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Dr. Joan Borysenko: Mending Mind and Body      
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Gracious viewers, welcome to Healthy Living on Supreme Master Television. This week we present the first in a two-part interview with Dr. Joan Borysenko, a renowned pioneer in the field of integrative medicine or medicine that treats the whole person, with a focus on the interaction between the mind, body, and spirit.

Dr. Borysenko, a vegan who received her doctorate in medical sciences from Harvard Medical School in the US is a licensed psychologist, director of the Claritas Institute for Interspiritual Inquiry Mentor Training Program, in-demand lecturer and bestselling author. Her latest book is called “Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive,” which is about emotional and physical exhaustion and how to overcome these challenges.

In 1987, Dr. Borysenko published “Minding the Body, Mending the Mind,” which sold over 400,000 copies and was on the New York Times best-seller list. The book delves into how emotions and stress influence our physical well-being.

We really need to understand the connection between emotions and disease because when you have an emotional response, there are different areas of the limbic system of your brain that are involved.

You have, for example, the amygdala, which stores images. So, for example, you have somebody who has post-traumatic stress (disorder) who has been in a war, and they may have nightmares or repetitive dreams, and that kind of chronic stress will release chronically a number of hormones.

Amongst them is cortisol, which decreases the function of the immune system and actually kills cells in a neighboring part of the limbic system called the hippocampus. And this incredible activation of the nervous system that creates fear will continue.

And what we know now, this is the work of Dr. Candace Pert who has done so much work on what she calls “informational molecules.” She is the co-discoverer of receptor sites in the brain for opioids. If an opioid creates an emotional response, it’s because the cells of the body are responding to that molecule which is released by the brain, goes through the blood and then you know just like that in a millisecond it’s bound to every cell in the body. So all emotions release slightly different neuropeptides, informational molecules.

Those bind to the surface of the cell and they are in fact signaling the nucleus of the cell, they are signaling the genes to create different proteins, and therefore there’s not only an immediate effect but in the case of chronic emotions, a chronic effect on your genetic code that comes from emotions. And people haven’t realized that.

They’d say, “What difference does it make? Emotions come and emotions go.” But over time they have a great deal to do with the longevity of the body. Positive emotions like love have a positive effect on the body. Chronically fearful emotions, as we’ve already explained, have quite a negative impact on not only your body, but your well-being.

How can we learn from our negative emotional responses and achieve peace within, thereby improving our health and longevity? Dr. Borysenko now provides her perspective.

You can take what might have originally been a calm nervous system, and through subsequent experience it begins to respond, for example, with anger towards something. And then anger comes up and all of their relationships are colored by this. So what needs to happen if a person has chronic emotional problems, unhappiness of this sort or lots of anger or fear is that two things need to be worked on:

One of them is the possible childhood roots of that, the beliefs that they hold, the experiences that they have had, which entails a great deal of healing to do that, to go back and learn to recognize, “Yes, this was my past, this is how I respond. I recognize that those patterns of response are not reality. They are conditioned by my mind.”

And you can learn: “Let me step back for a moment and witness them. There it is, there is the anger again. I feel it in my body. I am not judging it as good or bad, but I can just do a couple of things here.”

Number one: take a look and say, “Is the anger at this moment a kind of guidance that I am in a situation that’s dangerous, that somebody has overstepped their boundaries,” because anger is protective, we have to have it. All emotions are really important. So in other words, you are trying to see: “Is this my old conditioning or is this real?”

And then what you can learn to do if you realize it: “Wait a minute, I don’t need any information from this anger; it’s just an old mind habit.” You can learn to alter your breathing. If you are a meditator, you already know this. You begin to breathe in a deep and slow way. It calms down your nervous system and then without trying to chase away the emotion you can just witness it for even a a little while: 10 seconds, 20 seconds and often it will simply dissipate or transform.

It’s just like you’ve cut through illusion and brought yourself really to reality in that moment. So those are a couple of ways to deal with emotions. But I always like to remind people that some emotions that are really difficult, for example, grief, we have to simply express and live with because a lot of stress-related problems I think are due to the fact that we are not allowed to grieve.

In many of the world’s sacred scriptures, the virtue of forgiveness is highly praised. For example, in the Holy Bible’s Book of Matthew it’s stated, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in Heaven.” As Dr. Borysenko explains, forgiving others has a great impact on our health and well-being.

Then another fairly recent study at Emory University, (USA) which has a Tibetan Studies Department, has looked at the effect of compassion meditation, where you’re really generating thoughts of loving kindness toward yourself, to other people and forgiveness, toward those people who you may have held grudges against.

What happens is even not just for long-term meditators but for novice meditators, there is a decrease in the inflammatory system of the body. So in other words, that’s a direct effect on the immune system. And inflammation is the final common pathway in most diseases, everything from heart disease, because it’s inflammation, for example, of the endothelium or inner layer of the blood vessels that allows plaque to build up. So if you get rid of some of the inflammatory response, you’re going to have less cardiac disease.

A molecule released by a cell of the immune system, one of them, interleukins-6, has been studied. You get stressed out, levels of interleukin-6 get higher, your inflammation increases and you’re more likely not only to get heart disease but osteoporosis, the frailty of aging, practically every chronic disease that we know is impacted in that way by stress and relieved then by meditation. You can actually learn how to forgive.

This is important because what people do when they are holding a grudge is usually they are re-running in their mind their grudge story or their regret story. “I am a terrible person, how could I have done this, how could I have hurt somebody?” And every time you re-run the same story, you get the same hormonal response so your stress becomes chronic through doing that.

The feeling of gratitude also has a powerful bio-molecular effect on the body.

With gratitude, if you measure different aspects, different levels of stress-related hormones they’re going to go down. If you look at the immune system, it’s going to be functioning at a better level. There is going to be less of that cytokine-6, for example, that really inhibits good immune function.

And gratitude also has another effect, and that is that people who are grateful are much more effective in this world. They actually have better motivation, they get things done and, of course, they are nicer. Look at people.

Not only can an illness be healed through a change in attitude, but the condition itself may act as a spark to awaken us to a greater sense of self.

In some cases it is possible to cure diseases by changing our attitudes. For example, all of the diseases that are primarily related to stress we can eliminate. But then if there’s another component, there’s a virus, there’s a genetic component we may be able to make it much better, but in some cases we can’t eliminate it. Not everything can be cured.

But every condition of life including every illness can in fact be a journey of healing where you come into a sense of harmony, where that conditioned or false self is actually, in a way, broken through by your difficulties. When all that false persona falls away because suddenly you realize, “I am actually not in control of the universe; look what’s happened,” at that time it’s easier to access that part of yourself that people have different names for.

Some people think of it, “Oh, it’s my core self” or “my true nature” or “my divine self” that’s in connection with something larger, and that’s a major thing because once you get to that point you have a lot more peace of mind. You have much more of that sense of compassion that comes from your heart. There’s more harmony that you have and you generally feel a whole lot less stress.

Dr. Joan Borysenko, we thank you for your time and insights into the role of emotions in the realms of wellness and healing. Your work in this field is surely helping many find more harmony and contentedness in their lives.

For more details on Dr. Joan Borysenko, please visit www.JoanBorysenko.com
“Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive,” and other books by Dr. Borysenko are available at the same website

Amiable viewers, please join us again next Monday on Healthy Living for the conclusion of our intriguing interview with Dr. Borysenko, where we’ll learn more about the benefits of love, meditation and a plant-based diet. Thank you for your presence today on our program. Coming up next is Science and Spirituality, after Noteworthy News. May we immerse in Heaven’s love, protection and light as we learn to sow seeds of gratitude, happiness and peace.
Graceful viewers, welcome to Healthy Living on Supreme Master Television. This week we present the conclusion of a two-part interview with Dr. Joan Borysenko, a renowned pioneer in the field of integrative medicine or medicine that treats the whole person, with a focus on the interaction between the mind, body, and spirit.

Dr. Borysenko, a vegan who received her doctorate in medical sciences from Harvard Medical School in the US, is a licensed psychologist, director of the Claritas Institute for Interspiritual Inquiry Mentor Training Program, in-demand lecturer and bestselling author. Her latest book is called “Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive,” which is about emotional and physical exhaustion and how to overcome these challenges. Let’s now rejoin our interview with Dr. Borysenko to find out some of the benefits of mediation and how it improves our overall health.

If you look at the literature on meditation, Dr. Herbert Benson was amongst the first people, he worked with a wonderful man by the name of Keith Wallace, and they found that when people meditated, a part of the brain was actually stimulated that decreased sympathetic nervous system activity. That’s the fight or flight response. When you meditated that went down.

And the parasympathetic nervous system activity, that’s the relaxing branch of your nervous system, when you feel peaceful like when you eat, you salivate, that’s your parasympathetic nervous system. When your hands are warm, your parasympathetic nervous system is more active. And so that’s what happens when you meditate.

In other words, what it is, is it helps to reverse the stress response. Stressful emotions – everything from anger to holding on to a grudge, feeling that constant sense of inner turmoil to anxiety, it can really cause the body to go out of balance.

So it’s wise certainly physically and emotionally to learn how to meditate. And there are many forms: secular forms and sacred forms of meditation, which means it’s great for everybody because you don’t have to have a particular belief system to meditate. On the other hand, every religious tradition that we know, if you look certainly beyond the surface, they have some sort of meditative practice involved with them. And so, for example, in Catholicism people do the Rosary.

Buddhists will use prayer beads. In the Islamic faith they also use a tasbih, a mala, of generally 33 beads to represent the 99 names of Allah. And there are various other ways that don’t involve particular mantras or the use of malas in religious kinds of observance. So, for example, in mystical Judaism one might be meditating on the four letters in Hebrew of the Divine name which are Yud-Hey-Vav-Hey.

Those are actually all vowel sounds. It actually means “What is, what was and what may be.” And so meditation on the Divine letters is a way. Or in Catholicism there’s been some wonderful work bringing back some of the interests of Thomas Merton who was a very interesting, interesting Catholic priest. All mystics generally have had a form of meditating in that tradition.

Contacting one’s real self and drawing closer to God to find everlasting peace is fundamental to all religions. In her book “7 Paths to God,” Dr. Borysenko successfully demonstrates to the reader that there are many different spiritual paths which lead to the same destination.

I grew up near Concord, Massachusetts (USA) where Ralph Waldo Emerson did his writing, where (Henry David) Thoreau, the nature mystics, came together and it was actually nature itself that really spoke to them. And for a lot of people if you say, “What is it that relaxes you? What takes away the stress? When do you feel most yourself?” And they will say it’s being out in nature. So that’s for many people a “path.” Then just very briefly, you have a path of meditation, for example.

There are some people who really are going to be quite serious meditators and then many people that’s not their path. Then you have a heart-based path, for example, which would be devotion to some aspect of the Divine.

There are people who are devoted to Jesus Christ or who are devoted to the Dalai Lama as an incarnation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Or people who are devoted to any aspect you can think of the Divine, to a particular guru or master and that sense of connection of holding that holy ideal in their heart is a path to God.

There are many different paths. You know one of the paths that I think is frequently the most difficult is, there’s a kind of path of power. It involves a great deal of really personal power which can get misdirected into power over (creation) instead of feeling your power along with all of creation.

But I think we are all unique expressions of the Divine. And as unique expressions there’s a different path that will work for each person. And so when I wrote the book “7 Paths to God” that was what I was exploring - how we are all unique and there’s a way for all of us.

Sages and saints of the past and present have advocated that humanity adopt a plant-based diet. A vegan lifestyle not only offers countless health benefits, but also uplifts our mind and spirit.

A plant-based diet is very important physically, emotionally, and spiritually. People keep saying they are confused what diet is good to eat and it’s really not confusing. The nutritional information is very, very clear that animal protein, for example, is a promoter of cancer, that it irritates the inside of the blood vessels, that too much protein is excreted through the kidneys and it pulls calcium out of the bones. And most of the chronic illnesses that affect particularly Westerners are diet-based. So there’s that.

But the spiritual benefits are great of a plant-based diet. For many people who become vegans, there is a sense, “I don’t want to eat animal meat because it creates suffering,” so it’s a way of promoting non-violence and non-harm and that’s important because there’s a recognition an animal is conscious too. It’s a conscious being just like me and I think it feels very good to people to be honoring that.

A mark of those who have walked the spiritual path and become one with the Creator, is their overflowing love for all beings. Let us hear what Dr. Borysenko has to say about love and how it affects the body at the biochemical level.

There are particular hormones that are released. I am not going to go through all the chemical names because there are very specific ones. But these hormones, for example, there is one that relaxes your blood vessels, nitric oxide, that’s released also in meditators. Oxytocin, the hormone that bonds mothers with babies, that’s what’s released when we are loving and a score of other hormones, all of which have positive effects on health and wellbeing.

And these days we all want to know: What happens in the brain? What hormones are released? But don’t you think love is proof enough all by itself? Isn’t love what we live for? Every human being wants to be able to give and receive love.

And when we’re in that state, we are peaceful. When they’re in that state we feel connected with something larger than ourselves. We recognize this is a very important thing and spiritually what it is, is that we’ve become, in some way the false self that keeps us out of our own true nature. We are in the glory of the Divine, which is part of our own true nature.

Without meditation or other ways to balance our lives like yoga, we risk burnout or sheer physical and mental exhaustion in this hectic, fast-paced world.

Burnout is a very discreet condition. People often make the mistake of thinking it’s depression or they think it’s just stress but it’s not caused by stress, although as you get burned out it’s more and more stressful. And eventually you become so overwhelmed, so unable to feel empathy with others, so critical of your own performance that you fall into depression. So that’s a major difference.

But when people have really looked at burnout, I think of it as really a spiritual condition. That when we feel really connected to life, connected to other people, connected to nature, it’s such a wonderful state. It’s the natural state of the human being. And burnout is the opposite, where as it progresses you feel more and more intensely separated so that it’s harder to enjoy beauty, it’s harder to really relate to another person, you develop much more of a sense of cynicism.

And burnout in healthcare providers is actually called “compassion fatigue.” You feel so physically drained and emotionally overwhelmed that when a person who needs your help shows up you just you can’t meet them there and it’s a very sad thing.

Fortunately there are a number of stages. And if you learn to say, “I am working too much, I don’t even care anymore about somebody’s birthday because I have too much to do. I am kind of losing my values.” If you start to realize “Hmm, I am getting kind of snippy with people that I love, getting a little sarcastic.” For example, you begin to notice, “Really whatever I do never seems to be enough; I just can’t get to that place where I feel good enough.”

Eventually what happens if you become aware of these things is you realize, “Hmm, I am on the wrong path.” These are danger bells and they’re kind of urgent flags that say, “Course correction is needed.” So burnout is really a spiritual opportunity.

Our thanks Dr. Borysenko for your time and many insights on how to keep a balanced lifestyle and the importance of contemplation and spirituality. We applaud you for promoting the practice of meditation, as introspection truly helps bring about a more harmonious planet.

For more details on Dr. Joan Borysenko, please visit www.JoanBorysenko.com
“Fried: Why You Burn Out and How to Revive,” and other books by Dr. Borysenko are available at the same website

Kind and caring viewers thank you for your wonderful presence today on Healthy Living. Coming up next is Science and Spirituality, after Noteworthy News. May all beings have lives filled with love, thus bringing peace and joy to all hearts.

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