My interest in exploring the mind body connection began in my early twenties when my immune system began failing me, leading to one autoimmune disease diagnosis after another.
The shock of losing my health and the use of my body at just twenty-three years of age reordered my world and led me onto a path of holistic healing. The profoundly intimate and nuanced relationship between body, mind, and soul slowly started to reveal itself.
My experience during that 6-year period of illness was only the beginning of my journey into a very deep and complex healing process. Although the illness was showing up in my physical body, I was having a spiritual crisis and I did not know it. The issues with my physical health were small steps compared to what was to come. In retrospect, I can say they were preparation.
As I began to heal, I started practicing yoga and have continued to do so ever since. I spent countless hours, days and months wringing myself out on my yoga mat under the guidance of Chuck Miller, Nancy Goldstein, Bryan Best, Vinnie Marino, John Doyle, Jasmine Lieb and more.
In my early thirties, in one of the yoga rooms, I experienced what is known in the religious studies literature as a pure consciousness event. In one flash I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that the fundamental nature of reality is pure consciousness. That, regardless of how multiple and diverse the world looks to our human eyes, all is one.
This consciousness that I refer to here is self-evident only—and therefore ultimately ineffable. It is not an object that can be named or limited through description, although I presume it to be what many religions refer to as God and Buddhists point to as the bliss-void indivisible.
This psychic experience was reordering and revolutionizing to say the least.
To process this enormous event and find a new definition of the ground my feet were standing on, I began reading and studying everything I could get my hands on that related to psyche and soul. I read a book a week for four years straight.
If it wasn’t for the work of Carl Jung and Patañjali, I am not sure my feet would be on the ground today.
I relished reading Jung’s autobiography and the very potent and oftentimes heady words of his Collected Works. I also read or listened to many others whose works were influenced by him: Woodman, Campbell, Moore, Neumann, Edinger, Myss, and Grof to name a few of my favorites.
I delved into the Tibetan Book of the Dead, The Upanishads and several translations of the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali with the vigor and enormous relief that quite possibly only someone who has had such a psychic break can relate to. I briefly touched upon the teachings of Jesus, Muhammad and Buddha, and the mystical interpretations of the Kabbalah. I studied the mythology of the Mayans, Egyptians and Hindus and immersed myself in alchemy and the Hermetic Texts. I studied the work of Gopi Krishna, Gary Zukav, Peter Russell, Ram Dass, Alan Watts, Ken Wilber, Richard Freeman, Manly P. Hall, Sri Aurobindo, Gandhi and Yogananda.
I began to find some ground in 2004 whereupon I started work on my second documentary film and first book idea, both currently titled Thirsting for God. Both the film and the book are about the evolution of human consciousness. They both take an in-depth look into the patterns and conditions of the mind and its inherited beliefs, and support the beingness, and pure awareness that lies beyond/behind them.
My first film, The Fire Within, about long-term AIDS survivor Bob Bowers, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in 2002, has screened on World AIDS Day around the world, ran on The Documentary Channel in 2012 and now streams on Amazon Prime. I chose AIDS as a backdrop due to my own encounter with my immune system, but the story is one about the ‘soul's’ stamina. The film's messages are timeless and universal, and applicable to all of us. At heart, The Fire Within is a documentary about the courage it takes to stay optimistic when the future looks so uncertain. My hope has always been that the film will not only educate, but also inspire people around the world to look openly at whatever obstacles they face—and to appreciate every day—for life is a gift.
In addition to my creative work, in 2008 I decided to engage my studies in a more rigorous academic setting. I enrolled in Pacifica Graduate Institute where I completed a Doctorate in depth psychology. Depth psychology is a rich subject that loosely merges yoga philosophy, alchemy, and Western science. It is a psychology of the invisible—of what remains unseen to the human eye and unheard by the human ear. It is a psychology that connects us into our deepest selves, through the excavation and development of our multi-sensory perception.
In addition to my academic work at Pacifica, I have also studied CranioSacral Therapy with the Upledger Institute and received certification to teach yoga from Exhale Sacred Movement in Venice California. The healing modalities I am drawn to, and utilize in my practice, explore our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual connections from profoundly subtle levels.
Drawing from the broad scope of my personal experience, complimented with academic study, my body of work endeavors to bring the voice and capacity of feminine wisdom into prominence so that, alongside discriminatory discernment, a strong foundation of unconditional love, compassion and embodied Knowing is present here on Earth during this next phase of our evolution.
Thank you for visiting.
Dr. Leanne Whitney