By David Feinstein, Ph.D.
Eden Energy Medicine freely uses terms found in ancient healing traditions, such as “meridians,” “acupuncture points,” “five elements,” and “chakras.” Many people assume that Donna studied these systems and EEM was her way of synthesizing them. But that’s not how it happened. For as far back into her childhood as Donna can remember, she has had a capacity for sensing the body’s energies more vividly and distinctly than most people.
This is not unique. It is, in fact, a talent she shares with many other healers. For Donna, it includes an ability to see the body’s energies as colorful fields, flows, and swirls, all of which have meaning. Again, this is not unique. In fact, Donna’s mother, sister, and brother all saw energies the way Donna does, and Donna grew up assuming that everyone had this capacity.
The look of each person’s energies is, to Donna’s eyes, in continuous flux. And, just as no two people among the Earth’s 8 billion have identical thumbprints, no two people’s energy fields are identical. In fact, because they are far more complex and ever changing, energy fields are far less similar to one another than fingerprints!
For instance, the chakras are multi-layered, multi-colored spiraling energies over different areas of the body, and no two chakras are alike within a person or between people. The aura surrounds the body, again with multiple layers, each of which has different colors and serves different functions. The meridians move, with varying strength, up and down the body along 14 major pathways. Each of the energy systems that is focused upon in EEM has its own visual signature. So what Donna sees is quite complex.
However, while Donna could see all this complexity, she generally didn’t. She generally saw the Gestalt, the whole, the forest rather than the trees, the orchestra rather than the instruments. It was not until she was focusing on overcoming her multiple sclerosis, and then helping others, that she realized that if she paid close attention to the ways she saw and sensed the body’s energies, these perceptions could be applied to aid healing.
This was before words like chakras and meridians had made their way into everyday language, and Donna had never studied any of the ancient healing traditions that are associated with these terms. Only after she had begun to work with people’s energies did she learn that the swirling disks of energy she saw in the body were called “chakras” in ancient Vedic texts and the flows of energy up and down the body were called “meridians” in durable healing practices tracing to China.
She identified nine major energy systems in her own healing work – each of which has important implications for assessing and correcting physical challenges – and she has since found that each of these systems corresponds with maps and descriptions portrayed in at least one culture or healing tradition. She believes, in fact, that the individuals who mapped these energies possessed ways of perceiving that were similar to her own.
How closely do the energy systems Donna sees correspond with the ancient descriptions? My background included a father who was a passionate devotee of Theosophy. Growing up, the Upanishads (embedded in the four Vedic texts) were a household word. While I can’t pretend to have read, no less studied all four of the Vedas, I know a bit. The Vedas use rich imagery and metaphor. I grew up hearing depictions of the chakras as seven islands with the sea being the ethers. So it was fascinating for me to meet Donna, who literally “sees” the chakra energies, and for us to compare notes.
I found it to be remarkable to learn how much correspondence there is between what Donna sees and my understanding, at least, of the ancient teachings. And there are also significant differences. For instance, while Donna’s take and the traditional teachings about the functions of each chakra have many similarities, Donna also talks about additional functions that have not generally been recognized.
She also sees each chakra as having seven layers, each layer fulfilling different functions within the general theme of the chakra, and each layer having its own color and spin direction (while Donna agrees that the chakras tend to move in a clockwise direction as taught in the Vedas, individual layers may sometimes reverse this direction to clear energetic debris or maintain balance). This level of detail is simply not presented in the Vedas.
But it turns out that many cultures and healing traditions – including Native American, Incas, Celtic, Sufi, Hindu, and Buddhist – have mapped an energy system that is similar to the chakras. To avoid confusion with other mappings, we make it very clear that what we teach is based on what Donna sees and senses, not on classical teachings, even those that are widely-known and respected.
In sum, I would say there is much more overlap than difference between what Donna sees/senses and what is described in time-honored healing traditions, but some of the differences are important. For instance, the colors Donna sees in the chakras do not match the conventional descriptions. The Triple Warmer meridian serves vital roles that are not traditionally attributed to it. The aura and the “five elements” interact in ways not described in the early teachings. Still, the correspondences are strong enough that Donna uses the traditional terms.
Another discovery for Donna over the years has been that exercises she thought she invented have been practiced for millennia. This hit home for her decades ago when she was in the Egyptian section of the British Museum in London and she saw, depicted on a hieroglyph, an almost identical set of postures as her “Connecting Heaven and Earth” routine. She has since found similar sequences in Qi Gong and Tai Chi, and she is now quite accustomed to coming upon other techniques she thought she invented that are taught in practices she has never studied.
So when people ask if EEM is derived from ancient healing systems, Donna answers with frank humility that she doesn’t believe she has discovered anything new. Yet her way of understanding and integrating so many of the body’s energy systems is unique and seems to be making a contribution. Her first book, Energy Medicine, is available in 20 languages. She was deeply honored when it was translated into Chinese. She wrote a special introduction to that edition, which begins:
"When the Yellow Emperor decided to codify the already ancient practice of acupuncture some 4500 years ago, the book to which this book owes its most profound debt was set in motion. I cannot overstate how humbling and satisfying it was to learn that Energy Medicine would be coming out in a Chinese translation. Only in a world where globalization allows an unprecedented cross-fertilization of ideas and practices could we expect to see such exchanges. Just as the time-honored healing arts of China are impacting the Western world, scientific investigations being conducted in China are refining healing procedures and concepts from the Yellow Emperor’s time."
Donna has always acknowledged that her teachings resemble ancient healing practices, including not only Chinese medicine but also approaches that originated in the Indian, Japanese, and Celtic traditions, as well as in tribal cultures. She points out that everyone shares the same basic energy anatomy, so it is not surprising that techniques to activate, heal, and direct the body’s energies look similar. Plus, we live in a precious time in history when all of these traditions can inform one another and evolve.