Mes­sage with a spir­i­tual touch

The Australian - - LIFE - RUTH OSTROW Ruth.ostrow@hot­

It started as a nor­mal mas­sage with a prac­ti­tioner I’d stum­bled on while trav­el­ling. I had gen­tly re­quested no mu­sic. I can’t tol­er­ate the sound of weep­ing whales, Enya or Si­mon and Gar­funkel’s El Con­dor Pasa on Peru­vian pan flutes dur­ing treat­ments.

But she in­sisted on mu­sic. “It helps me to do my job,” she said. Fair enough, but can it please be on low? She agreed and I mounted the ta­ble face down. I had se­ri­ous pain in my back, I ex­plained. I wasn’t sure why — car­ry­ing the weight of the world, I guess. Re­cent is­sues had left me feel­ing like Sisy­phus rolling a rock up hill. “Much sad­ness. Much ex­haus­tion?” she asked in bro­ken English. “Yes,” I said with a sigh.

The mas­sage was fan­tas­tic. So much so I didn’t even no­tice the mu­sic in the be­gin­ning. But the cho­rus sud­denly got me. “Je­sus, show me the way.” I love gospel. I used to be in a gospel choir be­fore my voice went raspy. I’m not a God-on-acloud per­son, pre­fer­ring to be­lieve in an un­seen en­ergy force akin to Eastern be­liefs. I don’t care what name other peo­ple call divinity when I sing my thanks.

‘Heal this woman. Take away her pain. Make her well. Take the bad spir­its from her body’ FAITH HEALER

My back was feel­ing bet­ter. But the songs were get­ting worse, a soppy com­pi­la­tion of coun­try love songs to Je­sus. Nev­er­the­less, we were half­way through — and she was good. She had climbed on to my back, Thai style, and was push­ing her knees into the re­ally bad sore spots. It was an amaz­ing re­lief.

But then she started pray­ing on top of me. Whis­per­ing in what sounded like a charis­matic Chris­tian preacher giv­ing their con­gre­ga­tion the heal­ing hand. “Lord, heal this woman. Take away her pain. Make her well. Take the bad spir­its from her body.” She was rock­ing and pray­ing as the mu­sic war­bled on. Then she went quiet, got off my back, turned off the mu­sic and con­tin­ued mas­sag­ing my arms and legs for an­other 10 min­utes as if noth­ing pe­cu­liar had hap­pened.

Turns out I had stum­bled on a well-known faith healer. It was par for the course for her to in­voke the Lord and her spirit guides. She con­cluded that I had “a very bad en­ergy” in my back. She felt it and had lifted the load. “Drink plenty of water,” she said ca­su­ally as I fum­bled for my keys. Righ­tio, then.

Faith heal­ing is a tricky busi­ness. I re­cently met a cred­i­ble woman who told me she had re­gained to­tal move­ment af­ter a bad ski­ing ac­ci­dent with­out surgery. Her part­ner said he’d been scep­ti­cal when he took her to a spir­i­tual healer: “Me and an­other man car­ried her in on crutches. But she walked out on her own legs.”

A friend, Michelle Mahrer, re­cently made a doc­u­men­tary on Brazil­ian healer John of God, A Quest to Heal, Be­yond the Phys­i­cal, which was aired on ABC’s Com­pass. It ex­plored some of the un­ex­plained suc­cess sto­ries of spir­i­tual heal­ing, with Western doc­tors con­clud­ing that placebo plays a sig­nif­i­cant part. We are more pow­er­ful than we know — and our own ca­pac­ity to heal, if we be­lieve we are be­ing healed, is it­self mys­ti­cal and re­mark­able.

As for my health, what­ever un­seen mag­i­cal force is within me or out there in the uni­verse (maybe it was just those strong knees), I have thrown away my own crutches — painkillers. I feel great. A big “Amen” to that.

Placebo plays a sig­nif­i­cant part in heal­ing

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