Sunday, May 11, 2014

Preaching To Myself

It has been an interesting day.  I am trying to get into more of a habit of “preaching” to myself instead of “listening” to myself.  My pastor said something to that effect and he was quoting someone else.  I have no idea who that was but I am pretty sure they were talking to me.

I think constantly.  My brain is always on the move and I have an opinion about everything.  Just ask me and I will tell you what you should think.  That habit leads to some serious sin issues.  Jesus said:

Mar 7:20-23  And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man."

 All of these things are in me.  Of course it would be really easy to say that this is what is in other people.  Jesus was talking to a multitude after being spoken to by the scribes and Pharisees.  Then we get to this verse and he was explain to them what he had been saying to the multitude.  Sometimes we just don’t get it.  Look at the Apostle Paul’s comment:

Rom 7:18-24  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.  Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

With all the evil within us we can easily fall into total despair as Paul describes.  We can be horribly torn between what we see as we reflect on Christ and his perfection – realizing that we are called to the same type of life, and what we see in ourselves.  As believers we are just not there.

How do we get there from here.  Paul had pretty much tried it all.  Look at his spiritual pedigree:

Philippians 3:3-6  For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ , and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

Yet we still find him in despair.  This is why he needed preaching.  Look at what we are called to as a Church:

Eph 5:18-21  And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.

Notice how we are to be communicating with each other.  Our hearts are to be making melody and it is to come out in song together.  These songs are to build us up in the faith by giving thanks.  We learn in chapter 2 that these thanks are for the multitude of spiritual blessings that we are to be thinking about.  Of course if we are not preaching these things to ourselves they can’t possibly come out communally.  That is when we look at Psalm 104.  We see the Psalmist praying about the greatness of the creation.  He must have spent an amazing amount of time meditating on God’s works prior to exploding into this amazing doxology of His work.

Psalm 104 shows that David must have been preaching to himself – meditating on God, as opposed to sitting around moping about what was happening to himself. Fast forward to May of 2010.

It has been an interesting day.  I stayed up late and got up earlier than what I wanted to.  I had to hit the road running – there was so much that needed done.  At a time of a particular time crunch I had to go into a store.  I rushed to get my item and arrived at checkout to see a particularly long line.  The people at the head of the line were in deep conversation with the clerk.  My initial thought was one of some frustration but I almost immediately changed to wondering why they were having a problem.  Now this is really unusual for me.  I want to be at the front of the line and I really want things to be done for me in a speedy, pleasant, and professional manner.

You see the universe is supposed to revolve around me and my petty wants and pleasures.  All stoplights - in a “perfect” world would turn green at my approach.  Checkout lines are empty waiting for me.  Most importantly, Starbucks is always open and affordable.

It is simply an amazing work of grace that I was not totally irritated by this couple in front of me.  But wait, there’s more.  As I am standing in line people come to stand behind me.  It is clear that we will be here for a little while so I turned to the people behind to start a conversation.  We were having a good time discussing the mental status of a generation that would be purchasing the “gummy worms” in the rack beside us.  The lady at the register in front of me turned to us and in a loud ugly tone told us to quit talking about her. 

I smiled and replied that we were discussing the gummy worms and not her.  She informed me that I was talking about her and to stop it.  In that moment another work of grace occurred.  I did not get angry, vent, fight, or anything that would normally be my response.

Today I took my wife out for Mother’s Day.  We came out to our car.  Smoke was pouring out the windows.  Inside I found my wife’s coat burned and smoke coming from a smoke bomb that someone had pushed through the open window.  I opened the door and got the coat and the smoke bomb out.  The seat is now yellow and the inside of the vehicle smells like the 4th of July.  The restaurant manager spoke with 911 (after being put on hold long enough for us to get a message 5 times telling us we were to wait for the operators who were dealing with other emergencies).  He specifically told them that we did not need the fire department, just the police to make a report. 

As soon as the phone call was over the fire alarm sounded.  It took another phone call and a police officer calling to stop the fire engine around the corner from loading up and responding.  We made our report.

In all of this my anger, always just beneath the surface, was not unleashed.  I was thankful that we got to the car, that a fire had not started, and that we had a way to get home.  This is amazing – it is grace.

Contrast this with yesterday morning.  I woke with less sleep than I would have liked.  My daughter rose late and I was going to be late for my appointment with my doctor.  I was pretty much boiling – my cup runneth over in a really bad way.  I dropped my daughter off and realized I had neglected to eat.  I am diabetic so missing meals is not a good idea.  No problem here – I pulled into a gas station for a quick bite.  There it was, a breakfast sandwich.  Now I could finally point to something that was going right.  At least that is what I thought.  I arrived at the cash register to find a person taking forever to buy lottery tickets.  I am from Las Vegas and I really hate gambling.  Here was a gambler making me late.  I left my hot sandwich on the counter and stormed out.  I had no time for a gambler to make me late for my doctor appointment.  I broke speed limits all the way to my appointment.

At the doctor’s office we found that my blood pressure was higher than it has ever been.  The heat readings taken along the spine were worse than my first visit.  My Chiropractor was obviously confused by the results because my reflexes and sensation tests had improved tremendously.  I explained that the fault was not hers.  I was seething with anger. 

The difference between these two days was my actions.  The day when I was full of sinful anger was a day where I had not read scripture, meditated, or sang the songs of Zion.  The second day I prepared for by looking forward to worship.  I had prayed.  I had meditated.  I had even heard a sermon before the smoke bomb.

The difference between the two days was what I had been preaching to myself.  The day of the doctor’s visit I had actively told myself how important it was to me for everything to revolve around me.  The second day I preached to myself how great was the God who had saved me.  My emphasis was on how to best prepare myself for worship.  The difference could not be more glaring or profound. 

How does this relate to massage or pain relief?  My sin of anger intensified the physical body in ways that have a tendency to increase those physiological factors that often lead toward pain.  Prolonged anger is a sin that can well have an effect on a person’s pain.  At the end of the book of Deuteronomy there is a description of what will happen to Israel when she turns from God.  God’s people should turn to Him because of who He is and what he has done for them.  He also exhorts them in this passage to consider what will happen to them if they should fail to serve Him as He commands.  It would do us well to consider this as individuals.

As a massage therapist I work with people in pain.  My job is to deal with physical issues by applying techniques to the soft tissues of the body.  It is not unreasonable to think that if a person continues in a pattern of anger that there will be a significant impediment to the response to treatment.  I may well be treating the symptom.  There is never a solution to any problem in life that does not involve our great God and our relationship to him.  I preach to myself about these things.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Energy Healing and the Christian Part 2

I left people hanging after the last post wondering what the possible reasons exist for the effectiveness or lack thereof for energy based massage and bodywork techniques.  Let’s look at that now.

How Can We Know if Energy Based Techniques are Working?

That is a very good question.  I remember reading an article many years ago[i] where the author claimed there was no way of determining if a person had a good massage.  I remember thinking that to be a rather silly at the time and immediately wrote a rebuttal that no one wanted to publish.  It may be better to change the question and ask if it is possible to demonstrate physically that physical changes have happened following an energy based treatment.

I believe it is possible to document many things before and after any type of treatment and see if there has been any change.  I have been doing this for many years.  Here are a few things that I have measured and that I believe could be applied before and after treatment to see if any change has occurred.  I will limit my comments to things massage therapists can do within their scope of practice.  There are a number of other ways to document.  Here are a few that I use:
  • ROM testing
  • Neurological Testing (reflex, strength, sensation)
  • Neurodynamic Testing
  • Algometer readings
  • Breath Changes
  • Percentage of body surface pain
  • Foot turn out

 These are simple things that any massage therapist can easily learn and incorporate into their practice.  Things used by others that I do not use are visual analog scales, Oswestry tests, and orthopedic tests.  These are just off the top of my head – you may know of others.

The point is that we have ways of measuring if something is changing after using these techniques.  We are not left to the whim of the therapist or the report of the client.  These are not useless by any means.  I just want to point out that we can measure the physical effects of therapy.

It Works – But How?

If we determine by some of the above tests that people are experiencing a change following therapy we then need to ask a really important question. Why?  Why are they getting better?  I can think of a few possible reasons.  There may well be others.

If the practitioner is doing the centering and attunement practices they are plainly doing occult practices.  If the person is doing this (centering and attunement) as a believer they are doing occult things in the name of Christ in a manner similar to the seven sons of Sceva and the others who performed exorcisms in the name of Jesus (Acts 19).  They are like the people say to Jesus in Mt 7:22-23 “Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?  And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” 

There may indeed be changes that may happen after treating with an occult based therapy.  Scripture is certainly full of instances where spiritual activity resulted in changes in the physical realm.  The entrance of sin in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3) introduced such changes (Rom. 8:19-25). 

If someone who practices this way gets results we know that there is a strong likelihood the possibility that the results can be a result of supernatural activity.  We need to stay clear of these activities.

Other people attempt energy types of healing with no discernible link to occult types of activity.  They too claim results.  Are there other reasons that these techniques may work?  I believe that there are and they may fall into at least one and probably more of the following categories:

1)  Placebo is a very good possibility.  Placebo gets a bad name.  It should not.  It simply means that the person is expecting the intervention to work and so their brain believes it and creates the change.  It is important that our medicine be investigated to make sure that it actually does what we think it does.  How does placebo work in normal massage and possibly in energy work also?  If the client expects to get better it is likely that the expectation alone is enough to trigger the body to deal with the problem.

When I walk into a room with confidence and I assure the client that I have helped people with similar issues before there is an immediate expectation of help.  If I actually demonstrate by my demeanor, intonation, and actions that I care, then that expectation is further raised.  If, in addition, my touch communicates a level of confidence I have already won a good deal of the battle.  Now sprinkle in a small amount of a believable explanation and bake till done.  In the end it will not matter much what I have done.  I have done this many times and used different techniques to get great outcomes.

Experiments noted that EP can’t detect an energy field under test conditions.[ii]  Researchers specifically ruled our radiant heat, air movement, noise from clothing, and on some occasions actually miscued the therapist.  This may well relate to the patient as well.  In the presence of these sensory cues coupled with expectation a potent placebo effect is certainly possible.

I do not believe that placebo is a reason to justify utilizing techniques that are indefensible.  We should always have an understanding of what we are doing and why it should work.  We should be able to communicate that.  We should also understand the importance of the placebo effect and realize that pretty much everything in the presentation of the dish called therapy is important and that any element can change the outcome.

2.  Neurology may very well explain aspects of energy based therapy. A good deal of the preceding argument in this as well as in the preceding post, have been in regard to Therapeutic Touch and Reiki.  They have been evaluated on the basis of biblical considerations and in light of the detection of an energy field.  There are a number of other therapies that also claim to work energetically. A number of these approaches incorporate eastern meridian based systems.  These energy based treatment modalities actually touch the body and are performed by massage therapists.

In the massage profession these come in the form of Polarity Therapy, Qua Sha, and Shiatsu to name a few.  Skeptics dismiss these modalities as quackery and assume that they work simply due to placebo.  I have no doubt that placebo is part of the explanation but it is highly likely that there are neurological mechanisms at work here also.  (I critique the theological foundations of these systems in a previous post [iii] regarding the Creator Creature Distinction.)

Meridians are said to be channels where the energy travels through the body.  They are named for organ systems that they are believed to be connected with.  These systems use touch and because of this they must of necessity activate the cutaneous receptors of the nervous system.  The acupuncture points along these meridians are generally located in the intramuscular septums where the peripheral nerves travel.  Activation of the receptors of these nerves make for a much more reasonable explanation for the supposed energetic effects of meridian based therapies.

3.  Ideomotor Activity is movement that is secondary to thought.  When a peripheral nerve is not getting enough blood a sense of discomfort or even pain is felt.  It is natural to move into a position where the blood returns and the discomfort is relieved.  This is an example of ideomotor movement.  A very through explanation is available at:

Myofascial Release[iv] and CranioSacral Therapy[v] are two very prominent systems that purport to be energy based systems.  Network Spinal Analysis[vi]  is yet another.  In the absence of any documentation of a human energy field that can be identified under controlled conditions it is more plausible to view ideomotor activity as the origin of the therapeutic effects of these modalities when they are practiced in the absence of occult ideology.  The problem is that MFR and CST are described by their chief proponents in conjunction with occult practices.  This is aptly demonstrated by the books referenced above. 

I watched a demonstration of Network Spinal Analysis.  I had an immediate sense of evil when I walked into the room.  I had no idea of what I would be experiencing before I arrived.  I am not aware of any preconceptions that I might have had.  There was a brief lecture before the demonstration.

In the first phase the doctor did a neck manipulation.  The 3 models began to twitch on the tiny chiropractic adjusting tables.  The DC explained that they were self adjusting.  I have seen a number of seizures and that was what it looked like to me.  The doctor explained that the patients were in full control and could stop this activity at will, if they so desired.  This continued for 15-20 minutes.

The second phase began with the doctor reaching toward the navel and lifting his hand high.  He then opened his hand and explained that he was lifting the aura.  The patients began moving into spontaneous yoga positions (the doctor said this).  None of them fell off of the table.  This too lasted 15 -20 minutes.

Finally we came to phase 3.  The doctor once again reached down and dramatically lifted the aura.  I could not believe that I was watching what appeared to be an orgasm.  The pelvis began to move and the patients began to moan in apparent ecstasy.  The doctor explained that the patients were having an emotional release.

At the end the 3 patients came before us as a group.  We were allowed to ask questions about what we had seen.  I had none.  I was in a state of shock and in prayer for protection.  One of the participants did explain to us that she was thankful for the doctor.  She usually had to travel to India to see her guru to get this type of help.

I have seen each of these therapies practiced in an occult manner.  I have also seen them practiced apart from these occult foundations.  These other instances appeared to me to be examples of ideomotor activity that resulted in pain relief.  They were given by practitioners who had no occult foundation and do not deserve to be labeled as such.  We need to be very clear that just because a doctor or therapist practices one of these techniques that we do not paint them all with the same brush.  We may be talking about our brother or sister in Christ.  On the other hand, if the practitioner holds to these occult teachings we need to take them at their word.

4.  There is the possibility that there is a possible energy field (EF) that we have as yet been unable to detect with our current science but which our hands can sense and manipulate for purposes of healing.  Given the sophistication of our current science I have my doubts as to this one – but I can’t demonstrate that this is wrong.  I do not have all of the facts and history demonstrates many instances of new information being discovered.  We can’t dismiss this as a possibility.  This is important.  We need to have a creaturely humility here.  If a practice does not fall into an occult category we need to hold open this possibility. 

There is more that could be said.  These 2 posts have dealt with a number of issues that both massage therapists and their clients need to be aware of.  It is of primary importance that we pay attention to what the scriptures teach regarding the reality of the spiritual world. I hope these posts have helped you to evaluate energy medicine in a biblical manner.

[ii] Long et al. Perception of Conventional Sensory Cues as an alternative to the Postulated “Human Energy Field” of Therapeutic Touch.  Review of Alternative Medicine 3, no. 2 (fall/winter) 1999 © Prometheus Books