Dr. Caroline Leaf – In this podcast (episode #385) and blog, I talk to Dr. Shamini Jain, a clinical psychologist, neuroscientist and social entrepreneur, about the science behind the mind-brain-body connection, the biofield and healing trauma, why we need to understand the placebo effect, how to avoid moralizing self-help, and so much more!
Through her undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral studies at Columbia University, UC San Diego, and UCLA, Dr. Jain has conducted randomized clinical trials and other research in the areas of meditation, hands on healing, and other integrative medicine practices from the scientific lens of neurophysiology and psychoneuroimmunology. She has also been a healing student of master healer and teacher Rev. Rosalyn Bruyere, where she learned a great deal about how healing works.
Through her work as a clinical psychologist, which included treating veterans with PTSD, children from disadvantaged communities, and a variety of people suffering from significant mental illness, she realized that our power for healing ourselves is immense and incredibly important for our times. Both modern science and ancient wisdom provide us with the tools we need to heal ourselves.
Dr. Jain discusses this integrated model of health in detail in her amazing new book Healing Ourselves: Biofield Science and the Future of Health. She talks about how we are all interconnected, and how this connection has the power to heal us. Science is increasingly showing us how deeply our mental, spiritual and emotional selves are connected to our physical bodies, and can have a profound influence on our health. It is not just about what we eat or how much we exercise. Other factors like our relationships (both with ourselves and others) can have a big impact on how we feel mentally and physically. This is why it is so important to focus on WHOLE person health.
The ability to heal ourselves is not just a “miracle”. We can study our own healing power and understand how we can start replicating this in real life. This often includes studying things that have been known for centuries and putting them in the language of science. This can be a simple as prescribing yoga for chronic back pain, which already happens in the US based on research done in the field. This is really exciting because it underscores our own agency, which, alongside asking for help when necessary (which is also a noble act), is incredibly hopeful.
Key to understanding this connection is the biofield. Scientifically, biofield is a term used to describe our bio-electric-magnetic nature—fields of energy and information that guide our health. This is not “woohoo”—it is currently studied in many fields of healthcare already, including using magnetic fields to study emotions and electroceuticals to heal various ailments. The biofield also includes traditions that, although difficult to measure, have been harnessed for centuries by many indigenous cultures to heal people, such as qi, universal energy or prana. What do these ancient traditions know about the biofield that we can learn from? This is an important part of scientific inquiry.
We don’t have to choose between Western and Eastern medicine. We can look at the whole person AND at different ways of describing what is going on during the healing process.
One great way to understand this interconnectedness is to examine the placebo effect. As Dr. Jain points out, the placebo effect at its core means healing, or holistic elements that activate the process of healing. The placebo effect was originally developed to just please patients, not heal them. It was designed to “trick” a patient into thinking an intervention will heal them. Yet, in light of the growing body of research on the mind-brain-body connection, we now understand the placebo effect is more than just a “trick”. Placebo effects happen in all therapeutic encounters, even medications and surgery. They can be incredibly meaningful experiences, right down to the level of our neural firing and neural pathways.
The placebo effect has many different facets, which Dr. Jain discusses in detail in Healing Ourselves: Biofield Science and the Future of Health. These include:
You can start implementing these aspects of the placebo effect at home. Simply create a space at home or in the office to engage in a healing ritual, even for just 15 minutes a day. When you do this, you ready the whole person – mind, body and brain – for a healing encounter, allowing your mind and body to naturally do what they do: heal.
This doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you if you don’t automatically heal yourself in every situation. We should avoid moralizing self-help. The more we learn about the biofield, the more we understand the vast importance of interconnectedness and the role it plays in healing—not just in ourselves, but also in our relationships with others and our environment. This is not an either/or situation. It is all about connection!
This is not about thinking your way out of something or just doing enough yoga to get better. We all have a vast array of life experiences that affect us. Sometimes we get stuck and we need help. This help (in whatever form it takes) supports the natural healing process and interconnectedness that is within us and that defines our world. This is true for an allopathic doctor, and it is true for an energy teacher. Healing ourselves does not mean figuring it out alone and feeling bad when we fail, or that everything will always work out like we expect or hope.
The key thing to understand about the biofield is the power of spiritual connection, however we define this and however it plays out in our unique context. This energetic nature is open and available to all of us. Regardless of how we experience this sense of self beyond the conditioned mind, brain and body, when we tap into this experience, the healing can be immense.
We can start harnessing this incredible healing power by: