By Lonnie Howard, M.A.
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, June/July 2001.
What do the latest theories in quantum physics have to do with massage and bodywork? Plenty, according to medical and Ayurvedic herbalist, Kevin Spelman.
Spelman, who teaches Energetic Physiology at the Scherer Institute of Natural Healing in Santa Fe, N.M., works to help students “burst their paradigms — burst the bubble that protects them from the unknown.”1 One of the most pervasive paradigms continuing to influence our thinking is the mechanistic model of classical physics. Even though many of us have heard of the new physics, and even though our high-speed information age is based on this new science, we still tend to view the universe through mechanistic and reductionist eyes and to live our lives utilizing the old paradigms of cause and effect and separation. It seems to be a powerful hypnotic spell of consensual reality our culture just can’t shake. Even the concept of mind-body, as useful and revolutionary as it has been, can almost now be considered an outworn paradigm. In no way does it reflect the complexity and depth of the quantum theories that open the way for the recognition of the inexplicable interconnectedness of all things.
Those of us in the bodywork field have a unique opportunity to move beyond the old paradigms and experience firsthand the interconnectedness of all life each time we lay hands upon another human being. “Ask yourself — who would you want to be touched by? Wouldn’t you want to be touched by someone who believes the make-up of the universe is essentially energy?” That is Spelman’s underlying question to his students, permeating all investigations in his class.
Spelman wants to encourage students to become aware of their perceptions, to open their minds so they may begin to see possibilities, techniques and options they had not thought possible. If one increases awareness, an increase in options will follow. Spelman does this, in part, through introducing them to nonlinearity, fractal and chaos theories, as well as some of the newest information in biophysics, including the seminal work of Dr. James L. Oschman.
Oschman has been researching the human body as an energetic system for more than 15 years and is the author of Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis, and co-author, with his wife Nora, of Readings on the Scientific Basis of Bodywork, Energetic and Movement Therapies. Also inspiring to Spelman is the “universal living memory” theory of Dr. Gary Schwartz and Dr. Linda Russek, scientists and professors of medicine at the University of Arizona. Schwartz and Russek propose that not only is everything in the universe alive, eternal and evolving, but also that everything has memory.
Science used to define physiological responses in relation to linear models of how the universe works. Spelman believes the latest quantum physics theories offer a more realistic view of the human system and the way we move through nature. He expresses it poetically when he says, “There is original energy and it manifests in a pattern that is constantly expressed through nature, whether a cloud, a microorganism or a mood shift. The body is a web of continuous and dynamic energy and molecules. There is no place in the body out of the boundaries of this energetic influence. The mind is as much a part of this energy-rich web as the body. And just as dropping a pebble into a pond will ripple throughout the entire pond, a touch, a glance, even a thought can ripple throughout this interdependent, interconnected web. Equally, the intentions of a therapist, which give rise to electromagnetic patterns of influence upon his or her own system, will influence the client.”
Energetic models of medicine, such as Ayurvedic and Oriental systems, as well as polarity therapy and many others, have always recognized and worked with the flow of energy in its patterns and cycles as it expresses in our physiology and in the larger electromagnetic field. Current medical research shows that electromagnetic fields recognize no boundaries and project outward at the speed of light. Mathematically it can be shown it doesn’t stop — it goes on forever. Schwartz has applied this to research on the heart’s electromagnetic field. According to Spelman, “We have gone from absolute denial of the existence of an energy field around the body to indisputable evidence that an electro-magnetic field exists within and around the body. Current medical research demonstrates that devices pulsing magnetic fields of specific frequencies can stimulate the healing process of a variety of tissues. Current biophysics documents the release from healers’ hands of similar frequencies and intensities.”
Two of Spelman’s goals are to help students become more energy sensitive, and to help them realize they are literally changing the electromagnetic field of the body when they work with a client. Many of us have heard of the Butterfly Effect, a hypothesis by meteorologist Edward Lorenz in the 1960s, which led to the development of chaos theory and is now a fundamental principle of quantum physics. This theory suggests that even a minute action in a remote part of a system can have a dynamic impact on the entire system. It is most well-known as the elegant question: Can a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil eventually cause a hurricane on the coast of Australia? The answer is yes.
And why is that? It’s all about complex communication systems throughout the entire coherent whole of nature. For our purposes here, the Oschmans relate it to the body in scientific terms: “One whole-system property is that the body is highly non-linear. Among other things, a con-sequence of non-linearity is that a small amount of energy applied at a specific point at a specific time can give rise to a sudden and dramatic shift…”2 As body-workers, we know intuitively and through practice that a touch (whether it be light or deep, on or off the body), an intention, heat or light from the hands or from the heart — any of these can initiate a profound change in the person we are privileged to call our client. Who is to say what ripple-like effects it may have on that person’s life and future, and the lives they, in turn, touch?
Many of us in the bodywork field can easily see how this applies in terms of energy work when we recognize how molecules vibrate and produce sound, heat and light that can be utilized in healing. In addition to energetic models of bodywork, such as Polarity, Reiki and others, we can also see how this applies when we work more deeply with the tissue in a wide variety of therapeutic approaches. First we need to look briefly at cell biology, in which scientists now recognize a cellular matrix or cytoskeleton which is connected within the cell and across the cell surface to the extra-cellular matrix — the connective tissue system — by trans-membrane linking molecules or integrins. Oschman says, “As a hands-on therapist…you contact a continuous interconnected webwork that extends throughout the body.”3 This highly sophisticated and interconnected energetic continuum has been called the tissue-tensegrity matrix, the connective tissue/cytoskeleton or simply the living matrix, and the essential nutrient for this living matrix is information.4
One not only affects the soft tissue and structure of the body, one also affects the electromagnetic field and core belief systems that are the glue which bind the structure, based on the past experiences and perception. In the sacred relationship that is forged in a bodywork session, it is essential the therapist join the client in the present moment, especially since our energy flow is often representative of the past and reflected in blockages, congestion or stagnation. Spelman always encourages his students to “embrace the energy field of the moment. It is a new entity, not yours, not mine — it’s ours. That is why it is a sacred relationship.”
How very subtle and lovely the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, and how amazing that we are beginning to recognize just how intimately we are all connected. Perhaps bodyworkers can recognize this more readily because the nature of touch is intimacy. In a deeply relaxing session, the client may suspend the conscious mind and sink into levels of awareness in which complex intelligence is at work and myriad possibilities for change may unfold on all levels of the living matrix system. To be able to work with another human being on such a deep level is indeed a privilege. According to Spelman, “When you affect energy, you are affecting the core ‘stuff’ the universe is made of.”
Bodyworkers are in a unique position in their ability to explore this living matrix and the connection that exists between self and other in the hands-on context of their daily practice — a “laboratory” like no other. What most sensitive bodyworkers recognize though an intuitive and experiential understanding, science is beginning to confirm. Spelman believes the recognition of this inter-connectedness and of some of these subtler patterns and energy flows will bring Western medicine fully into the 21st century. He is certainly not alone. The Oschmans feel strongly that the bodyworker’s practice is a fertile ground for new discoveries: “Because of your choice of vocation, you are daily and quietly and deeply immersed in every aspect of the system we are describing, and it is here that many of your most profound and thrilling experiences take place. We believe that sometime in the future, our present age will be regarded as a time of great discovery, with bodyworkers taking their respected places next to the scientists and researchers and the explorers of the day. Alongside the physicist’s theories of everything and grand unification theories will go the great organizing discoveries of biology and bodywork.”5
When Albert Einstein was asked what he felt was the most important question of all time, he replied “Is the universe a safe place?” That question necessitates an individual investigation into one’s own belief system. Bear Sahlfeld, massage therapist, psychotherapist and also an instructor at Scherer, always tells her students the world is a safer place because of massage therapy. We know that to be true. And it will be an even safer place as therapists begin to believe the universe is essentially energy and, like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, the most minute touch to a “living matrix” can have far-reaching and often profound effects.
Clearly a therapist need not know or understand the latest developments in physics to be effective with his or her clients. But as Spelman suggests, if one’s typical way of perceiving is stretched and challenged, one can open to many more possibilities and even to miracles. Responding to his own question — who do you want to be touched by? — Spelman emphatically states, “I want to be touched by someone who believes miracles are common occurrences.” And as Einstein reminds us, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”