Podcast (Ep. 1): Is mind-body-spirit wellness “woo-woo”?

Recorded 31 January 2019

Transcript of The Mindstream Podcast, Episode 1

[0:00] Music.

[0:07] Welcome to The Mindstream Podcast, exploring the facts and the stories around mind-body-spirit pathways to greater health and happiness. I'm your host Liza Horan.

In Episode 1 we're starting the conversation on mind-body-spirit by seeking to define what it means and what's happening in the world today. We're going to look at trends in health and wellness and we're going to list the disciplines that we think fall into mind-body-spirit. We're going to look at some original research by MindstreamConnect.com. [And] focus on the credibility issue.

The mind-body-spirit connection is the next frontier: People are pursuing greater health and happiness. We're reconsidering what "quality of life" means to us. And we're swinging toward more authentic moments rather than seeking fulfillment from external sources and material things -- those things might have worked in the past, but they don't seem to be enough today. We're rediscovering how to align our values and our lifestyles. And the prize is greater wellness.

Consider what's happened in the last five years:

--The global wellness industry has grown to three times the size of the pharmaceutical industry. This demonstrates that we're no longer just being reactive to disease, but we are being proactive about our own wellness.

--The Global Wellness Institute sizes this economy at 4.2 trillion dollars or 3 trillion pounds. It's  growing like mad and it's actually larger than that because that figure is from a couple years ago. [2:03] The Global Wellness Institute is an amazing organisation that does loads of research. In fact, they also did a report on Health in 2030 -- what are the trends, where we headed -- and they said that the road to health and happiness is going to be through such things as increasing our self-awareness, learning processes of change and naturally reprogramming our consciousness and our DNA.

Wow! Those are pretty exciting things -- to think we can reprogram our consciousness. Well, when we talk about increasing self-awareness, doesn't that sound a lot like mindfulness?

Yes, because it is. Increasing your intuition, for instance. All of these things, these are in the domain of the mind-body-spirit disciplines and it's very exciting.

[3:09] -- Increasingly we're seeing the benefits of alternative therapies is being widely documented and supported with scientific evidence. Even the NHS has on their website: Approaches to mindfulness, including meditation, can reduce bouts of depression. This trend is going to continue -- the scientific evidence, the clinical trials, the facts coming out to tie together mind-body-spirit modalities with the benefits of health. And we're going to be uncovering those and bringing them to you, in plain English.

-- The other trend that I'd like to point out is that the World Health Organization has actually redefined "health" to be more holistic and more inclusive of our human experience. This is what they say, "Health is a state of complete physical mental and social wellbeing. It's not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." They go on to say that "the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental right to everyone." And it says, "The health of all peoples is fundamental to the attainment of peace and security, and is dependent on the fullest cooperation of both individuals and states."

I think this is pretty incredible. We're seeing the World Health Organization put out a mandate to recognize that full health is not just physical, it's not just mental. They talk about social wellbeing; it's the connection with others. It's very interesting and all plays toward our own individual and collective peace.

[5:07] So what does "mind-body-spirit" actually mean?

I actually temper what I say to people depending on where I am and who I'm speaking to when I talk about Mindstream. If I'm in a business setting and I'm not really sure how open people might be, I talk about complementary alternative and natural health therapies. That they know what I'm talking about; they may not know for sure, but it sounds legit, doesn't it? And then where I'm surrounded by people -- perhaps a wellbeing workshop or a yoga class or something where it's not just about Western medicine -- I know I can talk about mind-body-spirit and a holistic approach to wellness and they know exactly what I'm talking about.

[6:05] But what I often hear is the term "woo-woo." Have you heard that, too?

I thought it was just a official term in the UK, but I know we use it in America, too. So I have actually looked up the definition of "woo-woo" because you know what, it's a lot easier to find a definition for "woo-woo" than it is for "mind-body-spirit"...imagine that...

[6:35] Dictionary.com: adjective. It's derogatory; it's slang based on or involving an irrational superstition.

[6:48] The Oxford dictionary says that woo-woo came into the lexicon in the 1980s, probably an imitation of a wailing sound traditionally attributed to ghosts and humorously associated with mysticism and the supernatural. The Oxford dictionary also calls "woo-woo" a derogatory term and it says, "relating to or holding unconventional beliefs regarded as having no or little scientific basis, especially relating to spirituality, mysticism or alternative medicine."

Now that's pretty interesting because there is a growing body of research to support alternative medicine.

And they use an example, as they do with all words in the dictionary, and here's the quote that uses an example: "Quartz crystals, that were so popular with the woo-woo crowd..."

I also looked up the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which is from 1828. It seems to be the oldest dictionary. And the first known use of "woo-woo," according to them, was 1992 and they call "woo-woo" "dubiously or outlandishly mystical, supernatural or scientific."

[8:16] So when someone uses the term "woo-woo" they're basically saying: This is an unfounded superstition. You've gone away with your imagination. There's no credibility. How could you be so foolish?!

But, interestingly, I keep encountering "woo-woo" in my conversations all the time so it actually is ingrained in our conversations today.

Another term which really isn't used so much anymore is "New Age." I remember when "New Age" started being heard more and more in the 1980s.

I found this definition of "New Age": A philosophy characterized by a belief in alternative medicine, astrology, spiritualism, et cetera.

[9:09] They also throw in "the occult, metaphysical or paranormal." They also throw in "beliefs in reincarnation," "alternative healing" and "astrology" again, so this is all pretty interesting.

I'll tell you what it it does show -- that we need to have a conversation about all the things that were mentioned in those definitions.

What do we mean by "mind-body-spirit"?

Where does the sit in the whole health and wellness sphere?

Who are the authorities who we can go to to learn more and understand?

What's real about these?

And how can we judge what resources are legitimate?

[10:03] So as I undertook this research, what I tried to do is understand the economy.

What disciplines fall into mind-body-spirit, and how many people are taking advantage of these disciplines, and how many people are working in these areas?

Beyond yoga, it's very hard to size the economy. I have to tell you there was very little there. I mean -- there was nothing there, so I can't tell you how big the economy of mind-body-spirit is. But I'm going to do everything I can to find out.

Mindstream undertook an original research project to learn the beliefs and behaviors around mind-body-spirit disciplines. More than 100 people participated, both consumers and professionals who work in these practices. And we partnered with The Arthur Conan Doyle Center right here in the West End of Edinburgh, which is a mind-body-spirit community centre.

And the first step before we asked people to participate was organising and defining what was mind-body-spirit. This area is often nebulous and it requires some type of organisation, but what we see within mind-body-spirit is several niches so what I'm attempting to do here is to put an umbrella over all these disciplines and organise that within mind-body-spirit to make sense of it.

Here's the list that I've come up with based on my research. And if anybody out there knows another way of organising it, please let me know.

Bodywork covers yoga, massage, breathwork, Bowen therapy, Alexander technique.

Another category is Nature: natural medicine, herbalism, flower essences, plants, that whole category.

[12:37] Mindfulness. Often people think of meditation as a category, but it's actually a subcategory of mindfulness.

Another category is Hypnotherapy and Positive Psychology. This ranges from mindset to NLP, EMDR, CBT, hypnosis for past life regression or future life progression.

Energy Healing and vibrational work. Now this includes Reiki, working with your chakras, crystals, tapping, Zimbate, electromagnetic therapy...the list goes on. Energy healing is a really big category.

The Creative Arts: sound and music therapy; art and colour therapy.

And here's another really big category: Intuitive Communication. [13:44] This is very much tied, I think, to what happens through mindfulness and meditation and other intuition-building practices. You start being able to get information: You know something (though) you're not sure how you know it. You might have heard (of) some of this through aura reading, [14:09] automatic writing, psychometry, psychic and mediumistic communication using tools like cards -- the Tarot cards, Angel cards, clairvoyance, and the list goes on. I also place the Angelic realm into the intuitive communication category to try to simplify things, but I'm going to be consulting people who work and all of these so they can help organize it in a way that's true to their practice.

[14:46] Mystic Arts and Practices. Now this could be anything from ancient tribal practices and what we know from history that people have done. Many might be from other parts of the world, not just our own. We can look to the Celts and perhaps the Picts here in the British Isles. And the Pagan tradition. We might look to the Native Americans or the Eastern faith practices.

It's interesting because many items in here might belong to a couple categories. It's just not clear.

Finally, Mind-Body Science is category that really is the most recognised that you can see today because we have the convergence of Western medicine (and) Eastern practices, and there's more evidence bringing these things together. I'm going to devote a podcast to the convergence of Eastern and Western ways, so you can stay tuned for that.

These were the disciplines that I organised (for) this research with consumers and professionals. And, I have to tell you, a tremendous amount of insights came out of this research, but to support this effort of defining "mind-body-spirit" and "woo-woo" and this question issue of credibility surrounding these practices and disciplines, I'd like to read you what the research turned up.

Now these are people who work in the industry and enthusiasts of mind-body-spirit. This is what they're saying, okay? You may consider them believers, but they also are questioning credibility.

There's a quote here: "There are many people who have jumped on the bandwagon and, therefore, sometimes you don't know the authenticity of what they're doing. I think websites are such places that you just can't be sure of -- much better is word-of-mouth. However, this does deplete the range there may be to consider."

[17:09] Another person says, "I question the commercial aspects."

Another person says, "It's important to regulate in some way to prevent damage to the reputation of the mind-body-spirit industry by inexperienced and untrained people and damage to trusting individuals."

[17:30] Another person says, "We need authentic teachings more than just a New Age 'pick 'n mix.'"

And, finally, "I think it has a good future," someone says, "providing that all those who fake their abilities are ousted. We do not have room for such people in the industry."

So what I'm telling you is that the people who are taking part in mind-body-spirit -- and are believers -- and the people who work in this industry are saying, "We have got a credibility issue."

[18:07] Mindstream is responding to this call I feel very, very strongly that there is integrity; is scientific evidence; there are standards. All of these need to be brought forth so there is a level of trust and we can lift this industry and its practices because the fact is they have positive impact. I'd like to share some of those with you that were shared through our research.

Someone says, "It has changed the way I look at things. Definitely makes you feel calmer."

"I feel more in control and safe."

"They help me be mindful, reflect, tune in, and to listen."

"They've made me healthier in mind and body, and I'm more resilient as well."

[19:00] "Still got a long way to go, though I only believe in stuff I see for myself so, when practicing, it gives me insight to my development skills, relaxes me and teaches me how to cope with my lifestyle on my own."

"I believe they enhance my life. They helped me understand myself better and I enjoy this immensely because it helps me feel better in general."

Someone else says, "It makes me feel worthwhile and have a purpose in life."

Someone else says, "It makes me feel calm and centered and de-stressed."

"It has a positive impact on fitness and both physical and mental health."

[19:46] "It makes me feel I finally found what I'm supposed to do here."

"Mind-body-spirit disciplines add to my quality of life," someone says here.

"Helps me to focus and lets me be of service to others, while keeping a balance of my own needs."

Some of the other benefits the people have listed here: improves energy, promotes relaxation, gives me peace, gives me clarity of thought.

This particular question was an open-ended text box -- it was not "select the benefit." I really want to get that across because (if) somebody just sees a list of benefits it's very easy to tick the boxes. But what we actually had here was an open-ended text box.

It's interesting to see that people are saying a lot of the same things: Calm, centred, de-stressed, relaxed, more energy, greater quality of life, more in control, safe, mindful, purpose.

Incidentally, when people took the survey I asked if they considered themselves "spiritual," "religious," "both" or "neither."

74% said spiritual.

[21:15] So mind-body-spirit, all these disciplines we just talked about, some of them are (like) massage and yoga, they're very much in the mainstream. They have been adopted by Western society.

The Global Wellness Institute organises those things into the "Fitness & Mind-Body" sector. There is no "Mind-Body-Spirit" sector, yet I'm going to do everything I can to encourage that. But right now the mind-body-spirit connection is lumped in with Fitness.

And what's interesting is the conversation about these things and belief systems. Like religion, some people lump them together and, in some cases, they're entirely separate. This is another thing we're going to look at in a future podcast.

But if the people who participated in this research, among consumers -- people like me: 74% said they were "Spiritual."

Zero said they were "Religious" only.

But 17% of the people said, "I am spiritual and I'm religious," so that's interesting that's something I'd like to probe a little further.

But there were 9% of the people that said, "I'm not religious and I'm not spiritual, and I have found something here in these mind-body-spirit practices."

There are two key ways we can look at to bring credibility to mind-body-spirit disciplines: One is looking to the authorities for health and wellbeing [23:11] and the other is looking at the body of evidence to support it.

[23:18] Have you seen the movie Miracle on 34th Street? It's a 1947 film starring Maureen O'Hara and John Payne. It was actually released in the UK under the name, "The Big Heart." It won four Academy Awards and the American Film Institute named it among its 100 most inspiring films ever. I recommend you see it.

Now I'm going to tell you about the ending -- but it does not ruin the film!

The story is that Kris Kringle is in New York at Christmastime, and he maintains that he is the real Santa Claus. Well, nobody believes him and it ends up that he's in a court case about to be declared "insane" when US postal service worker comes in -- with 21 bags bursting with letters for Santa Claus, and he's coming in to deliver them to Chris.

When the judge realizes that there is a government agency that recognises Kris as "Santa Claus," he dismisses the case because he's got a government agency who's willing to stand by this (claim).

It's very exciting and I do recommend that you see the film!

To consider if the mind-body-spirit disciplines and practices might enjoy such recognition by a government agency, I looked into a few things.

The closest I found in the UK was the NHS's inclusion of complementary therapies, which they believe play a supportive role to traditional medical practices. They outline Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Chiropractic, and Osteopathy, and they also are big believers in Mindfulness.

[25:17] Within the NHS website I was directed to the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC), which was founded with government funding years ago.

It's a voluntary registry of professionals who comply with government standards of care, so when they have "CNHC" next to their name it actually stands for a lot, and the CNHC is very consumer-protection oriented. And they produce a quarterly magazine called, "Holistic Therapist."

The therapies they cover actually also fall into mind-body-spirit: Alexander Technique, Aromatherapy, Bowen Therapy, Craniosacral Therapy, Healing (big category!), Hypnotherapy, Massage Therapy, Naturopathy, Nutritional Therapy, Reflexology, Reiki, Shiatsu, Yoga.

I spoke with Margaret Coats, the chief executive of the CNHC, to find out how many members they have and how many consumers those people serve.

And she said: We've got more than 6,000 practitioners in the UK who have met the government's high standards. And we know the number of people working in these areas is growing, but we don't have the 

"There are no statistics on this at all," she said, "and I find this frustrating."

One example: Reiki is so prevalent today. Even when she tried to find out how many Reiki practitioners are operating in the UK she hit a wall. Do you know why? Because there are two Reiki associations, at least, and they're competitive in nature, so they won't divulge their numbers. I tried the same thing and I didn't get anywhere.

[27:20] So even the chief executive of the CNHC can't get numbers on how many practitioners there are, how many consumers there are for these practices, and can't really chart the rate of growth -- and that's what we're after here.

I want to understand:
What is the size of the economy?
What has the growth been?
What kind of tools do these practitioners need to expand their service to the public?

And, what information can we give to the public to educate them on how to go about getting these services and a safe straight-forward, trusted way?

[28:08] The most exciting part of this research that I did was my Miracle on 34th Street moment.

Because, as Margaret was showing me the CNHC website, she pointed me to the National Occupational Standards and I delved into the Reiki professional standards and another one. And do you know what I saw?

I saw the magical phrase "mind-body-spirit."

So the government has published documents, guidelines, standards -- and they have the term "mind-body-spirit" in there.

This was so exciting to me because we have the government saying there is a such thing as "mind-body-spirit."

I asked her, "Who came up with that phrase? How did it get in there?"

And she said: Well, when the government puts together standards, they're pulling professionals from that area -- because there's consensus that is reached among the professionals to decide what is the standard level of quality.

And I know this to be true in every industry. The British Standards Institution, for example. They publish standards on probably every product you encounter -- every building construction, every window, every tea kettle, et cetera. They say this is what they do in order to operate safely with quality for the consumer.

So I am really, really pumped up that I have found "mind-body-spirit" in use by the UK government. And it's because the professionals say "mind-body-spirit."

So we have the start of something here!

We've talked about the NHS, the CNHC, and now I'd like to talk about the growing body of scientific evidence and research that's happening right now for the modalities within mind-body-spirit.

[30:37] There is a burden of proof in Western Society regarding mind-body-spirit. I read something that said Western medicine is very much a deductive type of practice. We look at the facts and from then we deduce what correlation and the causes are, and we track things down; whereas Eastern medicine is inductive. It looks at the whole person. It considers interdisciplinary inputs to figure out how to move forward for someone's health.

Not only is there a burden of proof -- and we mean facts and logic and data and evidence -- in Western society in general, but we also have it in the wellness industry.

Even the Global Wellness Institute, which is the leader in research on what's happening in this economy around health and wellness. They have 10 sectors that they study. The great news is that mind-body-spirit is on the list now, but it is grouped within Fitness.

So, if you are like me -- a Westerner who went to yoga because I wanted to I strengthen my core, have greater flexibility, get my stretching in (which is really annoying to do) -- I went to yoga for fitness reasons. I happen to have had an angel of an instructor. She brought in what I would call spiritual elements to the practice with chanting, with sound, by putting some essential oil on our forehead (our Third Eye) during shavasana, at the end while we're all lying down on our mats in stillness.

[32:50] And I came to learn that yoga is not a physical practice, it's a spiritual practice. That's how it actually came about. And I think it's surprising for Westerners to hear that because we have yoga at gyms and wellness centers. And we don't think of it as going to church, certainly, we think of it as going to an exercise class. Or at least maybe that's the way it starts.

We might go to it for Fitness reasons, but we may stick with it or grow our practice because of the spiritual ones.

It's absolutely fascinating! I would love to hear your stories on this.

Just today a report came out from the Global Wellness [Institute] that talks about the Top 8 Wellness Trends this year, 2019, and you know what's among those eight is Nature; spending more time in nature.

In fact, they actually quoted that doctors in Shetland are prescribing nature walks to their patients because they know it has positive impact. I have a feeling there's going to be a lot more research about this.

Another trend for 2019 is around scents. And we're talking about Aromatherapy and Essential Oils and all that, so expect to hear a lot more. There's going to be a boom in that.

[34:32] Nature, spending time in -- the health benefits of spending time in nature and the health benefits of natural scents like Aromatherapy are going to be coming more into the mainstream in 2019. This is very exciting because these things are part of mind-body-spirit.

Like the global wellness industry, Deepak Chopra -- who is an icon -- he also talks about "Mind-Body" connection; he does not put the "spirit" in there, he does not put "soul" in there. I think this is very interesting.

The global wellness industry certainly is coming from a western, science-based mentality so the fact that they're including "Mind-Body" with their Fitness sector is a step in the right direction. Deepak Chopra, an icon in mindfulness and the connection of all our senses, he also talks about "Mind-Body." He doesn't talk about Spirit and he doesn't talk about Soul, because many people say, "Mind Body Soul."

This might be interesting to you because Deepak comes from a Eastern spiritual tradition, and his particular story: He wandered into a meditation one day, spur of the moment. That experience prompted him to get off the high-stress chain-smoking rollercoaster he was on as a young medical doctor.

So you have someone from an Eastern tradition who trained as a medical doctor -- so he's got Eastern and Western -- and he had this profound meditation experience. And it really was the start of the journey to what he does today, which is to help people strengthen their Mind-Body connection. He is an integrative medical doctor.

[36:41] However, it's very interesting and fascinating to people like me, who have participated in his meditation programs, is that it feels very much like a spiritual practice. Now I would love to ask Deepak if he feels "Mind-Body" is accepted enough into the medical profession that it's safe to say that or maybe [it's] still considered new. And I'd love to hear why he doesn't talk about the spirit or the soul. I have a feeling that this is a deliberate consideration by him and I would just really love to delve more into that.

What's fascinating is his fans like me -- his followers -- feel the experience is spiritual practice. I think there's more to it than the mind and the body. This is my experience and if you've read "The Secret" and done the exercise is it has in the book or...I did the Deepak Chopra and Oprah 21-day meditation for abundance -- the first time I ever did any meditation was that 21-day free program a couple years ago -- let me tell you something: Some things happened. And when they happen as a result of your mind[38:17] it feels like Magic.

It is Magic. I think it's Magic!

Some people call it "supernatural." I call it "natural!"

So I'd like to share this quote by St. Thomas Aquinas, perhaps you've heard it before: [38:34] "To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible."

[38:44] I do believe because of my direct personal experience I have the proof. I know there's an Angelic realm. I know they're here to help me. I know they help me.

I know my father and my grandmother and other loved ones of mine, who have died their physical life here continue on. I know it for a fact because I have had proof that they're with me and they know what's going on.

And if you don't believe this, that's absolutely fine. Everybody's on their own journey here. Let's do it together: Let's share the stories, let's consider the facts, and let's see where it leads.

Now what I would like Mindstream to be able to do is to connect the Magic that we experience through Mind-Body-Spirit to the science, the history, the facts.

So, how do we get Mind-Body-Spirit from the "woo-woo" [40:05] to normal, accepted and in the mainstream?

That's the inspiration behind the name "Mindstream." It's bringing Mind-Body-Spirit to the mainstream. Mindstream.

I think we can do this by bringing a new level of credibility to the disciplines themselves and to the profession of the service providers. Mindstream is dedicated to this:
By educating the public on the scientific facts and the practical information about all these therapies and practices.
By enabling the professionals to showcase your qualifications in the impact of your work.
By sharing the stories of those of you who've experienced greater health and happiness through these treatments and practices.
And finally, we want to connect like-minded people through a community.

That was one of the strongest findings that came out of our original research -- that both the consumers for Mind-Body-Spirit and the professionals who do this want to connect with like-minded people. This community is only growing, so it's a very exciting time.

The Mindstream Podcast is put on by MindstreamConnect.com. Please visit our website and sign up for the monthly newsletter. You'll also find our social links on there. We're on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Thank you so much for joining us here on Episode 1 of The Mindstream Podcast.

This is Liza Horan, signing off with Love and Light.

[41:58] Music.

 

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