Clinical psychologist, scientist, and founder and CEO of the Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI)—a nonprofit collaborative accelerator that connects scientists, health practitioners, innovators, and social entrepreneurs to advance the science and practice of healing—Dr. Shamini Jain is on the forefront of a necessary revolution in science, medicine, and healing. She also serves as an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Jain was trained in neuroscience at Columbia University and in clinical psychology and psychoneuroimmunology at UC San Diego. As illustrated in her TEDx talk, Dr. Jain has a natural gift for translating difficult scientific concepts into easily understandable, practical action steps. She has been featured on Gaia TV, Curious Minds with Deepak Chopra, the documentary Vibration: The Symphony of Life, CNN, US News and World Report, Time magazine, Prevention magazine, and more. Dr. Jain’s first book on Biofield Science and the Healing Revolution will be published by Sounds True Publications in early 2021.
As her main focus, Dr. Jain acknowledges that despite all our technological and medical advances, humans have never been sicker. One in four people globally suffer from major chronic health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and chronic pain. Four-hundred million people globally suffer from emotional disorders including depression, and drug overdose is now the leading killer of Americans under fifty. What is causing all this needless suffering and how do we get ourselves out of it? Dr. Jain asserts that part of the problem is that we don’t understand how healing works, and that once we start paying attention to real evidence that shows how we can heal ourselves and others, we can begin to make needed transformations in medicine and within ourselves.
After an enlightening discussion with Dr. Jain, Face the Current is excited to share her thoughts on transdisciplinary healing, the malleability of the body-mind, the use of electroceuticals to treat disease, and the ways in which we can actualize our own full healing potential.
We have uncovered the interconnections between mind, emotions, and body by finally deciding that these areas of study (for example, psychoneuroimmunology and psychoneuroendocrinology) are legitimate fields of scientific inquiry. As a result, we now have insight into the ways in which our emotions and well-being, both positive and negative, can impact our health process. The biofield work is the next frontier—a way of taking what we know now and extending that inquiry deeper into consciousness and its relationship to healing.
Sasha Frate: What is the biofield and what is its role in forwarding the healing revolution?
Dr. Shamini Jain: Biofields are interpenetrating and interacting fields of energy and information, and they appear at different levels of existence. We can talk about the biofield of a cell, the biofield of a person, and even the biofield of the Earth. Biofield scientists study these fields and try to understand how they might impact our health.
Some aspects of biofields are electromagnetic and somewhat easy to measure, and many discoveries within biofield science are very much in use today. For example, we use electroencephalograms (EEGs) to study brainwaves and electrocardiograms (EKGs) to study the health of the heart. In both cases, we are measuring part of the biofield of the brain or heart by placing electrodes on the body and interpreting the electromagnetic emanations.
But biofield descriptions also include what has been described as “subtle energy” such as prana and chi. Biofield scientists may also choose to study healing modalities that work with subtle energy to foster healing. Examples include practices like Healing Touch, Reiki, and many others. These are more difficult for some in the scientific and medical community to accept because the energy that healers report feeling and working with is not always measurable (hence the term “subtle”). However, these biofield healing practices do have research behind them to show positive effects on health. My own published research at UC San Diego, including a randomized, placebo-controlled trial on hands-on-healing for fatigued breast cancer survivors, found that hands-on-healing significantly reduced fatigue as well as improved cortisol rhythms for these survivors—independent of placebo effects. Other studies have found improvements for cancer patients, and several studies have found benefits of biofield healing for pain, anxiety, and other ailments. These effects seem to have something to do with the biofield itself—not just our human mindset. For example, one of the most recent studies coming out of MD Anderson Cancer Center found that a skilled bioenergy healer was able to shrink tumors in a mouse model of cancer. In this case, one could argue there is definitely no placebo effect—at least not in the way we currently think about the placebo effect as a human phenomenon.
Shrinking tumors with human-emitted energy may sound unbelievable, but that is only because we’ve just scratched the surface of our understanding about ancient practices such as biofield healing (sometimes also called energy healing or spiritual healing). So far, however, research studies support what many scientists and clinicians suspect—that human beings are more than a sack of interacting chemicals, and that if we learn how to sense and utilize our own biofields (that is, get a sense of our own human energy fields, the ways in which they relate to our emotions and physical health, and the ways in which those fields can be used for healing), we can bring about our own healing revolution. That revolution is one that begins from the inside.
All ancient traditions describe humans as relational beings. That doesn’t just include our relationships and roles as mother, father, sister, brother, but also steward of the Earth. We are not separate from the earth. From this relational perspective, healing is a restoration of harmony, including our relationships with others, from our cells to society—it is not simply getting rid of a disease.
SF: Why did you create the Consciousness Healing Initiative nonprofit and what is it designed to accomplish? How can a collaborative that brings together Physicists, MDs, PNI/PNE, Anthropologists, Engineers, Neuroscientists, and Healers foster a transdisciplinary science of healing?
SJ: As I began to uncover from my own research how these biofield healing practices actually impacted our mental and physical health, I began meeting other scientists and healers who were doing similar research and practice. However, the scientists had trouble getting funding for their healing research and the healing practitioners had trouble sharing that there was actually scientific evidence behind what they were doing. The scientists were not only seeking research funding, but they were also seeking regular contact with colleagues where they could discuss ideas, forward research, and collaborate.
At the same time, many leading healers were eager to collaborate with open-minded research scientists as well, in order to explore co-creating research designs and conduct research in healing. And, the public was eager to know whether there was any evidence behind these healing practices. Do therapies like Healing Touch work, and for whom? Are these practices similar to indigenous healing practices that have been around for millennia? There are many questions to be answered.
This is what has motivated me to create the Consciousness and Healing Initiative (CHI)—a collaborative accelerator that brings together diverse perspectives to advance the science and education of healing so that we can better lead humanity to heal ourselves. Together, we are beginning to shed more light on the mysteries of human healing.
SF: Why do you believe that the idea still proliferates that the ability to heal ourselves is “science fiction” rather than science-based? Also, what are some of your favorite examples that reveal a shift in our understanding that it is science-based?
SJ: We are still steeped in a materialist model of medicine that historically has separated mind, emotions, body, and spirit. We have been led to believe that we are no more than our physical bodies, that health is the absence of a disease, and that if we have a disease, we need to address it by using some sort of physical substance outside of ourselves. We’ve been told that discussions around the impact of spirit or consciousness should be relegated to religion, not science.
However, consider that fifty years ago, scientists were laughed at when they proposed that emotions had effects on health. They were even laughed at for proposing that the brain and the immune system were connected. However, after years of careful research, we now know not only that the immune system is connected to the brain, our gut microbiomes also affect our emotional and neural functioning. We have uncovered the interconnections between mind, emotions, and body by finally deciding that these areas of study (for example, psychoneuroimmunology and psychoneuroendocrinology) are legitimate fields of scientific inquiry. As a result, we now have insight into the ways in which our emotions and well-being, both positive and negative, can impact our health process. The biofield work is the next frontier—a way of taking what we know now and extending that inquiry deeper into consciousness and its relationship to healing. It is, in my view, extending the systems view in psychoneuroimmunology to a level that is even subtler and more dynamic.
SF: In Curious Minds with Dr. Deepak Chopra, you state that the notion of our body-mind as being static is shifting to an understanding of it being increasingly dynamic and malleable in that our state of consciousness can modify it. You also mention that it’s been discovered that a trauma event can literally put someone into a frozen steady state of mal-adapted physiological functioning created by that incident and lead to profound effects of disease states and even mortality. Considering the malleability of our body-mind, how do we reverse (or un-freeze) states such as those that you have described?
SJ: There are many schools of thought on how to “un-freeze” trauma and while some great work is being done by numerous colleagues, there is still much to do to synthesize these practices and perspectives. I personally believe that working with trauma is not necessarily a “one size fits all” approach and so to appropriately answer this question would take more time than we can allow in this interview.
I will share this from my own experience both for myself, and from working with people: Traumatic patterns can be found on the mental-emotional as well as spiritual and energetic levels. Different healers work with these patterns differently. Some may work on the psychotherapeutic level and quite effectively. Others may use a more energetic or spiritual approach. All are essentially working with the same pattern but in different ways. Ultimately, however, I do believe that in order to completely transcend these patterns, one has to come to a place of realization and acceptance of the pattern that includes its origin. An origin could be based in some traumatic experience in this life or even an ancestral pattern that one is carrying.
Most of us have enough trouble sorting out our “own” trauma, let alone the idea that we are carrying trauma from our ancestors! However, consider the potential relationships between what many indigenous healers described as ancestral gifts and wounds, and what we in the west call “genetic inheritance.” We now know from published scientific research in animals and, to some degree, in humans, that trauma and anxiety can be “inherited”—not necessarily from a direct genetic route as we thought, but epigenetically. That is, we can carry patterns that can exacerbate our responses to stressors in the body, essentially carrying a pattern of trauma-informed biological responses to stress from our previous ancestors. This begs the question of whether epigenetic inheritance of behavioral and health patterns is, essentially, the same thing that the ancients described as ancestral patterning. So, when we talk about releasing traumatic patterns, it’s useful to understand that some of the patterning we are carrying is situational and may actually be patterning that we are carrying from our ancestral line. This in turn exacerbates itself in situations that we encounter in our daily lives. We carry their “armor” if you will, but this armor—this frozen pattern—may not be helpful to us here and now. In many ancient spiritual traditions, the “unfreezing” of patterns was and still is done by ceremonies that honored the ancestors and asked for the healing of not only those in attendance, but their ancestors as well. There is a profound understanding that our ancestors live in us. Thus, to fully heal ourselves is to also fully acknowledge and heal our ancestors.
SF: Can you explain how, “If we really do exist, our selves are likely relational, even down to our microbes”? What does this mean in general, and what does it mean for healing?
SJ: I’ve answered that question to some degree in the last question, giving ancient perspectives on the nature of the relational self. All ancient traditions describe humans as relational beings. That doesn’t just include our relationships and roles as mother, father, sister, brother, but also steward of the Earth. We are not separate from the earth. From this relational perspective, healing is a restoration of harmony, including our relationships with others, from our cells to society—it is not simply getting rid of a disease.
Connect. It doesn’t matter whether you connect with 100 loved ones or just one person, animal, or plant. The quality of our connections and not our number of connections is what creates healing. Make time to really connect with those you love and care about, even if just for a few minutes of the day. Being present with our loved ones is a huge healer for us and for them.
SF: You come from a research field called psycho-neural immunology (PNI), and as part of this research you’ve said that you study ancient practices and ancient forms of healing. What types of ancient practices and forms have you studied, and do you believe there are more types of ancient practices yet to be discovered?
SJ: I feel like a complete baby when it comes to the study of ancient practices. I have much to learn about them and am grateful for what I have been taught by mentors such as Rev. Rosalyn Bruyere, with whom I have studied over the years. I have also been privileged to study texts and learn from living monks and nuns in the ancient Jain tradition, which is the spiritual tradition I grew up in. I am learning more every day and hope that on my journey I will be able to learn more from the global indigenous traditions on consciousness and healing, and that our group at the Consciousness and Healing Initiative will be able to share and synthesize the wisdom of elders of global ancient traditions in a meaningful way for humanity.
SF: What is pathogenic thinking and why has this approach to treatment been more devastating than healing/helpful?
SJ: I do not think we can make a blanket statement across the board that pathogenic approaches to treatment have been more devastating than helpful. I don’t agree with that. For example, the pathogenic approach is what created antibiotics and at the time that they were created, they saved many lives. There are times where chemical drugs or surgery may be needed for certain people and certain conditions. The issue is that the original idea of pathogenesis itself is evolving, and so science and medicine need to evolve with the data.
Historically, the pathogenic approach was basically an approach that attributes an illness to a “germ” which was thought to be outside of ourselves. The thinking was that we had to rid ourselves of the “germ”—the “outsider”—to get well and that we needed a physical-chemical drug to do so. However, even the pathogenic approach itself is evolving. We now know that “germs” often live inside of us—trillions of them, in fact! We co-exist with many microbes that can be considered “not us.”
Further, the idea of extending original pathogenic thinking to issues such as heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer is incomplete. For example, we now know that “cancer cells” live inside of us all the time, so in that sense cancer is not an “outsider.” By having a more harmonious relationship with our bodies and immune system, we can help prevent disease, including cancer. A key part of this harmonious relationship includes the ability of our immune system to destroy toxins. However, this doesn’t happen all from the “outside.” We actually influence our immunity by the things we eat, our level of rest, our emotional digestion, and by mind-body-spirit practices.
The old pathogenic thinking had us believing that we were powerless to take control of our own health. However, the data now suggests quite the opposite. In that manner, we have to expand our old views of pathogenesis to make room for a more inclusive model of health that takes into account that disease isn’t something that happens in a vacuum, and health is something that is in our hands.
SF: What is electroceuticals, how is this approach currently being used, and where are we going with it?
SJ: Electroceuticals is a term used by folks in the industry that are applying the use of electromagnetic devices to treat disease and, in some cases, promote healing. In these devices, the “drug” is essentially energy, which is being applied to the body. While many are conducting studies to better understand how these electromagnetic currents affect the body-mind, from my point of view the “mechanisms” are not well understood. (That is actually not that different from many chemical drugs, where mechanisms aren’t very well understood either.) There are many electroceutical approaches which I describe in that Curious Minds episode with Deepak Chopra that you mentioned. Some are over the counter and some are prescribed by a doctor. Many are looking to develop devices that treat pain and that stimulate the vagus nerve to promote healing effects.
SF: You’ve mentioned that people are starting to realize that what’s currently missing in this picture is our own state of awareness, our sense of who we are as human beings, and our connection with the deepest part of ourselves. How do you envision people reconnecting with all of this and what role does this play in our healing process?
SJ: For me, what this really means is connecting with your personal spiritual practice. Whether you call it soul connection, spirit connection, connection with the Earth, the Void—whatever it is that leads you to experience yourself beyond your conditioned mind, that is the key to our healing process both individually and collectively. There are many ways to get there. We just have to choose a path and have discipline to stick with a practice.
SF: What are your top recommended first steps for someone to realize and actualize his or her full healing potential?
- Explore and then commit to a mind-body-spirit practice. It doesn’t matter initially whether it’s five minutes a day or five hours a day—although if you can spare twenty to forty-five minutes a day, that will be very helpful. In terms of the practice, it doesn’t matter whether it’s yoga, tai-chi, meditation, prayer, or some other form. Just find what you like and what you can commit to. Get it into your “routine” by creating a space and time every day where you do your practice.
- Sleep. Most of us don’t get enough of it. Find out what your optimal sleep length is. (Do you feel best after seven hours? Nine hours?) Try to sleep before ten p.m. if you can. The mind-body is very active between ten p.m. and two a.m., so if you can sleep before ten p.m., you’re likely to sleep through those active hours rather than having your mind race and potentially having a harder time getting to sleep during those times.
- Check in with your body. That means breathing in your body knowing that your body is your temple. It is an extension of your spirit. Listen to it and treat it like your best friend—with love.
- Connect. It doesn’t matter whether you connect with 100 loved ones or just one person, animal, or plant. The quality of our connections and not our number of connections is what creates healing. Make time to really connect with those you love and care about, even if just for a few minutes of the day. Being present with our loved ones is a huge healer for us and for them.
SF: Dr. Shamini Jain, where do you see these salutogenic (self-healing) and whole-person medicine approaches taking us in the near future?
SJ: We are currently at a time where the US life expectancy is declining for the third year in a row, mostly due to drug overdose and suicides. This is devastating and senseless. Global diseases such as depression, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and lung disease are killing billions of people worldwide and costing trillions of dollars, and are all preventable. To solve these problems, people simply need to be given the tools, hope, and motivation to live their best lives.
The salutogenic model opens the door for us to more fully realize ourselves as human beings, and that includes realizing our healing potential. Whole person medicine allows us to recognize that healing is harmony—harmony within ourselves, each other, and with the planet. As we begin to come into our own power as sovereign, powerful, and compassionate human beings, we will ideally come back into the Garden and release so much of the needless suffering we see today.
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