Keyvan Golestaneh

HOW I GOT HERE: Journey of a Body
Biography, Philosophy and Practice 

Early Life

I was born in 1959 to a French mother and Iranian father and grew up in a multicultural environment. We ate a lot of French, Persian and international dishes, which my mother sometimes altered to make healthier. My father was a physicist and painter, so I grew up around art and science. I had a very inquisitive mind, was introspective and questioned everything about the world. Although I grew up exposed to different religions, my parents didn’t raise me in any particular one, which, as I grew older, I found to be a great advantage. I was more open-minded then others and not biased toward any religion.

When I was in grade school, I sometimes reversed letters when I read, confused numbers, and my reading skills were behind those of some of my peers. My teachers could not explain it because in some subjects I exceled. It was when I was in high school that dyslexia became recognized as a “condition,” and I realized that I had a mild case. This condition had a psychological impact on me, which I eventually overcame. As I grew older, I discovered that dyslexia had positive benefits for creativity and the ways I think. It taught me about the complexity of the mind-brain connection. It is a learning challenge, but it also gives those who have it the ability to literally and figuratively see the “bigger picture.” I learned that difficulties in one area can be a strength in another context.

When I was a child, I was particularly sensitive to my surroundings, to the misunderstandings and conflicts between people. I couldn’t help but notice how communication sometimes failed miserably, despite people’s best intentions. I saw how opinions and beliefs could sometimes divide people. The question “why?” dogged me.

Teenage Years and Exploring the Connection between Mind, Body and Health

In my teens, besides the typical acne, I developed skin problems, which doctors were unable to explain or remedy. They prescribed steroids to suppress the immune system and symptoms, so I searched for alternative solutions. By experimenting with my diet, I discovered food had a direct effect on my skin, and the condition disappeared. I gradually switched to a plant-based diet, which changed the course of my life. I was already wondering about the connection between the body, mind and health, and how to work with it. The connection I found between food and health was to become central to my approach to health and healing.

In retrospect, I realize I was also a spiritual seeker, although I didn’t always define it as such. I wanted to understand what “life” was about: did it have a “meaning”? Why was I here?  How was I going to participate in this life-world? I also wanted to understand what happens to my existence after death. Where does “I” go?  When I was a teenager in the early 1970s, a serendipitous discovery of a book led me to the practice of yoga and meditation. I had a blissful experience looking at the images in the book and began reading about East Indian spiritual philosophy and traditional Hatha and Kriya Yoga. By practicing yoga, I discovered I could alter my physiology, my experience of the mind and the world. I had no idea of the impact yoga would have on me 20 to 40 years later. Practicing yoga showed me that my body, mind and the outer world were interconnected and plastic, not solid, and changeable in predictable ways. Yoga also opened me up the non-physical, invisible dimensions of the life-world, something alluded to by religions but usually not directly experienced. The Asian traditions of yoga stood in stark contrast to Western religion and scientific models of the body and mind and the non-material dimension of existence.

Choice to Study Anthropology

Growing up around different cultures, I wondered about their differences and similarities, about the conflicts between them. I was fascinated by history and archeology. After a trip to Mexico City when I was sixteen, I decided to study anthropology—the holistic study of humankind—because it encompassed many of the subjects I was interested in. Anthropology looks at the human species as a whole, without separating people, culture and environment into separate parts or reducing them to biology or psychology. It takes an ecological perspective that includes human evolution. I wanted to know how human values and belief systems are created: Why is there such a contrast between how people from different cultures see the world and reality? In addition to anthropology, I also became a student of Western and Eastern philosophies, considering more questions: What constitutes “truth”? Are there any universal truths, or is truth always relative and subjective? Because of the conflicting world-views and explanatory models found in the human sciences, I questioned if there was any cross-cultural and transpersonal “truth”—a meta-perspective from which to see and understand everything. I asked myself if it were possible to develop a model or language that transcends cultures, cosmologies and parochial views. My interest in health and medicine moved into the study of how indigenous and traditional non-Western cultures define and treat illness and disease. Indigenous cultures do not separate religion and healing practices. These cultures have their own folk medicine, from which more sophisticated systems like Chinese medicine and ayurveda developed over thousands of years. This led me to wonder if there were an ancient foundation to ground a medical and healing paradigm.

Dance, Music and Shamanism

While an undergraduate, in addition to my interests in anthropology and philosophy, I was strongly drawn to dance and music, which brought great joy to my life. After graduate school I formed a musical group. These creative forms of expression are very effectively used in art and movement therapy. Since the early evolution of human culture, dance and music have played a central role in social life. They are even now used in healing and religious rituals and ceremonies, in both traditional and indigenous cultures, as a means of individual and communal expression and collective healing. My studies led me to shamanism, the first universal form of religion and healing practice uncovered worldwide by anthropologists.

Open to experimentation, I took Peyote, a cactus with psychoactive effects, used by some Amerindians in religious ceremonies and for medicinal purposes This experience radically shifted my perception of the world and how the mind works, and, like yoga and meditation, it showed me the brain and body could be rewired. After these experiences, I concluded that creativity, in whatever form it takes, is the most important endeavor in life. I understood that our everyday waking consciousness limits our access to a greater dimension of existence. I also concluded that finding meaning was key to human life and health. During my experimentation, I perceived what I call “the double life of humans” (our internal self-division) and how that interferes with relationships and communication. These insights reminded me of what I had perceived as a child. Since that time, shamanic practices—the use of non-drug-induced altered states of consciousness to explore the imagination and nonhuman world—have been part of my life and approach to healing.

Exploring the Inner Working of the Mind and Psyche

Naturally introspective, sensitive to my own and others’ suffering, desirous to understand myself and my circumstance, I began to further explore the inner workings of the mind and psyche—what traditionally was called the “soul.” I started Western psychotherapy and pursued an M.A. in counseling psychology, which I combined with the study of medical anthropology. I eventually revised my graduate thesis into a manuscript entitled “Wild Analysis,” which creates a unifying framework for analysis based on evolution, the centrality of awareness (consciousness) and the concept of embodied Self. “Wild Analysis” integrates the core of indigenous healing practices (shamanism), yoga, meditation and select schools of Western psychology into an innovative cross-cultural paradigm. This paradigm also provides a foundation for understanding our globally interconnected world and is a practical and integrated approach to healing, medicine and therapy.

Personal Health Issues and Study of Asian Medicine

In my mid-thirties, I started getting severe chronic cluster headaches. Looking for a solution again changed the direction of my life. My medical physician could not explain the headaches and only prescribed codeine to alleviate them. Once again, I found conventional Western medicine lacking—it offered no lasting solution beyond symptom management and ignored the search for a cause. A friend told me about a Korean acupuncturist and Kung Fu master. After a series of acupuncture treatments, I never had those headaches again! I was amazed and fascinated by the radically different model of the body-mind, method of diagnosis and treatments that Chinese medicine used. I quickly decided to study Chinese medicine because of its simplicity and effectiveness. Chinese medicine offers a holistic medical approach that aligns with yoga and my own goal to treat the root causes of illness using natural means. Most importantly, it also offers a way of cultivating physical and mental health, not a just a means to repress symptoms with pharmaceuticals. It recognizes the importance of lifestyle and the role of stress in health and illness. Western medicine has a model of disease, but no model for health and how to cultivate it. The Asian medical traditions, Indian ayurveda and Chinese, do have models of health.

I also studied Jin Shin Do® Acupressure (a manual therapy that does not use needles) and Chinese tui na (a Chinese form of osteopathy, tai chi and ayurveda). I discovered how much I like hands-on work, for which I have a natural talent. Manual medicine has turned out to be one of the most effective ways to treat health conditions without drugs or surgery. Through the combined use of diet and Asian medicine, physical and awareness practices, and experimentation, I discovered how to reset bodily functions and align and harmonize the etheric (qi) energies and the physical body. Resetting optimal bodily function is the common source for healing most illness and disease.

Extended Studies in Western Bodywork and Eastern Practices

Throughout my life I continued my practice and exploration of yoga and eventually studied different schools of Western bodywork and somatic therapies (Bioenergetics and the Rosen Method), and the Alexander Technique. Alexander is a body-awareness education method that nicely complements the Chinese practice of standing qi gong, asana yoga and mindfulness. I focused on myofascial manipulation, a bodywork system developed by Ida Rolf, known as Structural Integration. By working on the myofascial connective tissue and how the body parts are interconnected, I learned how to transform the global body structure via the myofascial tissue.

My involvement in yoga and bodywork lead me to discover my own armoring (muscular holding patterns) and deeper imbalances and asymmetry in my musculoskeletal structure, which were reflected in scoliosis. I saw how my biography became my biology, and how a body reflects what is outside of awareness—the unconscious and ever-present history. My armoring was intimately connected to my emotional life and history. By my mid-fifties my armoring had released, my body posture “straightened out and up,” the scoliosis disappeared, my center of gravity dropped, and I could feel a streaming bioenergy (qi or prana) in my whole body. I discovered an ease of movement and equanimity and noticed how my body was affected by my mind, self-sense and lifestyle. I was able to conduct emotions and feelings in a way that was not possible earlier in my life. This was another testament to the plasticity of the body, its relationship to the mind, and the possibility to transform and achieve higher levels of functioning, organization, mental health and physical well-being.

Eventually my search brought me into contact with some great yogis and the Sage Adi Da, whose physical and spiritual Presence spontaneously revealed who “I,” distinct from my body, was and always has been, as the non-personal transcendental Self (known in Indian yoga) as distinct from my biographical personal self. These spiritual wisdom teachings helped to frame all my previous life experiences, suffering and learning. I realized that I had always been looking for my Self—this was a homecoming. I finally understood my search for answers in life, my place in this world, and could feel a native state of happiness that is always available and that others have the capacity to experience as well.

A New Clarity about Health—Full Circle

From the threads running through my life, woven together into a whole, a picture clearly emerged. My eyes and mind opened to a new way of looking at the world and understanding myself. It showed me a way to work with people that I could never have learned from rigid, separate academic and professional disciplines.

What is normally ignored by Western conventional medicine, psychiatry and psychology—the role of awareness, consciousness, imagination, the transpersonal Self, the life force (bioenergy, qi), whole systems—is found in traditional Eastern cultures. The language they use is different. It became clear to me that the practice of healing should bring these approaches back into mainstream medicine. I saw through working with people that the old divisions between biochemistry, mental life and lifestyle are not only obsolete but an obstacle to progress. The current dominant biomedical approach needs to become evidence-based, so approaches that work are not ignored or marginalized because of cultural and institutional biases and political-economic forces. And, since so many of our health problems and most common life-threatening diseases have their roots in life-style, it’s critical that those be central to any medical and health approach.

Over time, I found that the outcome of healing process depends on the individual person and whether the source of the obstruction in the body’s ability to regenerate and/or the internal mental-emotional polarization were identified and intentionally worked with. In that way the life-force can be freed up and a newly harmonized system emerge. To focus on the symptoms and problems might help temporarily but more complex health and life issues, to heal the root causes people needed to find what motivates and inspires them in a life-positive way. That is the heart of healing, and knowledge of how to work with it enhances health and well-being. If the ‘roots’ are not healed, the branches cannot be healthy and thrive.

My Own Multifaceted Approach

Through self-discovery and experimentation, I found an approach that forms a solid bridge between contemporary science, ancient healing and non-Western medical practices. Decades of experience organically coalesced into the development of a therapeutic modality I call Body-centered Internal Processingä, a form of psychophysical and spiritual exploration, which I integrate with Asian medicine to create a practical, holistic approach to health and healing.

My multi-faceted, unified approach calls upon bioenergetic therapy, Chinese medicine, ayurveda, Jin Shin Do® Bodymind Acupressure®, yoga, qi gong, meditation, nutrition and diet, body-center therapy, bodywork, and movement. I offer this approach to clients in person, and I consult, mentor and coach people internationally via Skype. I also teach classes and workshops online and in-person internationally.

Educating the Public about Medicine, Health and Wellness

The general public is currently educated into ideas about the body, health and medicine based on conventional scientific materialism and Western bio-medicine. More critical education is essential to transforming popular, limited narratives and the models of health that dominate global consumer media. I am the founder and director of the nonprofit Conscious Health Institute (CHI), with the mission to educate the public about the pillars of health and wellness—lifestyle, diet, stress reduction, exercise, and mental/emotional and spiritual health. CHI’s goal is to provide Info-medicine (health food for your mind), to help people develop a more discriminative, informed perspective about medical health and culture based on science, clinical evidence and verifiable results.

Learn more about Keyvan’s integrated approach to health and healing at other pages on this website and through The Conscious Health Institute (www.ConsciousHealthInstitute.com).

All rights reserved. © 2020 Keyvan Golestaneh.