Last night, I sat with my mom as she struggled through the worst night of pain thus far in her fight with cancer. Her abdomen was sore from throwing up, the morphine was not working well, and her thirst remained unquenched fearing more nausea.
I felt completely helpless. I could not feel the pain for her. So I just kept rubbing her hands, feet, and back. It was all I could do.
A few weeks before, I had run into my chiropractor at a coffee shop and asked him for suggestions on how to ease her pain. He showed me how to “pull pain off the body” via pressure points on the hands and feet.
Last night, as my mom seemed to barely breathe from one moment to the next, as I stroked her legs and feet, up and down, I recalled his instructions. So on the down stroke, I imagined my hands pulling the pain out, ending with squeezing the tips of her toes, pulling, almost snapping at the end of each toe. She said, “Ah, that feels wonderful.”
My inner eyebrows raised in surprise. It felt wonderful. A technique based on an Eastern religious understanding of the body’s chakras and chi had worked when the acceptable Western medicine failed.
I kept rubbing and thought of the 80s, post-Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness, of the paranoia that swept the evangelical church in an intense shift from fighting evil metaphorically and inside of ourselves to battling literal demons infesting every bad thing, from illness to mere discomfort. A lady once told me she’d prayed to God to defeat the demon keeping her from finding a parking place close to a store. We were told to “take up the sword of Christ” against demonic forces in constant conversational prayer with God and His Spirit.
The 1960s’ rise of the Age of Aquarius with its Eastern philosophy, religion, and mysticism philosophy was part of the Devil’s plan, to be battled and stamped out as thoroughly as possible. Energy healing, with its chakras and meridians, was strictly forbidden. Christ, after all, was a Westerner.
I’m not sure when the shift to even marginal acceptability began. Was it scientific studies proving acupuncture’s efficacy? Or a prominent Christian’s testimony? A conspiracy? Or was it the slow crumbling of the wall between church and pop culture? The tethering of the church’s fortunes with the modern youth culture? The “weakening of faith” integrating Eastern philosophies in pop culture via a million references inside church over the years?
However it came to be, in 2012, my mother–a former conservative evangelical preacher’s wife, a faithful evangelical Christian–did not balk or pull her feet away when I told her I pulled off her pain on a technique based on the dreaded chakras and meridians and chi. She was thankful for it.
So though I had been out of the church seven years by the time of the project, the intensity of the struggle against the powers of darkness embedded in my thinking as I came to adulthood in the 1980s still tinged how I viewed energy work.
I had heard it worked but had never considered it for help with pregnancies or depression and panic. I didn’t think of my body that way. And though my belief in a demon-riddled world had waned with increasing doubt of the devil’s (not evil) existence, it seemed more mumbo-jumbo than science. So, the fear remained.