This distinguished pioneer in integrative medicine is a world- renowned expert in the mind/body connection. Her work has been foundational in an international health-care revolution that recognizes the role of meaning, and the spiritual dimensions of life, as an integral part of health and healing. Eloquent and inspiring in settings that range from hospitals to hospices, from theaters to conference venues, and from boardrooms to houses of worship, she is a credible bridge between faith and reason. Her brilliance, humor, and authenticity—in combination with the latest research—make her a compelling and inspiring speaker and writer.
After graduating magna cum laude from Bryn Mawr College in 1967, Dr. Borysenko earned her doctorate in Medical Sciences from the Harvard Medical School, where she completed post-doctoral training in cancer cell biology. Her first faculty position was at the Tufts University College of Medicine in Boston. But after the death of her father from cancer, she became more interested in the person with the illness than in the disease itself, and returned to Harvard Medical School to complete a second postdoctoral fellowship, this time in the new field of behavioral medicine. Under the tutelage of Herbert Benson, M.D., who first identified the relaxation response and brought meditation into medicine, she was awarded a Medical Foundation Fellowship and completed her third post-doctoral fellowship in psychoneuroimmunology.
In the early 1980’s Dr. Borysenko co-founded a Mind/Body clinic with Dr. Benson and Dr. Ilan Kutz, became licensed as a psychologist, and was appointed instructor in medicine at the Harvard Medical School. Her years of clinical experience and research culminated in the 1987 publication of the New York Times best seller, “Minding the Body, Mending the Mind,” which sold over 400,000 copies. The 20th anniversary edition, newly revised, was published in 2007.
Author or co-author of 16 other books and numerous audio and video programs, including the Public Television special “Inner Peace for Busy People,” she is the FoundingPartnerofMind/BodyHealthSciences,LLClocatedinSantaFe,NM. Hermost current work- a legacy project that encompasses all her research and teachings- is an integrative approach to personalized wellness and recovery, developed with colleague Gilah Rosner, Ph.D. It is called SyNAPSE. That acronym stands for Science; you (it is personalized for the individual); Nutrition; Awareness and attention training; Positive Psychology, Spirituality; and Epigenetics. It is never too late to restructure the brain and bring forth Best Self.
Dr. Borysenko’s warmth and credibility—plus her lively sense of humor—create a compelling presence. You can access video clips of Joan’s inspirational reflections in the Community Members section of this Web site. Joan is one of the most popular and sought after speakers in the field of health, healing, and spirituality, her engaging and well researched presentations are perfect both for professionals and for the general public.
Joan lives in the mountains of New Mexico with her husband, Gordon Dveirin, and their two dogs, Mitzi and Milo.
When we are in the flow, work comes through us from a higher source of inspiration, rather than from our own overworked adrenals. Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., Harvard-trained scientist, psychologist, entrepreneur, mother, grandmother, international speaker and New York Times best-selling author of 16 books, will show you how to open the door to your essential Self. Ancient wisdom meets modern neuroscience in a presentation that will make you laugh, bring you to tears, and leave you with simple but powerful tools that will change the way you work forever.
One of the most widespread problems in healthcare today is the alienation created by burnout and compassion fatigue. In the Healing Arts the relationship itself is part of the medicine, a field of trust and care that forms the fabric of excellence. When the relational field is strong symptoms are reduced and patients become more mindful, skillful, and empowered as do the clinicians themselves. Re-inspiring staff to care for themselves is a critical component of patient care and satisfaction. This fascinating and practical workshop provides a close up and personal tour of burnout- how to recognize it; how to prevent it; and how to reverse it.
The most important determinant of physical health is mental health. In this in-depth seminar, participants will learn how adverse childhood experiences set the stage for chronic illness and substance abuse later in life through epigenetic changes, neurochemistry, immune function, and brain wiring. Dr. Borysenko will examine how evidence-based psychological interventions can rewire neuro-hormonal circuitry and help restore both physical and mental balance. Some of the interventions covered include the modification of explanatory style, stress hardiness and resilience training, narrative medicine, meditation and mindfulness techniques, imagery, and cognitive approaches. Since the quality of the provider-client relationship is key to healing, there will be a focus on how to optimize the therapeutic bond.
Resilience is more than the ability to bounce back from adversity. It’s a transformative process that reveals our inherent nobility, a rite of passage from pieces to peace. Mythologist Joseph Campbell called this passage The Hero’s Journey. It consists of three parts. Change disrupts life as usual. Next we’re plunged into the unknown territory between no longer and not yet. There we can either despair and lose hope or- if we’re resilient- discover new strengths. The journey of resilience ends with giving back the wisdom we’ve gained to others. Modern psychology and neuroscience have clearly identified the attitudes and practices that support resilience. Both adults and children can learn these skills and help bring one another and our planet through the challenging times we live in.
Meditation is an evidence-based practice useful in treating stress related disorders, chronic illness, addictions, trauma, anxiety, and depression. In this in-depth introduction to the topic, three basic forms of meditation-concentration, mindfulness, and compassion will be compared, contrasted and taught. The physiology of meditation including its effects on the autonomic nervous system, immunity, the cardiovascular system, and the brain will be reviewed.
We understand intuitively that love is what matters most. Scientifically, we’re beginning to uncover its links to health, happiness, and peace of mind. From the role of oxytocin and bonding in women’s adaptive response to stress, to the healing power of gratitude and forgiveness, to the importance of empathy and connectedness in health and longevity, we can document the effects of love on mental wellbeing and physical health. Living a life grounded in compassion and optimism rather than fear and pessimism is the cornerstone of spirituality as well as positive psychology. Retraining the brain and nervous system to generate “heartfulness” is a natural companion to mindfulness both easily taught and learned by children as well as adults.
Ancient wisdom from yoga science, Buddhism, and Christianity created maps for developing compassion, and control of mind, body, and emotions. The new brain science builds on and expands these ancient practices by providing an exciting window into the nature of consciousness, emotional balance, physical health, and the interconnection of systems of information that we call the mind. The new field of interpersonal neurobiology describes how the mind is both embodied in our brain and nervous system as well as embedded in our relationships. The quality of those relationships- whether they evoke love, compassion, and mindfulness or fear, anger, and constriction- affect the release of informational molecules. These “mind molecules” in turn create epigenetic changes that affect both physical and mental health. In this practical, provocative seminar, participants will learn how to use mental training techniques and cognitive practices to optimize health, happiness, and well-being.
Narrative medicine is a fascinating new field that recognizes the role of story and meaning in health, happiness, and wellbeing. As the New York Times best selling author of 15 books, Dr. Borysenko has led numerous weekend writing retreats. This one- her favorite to date- is a profound healing encounter with one’s authentic self.
“The stories we habitually tell ourselves change our brain circuitry, relationships, and path through the world. They can elevate life to heaven on Earth or drop us unceremoniously into fire. In this weekend writing workshop, led by a New York Times bestselling author known for her tender exploration of the human spirit, you will have the opportunity to rewrite your own narrative and discover the vector of love that forms the invisible warp of light upon which your life story is loomed.”
This presentation, which can be a keynote, a workshop, or a weekend retreat focuses on embodying cutting edge research in neuroscience, mindfulness, and creativity. The new brain science is an exciting window into the nature of consciousness, emotional balance, physical health, and the interconnection of subtle energies- systems of information- that we call the mind. The new field of interpersonal neurobiology describes how the mind is both embodied in our brain and nervous system, which extends throughout the body, and also embedded in our relationships to everything around us.
The quality of those relationships- whether they evoke love, compassion, and mindfulness or fear, anger, and constriction- affect the release of informational molecules inside our body. These “mind molecules” are key components of the growth medium for the 60 trillion cells that comprise the universe of our physical bodies. They exert an epigenetic effect (epigenetics means above the genes) on DNA, influencing which genes are active and which are silenced.
Why not feed your body the molecules that protect your health, while simultaneously feeding your “wise mind,” the part of you that is most creative and in touch with your larger purpose in the world? In this practical presentation participants will learn how to use evidence-based techniques to calm down the fear centers in the midbrain and activate the prefrontal cortex where happiness, resilience, and wise mind reside.
A weekend retreat with Joan Borysenko, Ph.D.
Take a breath. Let go of the stress. And let the current of your soul’s longing carry you home to wisdom, wellness, and wellbeing.
Relax into an inspiring informative weekend created by one of the world’s foremost pioneers in mind-body medicine and spirituality. Joan brings together ancient wisdom and modern science to give you the practical tools you need to embody healing and wholeness in daily life. You’ll chant ancient prayers; engage with simple practices that rewire your brain and nervous system; learn how epigenetics can optimize your gene function; and leave refreshed with new tools for living your best life.
Dr. Borysenko’s best selling book, Minding the Body, Mending the Mind, was one of the first to explore the effect of meaning and emotions on physical health, and has become a classic in the field, selling over 400,000 copies. The 20th anniversary edition was released in 2007. This engaging, evidence-based presentation presents research in the mind/body connection—from immunology to neuroscience—as well as practical methods to maximize the positive influence of attitude and behavior on health. The role of the relaxation response, mindfulness, optimism and pessimism, gratitude and forgiveness will be addressed. Since health behaviors, environment, and genetics all interact in determining wellness, the overly simplistic question—Did I cause this illness with my thinking?—will be put in a rational perspective that leaves participants enlightened and hopeful. Whether the audience consists of individuals in a healing process, health professionals, or both it can be tailored specifically for your group.
In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose your essential humanity and sanity. Anxiety and stress are responsible for the vast majority of visits to the family practice physician; they contribute substantially to absenteeism; they compromise creativity; and they diminish the joy and meaning of life. In the pressure cooker of graduate school in academic medicine at Harvard Dr. Joan’s nickname was “Psychosomatic Sally.” Hurry and worry conspired to create physical symptoms ranging from migraine headaches to an immune disorder. Learning the essential skills of life balance set her priorities straight and restored her health. Humorist Loretta LaRoche asks whether the epitaph on your tombstone might read, “Got it all done, dead anyway.” In this high-spirited, informative lecture Dr. Borysenko provides simple, practical tools for being happier at home, more effective at work, and less likely to suffer from burnout and stress. You can preview them in her book, Inner Peace for Busy People: 52 Strategies for Transforming Your Life that inspired the monthly Staying Centered column that Dr. Borysenko wrote for Prevention magazine from 2004-2007.
This lecture addresses the marriage of human thriving, health and productivity. A triple bottom line (PPP) that values people, planet and profit is being adopted by many corporations not only because it’s ethically sound, but also because it increases the commitment, motivation, and stress-hardiness of those who work there. The cost of health-care in the United States has risen to over 15.3% of the GDP, and the vast majority of businesses now provide wellness programs to reduce costs and invest in precious human capital. Human thriving involves recognition that employees have an inner life that is nourished and sustained by meaningful work that occurs in the context of community; an individual’s sense of purpose and meaning in life beyond material values; and a value set that comprises presence, honesty, creativity, stress-hardiness, and the ability to listen and inquire with curiosity and respect. The practical suggestions given for creating a culture of human thriving can be immediately implemented.
Spirituality and meaning are neglected aspects of medicine, yet the evidence from numerous studies demonstrates that people with strong spiritual beliefs are healthier, happier, and recover more quickly from illness and surgery. Dr. Borysenko presents the evidence for the role of spirituality in healing, evaluates recent studies on prayer, and discusses why illness is often a gateway to an expanded spiritual perspective of what it means to be fully human.
Dr. Borysenko’s best selling book, Fire in the Soul: A New Psychology of Spiritual Optimism, was inspired by the needs and experiences of patients in the midst of life-challenging illness, change, and grief. We die to who we are in life’s difficult passages, and are not yet reborn to who we may become. The time between no longer and not yet is a sacred space, pregnant with both danger and opportunity. When things fall apart we are called to find our center, and to cultivate courage and open-heartedness. We can emerge from these dark nights transformed, having learned to live in the precious present, and knowing more deeply than ever our kinship with the wholeness of life. Through a combination of inspiring stories, practical exercises, and sound psychology Dr. Borysenko provides the gift of safe passage through troubled times.
Successful, resilient individuals and organizations understand that change is the very nature of life. It can be an exhilarating process, rather than a daunting one, when we participate as creative partners in what is optimally unfolding. In this presentation, inspired by their book Saying Yes to Change, Dr. Borysenko and her “change agent” husband, Dr. Gordon Dveirin (an organization development consultant), model change as a three-part rite of passage. It moves from the eclipse of an old, outworn form (however dearly valued) to the dawning of a new and more vital one, drawn from the vast realm of infinite possibility.
The intermediate stage in the change process is called the liminal or threshold stage—“the place between no longer and not yet.” This is potentially the most fertile, but also the most challenging, part of the process. Successfully traversing it requires a set of non-linear competencies that tap into an expanded way of knowing. Some of these include comfort with the unknown, inquiry, mindfulness, value clarification, curiosity, stillness, appreciation of and attunement with the totality of the dynamic situation, imaginative perception of possibility, and open-ended dialogue with others.
The best time to introduce these competencies into a group or organization is directly at the point where they can be applied. That would be when a period of transition has begun or is about to begin, when old forms have outlived their usefulness, and the outcomes are still very much in play.
As a scientist, Dr. Borysenko understands the role of revelation, flashes of insight and creativity that seem like downloads from a larger source of intelligence. But is this spiritual guidance? The very words bring up images as diverse as Mother Teresa and Osama Bin Laden, both believing that their actions were divinely inspired. In these times of global change and uncertainty, looking for authentic guidance is crucial. To that end, Dr. Borysenko and her husband, Dr. Gordon Dveirin, interviewed 27 sages from diverse faith traditions: Christians and Jews, Buddhists and Hindus, Quakers and Sufis, shamans and poets. They asked 12 questions about spiritual guidance including what it is, what the attitudes and practices are that align us with it, how one discerns authentic guidance from personal opinion, what blocks recognition of guidance, what the role of community is, how the heart factors in, what we are evolving to as individuals and as a world, and what they would tell world leaders. In 2007, the book Your Soul’s Compass: What is Spiritual Guidance? was published, drawing on their two years of research. In this presentation, Dr. Borysenko and/or Dr. Dveirin will share the practical teachings that emerged as an essential spirituality beyond concept or dogma—what they call your soul’s compass—and how it can help us evolve into homo sapiens caritas, man (and woman) of wisdom and compassion.
Lectures and Keynotes: Dr. Borysenko is the author of three books written especially for women: AWoman’s Book of Life: The Biology, Psychology, and Spirituality of the Feminine Lifecycle; A Woman’s Journey to God; and Inner Peace for Busy Women. Sounds True has also produced two excellent audio-programs: Menopause: An Initiation into Power and A Woman’s Spiritual Retreat.
Dr. Joan’s warmth, wit, wisdom, authenticity, and plain old common sense make her the ideal speaker at any woman’s event. She offers presentations on the subject of all her books and audio programs. In addition, any of the general topics can be geared particularly to women’s unique sensibilities.
Weekend Retreats for Women are popular events, and can be constructed to reflect any of the topics Joan speaks on. Ideally, Dr. Joan co-leads these retreats with the talented, delightful singer/composer Karen Drucker.
“Dr. Borysenko is a wonderful speaker! She incorporates evidence, life stories, and practical tips in a way that is meaningful and inspiring. We could not be happier with her as our keynote.”
“Joan Borysenko has that rare ability to reach people—no matter where they are on their journey. Her presentations blend science and real-life experiences that leave the audience thinking, laughing, cheering. Joan is a beautiful, gentle spirit with a wisdom for a world so badly in need of healing.”
“Dr. Borysenko absolutely engaged the audience with her dynamic, thought- provoking concepts wrapped in her wonderful personal anecdotes.”
“Joan’s presentation at our conference was outstanding! Her warm presence and the depth of her knowledge were a remarkable combination. The experiential aspects of the workshop were beautifully woven into the teaching and her personal stories were a gift. Joan is extremely sensitive to the needs of the audience and our attendees left the workshop feeling inspired and enriched.”
“Joan, thank you for your wonderful presentation. As always, you put your heart and soul in your work, and it shows.”
“What a smart, informative, interesting and entirely positive speaker Joan is. Her warmth and wisdom come across so well. Listeners can tell they’re in the presence of a good soul and great person.”