In this episode, I’m speaking with Dr. Christine Schaffner. Dr. Schaffner is a board-certified naturopathic physician who focuses on “mystery illnesses”—she’s helped thousands of patients recover from chronic, complex conditions.’
I’m also excited to share an invitation to her upcoming summit—The Art & Science of Cultivating Coherence Summit—FREE from October 30th through November 5th.
Table of Contents
In this podcast, Dr. Schaffner and I discuss:
- Her personal endocrine issues, including recovery from a brain tumor and how overcoming her fear led to the bioenergetic work she’s sharing now
- How to stay curious about the connections between biochemistry and meditation, language, and quantum fields that sometimes lead to miraculous results…but deserve deep skepticism
- The concepts of “the field” and the biofield as ways to describe the subtle energies of the universe and how they interact with us and influence our health
- Measurable currents emanating from our heart and brain and how this quantitative data relates to our biofield and health status
- The links between the piezoelectric effect, fascia, the extracellular matrix, and lymph that create a system of electrical communication in our bodies
- How 40,000 sensory neurites in the heart are acutely affected by our emotional state, plus using our emotions (and other practical methods) to regulate our health!
Listen or download on iTunes
Listen outside iTunes
Ari: Hey, this is Ari. Welcome back to the show. With me today, I believe for the third time, is Dr. Christine Schaffner, who is a board-certified naturopathic doctor who has helped thousands of people recover from chronic or complex illnesses. Through online summits, her Spectrum of Health podcast, a network of Imminence Health clinics, and renowned online programs, Dr. Schaffner goes beyond biological medicine, pulling from all systems of medicine and healing modalities, helping patients reclaim their wellness and reveal their brightest light. With that said, we have a very interesting discussion in this episode. She talks all about sort of the bioenergetic fields and the concept of coherence, of heart coherence, and heart-brain coherence, and broader coherence between the human organism and all of the fields around us. We’ll talk about exactly what those terms mean. She’ll talk about them, I should say.
There’s a lot of fascinating, interesting, compelling insights in this podcast, and I think you’ll get a lot of value from it, particularly if you’re someone who’s interested in exploring these kinds of outside-the-box approaches to human health and disease and bioenergetic medicine. With that said, enjoy this podcast with Dr. Christine Schaffner. Dr. Schaffner, welcome back to the show, I believe, for the third time now.
Dr. Schaffner: Oh, my goodness. What do they say about three, right? Three is a charm. No, I always love connecting with you, Ari, and I always learn a lot from you as well.
Dr. Schaffner’s Healing Journey From A Pituitary Tumor
Ari: Likewise, my friend. You’ve been dealing with some of your own issues in the last year or two. You had a pituitary tumor. I would love for you to tell people about the journey you’ve gone on with that and what it’s inspired in you as far as your interests in different fields of medicine.
Dr. Schaffner: Yes, absolutely. I’m happy to. I think we all have our own experience. If I can help anybody else, through my experience, I feel like there’s always greater purpose and meaning. I see patients. I see patients who are chronically, “I’ve been doing this for over 13 years,” and it’s a whole different ball game when you’re in the patient seat. I had been going through some profound stress over 2020, those years, a lot of change. I was out on my own practice. There was a lot of business structural changes. Still, I had a young daughter and, of course, all the things with COVID.
There were some signs in my body that I just chalked up to, “Well, my baby’s not too old,” all the things from recovering from a pregnancy to, just life stress. I could just easily, “When the stress is over, I’m sure my body’s going to be back in life to normal.” I had some endocrine issues. I was struggling with amenorrhea. I also noticed that I had some lactation, even though I was not breastfeeding anymore. I also noticed that, in my labs, my blood sugar was a little elevated and I eat healthy and, I fast, and all of that stuff. It was very interesting to see my hemoglobin A1C was even 5.8 at one point. I was like, scratched in my head. I was like, “Could this all be stress?”
We have a desire to have another child. My husband was like, “Christy, we’re not getting any younger. Why don’t we go get checked out?” I’m like the worst patient. Right. I finally, dragged my feet. We decided to just go to a fertility doctor because I have some endocrine issues. Our goal, of course, is to have this second baby. She worked me up and I knew she would eventually have me do an MRI. I dragged my feet. I was like, “I’ll get an MRI,” but I was, again, the worst patient. I maybe took four months from that meeting and that suggestion to get an MRI, to get an MRI.
What I ended up doing was finally getting an MRI in June of 2022. You have those moments in life where you feel like the pause button is getting hit in your life and time slows down and you just know something is in the air. I don’t know if you have ever had that experience, but I remember getting out of the MRI and the technician told me, “When are you meeting with your doctor?” I thought that was like, “Oh, maybe he’s just concerned about me following up.” There was like a little bit of a quality like, huh. I just went on my day, and the next day, I met with the doctor and she was very fumbling over her words.
She was like, “Christine, like you have like a large tumour in your pituitary. I had to stop her. I was like, “Do I have brain cancer or do I have a benign growth? I finally got out of her. I had a quite large 3.2 centimeters. Imagine like the size of an egg, which is like very hard to imagine. The structure of your brain that was sitting in my sella turcica. The pituitary sits in this very thin stock in the middle of your brain and it’s protected by a bony prominence called the sella turcica. The tumor was basically taking up all of that space and starting to push against my pituitary that it had flattened it.
Then in our anatomy, in our brain, our eyes basically are hooked up to our optic nerves. There’s a crossing of the optic nerves that go back to the occipital part of our brain that controls our vision. It’s right in the center, right around the pituitary that this crossing happens called the optic chiasm. The pituitary and the tumor was putting pressure on that optic chiasm that I had noticed. I don’t drive a lot. I used to drive a ton, but my office is down the street. I walk to work. I have a little community here in Seattle where I can walk everywhere.
I wasn’t driving a lot, but I had noticed when I was down in California, I had rented a car and I was going out to drive at night, but everything was like very blurry. I thought like maybe my contacts had changed. That was another curious note and, where the tumor was, it was putting pressure on my optic chiasm that it was affecting my vision. It was affecting my field of vision and the outer side. It’s called the outer temporal region on both sides. It was symmetrical. I didn’t really notice unless I got my eyes checked. I was like, “This is crazy.” I was here having this conversation. She was talking about brain surgery, having a tumor and referring me to a neurosurgeon. Here I am.
I do a lot of education on the brain. I do a lot of education on brain detoxification, the globatic system, the limb channels of the brain. Here I am, being confronted that I am going to have to embark on neurosurgery. Then, a day later, the neurosurgeon’s assistant calls me and I answer the phone. I’d like never answer the phone, but I was on my walk in the morning and I answered it and it was like the assistant. He was like, “Christine, a neurosurgeon wants to talk to you before his day of surgery.” I was like, “That’s interesting. A busy neurosurgeon who wants to talk to me.”
He was very nice, which was surprising. On a speed, neurosurgery gets a bad rap for rapport and everything. He was very kind. He said, “Christine, like this is, brain surgery, and this is quite a big tumor. It’s putting pressure on your optic chiasm and your at risk of stroke. It’s also secreting growth hormones. It’s affecting your blood pressure. It can shorten your life by 20 years, it can put you on risk of all of these cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, all of this.” Here I am, a young mom listening to all of this. He’s like, “It’s very curable. We just have to go through your nose and through your sinus passages and take out your tumor.”
I’m like, “Oh my gosh.”
Ari: Wow, through your nose.
Dr. Schaffner: Through your nose, so thank goodness. This is where you just have profound gratitude that there are people who study this and who’ve created technology and surgical techniques that they don’t have to open up your brain, but they can actually go through your nose through. They use cameras basically to go up the nasal passages. If you look at Google, you can do a cross section of the brain. This is why a lot of times when I’m talking about the brain and when people are recovering from mold and all those things, they have a lot of cognitive issues because the sinuses, when they become moldy or infected, they secrete a lot of biotoxins.
The pituitary is not, far, from that. That can create a lot of hormonal symptoms with people in mold illness. Basically, they went in and they drilled a hole in my sphenoid sinus and basically created an opening that then on the other side of the sphenoid sinus is the bone, the sella tristica. This neurosurgeon does 400 of these a year, which I thought was pretty incredible. In that moment, I knew I had to do this and I was scheduled two weeks later.
Part of the story is not only to, “Hey, I have a ton of empathy and compassion for other people who are going through this.” When they’re confronted with really tough medical decisions, especially when they’re more naturally minded and they have to embark in the conventional world, how to get resourced and to feel like you’re on the right path, even though it might be a conflict of principles or what you thought that
was going to happen in your life. I want to share that again. I’m a naturopathic doctor who teaches brain tox getting neurosurgery. Because of this life stress, I had really sought out meditation and through a series of events, I started going to Dr. Joe Dispenza’s meditations. He’s just a modern-day vessel for, ancient wisdom and modern neuroscience and research to show what’s possible. When we use these principles that we’re going to be talking about through our conversation today. I was really touched by just that community. I’m really like, it’s very commonplace in this retreats to hear stage four cancers, go away for also people walk from wheelchairs, all sorts of things that, are seemingly like miracles.
I was, again, with my doctor had very curious of, how does this happen and how do people, heal from these things? He says something, Ari, that just like really struck with me. I felt like this surgery was a testament to how I can embrace this principle. He said, he says to change matter with matter takes time. I think we understand that. Functional medicine, bioregulatory medicine, naturopathic medicine. I know how to get somebody over Lyme disease, mold illness, neurological symptoms, but I’m frustrated, it takes a long time. They take 10 years to get diagnosed and then another maybe three years to really get their life back, but still having to pay attention to their health.
Then he said, “When you change the field, you change matter.” I’m just like, “What the heck does that mean?” I’m curious, and that’s clearly a principle that he is teaching and people are ascribing to see these what we would call miracles in modern science. I said to myself, “Well, I have this opportunity, I have two weeks to my surgery. There’s not really much I can do in the biochemical world.” I still, did those things, how can I employ some of these things that I had learned over the last year and a half in my own life? I embarked really on what I try to teach patients and what I try to learn so I can share, but it was turning it inward.
It was working with what can seem esoteric or woo, but I’ll share the punchline of the story in a moment, that I worked with group healing. I worked with what we would call intention circles. I worked and did what we call coherence healings with Dr. Joe Dispenza’s work. I worked with energy healers. I meditated daily and I visualized, a positive outcome. I had a, I just want to be real. I did have my dark night of the soul and have that moment of terror and fear, like how anybody would if they were going to approach nerve surgery, but there was a moment that I can remember it very clearly.
I had a choice, I can walk through this experience with fear and insecurity and being scared and, all of that, or I can walk through this other path of feeling empowered and resourced and to work with this realm that I had been studying and see how it impacts me. I had like a final exam in this work, in this lesson. I did this group intentions and group coherence healings. I worked with what we would call energy healers who just worked with my energy system and helped me to also visualize and believe that a good outcome could be possible. I also did, of course, acupuncture and I did my IVs and I did my light therapy, and all the things that I could do to prepare.
I got through the surgery and, it’s still like a rough recovery and it was still a whole thing, but I got through it and I had a really good outcome. I was at a university hospital. I donated part of my tumor for research. When I went to the follow-up about a month later, Dr. Ferrara, early at the end of our appointment and in passing, I asked him about the pathology report. I said, can you tell me anything about this? He said, “You know what, Christine, this is a really unique tumor. It has different cell types. I’m going to be studying your tumor for a long time. What I really want to understand most of all is why it came out so much easier than other tumors that I take out.”
To me, again, this is my experience, my story, but this validated, in my being and in my essence, that the work that we did, because we were visualizing like making it less sticky and easier to come out and all of that, that all of that wasn’t just to make me feel good and get ready for a surgery, but it had an impact. I will be studying this for a long time to try to really put words in a language and understanding what happened and what Dr. Dispenza really means, “When you change the field, you change matter.”
My curiosity has not only through my own experience, but it just continues to deepen, to look beyond just the biochemical matrices that is within us and the biochemistry that’s beautiful that we can manipulate. To start looking at the field interactions within us and around us and that we bathe in every day and have a language, because I think what happens when we start talking about this, we can start saying, words and we might not be saying really what’s happening. Then that can make people more and more skeptical or just thinking that that’s a nice idea, but not really, grounded in this really deep body of work that is out there for people who want to read about it. That’s my story.
Having a Healthy Dose of Skepticism
Ari: Yes, thank you for sharing that. I want to say on Joe Dispenza, I’ve tried on a couple occasions to explore his work and I never get very far because I find he plays a little too fast and loose with science, mixing science and spirituality and bridging the gap in a way that for me doesn’t feel very fact-based, doesn’t feel very scientific. I’m not saying it’s wrong or that what he’s saying is not true. I’m just saying for me, I need more connecting pieces to go from this piece to this piece. When I don’t see that, it makes me skeptical.
On the other hand, it’s unquestionable. There’s many people, you among many people, who certainly report amazing benefits from his methods. I have to believe where there’s smoke, there’s fire, there’s something good going on there. Let’s delve into it this way.
Dr. Schaffner: Can I comment on that for a second?
Ari: Please, yes.
Dr. Schaffner: I think there is like, we should all have healthy skepticism, of course, especially when we’re educating others and also wanting to really guide people with true knowledge and wisdom to get them. If you haven’t had a health crisis, some of this can just seem, again, not apply to you, but, especially people who are so vulnerable in that place and they’re looking for a roadmap and they’re looking for a blueprint and they’re looking for support and people are looking for a path out and that they can do it too. This body of work is available to people. I agree, it’s not going to resonate with everybody and everyone’s going to have their own opinion.
One thing that Dr. Dispenza is doing, which I admire, is that he is really voraciously studying subjects who go to his retreats and trying to understand what is happening. I agree, when we see things, especially, I’m sure he sees things before he had a language or the research to back what he was seeing and why he was seeing it. That can sometimes feel, as you said, not as grounded as you’d like. However, the research is starting to talk about these really profound epigenetic changes and these changes in hormones and the microbiome and all of the stuff that happens when people go into these really deep meditative states for seven days, which is a luxury to a lot of people, but it’s possible.
I believe there’s something emerging and continuing to emerge out of that body of work, but it’s fluid and it’s dynamic and it’s not perfect at all, I just always err with caution. You have to find what’s going to be the path that speaks to you and that works with you, because if you have doubt or not alignment with that, it’s going to be hard for those principles or those meditations or those retreats to really work to the fullest of their ability for you.
Ari: Yes, absolutely. One of the things that Joe Dispenza does is he’ll talk about brain scans and neurofeedback and EEG recordings of people’s brains and that sort of thing. Then it flows seamlessly into talk of the field and consciousness and how the field or the quantum field is interacting with physical matter. I feel like the way he talks about those things,
I think, and I have many friends in the space who are neuroscientists who definitely share my perceptions of this. Most neuroscientists would not agree with the way he portrays those things. Not in the sense that he’s saying something incorrect, but in the sense that he’s saying things that he’s blending science and spirituality in a way that he’s portraying it as the science. As if this is all grounded in science and all the scientists agree that this is the case, but he’s greatly stepping out of actually the realm of neuroscience and more into the realm of spirituality and philosophy while almost implying he’s seeing those things on the brain scans.
Dr. Schaffner: Yes. No, and I think all of your opinions and your feedback is valid and especially for your community to like be really cautious. Really, I would always encourage people to have their own experience and really formulate their own opinion and narrative of everything we’re saying. I think the rub is how do we make sense of these things that are happening? There’s a premise which could be more spirituality, but there is a scientific body of work to talk about the zero point field, the quantum field, the field that surrounds us. These are people, again, I don’t pretend to be a physicist in this way, but I read about this and I’m curious.
I think there’s some, especially when somebody who’s looking at the healing arts, wow, if there’s this sea of unlimited potential around us, how do we access this for healing? Again, I’m thinking about it for that lens, not for manifesting or whatever. I’m thinking about healing. If there is this highly charged field of communication, connection, and as they describe it, unification and potential, if we can dance with that or interact with that in some way, does that offer a potential for basically more energy for the living system to do what it knows how to do already.
Again, it’s a thought and it’s an exploration and I don’t think anyone holds the answers, but I’m definitely like trying to read and stay curious with this conversation.
Dr. Schaffner: It’s the future, but it’s the– I think there’s a future here, but again, we’re just in the infancy of understanding, in my opinion.
Ari: I totally agree with all of your sentiments on that. I think that’s a good way of phrasing it. To some extent, all I’m really asking for is for him to speak with the nuance that you just did. That would be enough for me. What eventually gets me skeptical is when people are portraying more speculative things as known scientific consensus, as known facts and as undebatable findings when there isn’t a distinction between, “Hey, this is what we know. We speculate that this and this might be going on, but we don’t, we don’t know. We can’t know the current body of knowledge and evidence doesn’t allow us to know.”
It’s a matter of style more than anything, but nothing, none of my criticisms. At the same time, the very things that make me skeptical of him are, I think, the same. It’s the same style that actually makes him effective in convincing lots of people is to not speak with the nuance that would appeal to someone like me, but to portray it as something that this is known, this is fact, this is what we see in our laboratory. All the scientists agree that this is what’s going on, I think makes it more compelling and convincing for someone who doesn’t have a scientific background, to, yes. Anyway, I applaud, maybe it’s intentional. Maybe he just does that as a matter of trade-offs.
Dr. Schaffner: The power of the mind, right?
Interacting with the Field Might Change Matter
Ari: Yes. Having said that and being totally open, you’re obviously totally open and I’m open also to the possibility that what he’s doing is really truly effective and that the science just hasn’t totally caught up to it yet. Let’s explore piece by piece. First of all, what is the field and what does it mean to talk about how interacting with the field might change matter?
Dr. Schaffner: Absolutely. I encourage people, I really love the book, The Field by Lynne McTaggart. She’s also a thought leader out there, but she’s an investigative journalist that writes from that lens. She summarizes a lot of the science that has gotten people to understand from everything from consciousness to bio photons to this idea of the field. I love that book if people want to go deeper into this conversation. My understanding of the field, again, I’m a student of this as well, is that, there’s this conversation in space, that space is this empty vacuum. That there’s only a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that we experience in this space that we live in Earth.
There’s this opposite conversation happening in science right now. There’s also, I believe, when we talk about the field, the people who are talking about the electric universe go, there’s a dance between these like ideas, and the electric universe makes a little bit more sense. I can grab onto that a little bit more. It’s this idea that space is not an empty vacuum. There is this idea that Tesla also was known to have conversations around because he was exploring it as well. Max Planck was exploring the zero point field. Tesla was calling it the luminiferous ether, this medium, which all waves of life are traveling through.
It’s this field of what we would say and modern, for lack of a better word, but it is quantum physics to, look at this. It’s this idea that this field is touching, it’s a fabric of life. It’s a fabric of space. It’s interconnecting with all of life and all of matter. It’s basically how two coordinates from, basically very far distances can still be in conversation together through principles. Again, I’m a student of these things about quantum entanglement and, how we can see, again, there are people in even our government who study telepathy and how there’s consciousness interactions between large distances.
It’s this idea that maybe this fabric that connects us all that’s full of electricity and charge and plasma and ether, basically is part of the conversation. These different types of matter, ether is what’s called the fifth state of matter and plasma is more the fourth state of matter. It’s these different densities and different forms of all of the same thing. It’s this really lovely idea of this unification of life, which again, if you’re into consciousness and you’re into exploring the healing arts, we gravitate to this because again, we’re looking at like, how do we access something bigger and not necessarily God or the divine, even though these can be synonymous for more information and more basically energy, I’ll just say?
More information and energy to interact with for a positive net effect. That is my dance with understanding. Then when we look at the human body, I think it’s a little bit more easier. We know that we have field interactions within us and around us. This is, conventional science. Again, there are principles of physics. Whenever we have an electrical charge moving through a conductor, we create a magnetic field. Whenever we have a magnetic field, we create an electric field. It’s these paired fields that always travel together, and we are full of charges. We’re full of, basically these charged electrolytes and elements in the body that move through different medium, blood, the fascia, different fluids.
When they’re moving, these charges create electricity, again, moving through these conductors that create magnetic fields. All of a sudden you see these electromagnetic fields that are also moving through our body. We know, again, a big part of the work that I’m doing with Dr. McCraty and the summit that we created was to really understand the heart. This really beautiful idea that the heart has a very strong electromagnetic field that we generate through the, basically the electricity that’s being generated through the blood that’s creating magnetism that is a measurable electrical current and a magnetic field
that is generated from the heart. Again, this is very measurable. We use the EKG and then devices that could pick up the magnetic field to measure the heart. We know we have these electromagnetic fields in the brain as well. What’s really interesting and fascinating we can go deeper in is that the heart is the strongest electromagnetic field in the body that it generates, and it’s stronger than the brain. We can go into these ideas of when there’s a coherent heart rate variability and heart rhythm what that entrains in the brain and the rest of the body. That’s something that I’m very curious and fascinated about.
Then there is a modern day term called the biofield. This is not just the aura or esoteric science. You can go into PubMed and see people who are trying to put in science around this idea that, again, I can just say that we have a field around us from our heart and our brain and electromagnetism that I just shared that’s emanating from us. There’s this idea that it’s not just an emanation but there is the field that we come into life with that’s called the biofield that is electromagnetic in nature also a summation of the light energy that we emit. That’s Fritz Albert Popp’s work and the idea that we communicate with light in ourselves as well and biophotonic energy, so we’re emanating and communicating with that.
Then they make room when you read in PubMed and people are studying in the biofield, they make room and they give a blanket term. It also includes the subtle energy which again might just be ancient wisdom or philosophical, and people are trying to understand and study this. Some liken it to plasma, this plasma state, some liken it to– In naturopathic medicine, we’re very philosophical and we call it the vital force and this vitality, this energy that’s clearly here when you’re alive and clearly not here when you’re dead. What is all of that?
The biofields, in my way that I’ve like constructed my own narrative and model within the electrical systems in the body, I don’t want to leave out the fascia. I think the fascia gets left out a ton when we talk about electromagnetism. I, being a naturopath and somebody interested in bioregulatory medicine, I think the fascia, there is a lot to discover about its ability to communicate within this body-wide network of the living being that almost could be faster than the nervous system in some instances. It’s this beautiful communication network. It also bathes ourselves with this plasma state of water.
When we walk and we move we generate what’s called a piezoelectric effect, where we generate electricity in this electromagnetic current. I look at the fascia also when it gets injured, I do a lot of scar therapy in my office. There’s this whole idea when we have scars in our body which are necessary, and thank God our body knows how to make them, that scar tissue doesn’t look like the beautiful fabric of our original fascia but it’s a plug. It’s denser, it’s more irregular, it’s less fluid and mobile and it creates almost a traffic jam in that area of the fascial network that can create electrical and communicative changes over time.
Clinically, real quick. I know I’m taking on the side but I just I always think the fascia is left out and I’m so curious about. I think it’s part of our electrical magnetic system and it’s a big part of this conversation.
Distinguishing Between Fascia and the Extracellular Matrix
Ari: How would you distinguish between the fascia and the extracellular matrix?
Dr. Schaffner: Yes it’s all, again, like the unified field out there. It’s inside of us. They’re these different layers that are different names, so we have the fascia is the umbrella term, I would say. It is the connective tissue that is wrapping our muscles but also the spaces in between us and I also refer to the work of Dr. Jean-Claude Guimberteau and the structure that he has shared through his– You can go on YouTube and see his, basically, videoing of hand surgeries where he takes the blood out and looks at the fascia because in cadaver lab, you just cut through the fascia. You think it’s just structural, you don’t think of it in this communicative way.
He really has opened my mind also to the fascia. I read his book about the architecture of living fascia in like a day actually when I was recovering for my surgery. I was like, “Oh my God. I finally have time to read the books I want,” and it was just beautiful. The fascia is this umbrella term, and within the fascia is the lymphatic system, and within the lymphatic system, we are draining the interstitial fluid out of the extracellular matrix.
You can think of the minutiae, the space in between our cells is the extracellular matrix, that fluid that is bathing ourselves, this interstitial fluid or pre-lymph and lymphatic capillaries basically draining that fluid and putting it into the lymphatic network. Then the lymphatic network and the fascia network actually move together, and the movement that the fascia generates helps to also move the lymph. We love to study anatomy, and anatomy, there’s systems and there’s compartments and there’s different– Like the nerves are yellow the blood is red, the veins are blue and the lymph is green.
We like to think about the body that way but it’s this continuum of different spaces that all communicate. Really, at the end of the day, Ari, what I find is that when there is this fluid conversation and communication that’s really happening in the body and the body’s coordinated as a whole system and this is this conversation around coherence that that’s where we see health and connection and this is where healing happens. Then when we see this isolation compartments, compartmentalization decoherence, that’s where we see like entropy or disorder chaos or senescence or cancer in the body.
We look at the body the more that it can be communicating as a whole system and conversation with all parts of itself, which I believe the fascial network that I just described is a big part of that communication network in the body. That’s that piece, so I laid out this conversation of like, we have this electrical system touching all parts of ourselves through the fascia. We have light being emitted from ourselves through this conversation of bio photons. We have electromagnetic energy throughout our body but there’s the big generator through our heart and through our brain.
That submission is this field around us. Then there’s this whole other inquiry, I would say, at this time about maybe this field is always around us whether we’re emanating it or not so I don’t know. I’m just reading about it and that bathes in the larger field of the unified field. The more that we can get lined up with that, the more maybe we have access to this greater information on that is available to us while we’re living in these human bodies.
Energetic Fields and Bioelectrical Fields
Ari: That was very well explained. One of the things that I do is– The way my brain works, it’s always been very macro focused. Some people have this mindset where they want to dig into all the very complicated details of biochemistry and different genetic mutations and all the different possible variations and they’ll spend years or decades just immersed in this infinite complexity that is evolving so fast that no human can even possibly understand it as fast as it’s evolving. My brain has always looked for what’s going on at the big picture. What’s the macro level view here?
For one I’m very focused on the fact that the vast majority of the chronic disease burden, most of the major killers that kill most people are chronic diseases of aging, which are diseases of civilization. They’re diseases of nutrition and lifestyle. The proper paradigm, in my view, to understand most of what’s going on there is an evolutionary paradigm that understands what human biology evolved to need and what the gaps are. What’s going on the mismatch in the modern world that is not providing what our biology needs, and thus, we have all these this massive epidemic and huge burden of all these chronic diseases that essentially don’t exist in traditional living human populations.
To me, that’s where my focus is, certainly. When you’re dealing with people who have disease, then you go down a path that is about understanding the complicated nature of how do I understand what’s going on in this particular person in front of me and help them figure out their individual needs and reverse this condition, ideally. I’ve always been fascinated just on the paradigm level, that there are, if we look at the big picture and the historical view, there are humans throughout history who have come up with different paradigms, different worldviews and belief systems and philosophies and approaches to human health and understanding disease and how do we be healthy. Everything from ancient Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine that’s focused on chakras and energy systems in the body and meridians and acupuncture points and herbs that are interacting with the different yin and yang energies of the body and these kinds of paradigms or the doshas of Ayurveda.
The ancient Greeks had a system that was based on the four humors, I think the four or five humors. There are many other systems and obviously many, probably hundreds or thousands more that are smaller and much less well-known. We have the modern medical system, which most of the population has been indoctrinated to believe is the scientific approach and that approach really is to study disease, to study the mechanisms of different diseases and to spend decades, for example, studying the mechanisms of what’s going on in the brain in a person with Alzheimer’s or what’s going on in the brain with chemicals in the person who’s depressed or what’s going on in the blood vessels of somebody who gets coronary atherosclerosis or why does somebody get high blood pressure or what’s the mechanisms of liver disease, what are the mechanisms of stroke, what are the mechanisms of, you name it.
It goes down the path of spending hundreds of billions of dollars in laboratories studying the mechanisms of all these diseases that are killing us. Then out of that, they go into a chemistry laboratory and they synthesize man-made chemicals which are designed to be molecules that target whatever mechanisms they found in the research around the mechanisms of disease so that you develop a chemical that’s designed to change the chemical balance of your brain from a depressed state to a non-depressed state, or if amyloid plaques are causing Alzheimer’s, to develop a drug that blocks the formation of amyloid plaques or cholesterol, LDLs linked with atherosclerosis, let’s develop a drug to inhibit the levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood and so on.
Which based on my lens, an evolutionary lens, makes very little sense, to say the least in very gentle terms. It makes no sense, actually, from that perspective. It’s a very bizarre approach. It was successful in the antibiotic revolution and combating some bacterial diseases and it got extended to all these other diseases based on that, but it doesn’t work in all these other diseases. It works really only in the context of where there’s a clear bad guy in the body, you take a chemical that kills the bad guy, it cures the disease, but most diseases are not like that.
Anyway, all of this is to say that just understanding the big picture context, there are different paradigms, different ways of thinking about disease and about health and different approaches that come out of that. This is an interesting one, what you’re presenting here. I’m curious if you have any thoughts on how it links up to an evolutionary view. What is the evolutionary context around this field that exists and the different energetic fields or bioelectrical fields that exist in the human bodies? Is it possible to ground this in any kind of evolutionary context?
Dr. Schaffner: I might not answer your question right away, but I’d love to dialogue about this. I feel like I agree with you. I think the biochemical really myopic, microscopic, very single mechanistic view of the human body is very limited and short-lived and often doesn’t lead to true cure or true transformation for the human body. I really believe a lot of my curiosity is we’re emerging into another paradigm that wants to emerge in how we look at health, and it’s needed.
The evolutionary perspective I think is very rooted and it really investigates how we relate to our environment and to society and to how we’re evolving through these times. What I can say, Ari, is by doing this work with patients, people are really, really sick and modern life is extremely stressful to the point that I don’t even know how many chemicals a newborn is born into at this point. I knew the data from 2005. I can only imagine 2020.
Ari: It’s around 400 detectable ones, but who knows how many were even there that they didn’t even test for.
Dr. Schaffner: Yes, right? Then the synergistic approach and all of that. I’m a very optimistic person and it just might be my optimism. I have to share I’m biased in that way. I believe it is getting almost so challenging to tinker with every toxicant and every pathogen and every burden that is within the human body right now. I believe we’re at this tipping point that life is just chronic diseases on the rise, not only in our population, and of course there’s many reasons for this, but also our children. Fertility is on the decline. There’s all of these signals that this is not working.
We can just relate that to food and the environment and too many people doing conventional medicine, but the way I look at the body is through the lens of the environmental impact and how that impacts the immune system and then our emotional state and of course this conversation. There’s part of me that feels that we have to start looking at this part of how we are wired to interact with life because it could actually be a more elegant path for us to overcome the challenges of modern time. Again, this is just a thought and like a philosophical thought, but I’ve seen glimpses of it.
I saw stage four cancer completely heal in front of my own eyes through principles of coherence and healing and all that esoteric craziness. I saw it happen, and stage four cancer is a very hard disease, right? It’s chemo, it’s radiation if you ascribe to that or complete nutritional change or complete emotional healing or whatever, or it’s a group of people coming together to try to create change in your body, accessing something maybe more powerful than any of those tools combined, right? Again, it’s just an observation and a thought.
I have had glimpses when people, I’m pointing to my treatment table over there, when people start working with these layers and beginning to see themselves as something bigger and having access to this bigger toolkit of healing, things start to heal that– and if I just looked at my functional medicine naturopathic lens, would take too long, right? We’ve got to get every heavy metal to this threshold for the body to then have less neurotoxicants and the neurological symptoms can go away and blah. I just feel like if we just stay in that paradigm, it’s going to be very frustrating and very, unfortunately, limited until we can get our act together as stewards of the planet and change our food system and our societal systems and all of that.
Again, I don’t know if I’m answering your question directly, but I believe why I’m trying to tune into this in my own journey, not only for myself, but for my patients and just seeing the trends out there that we have to bring in a bigger toolkit and a toolkit that is going to work in ways that our mind is opening to shorten the suffering that people have when they’re going through a healing journey and reversing a chronic illness.
That’s just really my insight right now. I think we’re evolutionary because we’re at the tipping point of how toxic people are and how just the earth is and how we are interacting with it, that we have to really find another way to help reverse all of this. From that place, we can make the changes and maybe even get inspired on how we be better stewards and reverse some of the damage we’ve done to our soil and so forth.
Ari: Yes, agreed. Let’s talk about coherence specifically. Let’s talk about what exactly it is and what is the paradigm around how we get it and how we lose it.
Dr. Schaffner: Yes, absolutely. Through my study of all of this, I land on a principle often when I’m reading around biophysics or quantum physics or quantum biology, which is an emerging field, or the light interactions of the body or even looking at sound and how we communicate with sound, there’s this theme of coherence. From an overview, a macro level, coherence can be synonymous with alignment, harmony, order. It is when basically two oscillating systems are synchronized. All of those wave field interactions that I described in the body is when there is some coordination and synchronization between them that exchanges energy and information for something greater. It’s constructive. When we think about coherence in the human body and why, when I did the summit, I was really excited to do this with Dr. Rollin McCraty, who’s been a really big inspiration and thought leader for me and for this body of work he’s done with HeartMath. He’s really applied complex science to understanding these principles that are quite simplistic when you look at them from a macro level. When we look at the heart, HeartMath obviously is really surrounded and geared to understanding the heart and how the heart generates coherence and how that creates greater order within the human body, especially the nervous system.
Many of your audience knows about heart rate variability, but there’s no two beats of the heart that are alike, that every time our heart beats, there’s a change and it’s a change that that variability could be measured between the time interval between those beats. What we’ve learned through the study of HRV is that the more variability and flexibility in the heart, it has a lot of, basically, assumptions that lead to– there’s less aging in the body, more mental and nervous system flexibility, there’s more ability to engage the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s a sign of health to have this more variable heart rhythm.
What Dr. McCraty started to understand is how our emotional state can modulate that variability and can change the order. When I say order, the organization of those heartbeats to be in what we call a more coherent heart rate rhythm. What that looks like in math is what’s like a beautiful sine wave. This beautiful, very organized wave. He noticed that when people are in these states of, again, it’s very [unintelligible 00:53:22] in a view of life, but it’s really what our physiology does, is when we’re in these states of gratitude, love, appreciation, we can generate and modulate our heart rate variability to be in this more coherent heart rhythm pattern.
If you go back to my conversation, if the heart is the strongest electromagnetic field generator in the human body, and this principle of coherence, when there’s more, basically order that leads to more synchronization between other– it’s almost like the more ordered wave brings the other disordered waves along and get them entrained to create more order and more synchronization, which leads to more information exchange and more health just on a very broad term.
They studied the opposite, right? They studied, okay, when people are in the states of frustration, anger, anxiety, fear, we’re in this very erratic pattern in our heart. That creates more disorder, desynchronization, less communication between systems, more, everyone’s vying for themselves. We’re human. We have to feel those feelings. I’m not saying you can never have a fear-based thought or an anxiety-ridden thought, but just to understand what it does to your physiology. When you’re in maybe really stressful times in your life, making sure that you tend to your heart, even for five minutes a day, and even try to induce those states to balance out the stressful periods that you’re going in.
Then this whole other story emerges between the heart and the brain. I learned a lot through Dr. McCraty’s work and his education that the heart actually, there’s more information going from the heart to the brain than the brain to the heart. That’s curious to me. I don’t know to you, but when I learned that, I was like, “Wow.” There’s this whole basically electrical system and nervous system in the heart. They call them sensory neurites. These neurons, it’s almost like a little mini brain in the heart. There are 40,000 sensory neurites in the heart to basically communicate this information that gets generated throughout the body.
Then there’s also afferent nervous system connections. That means nerve signaling that the main highway of the nerve goes from the heart to the brain rather than the brain to the heart. There is a connection right into that limbic brain, the amygdala. All of a sudden, we talk a lot about the amygdala, limbic retraining and chronic illness and how to get people out of their trauma and their fear states and their patterning because of, unfortunate life circumstances that there’s a repetitive part of the brain that’s creating this stuck information just on a macro level that can get people stuck emotionally or physically.
All of a sudden, you start to think about, “Okay, if I can tend to my heart and create these emotional states, I can create more order that’s getting basically signaled out in the field of my body.” That’s entraining, basically my brain waves, my nervous system. Then I’m going to– I made something up that could be real or not, but why not? It’s entraining the fascia. The fascia communicates with all of this, and that’s probably carrying and sustaining that signal and that feeling within the body. I start playing around with that idea. All of a sudden there’s more order, more organization, more alignment, more harmony in the body.
Again, that’s the state for healing, right? When we’re engaging that state, we’re also engaging our parasympathetic nervous system. There’s a lot of just downstream physiological benefits. More heart rate variability leads to more neuronal synchronization and organization amongst brain waves and more relaxation in the nervous system and the parasympathetic. Then I think about it, it’s all of this– because there’s all these conversations happening in the body that there’s this synchronization and organization, there’s more energy for healing. The body can do the work or feed those areas of the body that are needing support.
I look at this as a really beautiful way that we’re wired to generate a healing response within us. It feels good. If you’re into consciousness and mind body states, it’s going to be a state that feels better than the opposite of that as well.
Ari: Yes. Can you briefly describe just the connection between heart rate variability and coherence? Are they essentially in a way almost synonymous? Meaning if you’re in a state of high heart rate variability, are you also in coherence or are they almost synonymous or–
Dr. Schaffner: Yes, there’s a pattern that emerges when you have more variability that also coincides with an emotional state. That’s the research that shows that, basically, again, you can have high heart rate variability and flexibility because you’re just taking care of your body and you’re healthy and you’re doing all these wonderful things. That’s a measurement of health on a lot of levels, but there’s a mathematical patterning that happens that is labeled. This is again in Rollin’s research papers and methods that you can read. It really corresponds in the research I’ve done with emotions matched with this high variability. That is coherence.
There is a mathematical frequency of 0.1 hertz. Every 10 seconds, that sine wave moving into that frequency. A frequency is a measurement of a cycle per unit of time. There’s a cycle every 10 seconds. Not to jump ahead, but there’s this wild thing that, again, this is all Rollin’s research that he taught me, that the magnetic field lines in the earth, they’re called field line resonances. When they’re in a resting state in their resonant frequency, they’re also at 0.1
hertz. All of a sudden, there’s this conversation that Rollin is having with his Global Coherence Initiative of how the field residence lines of the earth impact our, basically, field line residences within our body. The more out of sync earth is, sometimes we can be out of sync, and the more out of sync we are, the field responds. Rollin often says this thing, what you feed the field matters. I sit with that. I try to understand that, trust me. He has, basically, these magnetic sensors all over the world that they measure what’s going on with these lines, and they do experiments so that they see how solar activity basically impacts these lines and basically get it out of its resonant frequencies.
If you’re in an office with chronic illness, you know the moon cycle and you know solar flares and how they impact the body, even without even knowing anything about it. People have more symptoms [unintelligible 01:01:03] all of that. There’s this conversation, when we’re out of tune more, with a larger ecosystem, that can impact us, unless we’re mindful and tending to our own inner coherence.
Our goal is, what I always say about health is that health is all about creating a resilient system. We live in modern day, we’re not in a utopia, so how do we just weather these storms? I believe this conversation we’re having is a really beautiful way to weather that. I went on a diatribe, but basically the heart rate variability, when it’s in a coherent state, is in that 0.1 hertz, is basically the sine wave that is generated, and that’s modulated by emotional states.
Ari: 0.1 hertz is one per second, one cycle per second, right? 0.1 is 10 cycles. No, it’s–
Dr. Schaffner: Every 10 seconds. Yes. It’s a cycle every 10 seconds.
Ari: One cycle every 10 seconds. Yes.
Dr. Schaffner: A 10th.
Ari: Interesting. That’s not a reflection of the actual rate of heartbeats. It’s a reflection of sine wave.
Dr. Schaffner: It’s different. Yes. The sine wave is basically the heart rhythm pattern, which relates to heart rate variability. The heart rate is the variability. There’s a heartbeat here, there’s a heartbeat there, there’s a heartbeat here. What is the time interval between that? That’s what’s creating the mathematical measurements. Does that make sense?
Ari: Yes. The part that’s counterintuitive for most people is we would assume that more variability in the time intervals between beats would probably be a bad thing. Most people, I think, would intuitively assume that very regular heartbeats that don’t vary in their time intervals would probably be a sign of health. Interestingly, it’s the opposite. It’s having variability. When you’re in a very stressed state and overwhelmed and diseased state, the heart becomes very regular, without a lot of variability between beats and a lot of flexibility and resilience of that system.
Dr. Schaffner: Yes. I think Rollin taught me that was what science thought, even within 30 years, the heart was a metrodome, it was just this steadiness and in bioregulatory medicine, we used to say something like somebody has rigid regulation when they’re in a very diseased state, their body can’t respond and adapt and isn’t resilient. That illustrates, I think, the heart rate variability idea of less variability, more rigidity, less flexibility and the ability to respond to treatments and things.
Ari: My last question to you is, okay, I think you’ve built out this paradigm, this understanding that there’s an external field that we’re all swimming in. We have these internal fields. There’s coherence potentially on a number of different levels, coherence within our own internal systems, coherence between us at the organism level and the broader environment and that these could be or are playing a significant role in health and disease. With that paradigm built out, what do we do? What do we do to practically affect this?
Let’s maybe end– and I know that that could be a multi-hour long discussion in and of itself, but maybe leave people with, I don’t know, two or three ideas of things that they can start to play with to start to experiment in their own body, in their own lifestyle with ways to increase coherence and see if they notice benefits from it.
Dr. Schaffner: Yes, absolutely. There’s so many ways, and that’s the whole goal, that someone needs to share this. What I’ll just reiterate, I try to share with my patients having some practice of what I call heart hygiene. How do you really tend to this emotional quality of your heart, not just the cardiovascular or the heart rate variability as a sign of health, but this emotional state that we know that we can modulate and create a physiological benefit in our body. That could be, again, there’s a lot of people talking about gratitude practices. If that’s where you want to start, that’s great.
I know you teach a lot about breath work. I think breath work is another beautiful way to get into that calm, still place that sometimes people might have to do the breath work before they can get into that gratitude state. I welcome you to interact with all of that, because that’s only going to lead to more of what we’re trying to achieve here. I think that’s the big one. Then I just want to maybe give a shout out to people, I hear a lot, especially in the chronic illness community, they’re very spiritual people, but they’re so sick, they can only get through their day. They can’t even sometimes get a gratitude practice together or even meditate.
I hear all the time in my patients, there is a challenge meditating or accessing whatever that is for them when they’re so sick. That could be a lot of reasons. We could go have a whole other podcast of why. I try to think about those people and there’s an emerging field of everything that I’m talking about. If you start to see the body through the lens of fields, electromagnetism, light, sound, there’s this thought, if you just give the body coherent information, can the body start receiving that and then get stronger within the body so that the body can then have more energy that they can consciously do that.
I know you also write about light and how, basically different coherent wavelengths of light, red to infrared to just getting out the sunshine can be very energetically beneficial on an also informational level, I think, to the human body. I also love sound. I don’t know how much you’ve done about sound education on your podcast. Sorry-
Ari: Very little.
Dr. Schaffner: -there’s this whole conversation about what we call sonocytology, which is the sounds that cells emit. Real quick, Jim Gimzewski out of UCLA studied that basically the sounds of healing. A healthy cell would be more harmonious. When cells are dying, they’re this screeching disharmonic, discordant sounds. I think bathing the body in what is basically healing sounds to you, like everybody has an affinity to different music, but that’s going to be the– you can get a sound bath on YouTube now, you can listen to your favorite music, all of that I think adds informational energy to the body to create more coherence within us and more coherent fields that build upon within the body.
Then the people have the strength, even mitochondrial energy, to be able to do this work. Again, we’re our best instrument, but sometimes we have to tend to our instrument in order to allow us to really optimize it. Without going into many more, I think I’ll just leave it there.
Ari: Dr. Schaffner, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation, and as I do with all of our conversations, but I think this one especially, thank you so much for coming on the show and let people know where they can get in touch with you, work with you, follow your programs, and you have an upcoming summit as well, let people know about that.
Dr. Schaffner: Yes, thank you so much, Ari, and it’s always so lovely to be in conversation with you. The upcoming summit is the Art and Science of Cultivating Coherence. Rollin geeks out with all the research, his research buddies. He’s 70, has been doing this for 30 years. All sorts of really cool research folks that I’m learning from right now as well. Then I do more the clinical aspects of the summit. Check that out. Then you can just go to my website, drchristineschaffner.com. I have a podcast and I have a clinic, and you can find out more about me there. Thank you so much.
Ari: Thank you, my friend. I look forward to our next conversation.
Dr. Schaffner: Me too. Thank you, Ari.
00:00 – Intro
00:21 – Guest intro
02:05 – Dr. Schaffner’s Healing from a Pituitary Tumor
16:37 – Why You Should Have a Healthy Dose of Skepticism
24:21 – Interacting with the Field Might Change Matter
34:14 – Distinguishing Between Fascia and the Extracellular Matrix
38:27 – Energetic Fields and Bioelectrical Fields
50:19 – Heart-Brain Coherence
Check out Dr. Schaffner’s upcoming summit—The Art & Science of Cultivating Coherence Summit—FREE from October 30th through November 5th.