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.

Other studies have found that healers can influence plants, fungi, and even cancer cells in vitro, just by intention, even if the healer and the subject of the healing intention were in different rooms, cities or states, as Dr. Daniel Benoir notes in Healing Research. Recently, several double-blind studies of heart patients have looked at the power of prayer, considered a form of distance healing. These studies, including one published in the conservative research journal, Annals of Internal Medicine, on October 25, 1999, found that intercessory prayers significantly improved medical outcomes in the critically ill, even when they had no idea they were being prayed for by people they had never met. "This result suggests that prayer may be an effective adjunct to standard medical care," wrote the researchers, a group of doctors and scientists.

Does this mean science is proving the existence of God? Not really. Rather, researchers say they are studying - and potentially proving - the power of human intentions.

For me, the scientific literature and the experiences I had with distance healing were a potent combination. I've since become a healer and at least half the healings I do are from a distance. For me distance sessions and in-person sessions are similar. Either way, my focus is the same, to see how I can help balance someone's energy so they can feel better, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. The process makes me feel close to people I've never physically met. In fact, after sharing energy, it's hard for me to remember that I've never met someone in person. I feel like I know them so well!

During a distance healing, I can scan someone's energy field and even feel parts of their energy body with my energy. Once, for instance, I started a distant session with a man in California by scanning his body with my energy hands. I could feel heat and agitation in his liver. For a minute, I was surprised. He had not asked me to focus on his liver for the session. Yet it definitely needed a lot of help! Then I recalled that in an earlier session this man, who had multiple challenges, had mentioned that he had Hepatitis C, a disease of the liver.

My experiences are often visceral. For instance, I worked on a woman who had lost one lung and part of another to cancer. When I focused in, I could feel that her chest was tight from the effort of taking in enough oxygen. As I held a focus for inner peace and radiant health, I could feel her heart rhythm begin to expand and relax. Soon, I knew that she had fallen asleep. In fact, she got into such a relaxed, healing state that she slept for several hours. When we talked after the session, she said with some delight that the ache and tightness she had been feeling in her chest was gone. [My clients often find distance sessions to be as dramatic as I do. I did a long distance session for someone whose stomach was always knotted up. I helped move energy into her heart, so she would no longer be agitated by anxiety about loss. At a certain point, I could feel the knot in her stomach unwind. When we talked by phone afterwards, she said she had felt a great deal of energy release in her stomach and move up her body during the session. She was quite excited about the result.

Very often, the person I'm working with will go into a very deep space, and suddenly wake just as I'm withdrawing from the energy. I worked with one man for about two years in my New York office. Eventually he had a distance session to help resolve a legal crisis that cropped up while I was out of town. "I can't believe it," he said afterwards. "It was just like it was in your office. I could feel your energy come in and then it knocked me out. I went to sleep just like I do when I'm on your healing table. When you stopped, I woke up."

Distance healing changed my perspective on many things, especially my understanding of how connected we are to each other, and how important it is to stay in a loving state towards others. I now believe that distance healing isn't just a neat practice for healers and their clients. It's for all of us. It tells us something important about the power of our intentions, and how connected we are to each other, whether we realize it not.

The implications of distance healing appear to be profound. As the late Dr. Elisabeth Targ, who headed up the AIDS study, put it: "It says something about the nature and power of our own intentionality. It suggests that we can always be helping each other."

So go ahead; with a healing intention, you can reach out and touch someone deeply.

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