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What is distant healing?
Distant healing encompasses a broad range of healing practices, many of which are based in ancient spiritual traditions.
Virtually all major religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism, endorse and encourage the use of
distant healing among their adherents.
Two of the most common distant healing practices are offering prayers for those who are ill and using forms of
meditation where the practitioner holds a compassionate intention to relieve the suffering of another. Some practices
focus on curing a very specific disease state while others emphasize creating a compassionate environment that can
have a healing effect. Virtually all distant healing practices are concerned with alleviating the suffering and increasing
the well being of others.
What is meant by "distant" within the context of distant healing?
When speaking of distant healing, the term "distant" generally means there may be a physical separation of from a few
feet to thousands of miles between the healer and the recipient of the healing activity.
How does distant healing work?
Different approaches to distant healing are rooted in very different world views and cosmologies and consequently
there are numerous perspectives on how distant healing works. Common to virtually all perspectives is the belief that a
person's focused intention can have a nonlocal effect, that is, the healing intention of one person can have a positive
effect on another who is at a distance.
Specific explanations of how the healing effect occurs are based largely on the worldview of the healer. Some healers
hold worldviews where God can intervene in a powerful way to alter physical reality, in which case it is God's action
that brings about healing. Other healers hold worldviews where all reality is understood as being intimately
interconnected and where mind and consciousness can have nonlocal effects. For these healers, it is the power of
mind or consciousness itself that brings about a healing effect through the nonlocal transfer of either energy or
What is a distant healer and what type of training do they receive?
There are various perspectives on the definition of a distant healer and how they should be trained. At the broadest
level, many religious traditions maintain that anyone can be a distant healer and all that is required is a compassionate
heart. In this sense, anyone who prays for healing for another is a distant healing practitioner. At the other end of the
spectrum, some traditions believe that only certain people have the "gift" of healing, that this capacity is bestowed by
the divine or God and is not available to all. A more nuanced perspective is that many people have healing capacities
but that training and practice is required to fully develop these capacities.
Researchers have observed that the capacity most commonly held among distant healing practitioners is "an ability to
hold a compassionate intention for another at a distance." From this perspective, distant healing can be understood as
an "integral practice" that brings together a healer's capacities for holding intention, attention and compassion in ways
that may enhance healing effects. Different traditions offer a variety of forms of training that can increase an
individual's capability to hold intention and attention and express compassion, with some focusing more on the power
of intention and attention and others on the effect of compassion. Some traditions, particularly those with a shamanic
orientation, may require the healer to pass certain initiation rites and learn complex healing rituals.
How would I go about finding a distant healer?
There is currently a wider acceptance of distant healing within spiritual and religious circles than within the medical
and mental health community. The majority of distant healing practitioners have been trained and continue to work
within the context of a specific spiritual tradition. Consequently, if you are comfortable with a particular spiritual
tradition, that is often the best place to start your search.
If you begin your search within a spiritual tradition, you should be aware of a few issues. First, the term "distant
healing" is used in research circles but often is not used within religious or spiritual groups. In making inquiries, use
terminology more appropriate to your tradition such as "praying for healing of someone at a distance" or "meditation
approaches where the focus is having compassion for one who is suffering." Second, most healers employ a broad
range of practices of which distant healing is only one. You may have greater success if you seek out individuals who
refer to themselves as healers and then ask about their distant healing practices rather than looking strictly for distant
healers. Third, be persistent. Within most spiritual traditions there are a range of attitudes regarding the efficacy of
distant healing. Just because the first teacher or minister you speak to may not know of any distant healers, virtually all
traditions have large constituencies who do believe and practice distant healing.
What will my doctor think of distant healing?
More and more, members of the medical community are opening to the beliefs and practices of their patients. The
best advice is to choose a practitioner with whom one feels trust and confidence in their abilities to help the patient
heal. If this requires that the physician maintain a similar belief system, this can be one of the questions one asks when
choosing a provider.
Do I need to approve it with my doctor before I start using it?
Not at all, although it is always helpful to share as much information with your health provider as possible.
What kind of conditions can be treated by distant healing?
Depending on their orientation, distant healers answer this question in different ways:
Most distant healers come from a spiritual rather than a medical perspective and often don't use medical terminology
to describe a particular condition or disease state. Consequently, they often do not claim to heal specific medical
conditions, simply because that's not the model they operate within.
Distant healers who focus primarily on creating a compassionate environment that facilitates a person's overall healing
process would describe their approach as being beneficial in assisting in the healing of a particular disease state, but
their focus is not to "treat" a specific condition but to rebalance the overall system so healing can occur - often in
collaboration with other therapies.
Distant healers who focus on healing or curing specific disease states do not generally single out particular types of
conditions as being more responsive to distant healing treatment.
Scientific research projects have studied the effect of distant healing on a numerous disease states, including heart
disease, AIDS, cancer, bacterial infections and recovery from surgery. There is currently no consensus regarding
which conditions are most responsive to distant healing, but a majority of the research indicates that distant healing,
when used with other therapies, does enhance the healing process across a broad range of disease states.
Can distant healing ever be harmful?
Thus far, the data suggests that religious and spiritual practice is beneficial to ones health. There are also a series of
basic science and clinically based experiments that suggest that DHI also has therapeutic benefit. Clearly more data
need to be collected to better understand issues related to dose, distance, as well as a range of psychosocial variables
that may or may not be important.
If distant healing is understood as holding a compassionate intention to relieve suffering or bringing healing to another,
then it is unlikely that in itself, distant healing could be harmful. Where distant healing might be harmful is if it was
perceived or presented as a stand alone remedy and a person excluded other therapies that might be beneficial. This is
why many healers recommend that distant healing be understood as one aspect of an overall integral medicine model
where multiple therapies are utilized to address a disease state or illness.
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