Your Cells Are Listening, Part 2

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TS: You’re listening to Insights at The Edge. Today I speak with Dr. Sondra Barrett. This is part two of our conversation: Your Cells are Listening. Sondra Barrett is a nationally-recognized speaker on mind-body and lifestyle medicine. She’s earned her PhD in biochemistry from the University of Illinois Medical School, and completed post-doctoral training in immunology and hematology at the University of California Medical School. She has taught at UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, and The California Institute of Integral Studies. Sondra Barrett’s new book with Sounds True, Secrets of Your Cells: Awakening the Body’s Inner Intelligence, explores our body’s cells from perspectives both scientific and sacred, demonstrating the microscope’s power for revealing the art within life. In this episode of Insights at The Edge, Sondra and I talked about how spiritual practices and lifestyle factors affect what genetic material is or is not expressed at a cellular level. We also talked about the role of belief and imagery in the healing process, and the whole fascinating area of cells and sacred art. Here’s my conversation, and I do think it’s a wild conversation, with Dr. Sondra Barrett.

TS: Sondra, in the first part of our conversation we talked about the part of our cells that might be listening, might be vibrating, might be a knowing part of our cells, and you described this in terms of the cytoskeleton inside the cell and how the cytoskeleton has this string-like material that vibrates. You know, this is the first that I had heard of this description of the knowing part of the cell being this stringed material of the cytoskeleton and I’d love to know if there are other researchers and scientists who are confirming this view that you have?

Sondra Barrett: Well, it actually wasn’t my view to start with. The first place I read about it was actually in a Scientific American article by a Harvard scientist, Donald Ingber. It was one of those synchronicity moments of going to the book store, first, and discovering two magazines, totally unrelated, Yoga Journal and Scientific American, and both of them had articles in there about something called Tensegrity, which I had never heard of. One was an article by Carlos Castaneda who talked about magical passes, which are physical exercises that the ancient sorcerers used to change their consciousness and supposedly change their bodies. Ingber uses the word “tensegrity”, which totally transformed how I’ve even thought about the cell. I had never heard of it when I studied biology. Tensegrity, basically, is a principle of design or of architecture that says the forces inside of a structure must be balanced with the outside forces to maintain integrity. A physical example, before I get into the cells, is Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome. In fact, he coined the term tensegrity, for a very stable structure. What Ingber did was—from a cellular perspective—he was able to discover in the test tube that if you put cells in a plastic dish and they stretched out and what allows them to stretch out is this fabric or the cytoskeleton. The cytoskeleton is really the most complex structure of the cell because it’s strings, it’s tubes, and people are probably very familiar with the terms, microtubules and microfilaments. So it’s a matrix of a variety of thicknesses of stringy material, if you will. The microtubules part of that, we’ve known for decades that they’ve been essential for directing the cell’s movement. Most cells can move and go from one place to another—so the shape change that has to happen as well as the movement that happens.

What Ingber did was phenomenal. He showed that when the cells are stretched out in the dish, where they had to fill the petri dish, the fabric is stretched out and what that does is then change or trigger which genes should be expressed. So when the cells are spread out, the cytoskeleton is triggering the genes to reproduce. Just like if we get a cut, the cells have to stretch out to fill the space and those epithelial cells have to reproduce and make more copies. Then what Ingber was able to show is if the cells let go of a little bit of the tension they stopped reproducing and they started maturing. So they were expressing a different genetic code, in other words another gene program. If the cells totally let go of all of their attachments to the dish they would ball up and die. So what’s phenomenal is that—if we kind of extrapolate what I’ve been saying in the book—the cytoskeleton is the regulator of gene expression. Its mechanical input influences which genes will be expressed. So Ingber wrote that in 1998, and there have been hundreds of scientists since then who have been looking at the importance of the cytoskeleton in genetic expression, breakdowns in this fabric, if you will, in cancer. And one of the things we’ve known in the old days of cancer treatment, people were given—especially in Leukemias—they were given vincristine or vinblastine, which basically kept the microtubules from doing their change in the development of growing more cells.

What also is interesting about (to me) this whole phenomenon, because I extrapolate it into more spiritual teachings, if you will, is that for cells to grow they have to attach. They can’t just grow in a ball. When they are going to attach they send out sticky proteins that keep them attached. I remember when I had a lab and I was trying to grow cells we would have to change the plastic in the dish to make sure that the cells could actually stick. If I had kind of taken it to the next place, oh well when the cells let go of their attachments, now they can become mature. I’m not a Buddhist. I know a little about Buddhism, and one of the concepts in Buddhism is to let go of your attachments and you will be more spiritually mature. So early on I was thinking, are the cells guiding the way or showing the way for some of these spiritual teachings? Where did the idea come from in the first place? Of course, psychology and spirituality may have nothing to do with our cells other than our perspective. So let me see what else about the intelligence… so, when we thing about then what cells are able to do it’s affected by the matrix of the cell. I’ve been thinking since we spoke last about is it just the cell membrane that’s receiving the chemicals that tell the cell what to do? Is that more important than the cytoskeleton or the innards of the cell? It’s like, no; they really do work in collaboration to be a combined intelligence, if you will.

TS: There’s a lot that you’re saying that I want to make sure that I’m following you, so I’m going to take it a little slow here. So when you talked about Carlos Castaneda and these tensegrity movements and exercises that you saw in Yoga Journal. Help me understand the connection between those physical exercises—these tensegrity exercises—and what you’re saying about the tensegrity in the cell?

SB: Great question! Great question! What Castaneda did—and he never talks about tensegrity in the cell—he talks about these are tensegrity movements. Basically what these movements are, if you look at a book on magical passes, people are making changes in their postures or flexing their wrists. They’re really changing the tension in their musculature. They’re changing their tissues. They’re changing their postures. They’re physically changing their bodies, and he claimed that by physically changing your body, you’re changing consciousness. Felicitas Goodman was an anthropologist who looked at Pre-Columbian art and she had students adapt the different postures in this art because she was hypothesizing that the postures that a body took influenced what state of consciousness somebody went into. So, in fact, different ways of sitting or holding your hands, head or legs influenced their mind state, their spiritual state. So Castaneda is talking about, basically, physical postures changing a sense of what’s going in our cells, the interior. If we look at what the cells are doing, we’re showing that when the cells change their shape and their tension (and they can be changed totally mechanically) that it changes who they become. Where I’ve leaped is then, what that shows is that the practices that our age-old practices like yoga and qigong or shamanic dance, those are all ways that people have used for generations to change consciousness. To feel better. To create healing. It wasn’t just some esoteric property that people are using to do that. Our cells do that.

TS: Okay, so Sondra I’m totally with you when you talk about being in different body postures and there are different kinds of consciousness, states of consciousness, different types of sensitivity, sensibilities that are present dependent on the posture we’re in. So I’m completely with you. I think what I don’t yet understand is how cells change their shape, and what shapes are available to cells? Meaning, I understand the human body can sit up straight or twist or do a headstand, but how do our cells change shapes? What shapes are available to the cells of the body?

SB: Oh great! The cells that I have the most experience with, besides in my imagination, in the laboratory, are white blood cells. A simple example is that a white blood cell that gets rid of bacteria, our first line of defense, basically looks sort of like an amoeba, but when a microbe gets into its environment or a plastic bead gets into its environment this now amoeba changes shape, it oozes, it goes after its prey. So cells are always in a state of movement, we might not see it all, and when they’re moving they’re changing shapes. Some will become more elongated or stretched out. If you look at all of the different shapes-of cellular shapes—it’s pretty phenomenal that the function dictates their overall shape. So cells that are building up our skin are more like blocks. Cells that have to move through the body like the white blood cells, the neutrophils and the lymphocytes, can become more oozy and amoeba-like. Red blood cells that carry the oxygen to the body look more like flying saucers. Another example of how a cell changes shape related to its health or well-being is that when a red cell is carrying oxygen throughout the body if it gets starved of oxygen it starts changing its shape and putting out little spicules or little spikes all over the cell surface to be able to have more cell surface to access more oxygen. So I’m always amazed at how they know to do that. What influences these cells to detect the change in their environment and influence what they look like or what they’re able to do, and so many of the cells are shape shifting when they go on to do their mature action, if you will.

TS: Okay, so I still just want to make sure that I’m following this line of inquiry. So I get how when the human body is in different configurations there’s different kinds of consciousness associated with those different ways of posture, lying down, etc. And I get that the cells have different shapes, but what would you say would be the “consciousness” or knowing of cells depending on their shapes? I mean, you talked about the shape of a cell that’s oxygen deprived. What would be the shape of, I don’t know, could you call it a happy cell? Is there such a thing? I don’t know. Help me here understand this.

SB: Great question! I wish I knew the answer to that. Are there shapes of happy cells? In our imagination I’m sure there are shapes of happy cells. I think I mentioned last time that Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose talked about the consciousness of a cell and the microtubules of the cell, according to their theory, is what carries consciousness. Now, these microtubules we know… which is phenomenal, because we think if these cells are changing shape—this might be part of your question—why aren’t we changing shape? This happens at a microcosmic level, I mean we’re made of trillions of cells. I mean a millimeter of skin is a million cells so they’re numbers we can’t fathom and one of the things that is even harder for me to understand as a biologist is that—these microtubules and cells are the regulators of intelligence at the cellular level—some of them dismantle and rebuild every ten minutes. So the cells are in a constant state of flux and change, and again my extrapolation is that this does explain the quantum healing idea because these cells are fluid. They are not, just like the genes, fixed in time or space. The cells can change the messages they’re receiving and acting upon in nanoseconds! I mean I don’t understand the quantum let alone the nano world, but our cells are operating in that world. Are there happy cells? Of course!

TS: Now, you know it’s interesting because as we’re having this conversation you’re willing to shift quite fluidly—to use the word you introduced in talking about how quickly the cells change—you’re willing to shift between there’s our imagination and then there’s what we see under the microscope and we can talk about both in the same sentence. I know some people are uncomfortable with that. Even some people here at Sounds True, I have to say, they’re like “Oh, you’re talking to the cellular shaman.” I feel, for whatever reason, at home talking to the cellular shaman and switching between the worlds of imagination and the worlds of looking under a microscope. But I’m curious—what you think about that? What do you think of this term, cellular shaman and this idea that we can have a conversation that blends both imagination and what’s actually visibly present when we look under a microscope?

SB: Well, when I first started teaching the bridge material I was calling myself a cellular shaman. Because I was studying with a shaman at the time and I was struggling with how can I believe what my imagination is saying, or my intuition? Where is that information coming from? I still have a struggle with that. Like, you’re making that up. I thought I was making up a lot of this cell stuff. You know… where is this information coming from? But I think, in the Western world anyway, we’re so opinionated about, if we can’t prove it, it’s not real. If we can’t measure it, if we can’t see it through the microscope—and I sure started that way—if I can’t analyze something and reproduce what I’m trying to discover, it’s meaningless. It doesn’t mean anything. If we look at centuries of indigenous people who’ve had their shamanic ways of knowing the body, or knowing about healing, or knowing healing plants, you know we’re beginning to see that more and more of that is important. And if we’re talking about consciousness, isn’t consciousness about imagination, too? I mean, how do we measure consciousness? Are we awake? Maybe that’s consciousness.

My experience with imagery probably gave me more of a belief that the imagination works, even though it’s an ancient practice… perhaps, because it’s an ancient practice. I’ll give you one example. I’ll give you two examples. One was when I was first starting to teach this material I got an awful rash on my arm and nothing could get rid of it; Cortisone cream, changing fabric softener, changing the detergent, nothing. I had been teaching imagery to kids at UC Berkeley, and I thought well if you’re teaching kids imagery, why don’t you use it for yourself besides worrying? So I closed my eyes and what immediately popped up into my imagination was this little elf, he called himself Mortimer, and he said he was going to clean this rash out from the inside out. So I thought sure go ahead, I have nothing to lose. Nothing else has worked. I had the rash for weeks. He cleans out the rash. I don’t feel anything; I’m just paying attention to him. The next day there was no change, but two days later the rash is gone. I thought, how cool is that? It stayed gone for a couple of weeks until I went to meet with an oncologist colleague of mine to talk about mind-body and imagery and healing and he said, “I have a whole file on that,” and it was called quackery. As soon as I got the quackery file, the rash returned. So it was like, okay, I can use imagery to help heal my body and I can lose that belief—so belief is part of consciousness, I think belief is part of our imagination—I can lose that belief by somebody else’s input if I think they’re more of an expert than me. Certainly I thought an MD has more expertise that I did in healing.

This weekend, the other true story… was it my imagination? I’m not sure. This weekend I got an awful, awful spider bite. It looked like it was from a brown recluse spider. I was terrified and my leg was swelling up, and it was getting redder and redder and painful. I was putting Benadryl cream and stuff like that on it. It wasn’t really healing. Again, this is an anecdotal story, it could be that it would’ve healed on its own, but I was so scared. It’s like, is this really one of those poisonous spiders that is going to wipe me out? I just meditated on my leg and asked my cells to please go there and stop the process, because this was moving up, getting towards my knee and it was down by my ankle. I was terrified. The next day it was concentrated in one big red spot. So, again, it gave me a sense of managing my own health. That I could engage my imagination or my belief or is this just a placebo effect? I don’t know. It gave me more a sense of controlling what was happening in my body. Did my cells really respond to me? I don’t know.

TS: Now Sondra, I think one of the reasons that people perhaps get a little squirmy when you start talking about belief are that there are so many examples when our beliefs aren’t true, and things don’t work. So this is pretty risky territory to say I’m just going to “believe” that this imagery will work. I mean how do you work without all of the disappointment when people have taken on beliefs about healing, uh, right to their grave?

SB: You’re asking, really, an important question because there was a period of time and it may still exist in the literature, it’s mind over matter, like what you were just asking. If you believe the right things then you’re going to get better from your disease, because that’s usually when we’re using belief; people want to heal their cancer. To me, belief is just one part of the equation. One of the parts of the equation is, what does the great mystery have in store for us? How are we supposed to leave? Can we use our mind in a way that allows healing to happen, but the physical healing may not change? But it can be… what happens at the spiritual level? I know I’ve been angry myself at a lot of physicians who’ve talked about, “You created your disease. If you believe something differently you would get rid of your disease.” It’s not that simple. To me, belief looks at our attitudes. Do we think we have an ability to shift how we’re looking at something, our perspective at looking at something? What do we have to learn from this? I mean the people who I’ve worked with the most are people who’ve had cancer, and one of the frequent statements they would make was that it was a gift to them because it made them reprioritize their life. Their imagery, their beliefs may not have changed their dying from cancer, and I saw too many still die from cancer with all of the things they were doing “right”. What do we have to heal besides our body, is our spirit. I think belief plays a big part in our spirit. I probably went around and around with that, because I don’t have a real answer for how do we not have people feel guilty for not being able to shift their belief or hold there beliefs and there are so many subconscious beliefs we don’t even know we’ve got.

TS: Well, thank you. Thank you for just helping unpack the whole conversation around the power of belief. Now when I was talking to you about this way that you weave together the imagination and the actual biological data, you could say, of what we can observe under a microscope. You said, “we’re talking about consciousness here, and what is consciousness but imagination?” I thought that was a very interesting comment and I wanted to tease that out. I’m not sure that… most people listening may not agree—what is consciousness but imagination? Can you explain that, what you mean by that?

SB: Well, you know I think consciousness is really a hard word to define in the first place. To me consciousness embraces any activity of the mind. It embraces just being awake and going through your everyday life. It embraces a higher state of consciousness. It embraces when you’re in a state of meditation or prayer or sitting in a temple or a church with people or out in nature. Your consciousness, your mind changes. To me, then, imagination and intuition are part of that same gestalt, if you will, of—it’s the invisible, it’s the immeasurable or it’s kind of immeasurable. And it’s not so invisible—sort of going back over remembering some of the early science showing that imagery, which is the use of imagination, makes changes in the brain. In this set of experiments they had given people radioisotopes of glucose. When you look at what’s called PET scans, of the brain, you can see which parts of the brain are working by this radioactive glucose. So they would have people look at a picture in a book and they would see which parts of the brain lit up when people were actually looking at the picture. Then they closed their eyes and they either remembered or imagined the picture and the same areas of the brain lit up. So to me that’s also showing that imagination is real. It’s a state of consciousness. Another example of imagination being real… for those who like to imagine sexual experiences, their body will change. If we imagine being caught in traffic or for me with this spider bite. I’m imagining dying of a spider bite. That changes our physiology. It puts you into a state of stress and anxiety. So it’s real, it’s just we’re not so much in Western medicine experienced with measuring it or talking about it. I mean let’s face it, maybe it’s only in the past 20 years that mind has been included with body! I mean in the early 90’s it was still “body”. We weren’t saying that mind had anything to do with body. So mind and consciousness, to me they’re about the same thing: different states of mind and consciousness.

TS: Are you comfortable with being introduced as Sondra Barrett, the biochemist and cellular shaman?

SB: Absolutely! Absolutely!

TS: Okay, well let me keep going here, then, with this conversation with the first cellular shaman I’ve ever had the chance to speak to. We were talking a little about gene expression and you were saying how it’s not determined that genes will get expressed through the cells. They may or may not, depending on certain factors. So help me understand what are the factors within the cell that determine whether genetic material is expressed or not?

SB: Well, it’s a couple of things. So one of the things that influences which genes are expressed—we all started as one fertilized cell with a set of genes. That cell kept on dividing and dividing and by virtue of the location in the embryo different genes were expressed. They all have the same genes, but only the heart cell expresses the genes necessary to build those cells and make the proteins that those cells make. And the liver has the same identical genes as the heart, but obviously some of them are turned off. We don’t need the heart genes to be expressed. So one of the things we know in the normal human body… location of the cells will influence which genes are expressed, which is interesting. The other thing that’s becoming even more interesting from my perspective, and probably from a lot of people’s experience, is what’s called the epigenetic phenomenon. The epigenetic phenomenon is one that tells us, if we eat certain foods we change the expression of our genes. One example is something called “methyl donors”. I don’t need to get too complicated by that, but these are compounds that are found in garlic and onions. In animals, when pregnant mice were given—pre-pregnant mice—these kinds of chemicals, although they had a lethal gene (a gene that made them sick and made their offspring sick and fat and yellow) when they were fed these chemicals from onions then even though the mamas had these strange genes and their babies had these strange genes, the babies didn’t express the genes that made them fat and sick and yellow. The babies’ offspring also had the same genes but didn’t express them. So we’re learning through this very exciting field that’s showing us, wow, what we do in our life style can actually change the expression of our genes. The genes are there and basically what these lifestyle changes are doing is influencing the on/off switch. Dean Ornish has done a really exciting set of studies with men with prostate cancer. He measured some of the prostate cancer gene proteins and then he put them on his usual way of lifestyle: change your diet, group support, meditation, exercise, and three months later the expression of some of those prostate cancer genes was decreased—just by lifestyle change. That’s why I’m the cellular shaman. That’s why doing yoga or doing qi-gong or using sound; if all of those can impact our genes at the level of expression, why not use them? Maybe they will keep us healthier.

SB: So Sondra, I want to ask you a question, and this is based a poetic leap, and it’s a poetic leap that I’ve made in my own mind but now we’re talking cellular shaman to person who makes poetic leaps… I’m just curious what you think about this. Which is, just like an individual human body is made up of trillions of cells, there might be something that we could consider a type of cosmic body that is made up of human individuals, like human individuals or selves, in this bigger body. I’m curious if you think that type of leap actually has any merit when you study the way cells are and how they work together in the human body?

SB: Well I think it’s an incredible question, because if we think of one of these sayings that say, “healing starts with me,” so if I look at my self as a cell in the universe, whatever I’m projecting, thinking, or doing, influences the neighboring cells—my neighbors, my friends, my family—which impacts then, their neighbors, friends, etc. So, we are a cosmic cell, if you will—a cosmic universe made up of cosmic cells. In fact, the other day a friend of mine, actually my shaman teacher had sent out an email and I had replied to is saying that we have a cosmic CIA, or we are a cosmic CIA. I call it the Cellular Intelligence Agency. Better that CIA than the other. We’re cosmic with that. So our cells in our body hopefully, in the best of all worlds, they are cooperating and they’re keeping us whole and healthy and how I can influence the cosmic universe is to be more in my heart and less reactive. Also, you know, eating sustainably, not buying fruits treated with pesticides, everything each one of us does for sustaining life influences our universe. I think if we saw that, maybe we’d take better care of it.

TS: Okay, another area that I’m really interested to know some of your discoveries in has to do with cells and sacred art. And I know this is something that you’ve looked at a lot—how visionary artists throughout history seem to have produced art that looks similar to what cells look like under a microscope. So I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about that and share with us some of your discoveries that you’ve made.

SB: Well, for me the first place where I even imagined sacred art being related to cells was seeing a medicine wheel in the southwest. I was photographing pictographs and petroglyphs, and it was an aha moment seeing this image that—I know about medicine wheels—could just as easily have been an abstract picture of a cell. So it triggered me to looking at other kinds of art like the Shri Yantra. In fact I’ve got something going on in an art/science LinkedIn discussion of looking at the Shri Yantra and the computer graphic of DNA from Robert Langridge, and they look a lot alike. The structure is the same. So when I started doing the leap, it made me wonder did the art come from people really visioning inside? Did they use their imagination? Not that 2,000 years ago… or I think the medicine wheel I first saw was 1,000 years old, so not that 1,000 years ago people were going inside and saying, “Oh, I’m seeing my cells.” They didn’t have a clue. They knew they were seeing their inner universe. Did their ability to see the innards get expressed in the outside world? A lot of the old art was to really be able to touch into the sacred—to be able to focus on God. So we’re going in and seeing the God within or the divinity or the sacred nature within, and it’s coming outside in our art.

Another leap from around the art that was probably the hardest thing for me to really be willing to hold was years ago, new friends had insisted I photograph minerals related to astrology. I had no belief in astrology, and I thought they were nuts to ask me to do this. Since at the time I was showing slideshows to kids with cancer I thought, “Okay, I’ll photograph the minerals and they can use it for astrology and I’ll use it for my slideshows for these kids.” When I photographed the twelve mineral salts—there’s a whole long story on that (hopefully that’s the next book)—I saw four shapes. Again, I had no belief so I couldn’t bias what I was photographing, but I am someone who’s been trained as a microscopist and someone who likes to categorize things. So I said, “Where is fourness? Is there any kind of quality of four in astrology?” Then I thought, well it’s the four elements. Let’s see what the four elements are: air, water, fire, earth. It was shocking to me that the minerals associated with earth signs are all round, the minerals associated with air signs were all square. Water minerals were squiggly and hexagons were for the fire signs. It was like, how is this possible? Using a microscope in 1979, or whenever I did it, photographing minerals that were given astrological meaning 300 years ago, how is it possible that the microscopic images match the symbology of those elements?

TS: Sondra, help me out here. Tell me, what are the minerals that you photographed?

SB: The minerals were the twelve mineral salts in the body: sodium phosphate, sodium sulfate, potassium phosphate, etc.

TS: Okay, and so in astrology each one of those minerals is associated with a different astrological sign? That’s part of it?

SB: Exactly!

TS: Okay.

SB: Somewhere, probably around 1,000 years ago astrologers basically said, for instance, “Saturn rules the bones.” So they were looking at the different planets that they saw and attributed different body parts to each planet. Somewhere around the 17th century somebody ashed the human body and said there were twelve predominant mineral salts and then attributed them to different parts of the body and then different astrological signs. It was not something I ever expected to research, but it was one of the first things that gave me pause, “Where does this alchemical, cult language, where does this information come from? How did they know this?” Then, of course, I went off on looking at a lot of other symbolic codes, if you will, in the micro world like taste.

TS: Now tell me what you’re describing there, symbolic codes like taste?

SB: Well, if we look at the molecules of taste… Okay, I’ll give you a question. If you tasted something sour, what geometric shape might you expect it to have?

TS: Oh, I’d have to say I don’t really know, except I would imagine that it wouldn’t be round and regular. It might have something sticking out or something like that.

SB: Yep, and so the chemicals that are sour like citric acid from a lemon or malic acid from an unripe grape or unripe apple, are angular. Sugar is rounded. Bitter is prickly. Bitter caffeine is prickly. It’s a whole language to me, a whole language. It’s really going out there on the limb, if you will, of where does are language come from? Is it rooted in our biology? Carl Jung said that our archetypes are rooted in our biology. Is our language rooted in our biology? Again, it goes back to that inner knowing. Where did the word sour come from? And you expected it to be more angular, well it is. Carol Yoon wrote a wonderful book called Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science, and she really goes into how we categorize and name things. It moves into the subtitle of the book. It’s the universal, instinctual intelligence that we have that can get pretty heady and I don’t want to do that…

TS: I’m curious; so clearly this is something you’ve thought and reflected on quite a lot. Is your theory that the Rishis in deep meditation received or saw or knew these things about the mineral salts, about the Shri Yantra diagram? I mean, what is your theory about how is it that the Shri Yantra, that was originally drawn thousands of years ago, looks like DNA under a microscope? That’s just amazing!

SB: It’s totally amazing. Well, they were able to allow the power of inner knowing and inner intelligence guide them. We’ve discounted that intelligence. It’s going back to the battle of science vs. intuition or science vs. imagination or science vs. shaman. If we truly allow ourselves to know and get inside I think we’d be much richer. That’s one of the intentions of me doing this book and being grateful that you wanted to do the book. If we only had an inkling of our intelligence. Yeah, I can interpret it by our cells because that’s my background, but it’s greater than that.

TS: It still seems like in general people just aren’t comfortable mixing science, poetry, and shamanism and putting it all into one stew. That still in general, it seems in the current cultural milieu makes people uncomfortable. I’m curious, you mentioned going out on a limb. Do you feel like you’re going out on a limb or are you comfortable out there at this point?

SB: I think because I’m an elder at this point I’m more willing to go out on a limb, but there is a fear of being challenged. Could I really go back to the University of California and talk about this stuff? I’m trying. I want to see if I can get programs into medical schools but I know I’m walking a very delicate path. You know, for years I would never talk about this. Some of the blending, astrology stuff or what our cells can tell us, so I know I’m sort of leaping, but why not?

TS: Well I want you to know that I’m leaping here with you Sondra! And I want you to know that, and I’m leaping because…

SG: Well, thank you!

TS: I really am, and I think it’s important that we stand in some of these questions and are simply open to look and see some of the kinds of correlations you’re bringing forward. I mean if the Shri Yantra really looks like DNA under a microscope, and you’re telling me that it does, people have to pause and consider that. That is just amazing! Is there anything else like that from sacred art that reflects what cells look like under a microscope?

SB: Well, again, the pictograph of, I’m calling it DNA. It looks just like the spiral DNA, and if we look at the history of symbols, why is the spiral sacred in many cultures? Where do we find the spiral in our bodies? First, we find it in our DNA. Yeah, we find it in galaxies and we find it in seashells. You know, it’s one of those ideas: as above, so below. And we find it in our DNA. The other thing that sort of gave me pause, and as long as I’m leaping I will here too, is where did the idea for the trinity come from? Why are there father, son, and holy spirit? Why is there a three? Why is there a three in a lot of spiritual teachings? What’s the threesome all about? Then we look at, what’s the DNA code? It’s a threesome. When we’re embryos, we are three layers by three weeks. And you begin to see in biology the same symbols are revealed over and over. We have three kinds of brain, you know, three layers: the brain stem, the limbic system, and the cortex. So again, why is it always three? Ancient Greek philosopher said that only with three do we have completion. One is just solitary, two is polarized. Then we go to culture. One, two, and three, a,b,c. Why do we have three stoplights? Three wishes? Where did that concept develop? Did it develop from our biology? That’s way out there, I know, but it certainly gave me pause. Another aha moment.

TS: Well when you’re going to leap, you might as well leap all the way, huh? Well, Sondra, just one last question. Our program is called Insights at the Edge, and I think that you fit right in. Clearly, you’re sharing insights at the edge, but I’m always curious to know what someone’s personal edge is and what I mean by that in your case, here with this work that you’re bringing out, what’s the edge for you? What are the questions you’re asking? Where are you currently putting your attention?

SB: Well, the edge for me is as I get older, I often look at what’s my mythic self? What’s my legacy? I have, in the corners of my house, called my mythic self the code finder. That’s my edge of—will I really allow that part of me—maybe comes out in fiction, maybe it comes out in a film, in a DVD or a letter to my kids. What is the code finder? Part of it is that my belief has always been, that we’re here for a purpose and I certainly have had a very strange road I’ve traveled. And so I think the road I’ve traveled isn’t just for me (obviously or I wouldn’t be a cellular shaman) it’s what can I bring to the world that makes it a better place? As that mythic code finder, she’s revealing or she’s had revealed to her that humans know a lot more than we think and we are incredible sacred, cosmic beings if we know how to tune into that.

TS: You go, code finder! That’s wonderful! I love it! I’ve been talking with Sondra Barrett. With Sounds True she has leaped publicly and written a new book called, Secrets of Your Cells: Discovering Your Body’s Inner Intelligence. I’m so grateful, Sondra, for this two part conversation. Thank you so much!

SB: Thank you so much! It’s been fun!

TS: Many voices, one journey. Thanks for listening.

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