It's tough enough to assume responsibility for our actions and words. Should we, can we, also be responsible for our thoughts and intentions? Those are private, right? Yours alone?

Apparently not.

According to Marilyn Schlitz, president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, we're interconnected in a way that hasn't been studied in conventional science. I don't have to touch you, or even be in your physical presence, in order to provoke a response. I need only send you my thoughts.

"Intention is very powerful," says Schlitz. "It gets overrated, but you see intention at work even when you go to put your foot on the ground. And now, we have studies that show your intention has measurable effects on another person's physiology."

Schlitz conducted her own laboratory study with 36 couples. A wife was placed in an isolated room with electrodes attached to her hand to measure her unconscious nervous system. A husband, placed in another isolated room with a closed-circuit TV, was instructed to send loving, compassionate thoughts to his wife when her image appeared at random intervals on his screen.

A scientist could then follow a graph of the wife's physiological responses. The wife stopped relaxing and became "aroused" within about two seconds of her husband's "messages." And those husbands with compassionate intention training had more impact on their wives than those without training.

So, particularly if you're exercising your "intention" muscles that Wayne Dyer and others have made popular, your thoughts, even from a distance, wield the power to affect others.

Schlitz explains that there is strong literature in positive psychology showing that things like forgiveness and gratitude are therapeutic. They help to relieve stress with measurable effects on health and well-being.

And we don't have to stretch to believe that. We've experienced it. You apologize to a loved one after a terrible fight and, voila, the gulf between you and life as you knew it disappears. You crack the door to see your sleeping child and feel grateful … and you get a second wind.

Even traditional scientists believe in the power of prayer -- when praying for one's self. Meditation has been well documented to produce physical signs of deep relaxation in heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, brain waves and plasma cortisol (a hormone associated with stress).

It's more of a stretch for us, as well as scientists, to believe that our intentions make a difference in the well-being of (SET ITAL) others (END ITAL). But if our intentions have an impact on the physiology of another person, then it may follow that they affect another's well-being.

We want to believe that. In a government survey, prayer for self and prayer for others were the top two alternative medicine healing practices.

I'm reminded of George Bailey in "It's a Wonderful Life." In desperation, he said, "God, I'm not a praying man, but … " By then, thanks to those who loved him, Bailey's guardian angel had already been briefed and dispatched!

Knowing that we can impact others with measurable results, perhaps we'll pray -- or send loving thoughts -- with more faith, and more significant results.

Intention doesn't stop with us and our loved ones, though. Schlitz says that it is in us, between us, and that it permeates our culture. When we walk through an airport, there's a form of intention that drives our psyche.

And while we don't know what the practical ramifications of that are, we do know that your positive intentions are therapeutic to you. Whether you're directing them to yourself or somebody else, they help you cope.

And science is beginning to reconcile with the concept of "spooky action at a distance." It is confirming what the spiritual have known for centuries -- we are interconnected in a way that transcends our physical bodies.

Assuming responsibility for our thoughts isn't really a choice, any more than assuming responsibility for our actions is a choice. Eventually, we bare the consequences of both.
What consequences do you want?

Jan Denise is a columnist, author of the just released "Innately Good: Dispelling the Myth That You're Not" and "Naked Relationships," speaker and consultant based in McIntosh, Fla. Please e-mail her at jandenise@nakedrelationships.com, or visit her website at www.nakedrelationships.com. To find out more about Jan Denise, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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Author's Bio: 

Jan Denise is a columnist, author of the just released "Innately Good: Dispelling the Myth That You're Not" and "Naked Relationships: Sharing Your Authentic Self to Find the Partner of Your Dreams," speaker and consultant based in McIntosh, Fla. Please e-mail her at jandenise@nakedrelationships.com, or visit her website at www.nakedrelationships.com.