reader to join me in this quest in the following pages as we look behind the "why" to the roots of the healing act, to what it seems to be, to how each of us may cio it, and as we begin to explore together what it may do to and for each of us.
Copyright © 1979 by Prentice Hall Press