Capacitar is indeed problematic. Not that it doesn’t do some good work in the world, but it does so while introducing people to New Age and eastern healing techniques, many of which have no scientific backing.
For those who never heard of it, Capacitar describes itself as an organization that connects people across several continents – the Americas, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. They feature an international team of trainers who teach energy-based wellness and healing practices, team building and self-development to “awaken people” to their own wisdom, strength and resources.
They generally go where invited and collaborate with local groups to develop programs that fit the needs of the people and the culture in which they live. It’s aim is to train and empower people to be educators and “multipliers” in their own communities.
The problem for Christians is found in the variety of body-mind-spirit practices that Capacitar teaches – most of which are either incompatible with Christianity, scientifically dubious, or both. These include Tai Chi, Pan Dan Gum (a set of 8 qi gong exercises), visualization and breathwork, acupressure, energy tapping modalities (EFT), various forms of massage, fingerhold techniques (based on a belief that a channel or meridian of energy runs through each finger and is connected to an organ system), and other methods of working with the body’s energy system and chakras.
Capacitar was founded by a woman named Patrician Mathes Cane, who holds a Ph.D in counseling studies from the University of Santa Clara. She was invited to go to Nicaragua in 1988, at the height of the Contra war, when people were suffering a great deal of trauma.
To survive personally, Cane relied on Tai Chi and acupressure. Her Nicaraguan friends became interested in those practices and wanted to learn about them as well as other ways to heal from the trauma in their lives. Cane was more than happy to oblige, and eventually began to bring her unconventional healing methods to other parts of the world. She decided to name her organization Capacitar, which is a Spanish verb meaning to empower, encourage, and bring forth.
Knowing its origins, it’s easy to understand why Capacitar’s wellness practices read like a how-to-guide for New Age energy healers. Their website lists some of these practices: “Tai Chi, meditation, breathwork, fingerholds to manage emotions, Emotional Freedom Technique, visualization, energy exercises, active listening, acupressure protocols, polarity, simple massage.”
These practices are offered to everyone, including children and families. For example, this page on their website describes a program for families who are instructed in a modality known as a “finger exercise” which is related to the scientifically unsubstantiated Polarity Therapy. This therapy is based on the theory that a channel of energy flows through each finger, is connected with different organs, and is associated with a corresponding emotion. For instance, the thumb is said to release grief and tears, the index finger releases fear, the middle finger releases anger, etc.
Participants are taught to “Gently wrap your fingers around the finger related to the emotion you wish to release. Often after several moments you can feel the energy moving through the finger, like a pulse balancing itself. Hold the finger until you feel relaxed and peaceful. . . .”
Retired religious sisters are also recipients of Capacitar programs, such as this one which was created for retired sisters ranging in age from 70 to well into their nineties.
“Over the past year the group has met once a week for an hour in the mid-morning," a participant describes. "During that time we have focused on Breathwork, Mindfulness, Guided Imagery, Tai Chi, Finger Holds, Acupressure, Massage, Thought Field Therapy, Reflexology of the hands, and work with the chakras. We have a large, comfortable space to gather in, and there is an appreciation for gathering in a large circle with a centerpiece of a live plant or flowers and a colorful cloth. We have met approximately thirty times since the program began.”
While we cannot impugn the motives of this organization, we can safely say that they are peddling practices that are founded in eastern belief systems that are not compatible with Christianity. In addition, the majority of these practices have little or no credible scientific support.