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franciscan - September 1999

© The Society of Saint Francis, 1999

Complementary Therapies

by Jo Smith Oliver

Though I make my communion and try to pray and meditate, I know little about the Bible, theology or philosophy. As a chartered physiotherapist I have a reasonable knowledge of bodies and of how the different parts interact between themselves and also with the world around. Since qualifying in 1978 I have had the opportunity to work with a very well-known and gifted orthopædic physician treating aches and pains ‘hands on.’ Little did I know that, successful as it is, it only touches the tip of the iceberg.

Having now trained in a complementary therapy I begin to find new joy in science and spirituality meeting happily. Reflextherapy is a form of treatment where the body is represented as a microcosm in the feet, hands and other areas, and connections between all body systems and the environment are respected. Physical health can be restored with massage applied to the feet and hands, which adopts similar theories as reflexology, but it is only practised by health care professionals and the application is very different.

In learning more about this I have had to discipline myself to let go of the pursuit of knowledge alone and to trust in a much greater process linking us to each other and to the universe. One of the most interesting concepts covered in the training has been a deeper understanding of energy which affects all things. Every time we have any thoughts, good or bad, happy or sad, chemicals are formed in our brain which affect the energy in our body and influence the world around us.

After centuries of disbelief, following the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ in the seventeenth century, what the ancient mystics believed before that time has now been proved by quantum physics: in that a profound link is honoured between the mind, body and spirit. Ultimately, the observer (in this case the practitioner) cannot control the final out-come. Complementary medicine embraces these concepts and also the fact that all tissues hold memories of events in our lifetime for which we are responsible. These can extend back into the womb and even beyond. An uneven balance of energy due to prolonged stress may ultimately give way to pathology producing symptoms such as pain, stiffness, weakness, pins and needles, etc. Prolonged imbalance will give rise to deeper more serious issues and conditions. This can be seen and felt in the body as well as in the feet, hands and ears.

In reflextherapy, attention is most often focused on the feet. The big toes represent the head and neck. The heels the pelvic area and hip. The inner arches the spine. The soles of the feet represent the lungs, heart and digestive organs. Each foot mirrors the same side of the body. Pressure and simple massage promote healing in a profound and beautiful way that allows symptoms to somehow bubble up to the surface and melt away without having to discuss the issues. The healing properties of foot massage have been known for five thousand years. Was this why Mary Magdalene tended the feet of Jesus?

It is hard to believe that anyone would dispute the energy of the sun: few readers of franciscan would question the energy of prayer. We might be more reluctant to accept the presence of an energy in ourselves, and by looking at our own emotions we can sometimes make physical connections. Heat energy is more obvious from food metabolism. All too easily we forget the gifts of speech, song, and laughter in sound. Light energy with its incredible beauty has been depicted by intuitive artists over the ages showing Jesus and the saints surrounded by aura.

In ancient Hindu tradition energy centres known as chakras are located at different points on the body radiating colours. It has now been scientifically proved that a healthy functioning cell will produce light, and many of us see occasional flashes of vibrant or pure white colour in areas immediately surrounding the body. We can all be aware of those who radiate light and long to be around them.

This light is very real and if you think you’ve seen it, you definitely have. The mystery is that it happens when you are not looking for it. We too can create our own light when we radiate love outwards. This surely is a mirror reflecting the glory of the Divine. How beautiful is the world! §

Jo Smith Oliver is a chartered physio-therapist and reflextherapist and runs a complementary health centre in Hackney, east London. She teaches reflextherapy to qualified health care professionals and would be happy to receive comment. She and her family are well known at the Hilfield Families’ Camp.

 

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