The field of biofield research has been steadily gaining traction in recent years. I recently attended the Biofield Research Conference held at the Menla Retreat Center in upstate New York from September 25-28, 2023. It served as a platform for experts, researchers, and enthusiasts to come together and delve deeper into the understanding and significance of the biofield. In this blog, I will provide an overview of the conference and its crucial role in shaping the biofield community.
Setting the Stage for Noetic Medicine
The conference began amidst a rainstorm at the serene Menla Retreat Center, a place known for its spiritual aura and blessings from the Dalai Lama. The leaves were changing colors, and the creeks and waterfalls on the grounds were flowing beautifully. Attendees were greeted by familiar faces and given the opportunity to mingle with both old friends and new acquaintances during the dinner. The evening program kicked off with an introduction by Meredith Sprengel, Research and Program Director, followed by enlightening talks from David Liebsohn, Managing Partner, and Jason Yotopoulos, CEO of the Emerald Gate Foundation. One standout aspect was Dr. Wayne Jonas’ proposal to reframe our terminologies, replacing “subtle energy and consciousness” with the term “noetic medicine,” highlighting our inner wisdom. Dr. Jonas also showcased the robustness of mind-matter interactions and acknowledged the notable work of Roger Nelson and the Global Consciousness Project, which IONS has partnered on for decades.
The conference focused on establishing a foundation for the exploration of the subtle energy world. Meredith Sprengel presented a scoping review of the evidence for various subtle energy modalities, which resulted in the creation of an open-access database and summary table, a monumental achievement in itself. This database, which can be accessed at https://www.biofieldsciencemap.org/, serves as a valuable resource for researchers and seekers of knowledge in the field. The database allows users to search studies by condition, modality, date, or result type. Having a clear picture of the current state of the science in the field is essential in establishing where to direct our efforts.
Exploring Research Questions
With this foundation, participants then engaged in a discussion on the most important research questions that should be addressed as the next steps for the field. Participants were encouraged to identify any missing questions and vote for the top eight that would be explored further. Some popular questions included visualizing the biofield, establishing biomarkers to evaluate changes within the body of the healee, evaluating the quality of healers, designing large-scale clinical trials, and identifying global proxy measures related to mechanisms. My team developed a plan for adequately vetting healers for research studies. Being able to have structured and adequate methods to evaluate the efficacy of research energy medicine healers is essential for successful studies. For example, a study could result in negative findings not because energy medicine does not work but because the energy medicine healer used might not be the best practitioner for that particular study.
The Promise of the Next Generation
Another exciting aspect of the conference was the spotlight on research fellows. The Subtle Energy Funders Collective is committed to fostering young researchers to pursue research in this area. We heard talks from up-and-coming researchers who are part of the fellowship program, ranging from anthropological perspectives of psychedelics to clinical trials of Reiki.
Aligned with IONS Noetic Handshake the conference also included ample opportunities to directly experience phenomena. For example, participants were able to experience a frequency breathwork session and sound healing. For many of the attendees who were entrenched in mainstream academic universities, these opportunities were novel to them. Overwhelmingly, they were impressed with the profundity of the transformative potential for such “simple” modalities.
The Future of Biofield Research and IONS
A sense of anticipation lingers regarding the future direction of biofield research and how institutions like IONS will play a role in shaping the narrative. IONS has been conducting studies in this field for decades, from the Spontaneous Remission Bibliography project to the Hand and Wrist Pain Energy Medicine study to our most recent study on Reiki. It is inspiring to see that the allure of the frontiers beckons to more and more researchers to explore new, more fringe topics such the healing, distant mental interactions of living systems, collective consciousness, psychedelics, and other significant breakthroughs find their place in mainstream academia and medicine.
The Biofield Research Conference serves as a catalyst for collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and the advancement of the biofield community. I was excited to see many old colleagues and meet many new ones. I look forward to exploring potential collaborations moving into the future. The Subtle Energy Funders Collective is committed to moving this work forward in an impactful way, and will continue to shape the future of biofield research and inspire participants to explore the uncharted territories that lie ahead.