Let’s Get Sciencey: Cancer Studies and the Practitioners Involved

If you have ever been on the search for a Reiki practitioner or any subtle energy practitioner, you have probably asked yourself whether it matters who you get. Or, maybe you’ve had a particularly good or particularly bad healing experience and you wondered whether or not it had anything to do with the practitioner. I’ll try to shed some light on that question by talking about two studies that were done on two different subtle energy healing practices and cancer.

Subtle energy healing techniques have been around for centuries, but it has only been recently that we have applied the standard research and clinical study models to them. Unfortunately, there are several problems with applying the conventional study models to non-conventional treatments. As a matter of fact, there are so many problems and those problems run so deep that I can only talk about one at a time.

This time, I’ll talk about the individuality of the practitioner. I chose these two studies because they’re both compelling and I think that when we compare them to one another, they say something about practitioners.

In most conventional study design, the focus is on the treatment, not the administrator of the treatment. They often control for this by not allowing the administrator to know whether he is giving someone the real deal or a placebo. When administering a subtle energy technique, that’s kind of impossible. Also, given that each individual practitioner is an individual, she brings her own particular set of talents, knowledge and history to the table every time she practices. Every person is unique and every situation is unique.

The Studies

The first one is on the grizzly side and definitely not for animal lovers, but it turned up some interesting data.

William Bengston is a subtle energy practitioner who doesn’t believe in subtle energy healing, or at least he says he didn’t until he discovered that his techniques could cure cancer. He tried for decades to get his data studied by conventional medicine, but no one would touch it. He eventually gave up and went back to his regular job as a professor of sociology.

Bengston did the same study a few times, tweaking it each time to improve the design. The details of that were chronicled in his book, The Energy Cure. You can read the last study that he did by clicking on the following title (warning: this study was conducted on mice and there are some photos of mice that had been injected with cancer cells): The Effect of the “Laying On of Hands” on Transplanted Breast Cancer in Mice.¹”

To summarize: Bengston trained skeptics and non-believers in his subtle energy technique and asked them to try to cure the mice of cancer. One of the problems that he found with study design is that the control mice kept getting healed, too (despite being injected with double-doses of cancer). Because of this, he started sending a set of control mice off-site to an undisclosed location.

These were the results of his last experiment: 29 out of 33 “experimental” mice remitted (the mice getting intentional treatments), 18 out of 26 on-site control mice remitted (presumably unintentionally healed because the volunteers were aware of the location of the control mice and visited them sometimes). Zero out of 8 off-site control mice remitted and ended up dying in a way that is considered “normal” for someone who has been injected with cancer cells. As you can tell, Bengston was cut off before he could conduct larger scale and more serious studies. According to his book, there was no support and no money to continue.

The second study is a little more mundane, but it also turned up compelling data. It’s called The Effect of Therapeutic Touch on Pain and Fatigue of Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy.

This study was for a subtle energy technique called Therapeutic Touch. From what I can tell, TT is less popular than Reiki, but it was apparently big in the 1980s. The reason I like this particular study is because it contained 90 participants, making it much bigger than most studies done on subtle energy healing.

There is nothing scary or grizzly about this study, except that all 90 people were cancer sufferers. It was also oddly controlled—they used the same practitioner for both the “real” treatment and the “placebo” treatment, demonstrating that she was probably pretty experienced and knew what she was doing or was at least confident in her ability to control the technique herself. The odd part was that she was right because the placebo group did not do as well as the group that received the real treatment.  As usual, the control group got the worst results.

No one was cured of cancer, or at least, if anyone was cured of cancer, it wasn’t mentioned in the study because this study wasn’t about that. They used a couple of different measures for the pain and fatigue that is associated with conventional chemotherapy treatments.

According to study results:

“Pain scores of the experimental group were reduced compared to placebo and control groups’ pain scores significantly.²”


“Fatigue scores of the experimental group were reduced compared to placebo and control groups’ fatigue scores significantly.²”

I can’t really quote much more than that because the results contain lots of complex info with charts and graphs. It would be much easier for you to click the link above and look at the study yourself. It will tell you how they set up the placebo, the control groups and the measurements that were done.

The Practitioner

Given the results and slight background on these studies, it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to say that the practitioner matters.  In the first study, the newly-trained practitioners unintentionally caused a healing response in the control group by merely being in proximity of them, or in some cases, by just being aware of the location of the control group.  In the other, the practitioner could set up the exact same atmosphere and situation with the placebo group and give them a placebo.

Right now, in most studies that are done on subtle energy practices, the practitioner is not even identified (let alone his/her experience or level of training).  When studies are designed, they try to control for everything except the treatment itself.  This makes sense when we’re studying something like a drug.  One pill-hand-out-person is pretty much the same as the next one.  When we’re studying something like a subtle energy technique, we don’t know enough about it to say whether one practitioner is the same as the next one, but most studies still use the old it-doesn’t-matter-who-it-is design.

As a practitioner myself, I have found that every healing session is unique to itself. As we pass through time, we are constantly changing. A healing session is the result of the intersection of who the practitioner is at the time, who you are at the time, and the new entity that is created by the healing. Does it matter who you get? I say yes, but with one huge caveat: There isn’t enough information out there for anyone else to tell you who the best practitioner is for you. If you are seeking healing, you are the most important component of that process, so find a practitioner that works for you.

In the future I hope to blog about studies that measured the autonomic nervous system, anxiety and depression while receiving subtle energy treatments, so keep in touch!

¹Bengston, W., & Krinsley, D. (2000). The Effect of the “Laying On of Hands” on Transplanted Breast Cancer in Mice. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 14(3), 353-364.
²Aghabati, N., Mohammadi, E., & Pour Esmaiel, Z. (2010). The Effect of Therapeutic Touch on Pain and Fatigue of Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 7(3), 375–381. doi:10.1093/ecam/nen006


Happy Herbivore Visits Mindful Mending!

If you are not familiar with Lindsay Nixon of Happy Herbivore, it’s time to become familiar with her.

Mindful Mending has been given the privilege of being a stop on her blog tour while she promotes her latest book, Happy Herbivore Light & Lean.  She answered a few questions and provided me with a recipe from her new book.  She is not just a popular vegan cookbook author or even a popular vegetarian cookbook author, she’s a popular cookbook author period.

I can’t express how excited I am about this!  This is a dream come true for me.  I have been following her blog since the very beginning—which is the reason that I seem to have a creepy amount of knowledge about her life.  I was also allowed to choose among a handful of recipe’s to feature here.  I chose a recipe called Meatloaf Bites because I think it epitomizes a Happy Herbivore recipe.  It only has a few ingredients, none of which are obscure or crazy expensive, and it’s super fast and easy.  I have not tried this recipe, yet, but if history teaches us anything, it will be delicious.  Scroll down for my questions, her answers, and the recipe!  YAY!

MINDFUL MENDING: You had a serious health scare several years ago which was a turning point for you. How do you define health now? What are your current health goals?

HAPPY HERBIVORE: I’ve found that in general, society tends to define health as an absence of something – an absence of sickness. You’re healthy if you don’t have XYZ health problems. I don’t care for that way of thinking. I define health in terms of abundance. Health isn’t just an absence of something, it’s also about what you’re adding. Health for me is about thriving and feeling good.

My goals at this point are to continue to live well and thrive. I think our health is a journey and one that never really ends. We can continue to improve. Make still another tiny tweak to our diet and lifestyle. Each day I strive to be better than I was the day before.

MINDFUL MENDING: Your business helps people live better lives and that wasn’t accidental. Do you have any spiritual beliefs or practices that influence the way you do business?

HAPPY HERBIVORE: I’ve always wanted to help people. It’s why I went to law school. I thought I could help people if I was a lawyer, and to be fair I did help my clients, but it just wasn’t enough for me. I wasn’t satisfied. Wanting to help others has always been my ultimate passion. I think it must be similar to what many doctors feel when they explain why they choose a career in medicine. They had this deep desire to be healers.

MINDFUL MENDING: To me, one of the running themes of your blog is one of forgiveness. For example, you often use the phrase, “progress, not perfection,” to emphasize the benefit that we all receive when we build each other up instead of tear each other down. Can you talk more about that?

HAPPY HERBIVORE: I can’t believe I’m about to quote a Will Ferrell movie, but, in one of his movies, the character is always saying “you’re first or you’re last,” and I think that statement sums up the pressure society puts on us. I think a lot of us feel like we have to be perfect. That if we’re not perfect, then it doesn’t even matter. We feel it’s 100 percent or 0… like all the numbers… 5…23..56…92… between 0-100 don’t matter. I want to change that—rage against that mentality. Progress matters more than perfection. I’m not sure perfection really exists anyway because there is always room for improvement. 🙂

MINDFUL MENDING: You are a trailblazer, not just for plant-based eaters, but for entrepreneurial women. During the tough early days of your business, what kept you going?

HAPPY HERBIVORE: Aww thank you! What I tell my students (I’m teaching a business class on entrepreneurship right now through exitstrategyschool.com) is that you have to have a clear motivation. Maybe it’s monetary, maybe it’s spiritual, maybe it’s a passion in your heart, maybe it’s achieving a certain lifestyle you want—but whatever it is, you have to keep it in your line of sight. It’s what will get you through the hard times and the hard days (which you will have), and it’ll be there to comfort you when you make hard calls. I’ve always had this overriding passion and desire to help people, and that kept me going. Even when it was hard and my situation felt hopeless, I would remember why I started in the first place. I would tell myself (I still tell myself) that every day is another day I get to help someone, no matter what else that day brings (good or bad). For me, it’s about the work. Doing good work I believe in.

A million thanks to Lindsay Nixon for having me on the blog tour and for putting so much thought into her answers to my questions.  I would also like to thank Lindsay M, her marketing person, for setting this all up.  Now for the recipe:

Meatloaf Bites
Makes 8
Gluten-free, Quick, Budget


One afternoon I grabbed what I thought was corn from the freezer but later realized it was mixed vegetables. Once they thawed on the counter I knew they weren’t going back in, so I looked for a new, inventive way to use them. A can of kidney beans started calling, and before I knew it I had a vegetable-filled meatloaf in the oven. Since this meatloaf is baked in a muffin tin (great for serving sizes and portion control), I call it meatloaf “bites” and, yes, leftovers are great as a burger!

1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp chili powder (add another 1 tsp if you like it spicy)
3 tbsp ketchup
2 tbsp mustard
1 tbsp Vegan Worcestershire Sauce (recipe in full cookbook)
1 c frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
6 tbsp instant oats

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line a muffin tin with paper liners or use nonstick. Mash beans in a bowl with fork or potato masher until well mashed. Add remaining ingredients, except oats, and stir to combine.

Stir in oats. Spoon into muffin tin and pack down. Bake for 20 minutes until crisp on the outside and fairly firm to the touch (firms a bit as it cools). Serve with ketchup, Quick Gravy (pg. 188), etc.

Per Bite
Calories . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 101
Fat. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.7g
Carbs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16.9g
Fiber. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6.5g
Sugars. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3g
Protein. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5.8g
WW Points. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

The Power of Commitment

Lately, I have been learning the same lesson over and over again, and it’s about the power of commitment.  By “commitment” I mean this: making something a true priority in your life.  You probably already know what that looks like and it likely has something to do with food, shelter, and your job.

As for the “power” part, I can only explain by telling you some stories:

Do you want to know how I got into healing?

I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was lethargic and exhausted all of the time. I was still doing a lot, but I had no enthusiasm for it.  I was doing things because they seemed like the right thing to do, they had worked in the past, and because everyone else believes that’s the right way to live.  The ways I spent my time didn’t recharge me; they only depleted me. I believe that everyone has a natural glow and charisma about them, and mine had been snuffed out.

I needed a turning point, so I made one. At that time, I had been a Reiki channel for a few years already. I was pretty adept at healing, but I wasn’t totally committed to it. Then, like I said, I got sick and tired of being sick and tired. I finally reached a point where I said I wasn’t going to mess around, anymore. I was going to get better, for real. Up until that day, it had been my habit to only heal myself just enough to keep myself going; until I felt ‘good enough.’

My new commitment said that I would heal myself every day for a month—no excuses. I would go beyond ‘good enough,’ and see what was there.  I put my healing on the priority level of eating daily (and I never pass up a meal). It didn’t matter if there were dishes to be done or if I’d rather watch TV. It didn’t matter if I felt good enough. There was no more ‘good enough,’ there was, ‘can I feel better?’ (the answer was always, ‘yes’).

As we’ve previously established, healing can mean a lot of things.  For me, personally, this meant a lot of things, too. Some of them were unique to me, as I imagine most of your healing rituals would be unique to you. Some of them were ordinary, like getting enough sleep, eating right, finding joy, having a creative outlet, etc. A lot of it was Reiki. Every day, I performed a mental scan on myself. I would sit down in a quiet place and ask myself what I needed to get better—to thrive! At first, the answers were fuzzy, but as I continued to practice, the answers got clearer.

When that month ended, I knew that I needed to continue because by that time I had come to the realization that healing never ends.

While the ability to heal is a powerful force, it needed my commitment to complete its task. And, it completed its task in unimaginable ways that totally changed my life for the better.

Here’s another story about commitment:

As you may have noticed, I am offering a free Reiki class. I thought I had the ingenious idea of having a class that accommodated the schedules of everyone who wanted to be in it. I was feeling all self-satisfied as I got my students and set up my doodle. It wasn’t long before I realized why no one ever schedules classes this way. My ingenious idea was a bust, so I had to switch gears. At first, I didn’t want to switch gears. Even after it became clear that it was physically impossible to accommodate all of our schedules, I still fought it. I still tried. I grasped at straws trying to make it work, and then I collapsed in frustration and exhaustion.

Shortly after my collapse, I realized that my desire to get the students first, and then accommodate their schedules, rather than set a date first, and then get people who can make that date was a way for me to not be fully committed to the class and teaching Reiki. It was a way to play it safe and not stick my neck out. I could hand-pick my students and only have the students I wanted. That is not committing to teaching Reiki, that’s committing to having a fun time with people that I like. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with committing to a fun time with people that I like, but that is not the goal of teaching this class.

Upon this realization, I immediately committed to the dates of a weekend in my head.  I needed to confirm the dates with my Reiki teacher, but I wasn’t going to confirm those dates with anyone else.  If people could attend, then great.  If not, I would find people who could come and live with the class with which I was dealt.  Within seconds of me confirming those dates with my Reiki teacher (and telling her about my newly established commitment), emails started popping up on my screen.  I didn’t look at them until after I was off the phone, but when I did, I saw that the scheduling impossibilities had lifted, and the schedule fell into place.  The weekend that I had already chosen in my head surfaced as the weekend that would work for everyone.

I have learned this lesson about commitment several times now, and I am beginning to realize that the commitments we make determine the overall direction of our lives.  It sounds so simple, but really it isn’t.

We tend to think of non-commitment as a way to go with the flow, keep our options open and being available for new opportunities. The problem is that without commitment any new opportunity that comes along has no legs to bring it forth into reality.

When we don’t consciously commit to something, we are unconsciously committing to something else.

How so? When we don’t choose our commitments, then we have no place to direct our thoughts, focus, and intentions. We hand all our power over to whatever mood we’re feeling that day, the weather, or the momentum of the past. By not fully committing to healing, I was actually committing to keeping myself in a rut.

So, obviously, when we commit, we must commit wisely. When I made the commitment to accommodate the schedules of all of my students, I was committing myself to baby-stepping, and not taking the leap that I needed to make.

Not everything in our lives can be on the priority level of do-or-die, but that doesn’t mean that you have to give everything else up, either. For example, I love dance. I have been taking weekly dance classes for years now. I have even performed a dance routine in front of an audience, but I don’t prioritize dance the same way I prioritize work, school, or healing. I love my dance school, I love my dance teachers. I also love keeping on the priority level of: It’s there for me to enjoy when I can, but I don’t sweat it when I can’t.

When you consider where you have placed your commitments, think about what dominates most of your thoughts.  Think about most of your daily, habitual actions and where they are leading you.  If you have a lot of negative self-talk, please STOP THAT IMMEDIATELY because every word of that is a commitment to keeping yourself down.  I am not saying that you need to commit to going all-in with healing, but I hope that you choose to commit to yourself, your success and your happiness.

Connect with Me

I had a lovely time at the Fishtown RiverCity Festival today.  I was given the opportunity to give Reiki to several people.  I’m so grateful to be able to help people feel better!

My previous post gave you exercises that you can do to connect with your own subtle energy.  That is the beginning of accessing your body’s healing potential on your own.

I want to continue offering as much information as possible because I want people to start feeling better immediately.  More exercises and helpful information is coming, but it will be coming slowly.  These things take time.  I want to give you all time to get familiar with your energy before I add more to the equation.

If you want to learn more and continue this process, please keep following this blog.  If you sign up for the newsletter, I will send the blog posts straight to your email.  If you like me on Facebook, I will also be putting my updates there.  If you have an RSS reader, I’m sure you know what you’re doing.

Experience Your Subtle Energy

We all have the potential to experience, manipulate, and learn from our own subtle energy.  The incredible thing is that it doesn’t matter if you believe in subtle energy or not, you can still benefit from familiarizing yourself with your own.  You can think of it as accessing your higher self, a higher power, getting familiar with your subconscious or the subtle workings of your body.  Once you’ve gotten on this path, your potential to thrive becomes limitless.  It can also be a fun and exciting process, so become a scientist of your own experiences.

The term “subtle energy” is the modern label for an energy that goes by many names within several ancient traditions. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, this energy is called, “chi…, [it is called] prana in Ayurvedic teachings, [it is also known as] Paracelsus’ archaeus, Newton’s cosmic aether, Mesmer’s ‘universal fluid’ and ‘animal magnetism,’ the Odic force of Reichenback, Brunler’s biocosmic energy, and Reich’s orgone,”¹ and that’s just a partial list. The term “subtle energy” is also sometimes used in physics to mean certain kinds of energies that are very weak, but that is not the type of subtle energy that we’re talking about here.

Are you skeptical about subtle energy? Good. If you’re skeptical, that means that you’re open. I’ve been listening to William Bengston’s book, Hands On Healing, which, as far as I can tell, is only available as an audiobook.² In it, he explains that the true definition of a “skeptic” is a person who is open to all possibilities, and a “believer” is someone who is sure about something. That could mean that the person is sure that something is or that something isn’t. If you’re on the fence, you’re in good company.

If you’re a believer one way or another, I’d like you to try to be a skeptic for these exercises, even if you are a total believer in subtle energy. One thing that Bengston points out in his audiobook,² which I have also experienced myself, is this: strong and immovable beliefs retard the flow of energy. Not just beliefs against it—beliefs either way. He speculates (and I agree with his speculation) is that a strong belief means that an individual has a stake in the outcome of any situation, that stake creates anxiety, and the next thing you know you’ve just disrupted your flow of energy.

Subtle Energy Exercises

Exercise 1:

Anytime that you feel like your mind is racing, your heart is beating too fast, and you need to get focused quickly, imagine your energy in whatever way is meaningful to you, and start sending it down away from your upper body and into the spot just below your navel. If you have ever practiced martial arts, you are probably familiar with this exercise. Take a few slow deep breaths and observe your body and note any changes. Since most of us lead really busy and overwhelming lives, you will probably have plenty of opportunities to try this one out.

Exercise 2:

This one takes a little bit of time and practice, but if you keep with it, you will reap benefits!

1. Sit and relax your muscles as much as possible while remaining upright. Let your shoulders drop. Muscle tension blocks the flow of energy. If you have knotted up muscles, chances are that your subtle energy is stagnant in that area. Stay sitting up because that will help you remain alert and observant.

2. Let go of any words, stories or thoughts that are floating around in your head. This is the hard part. I like to imagine my thoughts turning into a balloon and floating up and away.

3. Once you have discarded the words, you can let out your feelings. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling without looking for reasons, justifications, or logical conclusions. Respect your emotions as entities of their own, not accessories to the material world. If you are someone who habitually holds back emotions, it may take some time to convince yourself that it is ok to let them out. Holding in emotions also tends to cause subtle energy to stagnate.

4. Identify the place in your body each emotion is stored.  Explore the quality and texture of those feelings in the context of your body.

5. Many traditions link subtle energy to the breath. You can try imagining energy flowing in and out with your breath in whatever way feels most natural to you (for example, through your skin, through the top of your head, through your heart, through your lower abdomen).  Note how that flow of energy interacts with the physical aspect of your emotion.

6. Give it time and observe. If you have never done this before, this is the beginning of you learning how to focus on and recognize your bodily sensations.

7. Once you start noticing the sensations, it helps to link them to images. You might feel a hot emotion coming out of the top of your head, or feel pressure building up in part of your body. What does it look like to you?

8. If you fall asleep or start to feel an extreme desire to sleep, then sleep (if you have no time to sleep, then get on with your day and then make plans to get more sleep later). If you continually fall asleep while doing this exercise, this is an indication that you are sleep deprived. If you keep giving yourself sleep, your body will eventually catch up, and you’ll be able to sit and observe without feeling very tired.

9. Have patience. If you’re struggling, think of it like those old stereogram posters; superficially, they look like a boring pattern, but when looked at in the right way, a new image pops out from the pattern. The first time it might take some time, but the more we see it, the easier it becomes. Pretty soon, it becomes nearly impossible not to see it. It’s kind of neat like that. It takes longer for some people, but if you keep trying, eventually, it will reveal itself to you.

You may find that a sensation that you commonly experience suddenly makes a lot of sense when it’s viewed in terms of subtle energy.  For example, when I meditate, I often get the strong sensation of something pressing on my forehead between my eyebrows. Before I had any knowledge of subtle energy, I would get annoyed thinking that something wasn’t right. It was distracting and I’d wonder, “Why must my forehead constantly make itself known?” Now that I understand and accept it as a stimulation of my third eye chakra, I have much more awareness and control over it.

There are dozens, maybe hundreds of instructional videos on youtube for either feeling or seeing subtle energy. I haven’t tried most of them, but if that interests you, give them a try and see if any of them fit or resonate with you.

Now go forth and observe yourself! You are your own best teacher.

¹Rosch, P. J. (2011, September). The Health Effects of Subtle Energies. Health and Stress, (9), 1–10.
²So, I can’t reference a page, and I don’t want to re-listen to the whole thing in order to find the exact time he says something before I can present his ideas.