Imagine reaching out and touching someone. Not with a phone or a note card or an e-mail. Just with your energy and intention. The person you reach out and touch could be in the next room, the next city, the next state, or in another country or on a different continent or even on a boat in the middle of an ocean. It could be the person you love most in the world, or a stranger in need. Wherever they are, your energy and intention can reach them. With a healing intent, your energy can help that person be more whole.

Does that sound like wishful thinking? Science fiction? Or New Age mumbo jumbo? Actually, the phenomenon is more ancient than the Bible, the Koran, and the Sanskrit holy texts known as the Vedas. Healers and scientists studying the practice call it long distance healing or remote healing. Shamans have been doing it since before recorded history. They call it journeying to the spirit world.

Could we be that connected to each other? Could we have that much power to help each other? What would that mean?

I used to think long distance healing sounded pretty fantastical. In fact, the first time someone told me they could do a healing for me, even at a distance, even if I was in another state, I wanted to say: "Yeah? And I have a bridge I'd like to sell you." After I heard the same claim from several different healers, I wondered how they could all be nuts in the same way.

Then I got one of the worst migraine headaches I've ever had. I had had a lot of migraine headaches over the years and they often lasted a few days. I crawled out of bed at a friend's house in California where I was visiting to call a healer that I knew in New York. (I was interviewing healers back then for my first book on healing.) I left a desperate message, explaining my plight. I didn't know what I thought the healer would do. Perhaps be sympathetic? Tell me to put my fingers on a pulse point? I crawled back into bed. Soon I felt a force moving through my body. Everywhere it went, my body began to relax. It was as if my muscles had to obey this force, which felt utterly soothing and delicious. Soon, I drifted off to sleep. When I woke about an hour later, my headache was gone. I found out later that the healer I called had sent me healing energy-from a distance.

For most people distance healing is even harder to accept than hands-on healing. But lately, some pioneering researchers have been studying distance healing, trying to measure whether or not it works. The results? the experience of Michael Onstott might shed some light.

Back in 1996 Michael Onstott, then 46, thought he was going to die. Sick with AIDS, he had only a few T-cells left in his body to fight deadly germs. Kaposi's sarcoma, a form of cancer, was spreading across his body, creating dark lesions everywhere. He was rapidly losing weight. He was deeply depressed. He prepared for the worst.

Two months later Onstott was putting on weight. The Kaposi's sarcoma had slowed down. His depression had lifted. All of a sudden, he recalls, "I began to be optimistic." He attributed his miraculously improved health to a new anti-viral regimen.

But doctors at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco had a far more shocking explanation: Onstott, one of 40 men and women in a ground-breaking double-blind study, had been receiving long distance healing energy an hour a day, six days a week, for ten weeks.

Onstott had no idea he had been receiving healings. Although he had signed up for the study, he never met or talked to a single healer. The healers and the patients never met each other. The healers were given the names of the patients and a photo to work with-that was it. While Onstott was in San Francisco, the healers were all over the country, some as far away as New York and Pennsylvania. The doctors overseeing the study wanted to control for the power of touch and the power of suggestion. They were trying to isolate the healing energy in a pure form.

For the healers who volunteered to participate in the study, published in the Western Journal Of Medicine in December 1998, the healing work was quite visceral. "I didn't just sit there and pray for someone," recalls Susan Ulfelder, a healer based in Washington, D.C. "I was literally pulling globs of virus out of their fields."

At the end of the study, Onstott and the others who received long distance healing all did significantly better than those in the control group, even when the new anti-viral cocktails were factored in. They had fewer illnesses, fewer visits to the doctor and spent less time in the hospital. They even had improvements in their moods. The results were so dramatic-and statistically significant--that The National Institutes of Health gave a $500,000 grant to California Pacific Medical Center to do another study of distance healing, this time focusing on glioblastoma, a deadly form of brain cancer. That study is now underway.