A Conversation with Joan Borysenko, Ph.D. and Michael Lee, M.A.
On the way home from Dr. Christine Page’s weekend Level 1 program in Rhode Island which was attended buy some 114 health professionals covering a very broad range of occupations from medical practitioners to massage therapists, I begin to wonder. How come Christine’s new program was attracting so much interest. Certainly when we first decided to sponsor Christine’s work here in the United States, we knew she would be well relieved. After all she is a great and gifted teacher and author and is dealing with a hot topic – Insight and Intuition using a Soul Directed Approach. But one hundred and fourteen people when we had expected maybe fifty. I sensed there was something happening on a larger scale and that the kinds of changes we have been advocating for many years that would provide a more holistic and client centered approach to health and healing were finally happening. I decided to talk about it with Joan Borysenko a long time pioneer in the field and a highly acclaimed and respected author and conference presenter.
Michael Lee: Joan, my sense is that we are living a pretty exciting time — I’d be interested to know what you consider to be the most interesting and exciting things that seem to be happening in the whole health and healing arena.
Joan Borysenko: Well I think certainly the advent of energy medicine. – an understanding of the body as a system of energy, and learning to put people in the best possible condition for healing to happen by itself, And what is exciting me as I go around the country is how open so many hospitals are to complementary and alternative medicine.
ML: And that’s been happening now for a few years.
JB: Yes, it has been happening for a few years and I’ve been in this field since 1978 when there were just a few lone voices crying in the wilderness. And to see it really come into the mainstream is fascinating and exciting. I didn’t know if this was every going to happen.
ML: And why do you suppose that it is happening now?
JB: One part of it is simply that I think medicine kind of hit the wall in terms of what it could do from the point of view of technology. But in terms of the doctor-patient relationship, it had a long way to go. And even the Dean of Harvard Medical School has written that the most important arena in medicine now is the relationship between the physician and patient, which he calls the doctor-friend-patient relationship. And, as technology bloomed and as HMO’s bloomed and as physicians ultimately spent less and less time with patients, which is not their fault, it’s the fault of the system, what we’ve done is to see people responding to a system that has grown impersonal and they’ve responded in part by using it less and turning more to complementary and alternative medicine, and then upping the number of lawsuits. What’s happened is that there’s been a consumer-driven grass roots movement, and what we see now is a lot of health care providers who are saying what is it that we are not providing that people really need. Some of that obviously comes from good-heartedness. There are many people in that system who went into it because they were truly healers. Then, there is an economic incentive in that hospitals don’t want to lose a lot of money. Considering that hospitals are great when you need them, but about 90% of all doctor’s offices are for stress related disorders or things that get better by themselves. There is a tremendous economic incentive — medicine realizes that if they don’t fill the bill, people are going to go elsewhere. That’s what I see. And I also see that there is a new generation of physicians to whom the whole idea of mindbody medicine, for example, does not seem strange. They’ve grown up hearing about this. It’s coming into their medical training more and they are seeking it out more. Those are some of the trends. There is also a general societal trend that is going on and that is that people are so busy — you hear that phrase “crazy busy” everywhere — feeling so disenfranchised and so overloaded and so victimized by the very technology that was supposed to give us free time that they are hungering for relationships. Relationship with their own selves, their own inner wisdom, their true self-knowledge. Also, relationship between one another, and certainly, with the kind of work Chris Page does, which is very healing in terms of it being deeply rooted in the model of relationships.
ML: It’s not surprising then that the kinds of healing modalities that really acknowledge the importance of relationship and actually engage people in the kinds of practices that deepen relationship are catching on.
JB: There’s just no question about it. I don’t think there is ever a person who has had to go to the doctor who wouldn’t prefer to see a doctor who seems to care about them, who gives them, even in the context of a 15-minute visit, a little time to express themselves, who acknowledges them and mirrors them back. One of the studies said that the average amount of time that a patient has to speak before being interrupted by the physician is 13 seconds. It’s kind of hard to feel like a human being under those circumstances.
ML: Anyone now in the healing professions — traditional medical practitioners, acupuncturists, yoga therapists, practitioners of some of the alternative healing arts — if they were really going to serve their clients or patients to the best of their ability, what kind of things would you suggest they really need to pay attention to? What are the things that they need to be able to do and to have to really serve?
JB: You have to know who a person is. What their hopes are, what their fears are, what their dreams are. If you look at somebody, for example, who may have something like stress-related stomach problems. It doesn’t make much sense to give them a prescription when what’s happening, for example, is an alcoholic spouse, or there is abuse from their childhood that they still haven’t worked through. Very often, people give clues to those kinds of things and they are not picked up on. In a certain way, when we talk about intuition — intuition is not like brain surgery. We all use it all the time and it’s our attention to a variety of cues that are subtle and not so subtle that we would simply miss if we weren’t paying attention. What people really need to do is be in the present. To pay exquisite attention at all possible levels.
ML: That kind of goes with paying attention to oneself. My guess is that until we do it for ourselves, it’s pretty hard to do it for other people.
JB: That’s right. And I think it’s very hard to do — and again I come back to when people are rushed and busy — and I keep coming back to that because actually I just finished a book called “Inner Peace for Busy People” and there is a Public television special that will start airing in August that I’m doing that’s based on that. I don’t think it’s possible to be really effective at whatever you do — whether you’re a physician or a patient or a lover — if you are incredibly busy. Because what that means is that your attention is really impaired. It’s one thing our society doesn’t teach very well. We teach people to be efficient, to multitask, and to do a million things at once. One is so fragmented that as a system of energy, we’re dissipated.
ML: One of the things we work with a lot here is yoga and yoga therapy from a mindbody perspective and the idea that there is a connection between what goes on in your body, what goes on in your mind and that you can get in touch with that more through the practices of yoga and meditation and the like. Have you had any thoughts on why that is so and now there is an upsurge in interest in yoga — a tremendous upsurge — is that connected to the same things we’ve been talking about? That people are realizing that they need this and that it’ a missing piece?
JB: I think so. There is no question about it. People are looking for something that is going to help them enjoy life and feel their bodies and relax and all the rest of that. If you go back deeper, if you go to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, what you realize is that you have all the cognitive psychology that’s already been worked out thousands of years ago — nothing new.
ML: So, all the psychology that we use today was around in those days. It was just expressed differently and now we are rediscovering it.
JB: And that’s what we are learning. “Gosh, I am not my inner dialogue. I’m not what goes through my mind. I can become the observer of this and use a whole variety of cognitive strategies to change my thinking. And when I do that, my body changes, my mood changes, my life changes. I think that people start yoga often as a physical discipline, and then begin to recognize the mental benefits very quickly.
ML: And do you think that the increasing awareness on the individual level will have a chance to spill over into more of a global consciousness…
JB: I really do. And I have to hope that or it wouldn’t be worth getting up in the morning.
ML: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Joan. I look forward to your new book and television program.
For further information about Joan Borysenko’s work, her books and appearances go to: www.joanborysenko.com
For details on Dr. Christine Page’s program: “The Soul Directed Approach” check out her website: www.christinepage.com
Joan Borysenko, Ph.D. is a well known author and conference presenter in the field of Mind/Body Health. Michael Lee, M.A. is the Founder of Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy and Director of the Phoenix Rising School of Yoga and Movement Therapy.
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