I often read these phrases online; since, obviously, we can't be there personally. I've done it myself. For me, sometimes it actually means praying; since I am very loosely Christian (VERY loosely) and other times, it means sitting for a moment and quietly directing my thoughts/good wishes to the person in question. If I'm in a ritualistic phase, I might light a candle and say that person's name/user name.
Also, when you ask someone to "send healing thoughts" or "vibes," what are you hoping for? Do you think you can sense it when people are sending you energy?
I assume that a lot of time people are just saying it to say something nice though.
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I think I'd like to learn to be more conscious about actually stopping and thinking about a person and what I've read or learned about what's happening to them, which is where my query is coming from. I can be a bit literal, so I'm not sure if I'm reading these well-wishes correctly. It doesn't seem as straightforward or concrete as "I will pray for you," which sounds more like a promise or committment.
But since my family and a good number of my online friends are Christian, I also say (and follow through) on the "I will pray for you".
Since I've got my Facebook network going, I have been intending to create a "prayer bowl" where I can place small notes with the names/situations/people that I want to pray for. Unfortunately, I haven't set it up just yet.
With a toddler and a cat, and a full-time job, I don't generally light candles / leave candles lit right now.
I also practice distant Reiki, but that's not something I would necessarily do unless someone asked for it specifically, or if it's someone that I'm confident would want it (usually from previous experience with that person).
In some instances, I might also say a healing mantra and dedicate the mantra to that person.
If it's a person I know well (either online or irl) or a situation I feel very strongly about (like a friend going through a divorce, or a person I know less well facing cancer) then I'll actually light a physical candle on my altar and meditate more "formally".
Unless something specific is mentioned (a candle, a novena, etc) I assume that any statement is really just offering good will and support... be that a kind thought, a visualization of energy, a "God be with you", or similar.
ETA- In my mind "I'll pray for you" and "Sending you energy" are on the same footing, neither feels more like a promise of specific action to me. A prayer could be as swift/casual as a "god go with you" or as formal as a novena or rosary cycle and a sending of energy could be as swift/casual as a visualization of the person surrounded by light or as formal as a reiki session, candle burning, or meditation. I think for me the difference is that some people associate "pray for you" with members of specific religions while "healing vibes" is more generic. Especially in an online format where you may not know the details of someone's religion maybe people tend towards the more generic term?
I do try not to say that unless I am really going to send energy. So I usually do it as soon as I have said it.
For me, it implies and action I am taking. I am of course wishing well/the best etc. But I am also taking action to send you energy in hopes that it affects you in a positive way such as calming your nerves, helping you sleep, allowing peaceful thoughts to enter your mind during the stressful time, pain relief, headache relief etc etc.
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When I talk to people who I'm not sure if their religion or I know that they're not religious, and I want to ask for positive whateverness (i.e., before an recent interview), I'll say "pray for me/sacrifice a goat/send positive thoughts/whatever my way" sorta light humored way of asking "please think about me because I have X going in my life."
If I were to say "send healing thoughts" or "positive energy" I would think of that person being healed in a specific manner and send specific positive energy. I don't like broad statements, so I would think of that person being healed from whatever is specifically ailing them, ex. cancer. For "sending positive energy" I would picture that person experiencing joy. All of this would closely resemble prayer for me.
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It seems to mean lots of different things to different people, which is what I suspected. For my own spiritual path, I just didn't want to start saying those phrases and then not following through in some way and I think I actually have done that, without meaning to. Now I want to take the time to do some of the things different posters have mentioned and I have done in the past, just maybe be a bit more deliberate and consistent about them.
For me, prayer feels good when I remember to do it. I really have no idea who I'm praying to, but on a good day that doesn't matter so much. I currently identify as a "Christian panthiest" and attend a very liberal (very, very liberal) Christian church. Let's just say it can be challenging to stay focused.
It's a new phenomenon for me, knowing the intimate details of peoples' lives and never having met them. So "praying" for someone because I've just found out they have cancer, but I've never physically met them and maybe I don't know too much about their belief system and they're thousands of miles away. It becomes more of a meditation on healing or something, but that doesn't make it less real. Of course, on days when I'm more confident about God, I realize he/she/they know the person I'm directing energy towards, so it doesn't matter.
So this is I guess what I'm trying to figure out. Is "sending you healing energy" shorthand for "wishing you well;" or does it mean something specifically religious/spiritual, in the way that "I will pray for you" does? Sometimes I see "sending you healing energy/vibes" sounds more concrete and implying action than "sending positive thoughts your way." Maybe for lots of folks, it is shorthand for well-wishing, as Liquesce noted.