Finding One's Center

R.M. Clemmons, DVM, PhD
Associate Professor of Neurology & Neurosurgery
Certified in Veterinary Acupuncture
SACS, University of Florida

In approaching patient care, it is always best to center oneself before interacting with the patient and client. This is particularly true in regard to energy medicine, since the sense of subtle energy flows and disturbances of them are what help in diagnosing and treating patients. In our stress filled modern world, we often forget that we must be healthy and centered in order to attune with our patients and to provide a healing environment. So, the adage, "Physician, first heal thyself" is true today, more than ever. I would like to give some examples of how this process can be done, allowing even the busiest of veterinarians to slip from their traditional, high-activity, Western practice into their more serene Eastern one. Of course, Tai Chi will help to center the energy of its practitioners and you are already learning this. However, here are some additional breathing exercises and meditations which can help. Finally, I want to introduce "healing touch" and how to tap this resource to help in the treatment of your patients.

Breathing Exercises:

I think breathing exercises and physical exercise are important first steps in controlling stress and leading to relaxation. Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing. Here are 2 yogic breathing exercises that I find help me center myself so it is easier to relate to and handle my patients:

 Relaxing Breath

This "relaxing breath" is the most powerful tool I know for stress management. It strongly influences mind, body, and moods. By simply putting your attention on your breathing, without even doing anything to change it, you move in the direction of relaxation. There are many worse places to have your attention on your thoughts, for one, since thoughts are the source of much of our anxiety, guilt, and unhappiness. Get in the habit of shifting your awareness to your breath whenever you find yourself dwelling on upsetting thoughts.

 Energizing Breath

This is an exercise and you will feel the exertion. You should also begin to feel movement of energy in your upper body and arms, once you return to normal breathing. This will result in a energy boost and provide increased alertness and reduced fatigue. There is a direct central nervous system stimulation using this technique. It is a great afternoon pick-me-up and faster than a cup of coffee. After a hard day, this can put you back in the pink.


Meditation is directed concentration. Meditators learn to focus their awareness and direct it onto an object: the breath, a phrase or word repeated silently, a memorized inspirational passage, an image in the mind's eye. Researchers have documented immediate benefits in terms of lowered blood pressure, decreased heart and respiratory rate, increased blood flow, and other measurable signs of the relaxation response. Transcendental meditation alters the neurochemistry of the central nervous system, leading to increased alertness and energy.

Teachers of meditation usually recommend it for greater goals than mere relaxation. They promise that it can calm an agitated mind, creating optimal physical and mental health; that it can undo our sense of separateness, which is the common root of fear and misery; and that it can unify consciousness, putting us in touch with our higher self and connecting us to higher consciousness. They say meditation restructures the mind, allowing us to achieve our full potential as human beings. They admit that this is hard, long work. Buddhists say the untrained mind is a wild, unruly force which leads to all our unhappiness.

I believe in these potentials of meditation and practice it myself. Here is one form of medication which works for me. You can meditate in any position, but most systems recommend a seated posture with the spine straight. It is perfectly all right to sit in a chair if you cannot find a workable position on the floor. Try to meditate twice every day without fail for twenty to thirty minutes. The best time for me is first thing in the morning and before going to bed.

Many newcomers to meditation think the goal is to stop all thoughts. That is not possible. What you want to learn is to withdraw attention from the endless chains of associated thoughts that stream through the mind, putting attention instead on the object of meditation. Whenever you become aware that your attention has strayed to images, sensations, thoughts of dinner, or whatever gently bring it back to your chosen object. The tedious work of meditation is just this constant running after your attention and bringing it back.

Repeating a mantra (the practice of repeating over and over in the mind certain syllables, words, or phrases) can help unify consciousness and counteract negative mental states. Repetition of a verbal formula is a way of focusing the thinking mind and counteracting the damage done to both mind and body by thoughts that produce anxiety, agitation, and unhappiness. You can get some of this benefit by repeating anything: "Peace, peace, peace, peace..." or "The sky is blue, the sky is blue..." or "Day by day in every way I am getting better and better." If you choose a holy name or spiritual formula from a religious tradition, you may get added benefit from the special power of those words and the field of consciousness created by millions of persons repeating them. The best mantra consists of 2-3 syllables which a gradual rise and fall, like "November". However, since your mantra is something that you should use primarily to slip rapidly into the medicative state. A good mantra to use is to repeat "I am" over and over. You might like the original mantra, "Om".

Meditation with a mantra provides a comforting focus for the mind. It is a totally portable technique, requires no training or equipment, and can be used in any circumstance, though you should be cautious about doing it while driving, operating machinery, or engaging in other hazardous activities that require undivided attention. A mantra is especially helpful for people with restless minds, whose turbulent thoughts keep them from relaxing, concentrating, and falling asleep.


Healing touch:

Healing touch is based upon the capacity of human beings to pass "life-force" from themselves into others willing to accept this gift. Although many forms of healing touch are taught in the West, they represent teachings of the same physical process. Many studies have indicated that human contact can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress and improve the state of well-being of the recipient. Human contact has also been shown to increase the immune resistance of others. These principles can be used to help animal patients heal, as well. While it is not easy to demonstrate measurable results in all cases, certainly healing touch does no harm. When done as taught by practitioners of healing touch, it does not cost the "giver" personal energy, since the "giver" acts as a conduit of "universal life-force" which is freely available from a limitless supply of life-force within the cosmos. The "recipient" is free to accept and use this life-force energy. Most Eastern philosophies of healing are based upon the concept that living beings are based upon energy which flows in the body. When the energy level is low or there is a blockage of energy flow, disease develops. Healing touch, by providing life-force energy above or below this blockage, can re-establish the natural flow of energy, allowing healing to take place.

While healing touch has a spiritual aspect, it is not a religious practice nor does it require any particular belief by the giver or recipient. What is required is a recognition by the giver that this process can occur and for the giver to practice the technique to establish pathways for energy flow from them to the recipient. Distant healing touch can also be beneficial to patients. In this form of healing touch, the giver establishes a "psychic" connection with the recipient and mentally visualizes offering the life-force to the patient. Many double blind studies have shown that prayers directed at patients in human intensive care units reduce the complication rates of those patients and their ultimate length of stay in the intensive care unit. Distant healing touch and prayer seem to work through similar mechanisms, in their benefits to patients. On the other hand, belief in any specific religion is unnecessary to practice healing touch. Any person can learn and practice healing touch. In fact, most people perform healing touch without knowledge of doing so.

Healing touch may be helpful to maintain normal health in dogs. It also will assist in speeding and maximizing recovery if disease occurs. Since this can be done without risk of injury, it will do no harm; yet healing touch may increase the chances of full recovery. It also helps develop the human-animal bond. The outcome of healing touch is non-judgmental. It is a gift which is shared between the patient and healer.

One form of healing touch taught in the United States, Reiki, is mostly ignored by conventional doctors. Reiki is said to have been created more than 2,500 years ago by Tibetan monks as a spiritual discipline for enlightenment. Then, a little over a century ago in Japan, Dr. Mikao Usui founded the Usui System of Reiki Healing which was brought to America in 1937. Applied through gentle touch, a full Reiki treatment takes 60 to 90 minutes and treats all the major organs, systems and energy centers of the body. For relaxation, general "tune-ups", or acute conditions, only one or two treatments are customary. For chronic conditions, longer-term treatment may be recommended.

There are two degrees of Reiki. Most First Degree Reiki classes are taught in four three-hour sessions, and students are attuned to the energy while also learning the history of Reiki, the basic hand positions for treatment, and ways to use Reiki in their own lives. Second Degree Reiki, usually taught in two sessions, teaches students how to send Reiki to anyone, anywhere, and furthers the mental, spiritual and emotional healing processes of individuals.

To open the conduit for healing touch, you merely need to be ready to accept that it is possible and realize that you are like a lightening rod, a channel for energy from above to be grounded in the earth. Like Qi Gong or Tai Qi, the more you practice healing touch the more natural it will become to you. Many people feel that their hands become warm when energy is flowing, similar to the sensation you get by rubbing your hands together rapidly. You will begin to notice subtle changes in the flow of energy from you to your patient. There is a cycle of around 3-6 minutes where energy flow surges and ebbs. Normally a treatment will continue through 1-3 cycles in a given location.

Treating a patient may be a simple as directing energy through touch or distant intentionality to the affected area or it may involve a systematic treatment of the energy centers in the body. The normal positions for whole body work include the top and sides of the head, the eyes and forehead, the throat, the upper chest, over the heart, over the solar plexus, over the umbilicus, the lower abdomen and iliac regions, over the sacrum and tailhead, over the kidneys, over the adrenal glands, over the low chest (liver), over the upper chest (lungs), the shoulders, and the back of the neck just caudal to  the occiput. In addition, energy can be transferred to various locations on the extremities to facilitate therapy.

Here is a mediation that can help you develop your skills in energy medicine and healing touch. I use this meditation
to start my treatments and establish my healing connections. It also helps me establish a "healing frame of mind" and approach to my patients. I find that it is a great way to fall asleep, healing myself and patients while I rest.

The energy available is limitless and does not cost the healer any of their won energy. The healer is merely the conduit to bring cosmic energy into this plane of existence, since they can provide the grounding to earth. The patient draws what energy they need and then moves it to where it is needed. The healer benefits, too, since the healer get the first crack at the energy and gains from the contact and practice of healing.

There are aids to the process, including symbols which help center the healer (Diakomio the master symbol), which help to strengthen the connection and energy transfer (Cho Ku Rei), and which facilitate distant healing (Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen). The symbols are drawn in the air over the patient or on the healers hand and the name of the symbol recited 3 times. This would be done for each symbol used. For a touching session, Diamokio and Cho Ku Rei would be used together. For distant healing, all three would be used sequentially. I repeat them periodically throughout the healing session. Other symbols may also be used, including one of your own design, if you make it yours.


Diakomio                                    Cho Ku Rei                        Hon Sha Ze Sho Nen

Copyright University of Florida 2000

Go to the VEM 5208 Pages!!!

Updated 12/26/2000