Author Archives: Shawn Quinlivan

Healthy Body Image & The Inner Child

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Acknowledging and nurturing the inner child is critical to achieving a healthy body image. The framework of this relationship determines the degree to which our mind and body are connected . . . or disconnected.

Positive body image is more than merely how we see ourselves physically. It’s how we feel about our physical appearance. And more specifically, the ways in which liking our appearance differs from disliking our appearance, and how this translates to our relationship with ourselves and the world.

Genetic inheritance influences our bone structure, body size, shape, and weight. Consequently, we are all different. At the same time, the equation for weight and body mass is the same for everyone: the calories we intake each day versus the calories we burn. Yet if everyone ate the same and did the same amount of exercise for a whole year, we would not all look the same in the end. This has to do with body type and metabolic rate. And the fact is that liking one’s body, or disliking it, is not all about appearance. People of all shapes and sizes, even some with incredible physiques, suffer from negative body image.

The Silver Screen

The media is a powerful influencer in the body image scenario because it propagates cultural images and sells advertising space. Of course, this drives the movie and television industry, as well as industries such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food, and yes . . . diet and exercise. In fact, weight loss and exercising products are particularly notorious for proliferating body image stereotypes.

Here are some relevant statistics:

  • More than 80% of Americans watch television an average of three hours each day
  • Children engage in increasing amounts of media use fueled by internet access through phones and laptops
  • Eight to eighteen year-olds are engaged with some form of media about seven and one-half hours per day

Even animated cartoons and children’s videos commonly emphasize the importance of being physically attractive. It is also relative to note that although sexually objectified images of females in advertising are most likely to appear in men’s magazines, the second most common source of such images are advertisements in teen magazines directed at adolescent girls. The sexual objectification of men— which is less frowned upon socially and receives far less negative attention, but is nonetheless impactful on influencing body image—is also popular in advertising and media portrayal.

While this is merely the tip of the iceberg, what we know is that body image is primarily formed during our upbringing and is heavily influenced by media. Of course, there are other factors that affect body image which can occur at any time in life, such as sexual harassment or assault, bullying or body shaming, and any of the many forms of discrimination that occur based on appearance. But what does that really mean on a deeper level? How do body image and the focus on being attractive effect our perception of ourselves and our individual reality?

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

Body Image Mirror Mirror

Physical beauty is a powerful and influential imagery paradigm in our media-driven culture, one in which hearts, minds and dollars are deeply invested.

The concept of physical beauty is core to body image, yet it is a perception that can be false or ambiguous. Indeed, physical beauty is a highly subjective, cultural, equivocal, ever-changing, and historically trend-influenced phenomenon. Enhancement of physical beauty can be purchased in many forms. Physical beauty can be marketed, packaged and sold in dizzying numbers of ways. Physical beauty can be a mask and it can be masked. Physical beauty—vague, mercurial and moody—is even more difficult to define than love.

We abide externalized standards for physical beauty despite a deeper wisdom of diversity and empathy that considers it shallow and superficial, something which only goes ‘skin-deep.’ Some innate part of us knows physical beauty is only so relevant in the greater scheme of things; we understand that it is not the same as physical attraction, yet we still allow it to affect our perceptions of ourselves and others. Thus, if our life experiences, whether based on genetics, lifestyle choices, past traumas or a combination thereof, have led to negative body image based upon this volatile concept of physical beauty—if our self-esteem suffers because we have ‘bought-in’ to the idea that we do not meet socially accepted standards of physical beauty that serve as a prerequisite to love and acceptance—we are harboring false or ambiguous perceptions of ourselves which need to be reconciled.

What Love Has To Do With It

Negative body image is a manifestation of fear—fear that we will not receive the love and acceptance we need—fear that we are unworthy of love because of how we look. This fear reaction occurs on a primal, instinctive level which, in psychological terms, is commonly referred to as a trauma of the inner child. Negative body image underlies addictions, eating disorders and other self-destructive habits, and is rooted in a subconscious disconnection of the mind and body.

Thought processes, behavior patterns and lifestyle choices can emerge that reinforce this negative body image. These often include poor eating habits, lack of physical activity, and a general disregard of accepted wisdom on achieving and maintaining good health. Choosing to be unconcerned about such things is a manifestation of the mind/body disconnect.

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Denial of troubled emotions empowers the inner child to take possession of our personality at times, to hijack our ‘adult’ decision making process.

A common way we compensate for this underlying fear of being unlovable is with food. Eating can be thought of as self-love because it stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain—it makes us feel good­—yet this can become a deceptive form of self-abuse and inner conflict, as we realize on a deeper level that that we are mistreating ourselves. Physical activity, particularly exercising, can serve as an uncomfortable reminder of this dysfunction; in order to appease this inner conflict, many adopt attitudes such as: “I don’t like my body anyway, so I don’t really care.”

Suffering from negative body image means we exist in a stasis of emotional apprehension and apathy; that we have adapted and become comfortable with a way of life which may include unhealthy lifestyle choices impelled by a subconscious fear of being unloved. In order to move ahead, we must begin utilizing deliberate acts of self-discovery, such as mindfulness training and practice, to recognize and alter these psychological, physiological and behavioral dynamics. Perhaps the most critical element in this process is learning to acknowledge and nurture a conscious relationship with our inner child.

The Inner Child

The concept of the inner child is traceable to Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and more recently, Eric Berne, among others. It is a basic principle used in therapeutic applications and 12 step recovery approaches. The idea of the inner child is well-known and accepted in popular psychology because it makes sense; it resonates with people. The concept commonly arises in the context of healing the psyche—of the inner child being wounded, stifled or otherwise emotionally compromised. Yet whether or not injury to the psyche has actually occurred and to what degree, there are many fundamental and holistic reasons to embrace our innate, childlike nature.

“A torn jacket is soon mended, but hard words bruise the heart of a child.”      ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Even if one is raised in the ‘best of families’ under the most ‘normal’ of circumstances, it is possible for a parent to have a challenged moment and say something like: “You’ll never amount to anything.” After all, parents are human and far from infallible. Yet statements like this, which undermine a child’s conviction that the parent loves and believes in them, can cause developmental setbacks that carry into adulthood. It is also common for parents to have expectations of children that either go unfulfilled or to which children grudgingly conform; this erodes self-esteem and creates the feeling of wanting to ‘leave childhood behind.’

Children in dysfunctional, impoverished, or circumstantially challenged families often take on adult roles such as cooking and cleaning instead of playing with friends. They may care for siblings or ill parents instead of having free time to simply be a kid. And sometimes, in more dire situations, a child may become hyper-vigilant to the emotional state of their parents or other adults in the household in order to protect themselves or siblings from neglect or abuse.

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In attempting to leave our child-like self behind, we become emotionally attached to the past. We diminish spontaneity and the joy of cherishing each moment with awe and wonder.

The inner child is deeply affected by the sense of being unloved, or unlovable, or both; this perception can readily transfer to poor self-esteem and negative body image. Experiences such as bullying, physical abuse, psychological abuse, abandonment, and physical or sexual assault are the kinds of events that engender shame, guilt, rage and resentment, and can radically traumatize the inner child. Any experience of being physically or psychologically violated, even when it happens in adulthood, can create this trauma.

The mind/body disconnect occurs when we endeavor to avoid, deny, or set aside feelings associated with troubling events such as these. The inner child is the part of the psyche where emotion is experienced, so when we try to block out fear, anger, shame, rage, resentment, guilt, sorrow, and disappointment, we also inhibit feelings of joy, love, happiness, compassion, empathy, and contentment. As well, we create negative associations and emotional attachments to the past that define us as victims, which is an identity the inner child experiences as being left behind or exiled. By attempting to protect ourselves from unwanted reminders of our trauma, we project fear into new situations that confuses our perceptions and divides our attention between the past and present. This phenomenon is known as emotional looping and is a symptom of what psychology calls “arrested development.”

Broken Crayons

Love and fear are the primal elements of human motivation. Love is the connecting force upon which we thrive. Fear is the dividing force that protects us from threats. Owning shame based on negative body image catalyzes fear founded upon an inaccurately perceived threat, which polarizes our love energy and creates a disconnect within ourselves and with the world around us.

In whatever ways the events of our lives have shaped us, we can only accept our fate and embrace our misfortunes as opportunities. While we cannot forget the past, it is important to acknowledge that change occurs in the present. This is why mindfulness training and the practice of mindfulness meditation have been a successful medium of transformation for so many people. By developing the self-possession and connective consciousness to actually be present with what is happening in the moment, we leave behind knee-jerk, defensive reactions sourced in the past and experience the freedom to reclaim our child-like trust and wonder.

colorful artistic crayons

It is only natural for some of our crayons to get broken along the way; in fact, we sometimes break them ourselves. But that does not mean the days of coloring vibrant meaning and purpose into our lives are behind us. Even with an entire box of broken crayons, we are capable or recreating ourselves.

It is this life force and energy of love—love that diffuses fear and invites empathy and self-possession—which is the foundation upon which healthy body image and a positive inner child relationship resides. Here lies the motivation of physical activity, the preparation and partaking of nutritious food, the sacred acts of caring and nurturing, and the exuberant, child-like outlook that stimulates and invigorates us. Indeed, this loving connectivity is how we pick up the broken crayons of our lives and carefully put them back into their precious boxes. 

©2016 Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht. & Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery. All Rights Reserved.


Cathexis Logo Pic MemeCathexis Therapeutic Imagery specializes in innovative approaches to workplace wellness, mindfulness training, and personal development. Via private coaching, presentations, workshops, training events, and our partnership in the unique online wellness community Your Wellness Room—used by Kaiser Permanente, EFactor and other notable companies—our nationally recognized programs and practices help people and organizations make positive changes. Please call for a free consultation at (818) 512-4371 orcontact us via email.

Cynicism: When Fear Has Become Hubris

Cynicism & Skepticism

Those who identify themselves as ‘cynics’ and ‘skeptics’ commonly affect an aloof intellectualism and take pride in their cleverness and humor. Yet such posturing often serves as denial of an underlying fearfulness, especially of those enigmatic aspects of reality that defy logical explanation.

Skepticism is the application of reason and critical thinking to determine validity; it is the process of finding a supported conclusion. Cynicism is the awareness that people can be deceptive, untrustworthy and motivated purely by self-interest. Being both open-minded and critical when evaluating information, and adequately scrutinizing the qualifications and character of the individuals who present it to us, are healthy and useful applications of skepticism and cynicism.

Yet all too often there is an attitude of hostility attached to the skeptical viewpoint, a presumption of the worst in people and an unwillingness to consider ideas and concepts that defy convention or transcend the tried and true. There is also an element of insecurity familiar to the cynic, an anxious and easily threatened disposition that is quick to judge and hides behind highbrow comments and polarizing witticisms. And sadly, a certain amount of pride and self-satisfaction are common to this derisive and emotionally detached demeanor.

Fear Is The Elephant In The Room

Our training programs at Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery include teaching both private and corporate clients mindfulness and emotional intelligence through the incorporation of trance states such as meditation, hypnosis and therapeutic imagery. Thousands of studies conducted by hundreds of independent researchers have demonstrated the benefits of meditation and hypnosis in reducing stress, managing emotional reactivity, improving focus and concentration, strengthening immune system function, and treating an array of medical and mental health related conditions. (The findings of these and other peer reviewed research studies are available in my article: A Review Of The Significant Research On Hypnosis, Meditation & Trance States.) 

The evidence is overwhelming and, in fact, mindfulness meditation is being widely used in business to facilitate healthy and productive environments and positive workplace culture. Elephant In The RoomNonetheless, there are still many skeptics who assign a degree of “woo woo” to the practice of trance state healing techniques and the idea of mind over matter, or expansion of consciousness beyond mere thought. This speaks to fear; specifically, fear of loss of control in individuals who prefer the left-brained functionality and structure of analyzing and processing information. Yet this kind of cynicism also represents a quagmire of unbelief that exists in the world of human potential, a dismissive sentiment which undermines the value of holistic health practices and the spiritual aspects of self-actualization.

“Proof” is the vernacular of the cynic. Science speaks in terms of “evidence.” And the materialist view of reality—the assumption that the physical processes of the universe exist beyond subjective perception—has not been substantiated by mathematics or empirical observation. In fact, reality is known only through sensory interaction, the way our mind relates to light, sound, smell, touch and taste.

The core of emotional intelligence is understanding love and fear as the fundamental elements of human motivation. Love connects and fear divides. Pessimism, sarcasm and skepticism are rooted in fear because they ultimately express limitation and separation. And cynicism—the unhealthy compensation for fear that manifests as haughty and disparaging points of view—represents a cowardice of compassion, curiosity and unity.

Expanded Consciousness

Ours is not a world of absolutes. Developing the ability to recognize and fully trust our powers of perception, to realize deeper wisdom and enlightenment, to experience profound insight and fulfill our journey of purpose, are ultimately endeavors of spiritual self-discovery.

Expanded consciousness involves opening up to the sacred bond of creation and inviting divinity in its many enigmatic forms—these are functions of inclusion rather than exclusion, of being liberated from constrained convictions, of embracing infinite possibility rather than limited proof—and of connecting instead of dividing, both within ourselves and to the living universe.

©2016 Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht. & Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery. All Rights Reserved.


Cathexis Logo Pic MemeCathexis Therapeutic Imagery specializes in innovative approaches to workplace wellness, mindfulness training, and personal development. Via private coaching, presentations, workshops, training events, and our partnership in the unique online wellness community Your Wellness Room—used by Kaiser Permanente, EFactor and other notable companies—our nationally recognized programs and practices help people and organizations make positive changes. Please call for a free consultation at (818) 512-4371 orcontact us via email.

Every Day Is Earth Day

Unity Consciousness

There is growing acceptance in the Western scientific community of the ancient idea of a unified energy field that links all of creation in an ethereal bond, an innate consciousness. In his book, A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking calls this phenomenon the Mind of God. Many other scientists and researchers refer to it as Nature’s Mind, Unity Consciousness, or the Quantum Hologram (see Greg Braden article, Oneness & The Quantum Hologram, here).

“The universe is a unity. Every material thing is in all things. All things come from all, and all is in all things.”    ~John Toland

The navigation of consciousness transcends the boundaries mapped by a pantheon of great human minds, reaching ever outward into this sensory holograph that is creation’s enduring mystery. The connection of all living things, the cosmic equation—the whole of life within every part, and every part within the whole—manifests in our perception of reality as multiple dimensions that elude absolute comprehension and definition. We can see, touch, hear, smell and taste the universe around us, yet these images are shifting perspectives of an even greater fabric and texture, an interwoven awareness we have merely glimpsed through the eyes of science, physics, eastern medicine, psychology, mysticism, and spirituality.

The ‘angle of light’ shed by our specific viewpoint and the various ‘interference patterns’ of our own attitudes and beliefs, serve as vectors of discernment that create the basis for this concept of reality as a holographic image (see M.S. Benford Journal of Theoretics study here). And the function of our mind, body and spirit, the magnetic and vibratory energy of the human aura interacting with the vast energy of the universe, is a critical variable in how the world ultimately presents itself to us, affecting how we perceive and experience our individual realities.

The power of individual perspective greatly influences the enigma of reality and its various dimensions and levels. Our attitudes and beliefs, our emotional intelligence, comprise the filters with which we process incoming information, while also sending coherent emotional impulses to the heart, the electro-magnetic dynamo of the human organism. The heart then transmits this energy, the magnetic force and vibration of our convictions about ourselves and the world—which can be photographed and measured as the seven levels of the human aura—out into the universe. In turn, the unified energy field (see John Hagelin, Ph.D. video on quantum physics and consciousness here), our connection on an atomic, molecular, and biological level to every other living thing, responds by attracting like frequencies of energy. This is how our consciousness, individually and collectively, fashions the quantum hologram, or what we perceive and experience as ‘reality.’

unity consciousnessMay we acknowledge that every day is earth day and reflect upon our unity consciousness, our treasured connection to the skies and forests, the oceans and waterways, the mountains and deserts, to the eternal womb of wild nature and all its magnificent creatures. The earth itself is surrounded by a geomagnetic field, an aura, a source of conscious energy to which we are all linked. Let us embrace and celebrate the sanctity of this interwoven force, the manifest bounty of our planet and its collective spirit . . . the Mind of God.

©2016 Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht., Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery

Beyond The Shadows Of Fear

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

My father was a combat veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. He witnessed and participated in atrocities during the Korean War. He made life altering self-sacrifices and lived with horrors that were not entirely of his choosing. He was predisposed to violent and abusive episodes that he could not control, and inflicted a legacy of rage, vengeance and sorrow upon those who loved him the most. Overcoming the trauma of my relationship with him provided profound meaning and purpose to experiences which once seemed hopelessly tragic and senseless. The unique insights I gained into the primal nature of love and fear and how they function in the human psyche were life-changing. And it became my personal mission to help others solve their suffering by sharing what I have learned.

Childhood Trauma

As a boy I asked my father if he was ever under enemy fire. He replied that he once saw a torpedo pass the bow of a ship he was on in the south pacific. When I inquired about the blisters and open sores on his feet, which I later learned were from a severe fungal infection he contracted in the extreme cold of Korea, he said this was from his brother throwing firecrackers at him when they were kids. My dad would never talk about the Korean War and it was clear to me, even as a child, that a deep unrest resided within him about his experiences there.

When I was 7 years old, my family suddenly wasn’t Catholic anymore. I was abruptly placed in a public school and we began attending an Episcopal Church. A secret was passed from my older siblings that my dad had a wife and son in Korea, and that she left him because he beat her. My parents began having bitter fights. I witnessed my father lose his temper and become verbally abusive and physically violent with my mother. And it was only the beginning.

“Our family became familiar with an intimate and immutable fear that would continue to shape our lives for years to come.”

I was in the 7th grade when the last of his many merciless beatings of my mom occurred. I didn’t see that one but I witnessed most of them. Blood and bruises. Police. Hospitals. Neighbors. Embarrassment. Shame. Confusion. Something inside him would snap and he would explode. And afterward, he would act as if nothing had happened. That last assault landed my mother in the emergency room. She was finally ready to leave him and take us with her. I was brave and called my dad from a pay phone in the hospital lobby to tell him we wouldn’t be coming home that night—or ever. I was 12 years old. Like my sister and brothers, I too had been brutally beaten by my father. I still loved him though. We all did. But we were afraid of him.

The following days brought a divorce filing, the issuance of a judicial restraining order, and a sheriff’s escort to our home to retrieve necessities. My dad was in his study when we arrived. He was nonchalant but we soon realized he was not in total denial. The study and kitchen were intact, but the rest of the house was eerily empty; besides the furniture, the only personal belongings remaining were our clothes and shoes. There were no books, toys, trading cards, Tonka trucks or race cars, balls or mitts, hockey sticks or ice skates, albums or record players, stuffed animals, or musical instruments. My mother’s beloved piano was gone. In fact, all the tangible mementos of our life together had disappeared. When we discovered that he had burned most of those things in the incinerator in the basement, my older brother became so enraged he had to be physically restrained by the sheriffs—yet my dad remained passive. It was one of the most surreal events in my life and ushered me into a deep state of emotional shock.

Flashbacks

FlashbacksIn a poignant moment some years later, when life had moved on for all of us, my father finally revealed to me a little of what had happened to him in Korea. It was only the second time I ever saw him cry. But he still couldn’t really talk about it. There were only a few quotes like the one below, which he retched out like bile from the pit of his soul. He contracted a brain tumor and died shortly thereafter, and I was grateful for the estranged sort of peace I had made with him. I forgave him for all that had happened. But the impact of my father’s violence and abuse had not yet taken the measure of its toll on me. Shadows of that fear, in the shifting and malevolent form of rage, still existed deep in my heart. And year by year, as I emerged from the emotional shell that had protected me as a child, I would revisit my forgiveness of him in the specter of that ash-filled basement incinerator and its forsaken providence—his vengeful razing of the village of our family—again and again, whether I chose to or not.

“We didn’t know who we were fighting over there. The villagers would bring out food and fruit in baskets to the soldiers . . . and there would be live grenades hidden inside. My buddies were blown to bits right in front of me. It happened more than once. So we razed those villages. We killed everybody.”

The vestiges of my father’s violence overtook me in my forties. By then the conflicted emotions I suppressed as a boy had finally come to the surface, raw and often unchecked. It had become difficult to avoid angry and irrational responses in certain situations, especially those I perceived as threatening or inherently unfair. I lost my temper easily. I brooded and ranted and my moods were volatile. Indeed, the repressed rage had been tapped within me. And a disturbing pattern developed which left me in anguish each Christmas Day and on my birthday, when the intrusive recall of familial trauma and abuse was somehow triggered and I would grieve uncontrollably. I came to realize I was still afraid of my father, for he haunted my thoughts like a ghost on those days and I could not dismiss his threatening presence. I was also afraid of myself and what was happening to me.

Into The Light

The psychotherapists helped me understand my own post-traumatic stress disorder. Perhaps they helped me understand my father. But I did not change as a result of those traditional forms of therapy; in fact, I got worse. The flashbacks recurred with more intensity. The rage persisted and began to threaten the homeostasis of the life I had worked so hard to build for myself. My marriage suffered. And year by year, the dread of Christmas and my birthday gradually became intolerable. I found myself tormented by recurring thoughts of those incinerated childhood treasures and the memories attached to them—the beautiful yuletide festivities our family shared, the surprise birthday parties and celebrations, the special gifts and cherished times when we were together and all was put right in our troubled world—and I cursed my father for his desecration.

PTSDHypnotherapy was my salvation. I discovered the redemptive balance of honor, dignity and grace for my father’s life, and for my own. I stepped out of my tunnel of fear and the confluence of my life paths suddenly came together in a profound affirmation of my existence. After 25 years as a successful corporate restructuring professional, I left my career and went back to school. I graduated with honors from the world renowned Hypnosis Motivation Institute in Los Angeles as both a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Master of Therapeutic Imagery. In 2011, I founded Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery in Chatsworth, California.

At the heart of my approach is the use of trance state healing to help people understand how love and fear function as the primary motivational forces in our lives. My journey has afforded me a unique understanding of the landscape of suffering and shame, the fundamental nature of rage and the various ways it can be triggered, and the innate power of compassion and empathy to transform lives and connect us to the deeper significance and intention of our being.

I am a therapist. I am an intuitive agent for change. I am an inspirator.  And I am a survivor. I cannot call my traumas war stories—those belonged to my father. My suffering was not his suffering; my terror was not his terror; my sacrifices were not his sacrifices. I was blessed with a vision of making his tragic life stand for something noble, and that is how helping people conquer fear became my mission.

©2016 Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht. & Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery. All Rights Reserved.


Cathexis Logo Pic MemeCathexis Therapeutic Imagery specializes in innovative approaches to workplace wellness, mindfulness training, and personal development. Via private coaching, presentations, workshops, training events, and our partnership in the unique online wellness community Your Wellness Room—used by Kaiser Permanente, EFactor and other notable companies—our nationally recognized programs and practices help people and organizations make positive changes. Please call for a free consultation at (818) 512-4371 or contact us via email.

Heart Entrainment: Connecting Our Love Energy

Heart Intelligence

The heart generates the human organism’s most powerful electromagnetic field and permeates every cell in the body. Compared to the brain’s electromagnetic field, the electrical component of the heart’s field is about 60 times greater in amplitude, and the magnetic component is approximately 100 times greater.

There are many familiar expressions that include the organic use of the word “heart,” such as: They had a heart to heart. She wears her heart on her sleeve. His heart is in the right place. They were heart-broken. Follow your heart. These are a few of the enduring idioms that demonstrate we have long realized the heart has its own special way of perceiving, experiencing, and knowing. And, of course, the heart ideogram ( ) is a traditional symbol representing the heart as the center of emotion, particularly love and affection.

Science is now illuminating this inherent understanding of the heart’s conscious properties and influence on our perceptions, interactions. and overall functioning. According to recent discoveries in neurophysics, the heart is an organ of far greater intelligence than previously thought, and evidence suggests a profound cognitive interrelationship between brain waves and the powerful electromagnetic energy signals emitted from the heart (see Examiner.com article here). These findings have lead scientists and physicians to conclude that consciousness is a function of both the heart and the brain, and that ethereal forms of sentience such as intuition, precognition, mood and disposition, and most certainly emotion, formulate and resonate within this realm.

In our innovative programs and practices for holistic health, Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery uses the trance state mediums of meditation, hypnosis, and therapeutic imagery to develop mindfulness and emotional intelligence. A key component to our approach is heart entrainment; this is a synchronized flow of energy between the heart and brain natural to the trance state experience that can be intentionally integrated into daily mindfulness practice. The intriguing facets of heart entrainment and its transformative qualities are explored in this article.

HEART INTELLIGENCE

Since 1991, the HeartMath Institute has researched and developed the science of bridging the connection between the heart and brain, and used these discoveries to help people connect more deeply within themselves and with one another. The HeartMath Institute pioneered the concept of heart intelligence, also known as “heart entrainment,” which is defined as:

” . . . the flow of awareness, understanding and intuition we experience when the mind and emotions are brought into coherent alignment with the heart. It can be activated through self-initiated practice, and the more we pay attention when we sense the heart is speaking to us or guiding us, the greater our ability to access this intelligence and guidance more frequently. Heart intelligence underlies cellular organization and guides and evolves organisms toward increased order, awareness and coherence of their bodies’ systems.”

The HeartMath Institute’s groundbreaking research has revealed the heart as a sophisticated sensory organ that receives and processes information—an organ capable of learning, memory, and functional decision making independent of the brain’s cerebral cortex. Furthermore, numerous experiments have demonstrated that the heart continuously sends signals to the brain which influence the functions of perception, cognition, and emotional reactivity.

This signaling process occurs as the heart generates and transmits a continuous series of electromagnetic waves, or pulses, which are distributed across the neural pathways of the central nervous system and throughout the bloodstream. In the brain, this relationship involves the pineal gland, “the mind’s eye,” which is sensitive to all magnetic fields, allows more blood flow than any other gland in the body, and modulates consciousness.

The Mind's Eye

The pineal gland is directly wired to the visual cortex in the brain and catalyzes our sensory perceptions into images, the language of the subconscious.

Studies using a technique called spectral analysis have demonstrated that heart beat patterns change significantly as we experience different emotions, and that these changes correlate with the structure of the electromagnetic field of the heart. Negative emotions engender erratic, disordered, non-rhythmic heart beats. Positive emotions, on the other hand, create heart beat patterns that are smooth, coherent, and rhythmic. Brainwaves synchronize with the heart’s electromagnetic field, so during sustained feelings of compassion, appreciation, or gratitude, blood pressure and respiratory functioning, among other oscillatory systems, naturally entrain to the soothing rhythm of the heart.

HEART FIELD INTERACTIONS

There is remarkable evidence that the heart’s electromagnetic field transmits information between people, and that this is an innate function which starts inside the womb. According to the HeartMath Institute:

  • The heart of the fetus develops and functions before the brain, and naturally synchronizes with its mother’s electromagnetic heart field
  • The exchange of heart energy, which continues with infant and mother after birth and immediately begins developing with others, can be measured between individuals up to five feet apart
  • One person’s brain waves can actually synchronize to another person’s heart
  • When an individual generates a coherent heart rhythm, their brainwaves are more likely to synchronize with another person’s heartbeat
  • Individuals with increased psychological and physiological self-awareness are more cognizant of the information encoded in the electromagnetic heart fields of those around them

Social Structure

In a longitudinal study of forty-six social groups, data gathered only from the relationships between pairs of members was found to provide an accurate image of the social structure of each group as a whole. The global organization and collective consciousness of these groups appears to have been transmitted by a socio-emotional field of energy based on positive emotions such as passion, excitement, and enthusiasm that connected all members. Remarkably, this emotionally energized network encoded and transmitted information about the group’s social structure as parts of the whole, which is consistent with the principle of holographic organization.

Intuition & Precognition

Fascinating data from a rigorous experimental design also produced evidence suggesting that electromagnetic heart field interactions are conducive to transmissions from energy fields beyond the space/time continuum, accounting for perceptual aspects of consciousness such as intuition and precognition.

Intuition & Precognition

Holographic waveforms of energy encode systemic information in a nonlocal order that represents organization of the system as a whole.

The studies showed that while the heart and brain both receive and respond to information about future events before they actually happen, the heart appears to receive this information before the brain. This indicates that the heart’s electromagnetic energy field may link to more subtle fields of energy that contain holographic waveforms, i.e. those which encode systemic information in a nonlocal order that represents organization of the system as a whole. Considered by the late eminent brain scientist Karl Pribram, acclaimed theoretical physicist Stephan Hawking, and others as the spectral domain—a fundamental field of potential energy throughout which informational properties are spread—this refers to heart field interactions with what is known in the scientific community as the unified energy field. These compelling findings, which align with the evidence from the social field interaction studies referenced above, have profound implications and support holonomic brain theory and the concept of reality as a quantum hologram.

Intention

In a controlled study published in a 2003 report entitled Modulation of DNA Conformation by Heart-Focused Intention, participants were instructed to focus their intention on making DNA strands wind or unwind while holding a test tube containing a DNA sample. Individuals familiar with heart entrainment enhancement techniques taught at the HeartMath Institute were able to alter DNA conformation according to their intention, while individuals in the control group were not. The results showed cellular functions that could be affected included DNA replication, DNA repair, and the generation of proteins and enzymes. The HeartMath Institute researchers issued this statement:

“The results provide experimental evidence to support the hypothesis that aspects of the DNA molecule can be altered through intentionality. To our knowledge, this study was the first to correlate specific electrophysiological modes with the ability to cause changes in a biological target (DNA) external from the body. The data indicate that when individuals are in a heart-focused, loving state and in a more coherent mode of physiological functioning, they have a greater ability to alter the conformation [or shape] of DNA.”

This landmark research validates long held beliefs about the self-healing ability of the mind and demonstrates that our thoughts, beliefs and emotions can impact the immediate world around us. The findings also affirm the conviction that positive feelings and attitudes contribute to health and well being, and lend credence to other well known but often misunderstood phenomena such as the placebo effect, spontaneous remission in cancer and other diseases, and the power of faith and prayer.

For more information on the HeartMath Institute’s research and publications, please visit www.heartmath.org.

CONCLUSIONS

The electromagnetic field of the heart is the most powerful electromagnetic field generated by the human organism and permeates every cell in the body. Heart entrainment is the calibration of the heart and brain through physiological and psychological positivity, a state in which this field is in a smooth and coherent rhythm and synchronizes with myriad energy fields and wave frequencies along the infinite electromagnetic spectrum. The rhythmically pulsing waves of electromagnetic energy generated by the entrained heart create energy fields within energy fields, and manifest interference patterns when interacting with magnetically polarizable tissues and substances.

Heart Entrainment

Evidence demonstrates we can consciously affect our physiology and health through focused intention and heart entrainment.

The considerable research evidence presented herein demonstrates that by focusing our intention and practicing heart entrainment techniques, we can consciously affect our physiology and health. Yet these studies also invite deeper epiphanies, those about the transcendent qualities of love that connect us to the subtle, ethereal ordering of the universe enfolded in the energy fields surrounding us. The innate “wisdom of the heart” serves as the impetus for self-awareness and discovery, altruism, philanthropy, social grace, creativity, and spiritual identity. And it is our positive heart energy, our embrace of compassion, empathy, and the power of love that aligns our conscious intention and inspires a more meaningful understanding and life purpose.

©2016 Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht. & Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery. All Rights Reserved.

Shawn picture-52

Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht.

Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery specializes in innovative approaches to workplace wellness, mindfulness training, and personal development. Via private coaching, presentations, workshops, training events, and our partnership in the unique online wellness community Your Wellness Room—used by Kaiser Permanente, EFactor and other notable companies—our nationally recognized programs and practices help people and organizations make positive changes. Please call for a free consultation at (818) 512-4371 or contact us via email.

Managing Life Change: Our Sacred Time Of Transition

Managing Life Change

The terms distress and eustress were coined in 1975 by endocrinologist Hans Selye in his landmark work on the effects of stress

The nature of change itself creates a certain degree of stress. Our reactions can be influenced by our perceptions, which include whether the change is chosen or imposed, and if the outcome is positive or negative. Life transitions we perceive to be negative cause distress, while those seen as positive cause eustress. In either event, however, as we consider the ramifications of moving away from our accustomed homeostasis, or comfort zone, the mind and body react primarily to the fact that a change has occurred

Whether positive or negative, expected or unexpected, life transitions result in leaving behind that which is familiar and facing the unknown. They require coping with mixed emotions such as vulnerability and excitement, anxiety and resolve, disappointment and relief, apprehension and inspiration, motivation and polarization.

Among the most stressful life changing events are:

  • Death of a spouse, parent or loved one
  • Marital separation or divorce
  • Serious illness
  • Marriage
  • Career change or retirement

LOVE & FEAR

The fundamental relationship of love and fear offer a profound and fascinating framework for inspiring and transformative thoughts. They are also critical to managing the life changes that ultimately challenge each of us.

Love and fear are elemental forces we are born with and experience throughout our lifetimes, yet they defy absolute comprehension. Certain psychological theories of the mind consider love and fear as our primary emotions, with all other emotions being secondary. Physiologically, love and fear are tied to our survival instinct and the release of the stress (fear) hormones adrenaline and cortisol, and their anti-stress (love) counterpart, oxytocin. On a mental, emotional and physical basis, love connects us—within ourselves, to each other, and to the world around us—while fear separates us.

“Every human thought, word, or deed is based on fear or love. Fear is the energy which contracts, closes down, draws in, hides, hoards, harms.  Love is the energy which expands, opens up, sends out, reveals, shares, heals.”

~Neale Donald Walsch

Fear often arises in false perceptions of threats that can turn small issues into big ones. Love frequently manifests as little things, intuitive gestures and kind acts, offered in response to larger challenges. Time factors into this dichotomy because many fearful reactions are rooted in our preoccupation with rehashing the past or worrying about the future, while the transcendent qualities of love can only be experienced in the present. This is one reason the ancient disciplines of yoga and meditation teach that tranquility and connectedness are achieved by being present in the moment, a philosophy that draws upon the sage and enduring concept of sacred time.

SACRED TIME

Time is also an elemental force that defies absolute comprehension. Time in the prevailing, linear sense is not a proven constant of the universe; in fact, it is a man-made convention. Perhaps this lends credence to the indigenous notions of time as a sacred, cyclical relationship to the celestial bodies, the cycles of day and night and the turning of the seasons, which are represented in various cultures by myriad depictions of the circle and wheel as universal symbols of life.

Celtic wisdom resolves the conundrum of time by contemplating it in two distinct aspects:

  1. Historical time as linear and consisting of the past, present and future; and
  2. Sacred time as circular and existing solely in the present.

Quantum physics considers time in the context of our relationship with the ever expanding universe. Certainly our individual and collective consciousness expands throughout our lives. We grow older.  And, hopefully; wiser. Mindful MemoriesTo the degree our memories consist of cherished experiences, footprints covered over by the course of time but which still imprint love in our awareness, we know happiness, fulfillment, and excitement. When those footprints are impressions of fear and regret, however, we can also know bitterness, disenchantment, and apprehension. Our emotional attachments to the past, both positive and negative, can create expectation for the future. By practicing being present in the moment—without resistance, judgment or attachment to outcome—we become more cognizant of anxious feelings in ourselves and others without being distressed by them, and realize how simple acts of love can diffuse that fear.

SURRENDER

Our lives are characterized by stressful transitions, events both expected and unexpected, that challenge our functioning, self-esteem and sense of purpose. As we endeavor to manage these changes, let us be mindful of the interrelationship of love and fear, and the importance of being present in the moment. The rich and storied history of our journey through the years—our relationships, vocational and avocational pursuits, health and well-being—provide the vital basis of our identity, which, in the absence of fear, lovingly surrenders emotional attachments to the past.

Even during times of grief, the tomorrow we build for ourselves happens today. Therefore, it is critical to let go of the feelings of regret and sorrow that naturally arise, which is accomplished by consciously investing in the here and now. Relinquishing expectations founded on what has gone before and embracing the challenge we have inherited; responding to the demands of the moment with compassion and empathy, both for ourselves and others; choosing eustress over distress; indeed, this is how life change catalyzes into spiritual growth, and becomes our sacred time of transition.

©2016 Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht. & Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery. All Rights Reserved.

Shawn picture-52

Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht.

Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery specializes in innovative approaches to workplace wellness, mindfulness training, and personal development. Via private coaching, presentations, workshops, training events, and our partnership in the unique online wellness community Your Wellness Room—used by Kaiser Permanente, EFactor and other notable companies—our nationally recognized programs and practices help people and organizations make positive changes. Please call for a free consultation at (818) 512-4371 or contact us via email.

The Healing Power Of The Mind: Research Debunks The Snake Oil Mythos

Science does not yet have a way of explaining how thoughts and beliefs materially affect our brain and body. This is in part because traditional neuroscience is based on a materialist view of reality. Yet this view—the assumption that the physical world exists beyond subjective perception—has not been proven by mathematics or empirical observation. In fact, reality is known only through sensory interaction, the way our mind relates to light, sound, smell, touch and taste. From a materialist viewpoint, however, these conscious functions are considered secondary to the physical processes of the universe.

This limiting perspective greatly plagues Western medicine. In his book Irreducible MindUniversity of Virginia neuroscientist Edward Kelly notes that most scientists avoid the problem of how our subjective mind, or consciousness, acts on the objective physical body. He goes so far as to suggest that we cannot answer this question within the materialistic framework of our current medical system.

Nonetheless, Western medicine and complimentary therapy practices that rely on the healing power of the mind share many common facets. This is particularly self-evident in the controlled testing of new medications, which involves the use of placebos. But what exactly is “the placebo effect?” And what is the relationship of the placebo effect to the healing power of the mind?

THE PLACEBO EFFECT

Even though medical science utilizes placebos in conducting research, it doesn’t understand the phenomenon. The placebo effect is commonly defined as the known tendency for people to improve when given a treatment they believe will be effective. In clinical trials, a certain number of subjects (the control group) think they’re receiving the medication being tested, but are instead given an inactive substance, or placebo. The medication being tested must perform significantly better than the placebo to pass the trial. Yet this common aspect of medical research brings to mind an important question:

“Is the positive response to a placebo an inauthentic form of healing?”

Research on the placebo effect indicates that for many people, simply believing that a therapeutic approach or medication has healing qualities begins creating physical improvements in their body. This implies that thoughts and beliefs are not merely making us feel better, they are altering brain chemistry and physiology.

Some significant studies involving the placebo effect have shown the following:

  • A study comparing the effect of a placebo versus the drug L-Dopa in patients with Parkinson’s disease demonstrated that even when taking a placebo, the patients’ nervous system function improved and reduced the effects of the disease (see Huffington Post Article ‘The Placebo Effect: Harnessing The Power Of The Mind’ here)
  • A review of randomized controlled trials in which patients were given either antidepressants or placebos demonstrated that approximately 75 percent of the effectiveness of antidepressants was due to the placebo effect (see peer reviewed National Institutes Of Health article here)
  • A University of Colorado study found that participants who believed that they had received pain medication produced specific and measurable physiological activity within the neural pathways of their brains similar to taking the medication itself (see peer reviewed National Institutes Of Health article here)

While the placebo effect clearly demonstrates the healing power of the mind, let’s examine the considerable body of research on trance states and complimentary therapies such as hypnosis and meditation, which directly reinforce the ability of thoughts and beliefs to alter brain chemistry and physiology.

TRANCE STATES

Placebo & Trance State Healing

Research demonstrates that a common physiology underlies trance states induced by a variety of different procedures.

A wide range of experimental laboratory research on shamanistic practices suggests an operative connection between trance states and healing. Trance states are dominated by slow wave patterns of discharge from parts of the brain including the limbic system, frontal cortex, and hippocampal area, which are optimal for energy, orienting, learning, memory, and attention. A review of eighty-seven parapsychological laboratory studies (see American Anthropological Association citation below) indicates that trance states such as meditation and hypnosis induced relaxation, and that sensory deprivation significantly improved extrasensory perception and psychokinetic performance. These studies also demonstrate that humans have the ability to affect and heal a variety of biological systems through psychokinesis.

Meditation disciplines value trance states as providing the basis for a more objective perception of reality. Yoga traditions indicate that healing and other psychic abilities are a by-product of spiritual development which involve direct and profound alterations of consciousness. A large body of research exists suggesting that trance state healing and well-being practices are psychobiologically based. The empirical evidence includes the universal nature of such practices, the psychobiological characteristics of trance states, and the functional relationships and association of trance with the abilities of healing and divination. (See ‘Shamans and Other Magico-Religious Healers: A Cross-Cultural Study of Their Origins,’ published on behalf of the American Anthropological Association [PDF], here).

HYPNOSIS & MEDITATION

Numerous scientific studies have been published confirming clinical hypnosis as a viable and effective intervention for alleviating chronic pain with cancer and a variety of other conditions (see Medical Hypnosis & Hypnotherapy, Mayo Clinic Reports here). These randomized and controlled studies, along with medical reports, reviews, and a sizable amount of literature in the fields of health and alternative medicine, indicate the complimentary benefits of hypnosis in facilitating healing by countering stress, enhancing immune system responses, and empowering patients to actively participate in their wellness process.

The Mayo Clinic has used hypnosis for pain control and other medical applications for over a century. And since 1995, the National Institutes of Health have recommended hypnotherapy as a treatment for chronic pain.

“Hypnosis is safer than virtually any medication any of us doctors use.”  

      ∼ David Spiegel, M.D., Stanford University, School of Medicine

As for meditation, over 1500 studies conducted by more than 250 independent research institutes show the practice to be clinically effective for the management of stress, anxiety and panic, chronic pain, depression, obsessive thinking, strong emotional reactivity, and a wide array of medical and mental health related conditions.

Meditation & The Placebo Effect

Scientific research on meditation has shown enduring changes in baseline brain function demonstrating brain plasticity and its effects on the immune system.

Medical outcomes of 15,000 patients from the Center for Mindfulness Stress Reduction at the University of Massachusetts’ Medical School shows a 35% reduction in the number of medical symptoms and a 40% reduction in psychological symptoms (see Meditation Science Weekly article here).

(The findings of these and other peer reviewed research studies are available in my article: A Review Of The Significant Research On Hypnosis, Meditation & Trance States.)

THE SNAKE OIL MYTHOS

The placebo effect is inherent to medical research and reflects the ability of our thoughts and beliefs to alter brain chemistry and physiology. Trance state healing modalities such as hypnosis and meditation are alternative therapies validated by an impressive and ever-growing body of scientific research. In light of the considerable evidence demonstrating the mind’s influence on the body, one must question how and why derogatory terms such as pseudoscience, woo woo, quackery, and snake oil, among others, have become associated with the healing power of the mind. Where does this skepticism come from? And in what ways does it reflect upon the limiting and materialistic framework of our current medical system?

Historically, much of the disparagement of alternative healing practices, along with the outright opposition to all forms of health care outside the conventional health industry, can be traced to the American Medical Association. The article “A Symbiotic Relationship, The AMA & The For-Profit Health Lobby” published by Think Progress, explores the disturbing evolution of the American Medical Association into a lobbying giant and member services entity—one tethered to the pharmaceutical companies and deeply entwined in the profit-based health industry. Indeed, in 2015 the AMA was the third largest lobbying spender in Washington.

To what lengths do such self-serving politics go? Is it possible that the snake oil mythos, at least in part, is rooted in a disinformation strategy built on fear, uncertainty, and doubt (“FUD”)—one that negatively influences perceptions of alternative and complimentary therapies—thus preserving the interests of the health care industry and upholding its profiteering agenda? Alas, could a systematic and well funded FUD campaign constitute part of the limiting and materialistic framework of our current medical system?

The considerable and credible peer reviewed and published evidence demonstrating the healing power of the mind cannot be ignored, dismissed, or characterized as fraudulent. And perhaps it is medical research protocol itself that bears the most persuasive witness. The placebo effect is part of the efficacy of both Western medicine and alternative therapies, and reflects the power of consciousness to influence the regenerative processes of the human organism. Trance states merely function to positively reinforce this innate mind/body connection, effectively altering brain chemistry and physiology.

©2016 Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht. & Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery. All Rights Reserved.

Shawn picture-52

Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht.

Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery specializes in innovative approaches to workplace wellness, mindfulness training, and personal development. Via private coaching, presentations, workshops, training events, and our partnership in the unique online wellness community Your Wellness Room—used by Kaiser Permanente, EFactor and other notable companies—our nationally recognized programs and practices help people and organizations make positive changes. Please call for a free consultation at (818) 512-4371 or contact us via email.

Our Global Ascension Of Consciousness

Global Ascension Of Consciousness

A new world community is evolving, one of diversity and connectedness with all of life. This is the manifestation of a global ascension of consciousness rooted in compassion, emotional intelligence and spiritual unity. Bridging the divisions within ourselves and letting go of limiting attitudes and beliefs anneals our divine connectivity. We perceive the ways in which learned prejudices have rendered us vulnerable to the intrigues of wealth and power. The politically driven machinations of fear and apathy become increasingly transparent, and we are drawn together in challenging our governments to better serve the interests of humanity and the environment.

These are some of the issues fueling this ascension of consciousness:

  • More than nine million people, the majority of them women and children, are hungry and impoverished in a world that can readily afford to feed and shelter them
  • Our precious planet and its wild and magnificent wonders are besieged by the ecologically unfriendly and sometimes devastating footprints of industry, despite the availability of greener and more sustainable options
  • The predatory pricing practices of pharmaceutical companies and their methodical discrediting of holistic practices and cures that can’t be patented and sold
  • The inertia of institutional economic dependence on fossil fuels which fails to entice energy companies into developing viable alternatives
  • The incestuous infrastructure of national governments, financial institutions, and investment exchanges

Awakening

Many now eschew the jaded visage of a corporate owned media that is no longer bound by objectivity or journalistic integrity—a media that propagates the profiteering agenda of the world’s wealth nexus by ‘selling’ carefully crafted and sponsored stories—and purveys fear by sensationalizing crime, natural disaster, and human suffering. Equally disturbing, and what has become painfully evident to everyone, is how politicians fail to represent the collective interest of their electorates due to conflicts of interest created by the dark money of special interest lobbying. These deeply embedded practices circumvent political ideologies and violate the basic social contract upon which democratic governments function, transforming them from a voice of the people into a commodity of the rich and powerful.

It has become obvious that such governance practices cannot sustain our planet or its populace. This is why our global ascension of consciousness is a source of profound hope and inspiration. Considering recent developments in civil rights based on tolerance of gender, race, and sexual preference, all of which have overcome historical cultural and institutional resistance, there is every reason to believe that political lobbying reform, equitable wealth distribution, uplifting of the impoverished, affordable and integrative medicine practices, and sustainability of our planet, are reasonable and attainable goals.

Transformation

The sea change lies within each of us to avoid entanglement in the fences that would divide us. We can accomplish this in the following ways:

  1. By discovering how to invite and nurture this collective spiritual awakening to our connection with all of life;
  2. By finding and giving love amidst the complex personal, ideological, and cultural conflicts that will inevitably arise along the way; and
  3. By kindling our endearing faith in human spirit and ingenuity to preserve the wonders of creation.

An emboldened future where all of life thrives with respect and dignity manifests singularly, within the hearts of each of us. We must reach out to those who resist and hold to the old paradigm— accept and embrace them as teachers instead of reacting to them as adversaries—and reverently understand it is they who will forge our greatest intention.

Compassion, emotional intelligence and spiritual unity do not spare hardship or ensure accomplishment of goals and aspirations; rather, they diffuse intimidation and polarization, thus allowing the rectitude of vision necessary for enlightenment. Ascension of consciousness begins not with answers but with questions—questions each of us must resolve within ourselves: Do we cling to apathy and the little-death of fear?  Or do we surrender to the nobility and courage of love?

Enlightenment

Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht.

Note: I was moved to write and post this article because so many of my clients, in one way or another, have shared their deep concerns about these and other issues plaguing our world. Most have also expressed the desire to find or deepen their spiritual connection. My motivational messages, therapeutic approach, and mindfulness training model resonate with the themes of compassion and love as the way to ‘be the change’ we wish to effect in our lives. I believe casting aside fear and consciously seeking the path of empathy leads to spiritual enlightenment. By enlisting love as our vessel and compassion as our compass, we successfully navigate the stormy seas of our individual and collective realities, discovering sanctuary for ourselves and others along the way.

©2015 Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht. and Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery

Light Of Winter

Winter Solstice

A WINTER SOLSTICE MEDITATION

(Note: The following article is from a presentation on MIndfulness Meditation given during the Winter Solstice service at Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church in Canoga Park, California, on December 20, 2015.) 

In this article and accompanying meditation (see the link below), we celebrate Winter Solstice in a very special way, as we join in mind, body & spirit to invite reborn light into the fertile depths of our individual and collective souls. We shall contemplate and explore the seeded darkness of our inner being; the transcendent mystery of midwinter and its promise of renewal wrought by the pale sun and cold earth; the ancient, echoed wisdom woven by countless seasons into bone and sinew and sense. We shall partake in the interconnected sentience of our living, breathing and enigmatically conscious universe. At this revered confluence of endings and beginnings, this holiest of all seasons beneath the turning of the Celestial Wheel, let us rejoice in ambient communion with the resplendent wonder of the sun’s rebirth in our hearts, and create a cradle of spirituality from which to draw inspiration.

Mindfulness

My practice includes teaching both private and corporate clients mindfulness meditation. There have been thousands of studies conducted by hundreds of independent researchers demonstrating the benefits of mindfulness meditation in reducing stress, managing emotional reactivity, improving focus and concentration, strengthening immune system function, and treating an array of medical and mental health related conditions. It is being widely used in business to facilitate healthy and productive environments and positive workplace culture. There are still skeptics, however, many of whom assign a degree “woo-woo” to the practice of meditation. Having meditated daily for nearly 40 years, I can tell you first hand that whatever woo-woo that occurs is not in the meditation itself, but rather in the experience of higher conscious. We shall consider this phenomenon in relationship to Winter Solstice a bit further, both conceptually and experientially.

I invite you to take a deep breath. Match your inhale to your exhale. Now repeat this deep, measured breathing and focus your attention on it. Notice the air moving. Touch your thumbs and fingertips together; wiggle your toes. Observe yourself in relation to the space around you. Just be present with yourself . . . in this moment. Let go of all resistance, expectation and judgment. Simply allow yourself to experience the here and now.

     “Still yourself. Listen. Breathe.”

This is what is known as a mindfulness moment. The Zen of mindfulness, the bone and sinew of it, the essence of being truly present, is momentarily absolving oneself of intentional thought. And the most effective way to learn the art of mindfulness is through mindfulness meditation, which is a western, non-sectarian, research-based form of meditation derived from the ancient Buddhist practice known as Insight Meditation.

MindfulnessMindfulness meditation develops the skill of paying attention to our internal and external experiences with acceptance, patience, and compassion. The idea of enlightenment, of shifting and expanding perception beyond the realm of human intelligence, is grounded in this subtle and remarkable discipline of inviting a pure awareness that diffuses the habituation of fearful thoughts, emotions and behaviors. In mindfulness meditation, one of the oldest and most venerated practices for exploring the ineffable dimensions of consciousness, the seeded darkness of our inner being, has come of age.

Unity Consciousness

But let’s set aside ancient wisdom for a moment. Instead, let’s use modern science to embrace this old world perspective of the interconnected sentience of our living, breathing and enigmatically conscious universe. I quote Neil deGrasse Tyson, popular astrophysicist and director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space:

“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth.  And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe.”

According to quantum physics theory, beneath molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, and quarks lies a singular unified field of energy, an intelligence from which all forces and particles emerge, a ‘conscious’ structural matrix that exists everywhere in the universe. This energy field is considered ‘conscious’ or ‘intelligent’ because it encompasses the basic behavior of all things within the functioning laws of nature. The scientific community calls this concept unified field theory, or unity consciousness. In his book, A Brief History of Time, Stephan Hawking refers to the phenomenon of unity consciousness as “the mind of God.”

This consciousness, or organic sentience, is foundationally influenced by the interconnection of the Sun and Earth, a transmission of galactic energy communicated through light and vibrational wave frequencies along the infinite electromagnetic spectrum (radio, microwave, infrared, visual, ultraviolet, x-ray, and gamma rays); much of which we cannot see or feel.

In his book, ‘The Social Conquest of Earth,’ pre-eminent Harvard biologist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner E.O. Wilson sets forth a stunningly vivid and succinct description of the limited aperture through which human biology allows us to perceive our world.

Unity Consciousness

The migration patterns of birds are a primary example of the ability of animals to sense electromagnetic fields

What is most fascinating and relevant about this account is not that technology can reveal realities to which we are insensate—colors we don’t see, sounds we don’t hear, energy fields we don’t sense—what is most compelling is that all of these are perceivable to biology, just not human biology. It is established biological fact that animals see colors we can’t see; hear sounds we can’t hear; feel vibrations we can’t feel; and sense electromagnetic fields.

All living things are comprised of energy that radiates an aura, a “bio-electromagnetic field,” which results from electrical impulses generated by the movement of electrons around the nucleus of our cells. The human aura includes physical, emotional, and mental/spiritual aspects, and represents this chemical, biological, and atomical connection to the living universe. Research utilizing infrared and Kirlian photography has demonstrated that meditation intensifies or “charges” this aura, which enhances its interactivity with the geomagnetic energy fields of the earth and the cosmos.

From this scientific perspective then, is it such a leap to conceive of creation’s wonder, the transcendent mystery, perhaps even divinity itself, as this conscious matrix of unified energy that surrounds and connects all living things? And is this conception not distinctly akin to what Unitarian Universalism calls “the Interconnected Web of Life?”

Winter Solstice

Winter solstice is the time to honor the transcendent mystery—the wonder of the seeded darkness and the beauty of light reborn. Celebrations of longer days to come and the turning of nature’s seasonal wheel have been common throughout cultures and history. Winter solstice is the promise of patient wisdom beneath the turning stars, a time to embrace the rebirth of the sun with great hope and compassion in our hearts.

Pagan author T. Thorn Coyle wrote that the solstice is:

” . . . a chance to still ourselves inside, to behold the glory of the cosmos, and to take a breath with the Sacred.”

For many people, the Winter Solstice season marks the only occasion all year they set foot in a house of worship. Indeed, midwinter’s confluence of endings and beginnings—the night of greatest darkness and the sun reborn in hope—stirs a searching of the soul’s belonging. It is a time of coming together in fellowship, of setting aside enmities and ideologies, of observing rites and rituals that allow us to glimpse the spiritual cradle of life’s miracle. It is a time of gratitude and wonder, of compassion and grace, of peace and goodwill.

I invite you to join me for a few minutes of Mindfulness Meditation, as we contemplate . . .

Light Of Winter

Winter Solstice Meditation

Light Of Winter Meditation

(click on the link, close your eyes, and enjoy the meditation)

©2015 Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht. & Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery. All Rights Reserved.

Shawn picture-52

Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht.

Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery specializes in innovative approaches to workplace wellness, mindfulness training, and personal development. Via private coaching, presentations, workshops, training events, and our partnership in the unique online wellness community Your Wellness Room—used by Kaiser Permanente, EFactor and other notable companies—our nationally recognized programs and practices help people and organizations make positive changes. Please call for a free consultation at (818) 512-4371 or contact us via email. 

Story Medicine: The Medium Of Leaders & Heroes

Story Medicine

Storytelling is a healing art and mankind’s oldest form of psychology. Stories have the power to calm, heal, rejuvenate—to invoke deeper comprehension and reflection while inviting a shift in perspective. Ancient cultures revered storytelling, which was a sacred practice reserved for the learned and holy men, and served as a powerful medium for helping tribes and clans cope with the hardship of survival.

The Hero Within

On a psychological and spiritual level, we profoundly resonate with tales of crisis, conflict and transformation. We individually and collectively identify with the hero of the story, who overcomes insurmountable obstacles in a confluent realization of innate potential and purpose. The storytelling traditions of our indigenous ancestors are the foundation of the hero’s journey, which evolved into the archetypal right of passage common to world mythologies.

“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”           ~Joseph Campbell, from ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’

The metaphor of an unfolding adventure of discovery, one which presents confounding problems and challenges—each representing a threshold of realization and growth—subconsciously motivates us to reconsider the powers of faith and possibility in our lives, inspiring new viewpoints of ourselves and the world around us. Indeed, stories are how we make sense of ourselves.

Leadership Tales

There are three primary elements of story that play into the human experience:

  1. Identity: A context to interpret the past and anticipate the future
  2. Integration: A narrative for affirming life meaning and purpose
  3. Socialization: A dialogue with which to interact with others

Research in psychology has shown that people realize meaning and purpose in their lives through personal stories; this is especially true in tales of individual redemption through which pain and suffering are transformed into self enlightenment, and then conferred as a benefit to others. (See ‘The Redemptive Self’ by Northwestern University psychology professor Dan McAdams here). 

This is why storytelling is fundamental to leadership, especially the trial and redemption aspect, which provides the backdrop of crisis, conflict and transformation necessary to resonate with the listener’s inner hero. Incorporating these elements engages and motivates others to consider why they should change their world, while at the same time opening their receptivity as to how that might be achieved.

An effective leadership tale compels people to experience and examine their values on an emotional basis rather than as abstract principals, inspiring a calling to action of their own leadership qualities and ability. This personal inspiration is then integrated through social interaction to become part of the organizational identity, exemplifying why storytelling is one of the most powerful leadership tools of organizers and movement builders.

Therapeutic Imagery

According to research by psychology professor Jonathan Adler, PhD, therapy patients who experience themselves—rather than the therapist—as the focal point of the story, show the most improvement (see American Psychological Association publication, ‘Our Stories, Ourselves’ here). This is the fundamental principle of Therapeutic Imagery, which is a mindfulness meditation modality that facilitates imagination and visualization with all the senses.

A large and growing body of research demonstrates the efficacy of mindfulness meditation modalities in treating various medical and mental health related conditions. Therapeutic Imagery is particularly effective for wellness, mindfulness training, and personal development initiatives such as:

  • Increasing Emotional Intelligence
  • Managing Stress & Anxiety
  • Overcoming Physical Debility & Relieving Pain 
  • Resolving Psychological Trauma
  • Treating Autoimmune Conditions

Therapeutic ImageryThe predisposition of the subconscious mind to interpret imagery in story form, and the persuasive power of stories to dramatically shape thoughts, memories and emotional attachments, is the heart of this artistic and extremely client friendly approach. Universal symbols, mythological archetypes, and personal metaphors empower new and enlightened encounters with personal challenges, stimulating self-discovery and a meaningful rescripting of life stories.

Why The Medicine Works

Sometimes words such as ‘problem’ and ‘challenge’ elicit the need to visit our misfortunes. Stories help us stay positive and focus on the ways in which our struggles are born of personal choices. We learn to recognize attitudes and beliefs that are limiting and self-defeating. We begin reframing our narrative of self. Instead of pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps, we endeavor to climb mountains. The ability to inspire ourselves and others prompts us to take leadership roles and embrace opportunities to serve. Indeed, stories affirm that we each possess the innate ability and determination, the courage and wisdom, the compassion and force of will to be leaders and heroes in our own lives.

©2015 Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht. & Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery. All Rights Reserved.

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Shawn Quinlivan, C.Ht.

Cathexis Therapeutic Imagery specializes in innovative approaches to workplace wellness, mindfulness training, and personal development. Via private coaching, presentations, workshops, training events, and our partnership in the unique online wellness community Your Wellness Room—used by Kaiser Permanente, EFactor and other notable companies—our nationally recognized programs and practices help people and organizations make positive changes. Please call for a free consultation at (818) 512-4371 or contact us via email.