It is our pleasure to post today an interview with Isabelle Goulet, founder of Scientive. Isabelle has recently graduated from a two-year shamanism training program under Pete Bernard and Jennifer Clark was curious to know how “the scientist” was doing in the realm of energy work and spirit. Here is what she had to say.
Why did you invest time and energy in the 8th Fire School of Shamanism training program?
While conducting my PhD research on epigenetic factors (1) that potentially influence the onset and progression of breast cancer, I realized that I could observe only a very small part of a cell at a time with the mainstream techniques and concepts available to me. It was like trying to look at the entire universe through a child’s telescope. My observations were overlooking a number of important factors. In short, I was looking at cancer cells but missing that they were part of a larger, complex system.
Fortunately, I met a number of people from different disciplines who guided me towards new perspectives on what I believed was already well defined in human biology. Even if it meant that I had to step outside of my comfort zone and leave behind a purely materialist view of life, I started to seek out non-traditional practices to gain a more holistic understanding of the human body’s healing processes. One of the people I met was Pete Bernard, an Algonquin medicine man, who suggested I enroll in his comprehensive two-year training program on the Native way of life. I decided to take up the challenge because I was curious to find out whether or not my skepticism toward energy medicine could be tamed and second, because I saw an opportunity: as Daniel J. Benor pointed it out in his book Spiritual Healing, “very few healers are trained in scientific observation or in research.”
What results do you hope to achieve?
I believe there is much to learn from healers’ reports of cures contradicting conventional medical understandings of disease processes. Unfortunately, these reports are often anecdotal, lacking stringent controls or not systematically documented. With this training and hands-on experience – combined with my scientific background – I hope to broaden my understanding of biological systems, to explore aspects of health and illness that conventional medicine cannot explain, and to explore more rigorous research methods in the study of these events to answer two fundamental questions: does the body have an intrinsic ability to heal itself? and if it does have this ability, how does self-healing work?
What have you observed so far?
Through my own experiences and those of others, I have observed a wide range of physiological effects in the body right before, during, and/or shortly after the application of earth-based energy healing techniques. For example, some people feel temperature changes, shivers, tingling, or buzzing sensations either in specific areas of their bodies or throughout their entire bodies. Repressed thoughts or memories about a specific issue may also resurface. Some people experience short-lived emotional releases in the form of laughter, tears, or anger. Many feel pain or discomfort dissipates in areas of their body as the healing session progresses. Others have no sensations at all.
How the healing is perceived by a person, however, has no impact on the results. In all cases, a measurable healing response can be observed or noticed by the person. These responses can include a significant:
In turn, these responses lead to an increase of a person’s overall sense of well-being.
Are these observations useful given that the practices are not science-based and yet unproven?
I firmly believe they are. The emotional and physical responses observed during and/or shortly after a session strongly suggest that earth-based energy healing practices can influence our biology at a cellular and a molecular level and stimulate our self-healing abilities. These observations are consistent with a growing body of scientific evidence that shows positive effects of similar practices on an individual’s biology and overall health. These observations and findings are encouraging, but more research is required to help us understand the mechanisms underlying such effects.
What would you like your scientifically-minded colleagues to know?
Most of my colleagues dismiss the observed benefits of unconventional energy and spiritual therapies as not “evidence-based” or as “dangerous quackery”. I invite these critics to take a closer look at the evidence.
Many spiritual health facilitators (commonly referred to as “healers”) have recognized that the basis of the healing response seems to come mainly from within the person as a result of their beliefs. That does not mean, however, that spiritual healing practices have no therapeutic value. Many serious studies from established disciplines have shown that the power of belief (or placebo effect) can elicit significant physiological responses that are identical to or even more significant than those observed with conventional therapies (e.g., drugs, surgery) – and without the unpleasant side effects!
The many aspects of the care spiritual and energy healers provide also need to be considered as part of the healing response. For example, they offer a calming and empathic stress-free environment that is conducive to listening and meaningful communication. They also introduce rituals, mental imagery, relaxation, movement, and touch (in some practices) as important aspects of healing. Empirical studies have demonstrated that environments and practices such as these can make patients feel better and recover more quickly from illness and invasive procedures. In a recent study published in Cancer, a Canadian research team has shown for the first time that such practices can actually induce positive changes in our cells at a molecular level (2).
Based on my own experience, I know there is more to the observed benefits than what is already known. More than what we can see with our own eyes.
Instead of rejecting non-traditional approaches, I would like to encourage my scientific colleagues to study them so we can all learn from them. Scientists should not be afraid to study spiritual practices on the premise that “they are not consistent with their […] conception of the world” (3). The true spirit of scientific inquiry allows us to freely explore any hypothesis, theory, or model, whether it is favoured by current thinking or not. Who knows what we would discover if we could only dare to step outside of our box?
Would you recommend this experience to others?
Absolutely! It is very empowering to discover that we can choose not to be the victim of our experiences and limiting beliefs. By getting in touch with ourselves, we can bring healing to ourselves on the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels and return to our natural un-conflicted state (4). This program has opened my mind and changed my life. I am filled with gratitude to have unlimited access to such a resourceful toolkit!