I recently wrote an article on energy healing, for Massage & Bodywork magazine. As part of this article, I interviewed my all-time favorite body worker and nutrition consultant, Anasuya Batliner, on the topic of natural pain relief through energy healing and nutrition.
Loolwa Khazzoom: When I say energy healing, how do you define that? What does that mean to you?
Anasuya Batliner: I think about the movement of Chi in the body. Sometimes it’s easier to detect when things are not moving. The whole goal of energy healing is to not have things get stuck or pooled or stagnant, but to keep the movement.
So to me, a lot about energy healing has to do with allowing for freedom of movement. And I think about it in terms of using an intention to help move the energy. I feel as if it has a lot to do with the subtleties of thought and vitality, and how they naturally have places where they get stuck and places where they move.
LK: And when you say Chi, what do you mean by Chi? For somebody who doesn’t really have a lot of exposure to this, how would you define it?
AB: Chi is loosely defined as a vitality, life force, energy in the body, and sometimes it’s easier to define it by what it does. It has the ability to transform things in the body – for example, it can transform food into vital substances you can use. Chi has the force to move things from one place to the other in the body. It shines when there are adequate amounts, and it also protects the body from outside forces.
LK: And when you say it shines when there are adequate amounts, what do you mean?
AB: Well, when you have a lack of Chi, sometimes there’s almost a dullness in the skin or in the eyes, or in the affect. So Chi is energy and light and shine.
LK: It was interesting when you said that energy also transforms food. I always think of energy as something that’s really abstract for most American people to understand. But then when you think about it, there are calories, which are energy — food turning into energy. So can you maybe tap into that a little bit and just share the connection between energy as this kind of abstract sense that one picks up, and energy as something that’s more tangible in the physical, scientific world?
AB: There are so many different aspects of our metabolism that are happening all the time. As a nutritionist, I think of the fact that we use nutrients to make enzymes. Enzymes are catalysts that in turn make certain processes in the body happen. For example, we can change one chemical in our body to the next chemical.
Then there are all these pathways, a multitude of pathways that are all interwoven in our body. They’re all moving, constantly being transformed from one substance to the other in our body, so that everything gets what it needs. And the energy of that transformation is Chi. So energy is not something that’s happening in a sort of irrelevant, rarefied atmosphere, but it’s something that is happening millions of times within each heartbeat.
LK: That’s amazing. Something I never thought of until this very moment is you can think of energy from a nutritional model too.
LK: Can you say a little bit more about this connection? You do a lot of nutrition consulting for conditions like chronic pain. In what way is the nutritional practice that someone takes on in their lives a form of energy healing?
AB: Eerything that we eat essentially comes down to plants, even if we’re eating animal products; the animals lived on the plants. And what do the plants live on but sunlight, water, and air. We’re eating those plants. So that’s our way of getting a material form of sunlight into our body. That’s our way of getting that energy into our body.
With science, you can say OK, well, there are all these different forms. There are oxygen and carbon dioxide. There are proteins and amino acids and lipids and carbohydrates and minerals and vitamins — all just slightly different forms of this sunlight and water and air. And in our body, all this energy is constantly interacting and moving and changing and transforming, so that we can replenish ourselves and grow.
So whenever people are engaging in their nutrition, consciously cooking healthier foods, they are thinking a little bit more about what they’re eating. They are engaging in that kind of energy, where we’re giving the body more of what it wants, so that more of those energy transactions can happen.
LK: What I’ve experienced with nutrition is it’s not just the food that I’m eating, but there’s almost an entirely different orientation in my energy field. It’s almost this thing of the connection between intention and energy. So while I’m transforming the energy reactions going on in my body by having different nutrition, I’m, also creating a different orientation in my life — a different feeling, a different sense of my body, towards my body, towards my life.
When I’m “on it,” I wake up and create the space and place for me to have food. I have a nutritious meal that involves protein and vegetables and grains. I balance out a diversity of foods. I take time to cook, and I buy from a farmer’s market.
The sense I get at a farmer’s market is that it’s not just that I’m going to Safeway and buying some food that’s all in little cans and rows — with everything very anal. Instead, I’m buying from the actual people who are growing the food, the farms that are making it straight from the dirt. It tastes better; it’s fresher; and there’s a human interaction — a culture that’s at the farmer’s market. It feels like all of those things just add to the energy around my experience of food, and that in itself creates a sense of healing in addition to the food itself.
Can you speak a little bit to that, and again back to this relationship of energy on different levels — the physical, scientific, chemical energy, and then energy that’s a little bit more esoteric or abstract.
AB: Well, I definitely agree about taking that time and shopping at places where the products are very close to where they just came out of the earth. You know, the people who grew it have a certain energy, and the selling of it has a more nurturing feel to it than when there are a lot of middlemen in there.
I’m reminded of this book called Tending the Wild — about how for thousands of years, Native Americans in California (I’m sure aboriginal people the world too, but this book was about Californian Native Americans) cultivated what we thought of, the settlers thought of, as wilderness. To the Native Americans, it was really a vast garden. The belief was that the act of people interacting with plants was really good for the plants and really good for the people. So there used to be a more intimate play between people and plants.
I think when we go to the farmer’s market, we’re really tapping into that; because we’re having a relationship with the farmers and a closer relationship with the plants. I think it goes beyond just getting the fuel into our bodies. I think there has always been a special relationship between people and the plants and animals that we eat.
Eating as close as possible to the plant source will preserve many of the nutrients, rather than eating things that are shipped across the country or have been processed and processed and processed until many of the nutrients are gone. So certainly that can be documented scientifically. But I agree that even some of the things that we can’t measure yet are going on.
We have a culture that tends to separate us out, but we’re not really different than nature. And I think having a relationship with plants — through people who grow plants and herd animals and such — gets us more in harmony with that.
LK: Why do you think we got separated out? Why do you think that our society has gotten so removed from this just very natural way of being?
Also, I keep thinking how our society has this obsessive need to be able to quantify something. When people talk about violence, for example, they always talk about it in very extreme form. It’s only considered violence once there’s been a rape or a murder or some kind of extreme assault. But I think that the violence starts way before — with an intention, an orientation, an energy — the way that someone is approaching another human being.
I talk about it in terms of the difference between someone being pushed down the stairs vs. someone falling down the stairs. It’s the same physical situation: You’re rolling down the stairs, and you end up with certain injuries. But I think that the depth of pain that’s felt is far more intense and severe if someone pushes a person.
LK: And that, to me, is the place of energy. That’s the place of intention. That’s where you get into issues of spirit and psyche and emotions — which is all very real. So why is there this obsessive need to quantify things, or to be able to have something that’s tangible in a very kind of visual way – something that you can hold in your hands, point to, or count?
AB: I think that people moved from populations where they were able to live comfortably off hunting and cultivating in a natural landscape, to agriculture – where there was more accumulation of wealth. Then there were more power issues, which led to politics. There is something about the development of cities, coupled with the amazing, incredible capacity of the brain. Rather than being intimately connected to all the relationships in nature, we developed incredible arts and crafts, and eventually, a more urban culture.
And now, I think our brains are changing a lot, because we have a very immediate-orientated culture too. I don’t think it’s necessarily bad, but I do think it’s sad that we lose our connection. Our connections with nature are very different than what our ancestors had for many years.
I’m not sure I completely answered that part of your question, but I was also thinking about the difference between when you fall down the stairs and when someone pushes you. We are all connected, and when there is a push or an assault of some kind, there’s this pull in this web that we’re all connected through. There’s like some knot or pull that’s created when someone actually pushes you, because you still have that relationship with that person; but then there’s a betrayal of some kind in there. That in turn can really distort the whole web.
I think that in some ways, there’s a connection there. I think that as humans, we’re always finding our place in the world – our relationship within our immediate friends and family and within our larger culture and within nature. I think we’re always looking for our place, for where we belong, for how we can untangle whatever distortions there are.