Passage to Ponder: Psalm 51
The health and wellness industry is a big landmine of New Age religious thought. It permeates spas, gyms, health clubs, and fitness centers. Exercise classes using relaxation and behavior modification for the participants comes from Zen Buddhism. Aromatherapy used for the towels and mind-body exercise classes have Hindu and Zen mindsets. Massage therapists may try to line up chakras from Reiki or manipulate points on the feet opening up invisible meridians in the body for energy flow practiced in reflexology. These are also based on Taoist and Zen Buddhist religious principles. It seems like a good thing. Right? Where should you draw the line? That's difficult, so here are some tools to navigate this tangled maze.
Keep these things in mind as you consider these practices. Our bodies have electro-chemical systems. Some people have a strong enough charge to weakly light up an incandescent light bulb. Second, we have an inherent need to connect with something or someone beyond ourselves, hence religious thought. Third, our universe and other solar systems generate gravitational forces that affect us. These have all been scientifically shown. We have a tendency to do what's popular, even if it's not right. But most of all, God is the Creator of all things, and Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God. Playing in an area of questionable religious practices causes confusion. If you don't understand them, my motto is, "If in doubt, leave it alone."
Relaxation & Meditation
These are meditative practices based on Zen Buddhist and Hindu religions tauted to reduce tension and stress while gaining greater mental clarity. You will find this tied in with Yoga, Tai Chi, some exercise classes at the end of the class, massage therapy, and unfortunately, in some Christian churches supposedly to enhance one's receptivity to the Holy Spirit. These practices are rooted in Eastern religious thought, some Wicca groups, American Indian rituals, and other nature-based religions.
Chanting "Om" and clearing one's mind is not from God. Working to reach Nirvana or Enlightenment is not getting closer to God or better in touch with yourself. In my previous blog posts"Spiritual Disciplines: Meditation" and "Lectio Divina" I explain what Christian meditation is and does for us. Any time we sit still, breath (simply deep), give over the tensions of the day to our Creator, and ponder a Bible passage, we relieve tensions and stress. Best of all, we have a God who can handle our troubles while carrying us through some really tough situations. His Holy Spirit speaks to us in our quiet times with Him as we read our Bibles. We can let it go trusting God to either take it away or guide us through those storms.
Aromatherapy is a widely practiced art for enhancing or changing mood. Although science has tested different scents to understand what motivates us to shop more, buy more, or relax more, our responses have to do with mental/emotional connections we make in life, for the most part. That's why large, expensive department stores and pricey Lifestyle Centers use the air scents that they do. However, there is an ancient practice of aromatherapy from Hinduism used to "align chakaras". Here is a direct quote from an e-book from Aura Acacia: "Like the roots of plants, reaching deep into the earth to establish a secure connection to life, muladhara –your root chakra – is the foundational center upon which you are able to grow and thrive. In balance, this powerful center facilitates feelings of stability, security and connection to the vital survival elements of life..." Aromatherapy is used in conjunction with yoga and eastern religious meditation as a way to reach enlightenment.
A study was done to see if there was a beneficial effect for essential oils and aromatherapy in cancer patients in 2000 and 2012. Some of the effects showed benefits primarily in modification in mood and anxiety. (WebMD)
In John 15:1-17 Jesus tells us " I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (verse 5). Attempting to align chakras and "establish a secure connection to life, muladhara" is not having a secure connection to Jesus Christ. To use essential oils to scent your home or use for it's healing properties is not wrong. Practicing Hinduism, rooted in the earth, is playing with the devil who is the prince of the air and ruler of the earth. (I Peter 5:8-9, Ephesians 2:1-3) The danger is being lured away from God. Use these oils only for the physical properties. Ditch the New Age spiritual stuff.
After a particularly stressful work week or intense workout, muscle knots can be relieved through therapeutic massage. A vast menu of massage choices is available. On the wall are charts of the human body, the hand, and the foot with accu-pressure and massage points that supposedly line-up with invisible meridians of the body. The aroma of essential oils fills the room. Relaxing music plays in the background. People use massage for a variety of health-related purposes, including to relieve pain, rehabilitate sports injuries, reduce stress, increase relaxation, address anxiety and depression, and aid general wellness (Medicinet.com).
Not all claims of massage therapy have been proven. Of those proven to be effective, the benefits have been reduced pain, tension, and anxiety. Some have antiseptic properties. Of those still being analyzed, circulatory and lymphatic benefits are not yet conclusive. People with muscle knots, fibromyalgia, muscular-skeletal misalignments, MS, ALS, cancer, and pregnancy could benefit from the physical aspects of massage. The relaxing environment helps reduce tension and anxiety for those prone to stress. However, you should talk with your doctor to find out if massage is beneficial for your condition.
The spiritual concern comes to play with the supposed invisible meridians, aligning chakras, and balancing ch'i. These concepts are based on an impersonal universal force in which energies need balanced as in Taoism, symbolized by the Yin Yang (Chi Whiz). Massage oils containing essential oils such as lavender for relaxation, eucalyptus for stimulation and mood, orange to reduce inflammation and increase circulation, among others may or may not provide the benefits claimed. These oils do offer an antiseptic benefit to reduce bacteria and fungus. They reduce friction on the skin aiding the gliding movement of the hands, thumbs, fingers, fists, and elbows of the massage therapist. Aromatherapy can also help set mood. However, we should never focus on the balancing of energies, but only the actual physical benefits.
Remove the Barrier
We don't need to connect with a central universal energy force that is impersonal. We need a relationship connection with our Creator God through Jesus Christ. He has created all things including energy. We cannot manipulate energies through massage nor by hovering hands over an area of the body for healing an area, as someone who channels energy or auras may claim. Our God is Healer. If you are caught up in these practices, cleanse yourself through prayer as the Psalmist did in Psalm 51.
Something I tell people over and over is this: when everything you have is gone, all you have left is your relationship with people and your relationship with God. If you have to choose then, the most important one is with God. If you offend anyone, it is better to offend people than God. After all, He is the one you will meet when all is said and done. The best thing you could hear from Him is this: "Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter my rest." He loves you. Remove the barrier.
Spiritual Disciplines: Meditation by Charlaine Martin.
Chi Whiz by Charlaine (Engelhardt) Martin
Lectio Divina: Christian Meditation by Charlaine Martin
A Little Bit of Sin is Never In by Charlaine (Engelhardt) Martin.
Clinical studies of the affects of essential oils and aromatherapy
Invasion of Other Gods by David Jeremiah. W Publishing Group. Copyright 1995.
Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin, Edited by Ravi Zaharias. Bethany House Publishers.Copyright 2003.