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You’re listening to Insights at the Edge. Today, my guest is Dr. Shamini Jain. Shamini Jain is the founder and CEO of the Consciousness and Healing Initiative, a nonprofit collaborative that leads humanity to heal ourselves. Shamini is an Ivy League-trained clinical psychologist and an award-winning research scientist in psychoneuroimmunology and integrative medicine. She’s a sought-after speaker and teacher in mind, body, spirit healing. And with Sounds True, Shamini Jain is releasing a new book, it’s called Healing Ourselves: Biofield Science and the Future of Health. As you listen to this conversation, listen with all of you, not just some type of critical analysis, because Shamini Jain brings it all together, the depth of our soul with the possibilities of the future of medicine. Here’s Dr. Shamini Jain.
Shamini, you write in your new book that the biofield is the missing link between healing and consciousness. And I thought: that’s a big powerful billboard, the missing link between healing and consciousness. So let’s start there. What’s the biofield and how is it this missing link?
Shamini Jain: Tami, thank you so much, and thank you so much for the question. In some ways, we can think of the biofield the way we think about consciousness. When we talk about consciousness, we can talk about all kinds of different facets of consciousness, right? So we have this idea that there’s a big-C Consciousness, for example, which is the all-encompassing consciousness. And in the same way, the biofield is similar. So it’s really a new term for, in some ways, a very ancient concept. And we described the biofield as a singular really as a plural, as fields of energy and information that guide our health. So the reason I say the biofield can be thought of as a big-B Biofield or as a little-b biofield is there are many different types of biofields. We can look at the biofields of cells, the biofields of people, we can even look at the biofields of the earth.
So, in the same way that consciousness can be thought of as a big C or a little c, we can talk about consciousness in terms of awareness and attention. But we can also talk about consciousness as something deeper. In Vedic tradition, for example, we often talk about big-C Consciousness is really such a nun, the totality of who we truly are as pure awareness and pure bliss. In the same way, the biofield is the same. And it links with consciousness. Now, what I’m about to say may not be necessarily agreed upon by all of my scientific colleagues, but when I think about the big-B Biofield, I think about Vedic concepts, and certainly there are others in other indigenous and spiritual traditions. I think about Shakti, which we often describe as the manifest power behind the universe.
So big-C Consciousness is limitless awareness that is formless, it has no form, then the big-B Biofield could simply be the energy that brings consciousness into form. So that’s my own personal lofty consideration of the biofield. But when we look at it with our scientific lens, it’s really exciting, because what it’s teaching us is how deeply we’re connected. When we look at the biofields of cells, for example, we start seeing how cells are communicating electromagnetically, and we can measure that. We can even manipulate it, so to speak. And that’s really exciting. It’s paving the way for really great advances in medicine. And then there are the subtle aspects of the biofield too, which have been talked about for millennia, things like prana, qi, the things that healers are working with, that they say they’ve been working with for millennia as well, in many different traditions.
That’s part of the biofield as well. So the biofield—you can really think of as this set of interacting and interpenetrating fields of energy and information that guide our health. And so when we think about consciousness, you might wonder, well, we have the sense that consciousness drives our biology. We have some sense that’s true from looking at placebo work, work in psychoneuroimmunology. But how does that happen? Is it all just simply brain effects, is it simply caused by my mind, or is this an energetic component that drives some of the biology as well? And this is some of the work that I and other scientists are doing in this area that we call biofield science.
TS: Okay. I’m going to have to bring this down several notches to my everyday self for a moment, and understand maybe this is not the littlest biofield of a cell or the biggest biofield of the whole earth. But you, Shamini, as a person, is it fair to say you have a biofield and I, Tami, have a biofield? Is that fair to say?
SJ: It’s absolutely fair to say that we both have biofields, and in fact, we can sense them, right? We can sense our own biofield and we can sense the biofield of another as well. Can we measure all aspects of our field scientifically? No, we really can’t. We’re just scratching the surface of our understanding on how to measure the biofield. But consider this. We’ve been measuring EEGs and EKGs for many decades now. And they tell us something important about our health. Those are biofield measurements. We’re measuring the electromagnetic readouts of the body. And it tells us about our system health, our body’s health, our brain’s health. So these are biofields. And then we can subtly feel our energy. And that also makes a difference in our health. It’s really the basis for pretty much all forms of holistic medicine, this understanding of the vital life system, which is harder to measure.
TS: Okay. So even leaving measurement aside for a moment, and this may be a really stupid question, but I’m just going to go ahead and ask it: What’s the connection between what people have historically called the aura and now the biofield of Shamini and your aura? What’s the relationship?
SJ: You bet. So, many people would say that they’re one and the same, and that the aura reflects the summation of my biofield. If I think about myself as a system, then if someone was able to see my aura, they would be able to get a sense of my health, where my energy is, and where my energy is moving. Now, of course, as you know in science, that’s really controversial. And yet there are seers from all traditions that claim they can do this, right? And healers that are essentially intuiting into that and working with the fields in that way. So we can look at certain aspects of that quote “aura,” right? We can look at biophoton emission from the body, for example. That could be considered part of what healers might be seeing. But the truth is, we still don’t have a really good understanding scientifically of the aura because different traditions talk about it in different ways.
I’ll give you an example. In Jainism, we talk about lesya. And lesya is described as what we call the aura in Western tradition. But when you ask a Jain monk or nun who sees lesya, they see the aura. They’ll say it’s really reflective of the emotional state of a person. And the different colors that they see in the aura are really reflecting the emotional state. Now, if you go to a healer, like my teacher, Rev. Rosalyn Bruyere, for example, she sees the aura very differently. She can actually see through the body and into the body and she sees multiple layers. So to the narrow scientific mind, it can be really nerve-racking, because different people see the aura differently. And while some scientists would like to just say none of this really exists, the truth is people have been feeling into things like the aura and using it for healing for many centuries. And our data suggests that those kinds of therapies actually help people.
TS: Okay. Let’s talk about you personally for a moment, in addition to talking about your personal biofield, which I have to say I think is very beautiful, very shiny, and bright. Now I’m just joking with you. But just to talk about you personally, what brought you to biofield science as the focus of your study and research and writing?
SJ: Well, Tami, the truth is it was really sound. It was my experience with sound. I’ve always been a singer and I grew up singing, like most kids singing around the house, enjoying it. And then growing up in an east Indian Jain tradition, we also of course learned mantras and different songs until I started experiencing both through the mantra meditation and my own singing—how powerful sound was, how powerful this vibration was, how I could feel it in my body. And for some reason, I was just deeply curious about it. I really just wondered how did these sounds have their effects on the body? I can feel this vibrationally. But I honestly couldn’t figure out how to study it. And I spent many years learning about sound therapy, learning about it at Columbia, telling my professors back in the nineties that I was going to study sound and music and its effects on healing. Back then, they thought that was weird.
Now that’s pretty mainstream, which is great. But it wasn’t until I had my first Reiki session that I thought, “Oh, here’s a subtle vibration that I can feel in my body. And I can feel how it’s linked to these changes. These changes in emotion that I’m feeling, the subtle sensations in my body and these thoughts.” And when this healer is working on me, and she was working on me completely in silence—I talk about this in the book, of course, I mean, it was a profound thing. And I thought, “Oh, here’s the vibration that I can study. This is what people are talking about when they talk about energy. And this is the subtle aspect of sound that I’m tapping into right now.” So it started with that personal journey of that relationship with sound and then exploring the nature of vibration more deeply for myself and then through these wonderful sessions.
TS: Now you write about Reiki as an example of a biofield therapy. I wonder if you can explain Reiki to people who aren’t familiar with it, and also what qualifies a modality as a biofield therapy.
SJ: Great question. So Reiki is one of many biofield therapies, we call them here in the West. And those are therapies that essentially work with the body’s energy field and the person’s energy field to stimulate a healing response. And Reiki is one of them. Reiki itself has translated into universal life energy. So when you talk to a Reiki practitioner, they’ll say things that aren’t really that different from other healing practitioners, because they’ll say, “I’m working with universal life energy to help stimulate healing in another person.” And so what does that mean? First of all, the energy is, if I’m a Reiki healer—and I’m actually trained in Reiki a little. So if I’m doing Reiki healing, the energy is not really coming from me, I’m a conduit. So Reiki practitioners get into, honestly, what I would call a grounded meditative state to allow this biofield, the universal life energy, to flow through them. And they are able to sense the balances and imbalances in a person.
By simply being open and grounded, they sense where energy is flowing, where energy isn’t, and then they allow for universal life energy to flow through them, generally out their hands to the person. And so what’s interesting about this is we have so many different kinds of biofield therapies. These types of therapies that work with a subtle energy of a person, therapeutic touch, healing touch, laying on of hands. But they’re integrated in many spiritual traditions as well. Almost all of the spiritual traditions in indigenous cultures have these types of practices. Although they might describe them more spiritually than say, telling you to follow a protocol. Whether they have these kinds of protocols or not, whether they say, “Okay, for pain, you want to do this, for anxiety you want to do this,” some schools do have very specific protocols. Some don’t, they’re really just about holding presence.
But the key things that are the same is that the practitioner understands this is not my energy, this is universal energy that’s flowing through me. I am not the healer, really. In fact, I have many friends that don’t like the term healer. They prefer healing facilitator or something like that, because they want everyone to understand that we are our own healers. We are doing the healing on ourselves. When we’re engaging in a biofield therapy, it’s just allowing for the energy to move to basically write what we scientists like to call the salutogenic response, the health promoting response that is innate in our body. So this is based on a premise that our bodies and minds and spirit know how to heal ourselves. Sometimes we have stagnation that needs to be addressed in order for us to come back to what we can call our core, our soul, our spirit, and allow for the healing reflex, if you will, to write itself.
TS: Okay, I’m going to have to have a confessional moment, Shamini, both with you and with our listeners for a moment, which is, it was probably eight to 10 years ago, I can’t remember the exact timeline here, where I started working with a qigong energy healer. And when I first went—my wife recommended it—I didn’t really know what to think about it. I thought, I don’t really know. But I noticed I felt better afterwards, and then I went again. And now I’ve been going pretty regularly. It turns out to be probably about twice a month. And when I think of all the different types of help and support I get in my life from a therapist, from a Diamond Approach teacher, I mean, for better or for worse, it takes a small village to keep me sane, functioning, happy, healthy, etcetera.
I put the qigong energy healer at the top of the list in terms of—I know how much this helps me. But here’s the thing. I have no ideas, zero idea how it works. I mean, she’s doing things off the body, then she does some kind of shiatsu style massage to integrate it all. And I walk out of there, especially waking up the next morning, and I just feel like I’m back to myself. This is the signature of my being that somehow got lost somewhere in the two weeks of stress and work that I was engaged in without seeing her. But what I want to know from you, what’s going on, how is it working, what’s happening?
SJ: Now, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? So I have two lines of explanation for this. One is, let’s put our Western science hats on. The truth, we have no idea. That’s the truth. But here’s what I can tell you. We know that the subtle energy effects affect us, all the way down to ourselves. And I’ll just highlight a couple of amazing studies that are being done right now. As you know, I’ve conducted my own randomized placebo controlled trials, looking at energy healing for things like fatigue in breast cancer survivors and PTSD in active duty military. So we have clinical studies and we can talk about placebo later if we want. Those questions always come up. But for people that are really wondering, is there a there there with this energy stuff, I want to highlight some amazing work that’s going on right now at MD Anderson Cancer Center by Dr. Lorenzo Cohen’s group. Dr. Lorenzo Cohen has been the head of the integrative research center at MD Anderson for quite some time. We’re really well funded by the NIH in integrated medicine.
He’s published now, he and his group, two studies already looking at external bioenergy. Similar to qigong, like you’re saying, this is a person who is sending energy from their hands to mice. So this is a mouse model of cancer. No people, thereby supposedly no placebo. We could talk about that all day long. And what he’s found in two published studies now is that this emitted bioenergy has been found to shrink tumors in mouse models of cancer. And in the second study, when they replicated that, they didn’t see the tumor shrinkage, but they saw changes, that is, reductions in tumor migration, that is a reduction of metastasis. They looked at cell subsets, they looked at cytokines, and they found these effects all the way down to what we call protein kinase levels. And I detailed some of this, for the nerds listening, in my book, because it’s really fascinating.
So we do know that energy, this so-called subtle energy, has effects all the way down to protein kinase levels in cells, even beyond just looking at people. Now, do we understand everything about, are there receptor systems, what about distant healing? There’s a lot to this and I explored multiple explanations is in the book. But let me just take a step back for a moment and say, ancient traditions had their own perspective on how this works. And it’s really tied to what practitioners have said about their process and the process of what’s happening. When you ask a practitioner, “What is healing anyway? What is that? Does that mean I’m getting rid of a tumor, I’m getting rid of my pain?” Well, maybe, but it’s actually deeper than that.
Healing is basically a restoration of harmony, a harmony within us, and a harmony between us and others, and a harmony between us and our environments. Now that may sound really airy-fairy. But the number one thing that all healing practitioners seem to say, regardless of what tradition they’re practicing, is: I am bringing this person back to their soul nature. I’m bringing them back to their essential self, their higher self. Now, Jains for example, but Jains aren’t the only ones, I’ll just speak for that because that’s the tradition I come from, had a very systematic way of explaining this. And they talked about the koshas. And so maybe some of your listeners who study yoga and meditation may be familiar with these ideas of subtle bodies. In this model, the way they described it is we have this physical body. So we’re sitting here talking, I’m moving my mouth, we’re listening with our ears. This is the physical body.
But we also have an energy body. We have a subtle, energetic body. There are different names for it. We also have what’s called a karman body. And so, if we think about karma being basically habits that go back and forth, so we move our mouths, we move around in the world, we have certain behaviors, these create impressions in the energetic body. We call them samskaras, for example, vasanas. Okay. So we have these impressions that are formed in our subtle body. When an energy healer is working on us, they’re tapping into those impressions. They’re moving energy in the system. And sometimes those impressions can actually come to light. We may actually become aware of our vasana or our habit pattern. Or, I notice now that this has really lightened up in my field, I’m having a recollection of maybe an unskillful interaction I had with somebody recently. And I have some resolution about that. Now I come to a clearer conscious choice about how I’m going to potentially release that vasana. And as I release that karmic impression in my field, I come closer to my soul nature.
So, in this way, when we talk about the biofield, it’s important for us to understand that it’s not just about energy healing. This is something we carry around with us forever. So when we’re practicing meditation, and we’re practicing qigong, we’re practicing yoga, we’re working with our biofields. If you want to call it, you’re cleaning house, we’re moving energy through our system, connecting with the earth, connecting with the elements in the earth so that we can constantly foster vitality and not get stuck in our habitual habit patterns. We just become more clear. And I think that’s what you were describing, Tami, is there’s something about having that done to you but also how you can do it to yourself, right? That it just brings you closer to your own spiritual nature.
TS: Okay. Let me ask what I think is a hard question, which is I’m going to ask you later in our conversation to share remarkable stories of people who have healed through biofield therapy. And there are some remarkable stories in the book. And we’ll talk about that. That’s not the hard question. The hard question is, what about that sincere person who goes and visits some type of biofield therapist? And they say, “I’m really ready to have this thing heal. I want to let go of these karmic patterns or whatever.” And the healer is known to be very talented and has had great results, but this person doesn’t get any results, nothing. In fact, their disease process just continues and, just to say it like it is, they die. And they’re like, “Huh.” And the people all around them have this view of like, “Why does this work sometimes but it doesn’t work other times, even with sincere people?” What’s your perspective on that?
SJ: It’s such a wonderful question. And what I am about to say would probably be considered controversial, because generally when people think of healing, because we’re steeped in what we call the disease model, we think of healing as being reduction of suffering, obviously, and promotion of life, right? That’s usually the way we think about it. So for some, this will seem like a pat answer, but I’m often asking healing practitioners very same question. And sometimes the answer you get is karma. And also a question about whether or not this person’s best and highest good is actually served in this physical body. This really dives into what people’s beliefs are about death and what happens after death, all of these things. But if healing is a returning to one’s soul nature, and as in many traditions, if the understanding is that the soul is eternal, the soul is immortal, then the question remains, is it best for me to stay in this body or is it best for me to leave?
Now, to many, this is going to sound like a huge cop-out. People will throw their hands up and say, “Oh great. Well, you’re just going to explain everything through karma.” Oh, it doesn’t work, then it’s karma. If it works, great. And it’s very unsatisfying to most people, in the scientific minds especially. But this is a spiritual perspective. So that’s one perspective that people have. Another perspective, which I think is valuable especially during these times, is that our conscious minds… As you know, Tami, I’m a psychologist, right? So our conscious minds might yearn for healing. We may mentalize it to a certain degree, we may see ourselves well, all of these things. And yet, if we aren’t really in tune with the subconscious patterns, as I mentioned before, things like vasanas and samskaras, if we haven’t really been in tune with some of those, you could say, energy drivers that may be driving our bus, we may not be aware of those subconscious patterns.
They can impede our healing progress. That’s my personal view, is that sometimes that is the issue. And so, what happens there is you simply have to trust in that process. You can’t force someone to run through their traumas. You just can’t do that. And yet, if the body system is locked from traumas, and if you’d like to describe it this way, if there’s not enough energy to actually work through, all the way through the traumas and release the vasanas, then it’s harder for that full system to be replenished by the energy. So that can happen. And there are many different practices that address this. Actually quite a few biofield therapies really are focused on addressing trauma, especially in the energy psychology types of therapies, things like TAT [Tapas Acupressure Technique]. And there are others that… AIT [Advanced Integrative Therapy] is another one by Asha Clinton. There’s so many that are really addressing the subconscious level.
So on the conscious level, I want to get well. What is happening with my subconscious? Is it on board and online as well? So it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s not something that’s guaranteed that if you’re going to see a healer, you’re going to be free of disease, and you will cheat death and you’ll have a life of a hundred years or more. That may happen, and it may not. It’s very multifactorial. And let’s just say that the body is a system, right? So as I mentioned, we have an energy body, but we have a physical body too. I could go get energy healing all day long, but if I’m still not eating the right foods, and I’m not eating good foods, and I’m not exercising, and I’m not taking care of my interpersonal health, those things are going to be driving my healing bus as well.
TS: Yes. Now, towards the beginning of your book, Healing Ourselves: Biofield Science and the Future of Health, you talk about how seeing the body as a machine is an outdated perspective from your view. How do you see the body if it’s not a machine that’s going to just break down, and the more you use it, eventually… How do you see the body?
SJ: The body is a garden. It’s comprised of elements, it’s comprised of elemental forces. It’s comprised of different types of cells and organ systems that are constantly communicating with each other. And this is not a metaphor, this is actually reality. And it’s not a new idea either. This is not Shamini’s idea of the body. This is how the body has been understood to function in Ayurveda, in Chinese medicine, Tibetan medicine, and all these indigenous systems of healing. My body is not only just Shamini’s body, but it actually interacts with my environment, the earth, the water around me, the air, the food I eat, the people that I’m connected with. I’m being fed and I’m feeding all of these things.
So in this way, we can almost have the sense of the body as being more porous than we think, having influence from multiple inputs, both our environment and our DNA, right? And we understand this to be true. That’s how the whole field of epigenetics was finally born, because we finally realized it’s not an either/or, it’s both/and, it’s genes and the environment, right? So the body is really this interactive cooperative system.
TS: Okay. Now, I have another personal question for you. Here you are, you have a Vedic spiritual heritage. You mentioned you’re a psychologist, you’re a research scientist. How do you bring all of these different perspectives together inside? You mentioned you’re studying with Rev. Rosalyn Bruyere, who’s an energy healing specialist. How do you bring all of this together inside yourself without collapsing under strange contradictions and things?
SJ: Well, you just described my life journey really. It’s what drives me, because I think growing up as a woman of east Indian heritage in America, in the South, and back then in the eighties, really seeing what seemed like this juxtaposition of so-called opposites, all my friends were Baptist Christian, their views on life, death, God are very different from mine. And then I went to school, and what? Nobody talked about consciousness and nobody talked about the biofield or anything like that. So it did seem like there were all these different pieces that were fragmented. And I do think that for many years, part of my life’s journey was to try to make those connections, to say, “I don’t think that these things are as separate as we think they are.” I think that when people are talking about God and other people are talking about Brahman, they may be more similar than different.
And so that’s been the basis of many beautiful conversations I’ve had with my Baptist Christian friends, for example. So there is always a searching to integrate those things. But ultimately, this is beyond the mental, right Tami? Personally, what’s important is that I live the practice. And so, for me personally, that’s about coming back into the body. It’s about feeling my energy, and it’s about what the ancient Tibetans have told us for millennia, uniting the mental and the vital, because these are both kits, right? These are pieces. So this is where we come back to the idea that the biofield is the missing link between consciousness and healing. We often mentalize consciousness. And if you think about it, we’ve mentalized most of meditation as well. But when we meditate, we’re not only practicing focused awareness; in many traditions, we’re practicing focused awareness of the body. And there’s a recognition of the subtle energy flow that is constantly happening.
So when we come back to our practice, then we can really unify. We realize that things aren’t separate because we’re not separate. You and I are not separate, right? When we come back to being able to tap into our biofield and we can feel ourselves, we can also feel others. And so that’s the key really, is our own personal integration first and foremost. And then all of these divisions, all of these separatism ideas that are being forced down our throats right now, whether it’s politically or socially, we begin to see that those are just fallacies, because all the traditions are really saying the same thing. Ultimately, we’re all part of one indivisible consciousness. We’re not separate from our environments. We’re not separate from each other. That’s the most beautiful thing I think that biofield science is teaching us, is really, I don’t end, I don’t end at my skin.
TS: Now, if someone says, “What? I could tap into my own biofield as part of my meditation practice.” I have no idea what that means. I know what it means to feel being in my body and track sensations. And that’s a good place to start. I can feel the heaviness in my body. I can even feel tingling in my body. But what does it mean to attune to our biofield? What’s that like for you?
SJ: Well, it’s really just practicing focused attention on subtle awareness in the body. That’s my experience. And so for that, you don’t have to try, you don’t have to create images, you don’t have to wish, but you’re simply noticing, and you can start with the breath. So just noticing the inflow and outflow of my breath, and when it touches the body, and what sensations I feel when the breath touches the body. From there, I might choose to direct my breath to a certain part of my body. I might notice areas where I feel flow in the body, and I might notice areas where it feels a little stuck and I can direct my prana, my energy to any place I want. But the first key is just to notice, what if the breath is in the body, and allow ourselves to just notice the flow of sensation.
And there’s so many practices that do this. The kasina tradition is very much rooted in this practice as you know. So we start with anapana, right? And that’s just noticing the breath flow in and out of the nose to begin with. And we develop that focused concentration. And then as we develop that focused concentration, we can apply it to the body. And in some ways, the more secular traditions in the West have tried to do this as well. And BSR, for example, in body scan, I would call that a biofield awareness practice because we’re really tapping into subtle sensation in the body. And that’s the first step. Now what’s cool about this is when we begin to do that. And we begin to really unite with the breath and the body. Then we’ll also begin to notice what happens when I have an emotion. And I might notice what my body’s doing and where my energy is during my emotion.
I always laugh. If you watch a kid, for example, I certainly noticed this with my kids, but I’ve seen it with other kids as well. When they get angry, oftentimes they’ll actually put their hands near their crotch, right? That’s the second chakra. It’s very interesting, actually, that you can watch the body’s intelligence in this way when you start uniting back with body awareness to see what the energy is actually doing. And once we bring our awareness to that energy, then we’re no longer slaves to an automatic response in the body. That’s where we begin to liberate ourselves, right? That’s where healing begins to take place, because we’re just deepening our subtle awareness.
TS: Now I asked you the hard question of what about when biofield therapy doesn’t work. Now, I want to ask you the other side, if you could share with us a story of biofield therapy working that really surprised you and stunned you.
SJ: Yes, absolutely. I mean, the one that really comes to mind is the story of some of my friends and their daughter. And I mentioned this in the beginning of the book. And what’s so interesting about this, Tami, is when I met this couple, they had no idea what I did. They had no idea that I studied energy, that I studied healing. I just happened to meet them at the dinner party. And they just, for some reason, felt compelled to tell me about this tremendously incredible story of their daughter, Myra. And Myra was a beautiful young child like many children running around, a second child. And around 2:00 or so, she started having some funky symptoms. And it really just started with throwing up. But lots of times kids throw up, it just happens.
So I said, “Oh, she has a bug,” and this and that. She kept throwing up and they got worried. So they took her to the doctor, of course, and the doctors did some scans and everything. And they said, and you can imagine how shocked my friends were when they found this out, “We’re so sorry, but your daughter has a brain tumor.” And it was completely shocking. I mean, nothing that they had expected. So they did what any responsible parents would do. They said, “What’s the best medicine? What’s the best thing that we can do?” They said, “Well, we think that we need to do radiation right away.” So they did that and that seemed to help. But unfortunately, after some time the tumors came back, and this time they came back in areas that were very difficult to operate.
They said, “We can’t operate in this place, she won’t survive. And we’re so sorry, but there’s really nothing else we can do.” And this is what often happens when people are searching for healing. It doesn’t always happen this way. But sometimes we search for these so-called alternatives when conventional medicine isn’t providing answers for us, right? And this was the case here. So they left no stone unturned. They began to do their own readings, their own explorations. What can we do nutritionally? What can we do for her environment? What are the different things that we could do to help potentially heal her? And they had a friend that came to them and said, “I know this is going to sound absolutely crazy, but I know an energy healer in Tel Aviv, and she has a tremendous reputation.” I talk a little bit more deeply about the story in the book and encourage people to read the whole thing.
But essentially he said, “If you’re open to this, I think you should try it. It certainly won’t hurt.” And by the way, the data corroborates that, we don’t really see ill effects of these types of entities healing with practitioners. So they decided to give it a try. And they called this energy healer who was in Israel, right? So she’s in Israel, they’re in California. They have no idea how this could possibly work. They don’t have any experience with this whatsoever, but they have faith and they want their daughter to get well. So she guides them and tells them these are the things that you need to do at home to support her, keep a healthy environment, make sure there’s not a lot of arguing. And what I’m going to do, I cannot guarantee you anything. What I’m going to do is work with Myra’s higher self. And if Myra’s higher self decides that she wants to live and she wants this tumor to go away, then it will happen. My job is just to facilitate the conditions to allow that to happen if this is what she chooses.
So the healer was very clear. Again, I’m not doing the healing. I’m not the so-called miracle worker. I’m not sending my energy. I’m facilitating an opening for her soul self to come into the driver’s seat. And so she worked with her for several months. They noticed that their daughter seemed to be feeling better, fewer symptoms. So they were pleased that she seemed to have more comfort, right? They had no idea though, whether the tumor was gone or anything like that, there were really no expectations. But a few months later, they went for their checkup and the doctors were shocked because the tumor was completely gone.
And they said, we have no explanations for how this could happen. Absolutely none. And they told their doctors, they said, “Well, she’s been seeing this energy healer, and she’s been guiding us on home environments and other things, as well as facilitating this healing work with Myra. But we have no idea how it works. And the doctor said, “We don’t either, and we’re not averse to believing in miracles. And this certainly seems like a miracle.” So, this is the question, is it a miracle? Well, sure, life is a miracle, but why is it that we have these types of stories? And now we have data showing, for example, that a bioenergy healer can shrink a tumor in a mouse model of cancer. Is that a miracle or is it something that we just haven’t completely explored scientifically, right?
So these things seem absolutely unbelievable because we’ve been taught that our spirit is separate from our body and that it really perhaps plays no fundamental role in our healing. I mean, that’s the truth. That’s how we have been schooled in our world to think. We have a spirit, we have a body, the connection between them isn’t that important. And that’s all very nice. Spirit is for church and for temple and these kinds of things, and the body is for medicine. And yet these kinds of data with spiritual healing, energy healing, suggest that actually the connection of the spirit with the body is absolutely fundamental to our health and well-being.
TS: So, I’m listening to this conversation as interested, curious person who wants to learn more. But for a moment, I want to represent that person who has some kind of terrible diagnosis. And they hear a story like the story you just described, and a lot of their hope starts to rise. But they listened carefully to our conversation to this point and they’re like, “Are there subconscious blocks that are keeping me from healing that I don’t know about? How could I clear those blocks?” And I’m curious to know, from your deep immersion in this field, what would you suggest to someone who’s in that situation, listening to our conversation?
SJ: Thank you for that question. So I have synthesized the key fundamental healing elements that I think are important for all of us, whether we have a life-threatening diagnosis or whether we’re just wanting to maintain our wellness. And I summarize them in the third part of the book, which is called “The Healing Keys.” And these may seem, at first glance when you look at them, “Oh, that’s nice. That’s cute.” We may not actually give credence to how strong these effects can be if we follow them. But I will say, I do highlight some of the data supporting why I suggest following these healing keys. When we engage in these practices, we’re really nodding with our energy and spinning off any of these subconscious blocks that we might have.
So these keys include grounding for health, that is literally connecting ourselves with the earth, and there are many ways to do that, we can talk about that. Engaging in our creativity, fostering on healing intention and volition, which means not just thinking ourselves well, but really again, uniting our vital force, our energy with our intention for powerful healing. There’s a process for that, which I go over and give some exercises, even in the audiobook for. And then opening to connection both with our loved ones and with spirit. And then the final piece is really surrender. And that is often the hardest piece, right? Because we want to be well. We’ve want things. We have all of these desires. And the paradox of course is that we want to recognize our desires, we want to honor them, we want to hold them, and then we want to release them.
So there’s this whole process that we go through, literally moment to moment, every day, to help write our healing reflex. And the more that we do that, the more that we feel fundamentally connected in our bodies with the earth. The more we feel, the joy of creativity and energy flowing through our body, through creativity. We harness our energy into manifested intention with energy behind it. We open our hearts for support, both spiritual and physical, tangible support here in the real world, and then we release the outcome. When we engage in that practice regularly, we’ll notice anything that’s been blocking our path and our healing process will begin to lift itself. And it becomes very effortless.
TS: Why do you describe surrender as a healing key?
SJ: Well, here’s the thing. We’re embodied beings, right? We have what we call an ego. It’s really the conditioned mind, right? So we have our lives that have been formed by who we were raised with, how we were brought up, our culture, our country, our language. That’s all beautiful, but essentially we’re just a bag of conditioned responses, right? So that’s what we might call the little seat consciousness in a way, right? So I’m Shamini. I’m moving the world. I do this. I wrote a book, yadda yadda yadda. That’s a little seat consciousness Shamini. If I stay in little seat consciousness Shamini all the time, then I can’t expand my biofield to incorporate other information and energy that might actually fill my well beyond my conditioned mind and my conditioned self.
So when I engage in the process of surrender, and there are many ways to do this, in the Bhakti tradition, it’s done through just essentially love and reverence, right? So we open to whatever that is, whether it’s the earth, whether it’s the universe, whether it’s just our existential selves, our higher self, an angel, whatever it is—something that is beyond our conditioned mind. Then we begin to release all of that conditioning and allow for a larger energy to help guide our life. And that is really important because without it, we stay stuck in the mental a lot of times. And we stay stuck in the mental. We simply just don’t have as much power as we need for healing. We also don’t have the opportunity to touch into the piece of oneness. And there’s something so healing about touching into the piece of our unencumbered selves, right Tami? So just touching into that place, that timeless awareness, even a fraction of it. Maybe most of us can’t attain a samadhi state in a snap of a finger. I would say that would be most of us, right? And yet when we engage in a practice, we begin to tap even more and more into those larger seat consciousness spaces that are beyond our conditioned mind.
And that’s what the process of surrender does. So we release our habit patterns, we release our conditioning, and we release habits that don’t serve us. And when we release habits that don’t serve us, greater space is there for healing.
TS: It’s a beautiful answer. Now there’s one other big topic I want to talk to you about. And this is the second time, Shamini, you and I have had a conversation like this, and the first time it came up. And I was unfamiliar with your work. And it really took me a while to understand—what is Shamini saying? I’ve never thought about it this way. And it has to do with the placebo and the placebo effect. And the first time we talked about it, you were defending the power of the placebo effect. And that even if it’s the placebo effect, this is good, healing is happening. But I had this mindset at the time, like, “No, placebo just mean we’re being fooled. That’s terrible. That’s stupid. I don’t want to be the kind of person who falls for the placebo effect.” So here we go, help our listeners understand how you see and understand the placebo effect.
SJ: So here’s the truth about placebo. Placebo equals what I call HEAL: holistic elements that activate life force. Now, again, some scientists don’t like the term life force. You can say elements that activate our healing response. Why do I say that? I outline all this, as you know, Tami, in the book. Here’s some of what we know about placebo. You don’t have to be duped to get well with a placebo. There are studies being done by my colleagues at Harvard University right now that are called open-label placebo studies. They’re actually giving patients with chronic pain placebos. They’re telling them, “This is a placebo. I am giving you a placebo pill.” And placebo has been shown to have beneficial healing effects. Guess what? They get better. So they’re being told they’re getting a placebo and they get better. So the idea that we have to be tricked at all, that’s just false. We actually don’t.
So what is placebo? When we break down placebo, there are many different elements, both conscious and what we might call unconscious, right? So these are things like expectation. Mentally, does my mindset think that I’m going to have a positive healing response? This is my conscious mind, huge driver of effects, right? But there’s also something called conditioning, which straddles the conscious and the subconscious, which is—I’m going to lay on a massage table, what has my body and mind experienced before when I’ve received massage? Did it relax? If so, my body mind is probably going to relax the minute I get on the table because I’m conditioned for that response, right?
So this is all very behavioral and involves the body and the mind. But there’s more than that, there’s relationship. We know that powerful things happen when we feel trust and connection with our health-care providers, whether that’s a healer or a doctor. And there are many studies that have looked at the differences of improved immunity, even responses to the common cold, based on how connected we felt our practitioners are with us and how connected we feel. So that’s a powerful driver of so-called placebo effects. And then meaning and ritual, which of course has been part of indigenous medicine for whatever. What does this mean to me? There’s so much research on that, but what’s interesting is these affect expectation, conditioning, ritual relationship. They occur in every single healing encounter. That’s why we see placebo effects in surgery, we see placebo effects with drugs, we see placebo effects in acupuncture.
TS: Right. So I have to interrupt you on this one, because I wrote this down. Placebo effects are significant in surgery. You write about this in your book, Healing Ourselves. And I was like, “I don’t understand this.”
SJ: This is based on not just one study but what we call systematic reviews, which is mostly what I cover in the book. I don’t cover just one-off studies, mostly. They’re all what we call systematic reviews, compiling the data across many different randomized controlled trials. And so these, in the case of placebo surgery, have been done where we’ve looked at what happens if people are told they get surgery. They may even get anesthesia and they may get an incision on the body, but they don’t actually get the surgery. And we see that they get better. We see that their functional outcomes, in many cases, are the same across different types of surgery. So it’s really amazing, because again it turns the whole thing on its head. And science, I’m sorry, but we have had this all wrong because we’ve been trying to control for the placebo effect like it’s a bad thing.
The placebo effect is our natural healing response. And so when we look at these studies and surgery, or even the studies, for example, with depression and antidepressants, where we’re finding that for mild to moderate symptoms of depression, the drugs account for about 25 percent of the response, and other effects, including placebo and natural history account for 75 percent. What does that mean? Well, instead of saying antidepressants don’t work, we could just say, “Wow, we work.” We actually work when we believe that our depression can get better, when we actually set our mind-body system to receive healing and move past what we call a negative steady state. As I’ve been in a steady state of depression—I’m nerding out a little and calling this a steady state, right? This is just a place that I’ve been in.
And we are all coming out of pandemic, coming in and out of pandemic, I should say, right? So we’ve been in these really funky steady states. How do we pop ourselves out of it? Well, the placebo research is telling us that we have tremendous power to pop ourselves out of it ourselves. So how do we do that? Again, we set our expectations, we create our healing rituals, we understand the meaning and context behind, what does my illness mean to me? What does it mean for me to get well? And then we unite our mental and our vital forces to write our healing responses. And so this is why this is just fundamental. So instead of trying to get rid of these things in our scientific studies, we should be actually looking at them as what we call both/and effects, not either/or effects.
It’s never been about drugs or acupuncture versus the placebo. It’s the wrong question. The question is really, what do these additional healing practices do to write my innate healing response? I am my best healer. Everything else that I seek outside of myself is just to augment that healing response that exists in me. It’s a fundamental right. It’s part of my soul nature. So once we start recognizing that our soul nature is to be in harmony, and that’s our birthright, we’re embodied beings that have this birthright to be in our true soul nature, to experience bliss, to experience harmony and contentment, then the world looks very different, because now we’re in power. We’re not out of power.
TS: Okay. I’ve got to circle back around on the surgery thing for a moment, because I want to understand more what the conditions were that people went into surgery for, that they didn’t have surgery but they got better anyway.
SJ: So in these cases, what happened was they were part of a study and they were told, “You’re going to be part of the study, and you may be randomized to one group or another group.” One of the groups is going to get the actual surgery. Let’s just call it bariatric surgery, for example. Surgeries that are done to shrink the stomach essentially, right?
SJ: So we’ll take that example. That’s just one of the examples. So you may get this actual bariatric surgery. You may be randomized to the group that gets the actual surgery, or you may be randomized to a group that gets the placebo surgery. So they’re told this at the outset, and they don’t know what group they’re in, okay? So then essentially, they’re all given the same treatment, except that one is given the surgery and one isn’t. So they come into the hospital, they sign the forms, they sign their informed consent saying that they’re going to be in one group or the other, they don’t know which, and then are told after the study is done. They get anesthesia. They’re told they’re going into surgery, all of them regardless of which group they’re in, the real surgery or the placebo surgery. They may wake up and see an incision. And then they’re followed over time. How are you doing? How are your outcomes? How’s your quality of life? All these kinds of things, depending on what kind of surgery it is.
And then they respond. Then we look at the data to see, is there a difference between the people who actually got surgery and the people who didn’t get surgery but thought they got surgery? And that’s how we can tease out placebo effects. Now, of course, in my energy healing study, I did it quite differently. I was more nuanced. I even asked questions about how connected they felt with their practitioner and how much they felt like treatments were helping them. There are many different ways you can look at these placebo effects. But yes, even in surgery. And this is so fascinating, Tami, because most surgery studies have not been asked to go through what we call placebo control designs. And those are really designed more for things like drug studies. Most surgery studies don’t have placebo arms. But yet when we look at those that do, we start scratching our heads and wondering, is surgery really the only way to address this particular clinical issue or could there be other ways to address the issue?
TS: Okay. Let’s just pretend for a moment, Shamini, that I make you the god of research and I give you some magic wand. Then you get to use your magic wand and you say, “These are the most important research studies we need to do in the next decade in relationship to biofield science.” How would you use your magic wand?
SJ: Thank you, Tami. And I’m going to see this magic wand as a reality wand, because this just has to happen.
TS: That’s who you are.
SJ: This is going to have to happen. So the first is we do need more clinical studies on biofield therapies. We know that many different hospitals are incorporating things like Reiki, healing touch, therapeutic touch. We know that there’s at least 70,000 healing practitioners just in the US alone providing services. Do we really have enough data to understand how these things are helping, how long they’re helping, for which patients, is Reiki better than healing touch? All of these things. We need to invest in what we call clinical effectiveness research with these therapies. Because one thing that we do know is that when we look at what we call the benefits-to-harms ratio, that is, how much does this help versus hurt, that ratio is very high. That’s what we base our clinical decision-making on. Does it help people feel better, does it impact their physiology in a positive way, and is it risky?
So the indications from the limited data, we have about 400 clinical studies in biotherapies right now, only 125 randomized control trials. And that’s across the board for all kinds of healing therapies. There’s a lot to still explore with this. So we want to know how does it help and for whom. As a clinician, for me, that’s number one. We have a mental health crisis, we have a chronic health crisis, and we have tools that can help. We need to deploy them and we need to understand them. So clinical for me is first. The other really key thing, I think, that will really help us in mitigating this chronic health crisis is to understand and visualize the biofield a little more strongly.
So here we’re talking about investing in developing technology that really helps us measure certain aspects of this so-called aura, right? The biofield outside of the body. Could it be that I can measure reliably magnetic fluctuations outside of the body? By the way, there are people at MIT that are doing this work. And can it tell me something about the state of my health? Can emitted biophotons from my fingers or my heart tell me something about the state of my health as a system? There are people in the Netherlands doing this work. We need to bring all of these people together that are measuring different aspects of the biofield and see if there is a sensible way that we can measure biofield health and potentially detect physical disease before it manifests in the physical body.
So based on everything that energy healers, acupuncturist, Chinese medicine practitioners, Ayurvedic practitioners say, we can see the imbalance in the biofield before it lodges in the physical system, if this is true. And we can develop robust ways of measuring those fluctuations. We could detect disease before it starts. And what this means is, again, we’re empowered. Now we have even more fun ways to sense our own biofields and write our healing reflexes so that we don’t have diabetes, we don’t have cardiovascular disease. We can figure out when we’re moving towards a place of massive anxiety before it happens, and then we can guide our self-practice.
So these are some of the ways that we need to invest in research. And so, what that means is, we need to really bring different scientists together, because this isn’t just neuroscience, this is bioelectromagnetics, this is physics, this is biology. And this is where the real magic happens. These are how advances in science are made, when we bring together the most brilliant hearts and minds. I should add with healing practitioners so that we can really crack this code, if you will, of the biofield, because it’s been hidden for way too long.
TS: You are pointing to the future right here. Okay, Shamini. In closing, towards the end of the book, you write, “For myself, I now believe that the path of healing and the path of spiritual liberation are one and the same.” Powerful statement. I wonder if we can end on that note. What brought you to believe that the path of healing and the path of spiritual liberation are one and the same?
SJ: It’s really a unification with our soul nature. That’s really what healing is. Healing is a return back to our soul nature. And that is what spiritual liberation is all about. We don’t have to conceptualize it as leaving the body, staying in the body, going to heaven. However we conceptualize that, essentially we’re coming back to our true nature. And there’s no real difference between the path of healing and path of spiritual liberation if we see it in that light. And what’s so beautiful about that is it means that there’s so many practices to lead us there, to lead us on our healing journey. So whether we engage in centering prayer, meditation, yoga, healing touch, they’re all practices that are leading us back to ourselves, understanding our fundamental interconnection as human beings with each other and with this planet. And that’s honestly what we’re being called to do, to really recognize and liberate ourselves as human beings, understanding our vast capacities for human healing.
TS: I’ve been speaking with Shamini Jain. She is the author of the gorgeous new book, Healing Ourselves: Biofield Science and the Future of Health. Wow, so articulate, so helpful, so visionary. Thank you very much.
SJ: Thank you, Tami. It’s my honor.
TS: Thank you for listening to Insights at the Edge . You can read a full transcript of today’s interview at SoundsTrue.com/podcast. And if you’re interested, hit the subscribe button in your Podcast app. And also if you feel inspired, head to iTunes and leave Insights at the Edge a review. I love getting your feedback, being in connection with you, and learning how we can continue to evolve and improve our program. Working together, I believe we can create a kinder and wiser world. SoundsTrue.com: waking up the world.