Author, Medical Scientist
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 13 other books and numerous audio and video programs, including the Public Television special Inner Peace for Busy People, she is the Founding Partner of Mind/Body Health Sciences, LLC located in Boulder, Colorado and the Director of The Claritas Institute Interspiritual Mentor Training Program.
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. She also hosts a weekly Internet radio show, Your Soul’s Compass, for Hay House and 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.
Minding the Body, Mending the Mind
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.
Fried: Why We Burn Out and How to Revive
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.
Human Thriving and Business Excellence
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 Healing
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.
The Wisdom of the Heart
Intuitively, most people understand that love is the most precious aspect of life. Scientifically, we’re beginning to uncover its links to health and peace of mind. From the role of oxytocin and bonding in women’s response to stress, to the healing power of gratitude and forgiveness, to the importance of empathy and connectedness for longevity, love is the energy that powers a life well lived. The ability to stay present and curious—to relate to life with openness and trust—is the cornerstone of authentic spirituality and positive psychology. In this inspiring, informative presentation Dr. Borysenko will provide simple, effective methods to live a life centered in love and peace, rather than in fear and stress.
When Things Fall Apart
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.
Saying Yes to Change
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.
Your Soul’s Compass: What is Spiritual Guidance?
“Faith is not the opposite of reason. Faith rests squarely upon reason, but with the added component of revelation.”
—Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. , Director of the Human Genome Project
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: A Woman’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