Kimberly Burnham Q and A
I encountered Kimberly Burnham during the recent Reinvention Summit 2, in which she was featured in a showcase of selected members of the “tribe.” She has a fascinating story, as well as intriguing ways of applying her story and story in general to help clients.
Bio: Kimberly, the author of the upcoming book, The Nerve Whisperer, Create Your Life Through Brain Health, teaches people how to heal and change the story their nervous system is telling about chronic pain, lack of healing and autoimmune dysfunction.
Featured with other thought leaders, her Pearls of Wisdom chapter, “Fractals: Seeing the Patterns in Our Existence”, offers a unique perspective on pattern recognition and how we can improve our brain health, memory and physical enjoyment of life by observing what changes, while seeking to understand the world around us.
“The Eyes Observing Your World,” in Christine Kloser’s Pebbles in the Pond: Transforming the World One Person at a Time tells a remarkable story of vision recovery, offering hope for anyone with a potentially blinding condition, migraines, chronic pain, or immune dysfunction. Visit her online at her site.
Kimberly Burnham tells her story of vision recovery here (at a Books-a-Million book signing for Pearls of Wisdom).
Q&A with Kimberly Burnham:
Q: You use your own story of vision recovery and the stories of your clients to inspire hope in people with genetic and neurological disorders. Can you talk a bit more about how you do that and the effect doing so has on clients?
A: When I was 28, working as a professional photographer, I found myself in an ophthalmologist’s office getting a diagnosis of keratoconus, a genetic condition of the cornea. He told me I might go blind, and since it was genetic, there was nothing I could do. It was depressing at first, but during a particularly bad migraine while in massage school, a profession you don’t have to see, to do, I found the courage to say, “This is not okay.” The diagnosis and symptoms propelled me along a journey into complementary and alternative medicine, where I found my own answers — I am migraine-free and have the best vision of my life right now at 54.
People diagnosed with a genetic condition want hope. Sharing stories of healing gives people a different way to think about it, encourages them to seek out their own answers and find solutions. Today I see a lot of adults and children with genetic conditions. Sometimes people disparage what I do by saying, “It is just the placebo effect.” If my clients with genetic conditions and brain dysfunction feel better, move in a more balanced way, have stronger joint and muscle function, improved vision, hearing, and energy levels all because of the placebo effect, I am good with that.
Q: What is the framework or your particular definition of “story?” What definition do you espouse?
A: Stories can change, even the story our physical body is telling, sometimes shouting.
I work with clients clinically. I have a PhD in integrative medicine and am certified in integrative manual therapy, matrix energetics, and health coaching. The people I work with don’t like the story their body is telling. They want a new experience of the physical particles making up their joints, muscles, heart, and brain.
The body’s story is constantly evolving. If you look at a person they look more or less the same from one moment to the next but they are not the same. At each point of transition in time, the story can change. Even at a bony level the cells of our skeleton are completely different when compared to seven years ago. Our skin cells are completely different from a few weeks ago. So why do we look more or less the same?
Because the story our cells are telling is the same, the environment they are born into is the same, the experiences and level of communication they attain are the same with access to the same resources and voice.
Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
If you want a different experience of your joints, of brain clarity, of vibrancy, start telling a different story when someone asks, “How are you?” Change your environment, the food you feed your cells, the oxygen you draw into your lungs, your blood flow pumping through your heart on its way to the liver, to the brain, to the spine. Change something if you don’t like what you have.Q: You said in an interview, “As I write my stories, I see my life in a fresh way. I see what I have learned from different experiences. I see what I have to share that can inspire others. I see the patterns emerge. Writing about your experiences is so important, as is sharing your talents and learning, but ultimately you must have experiences.” How have you seen this story writing and pattern recognition get results for clients?
A: Writing and telling my own story has been so beneficial for me because I have started to see the patterns, the way the peak experiences in my life connect creating a continuity so that each experience gives me a glimpse of what is possible and prepares me for this present moment.
For example, I have a strong connection with Japan. My father was in the US Navy off the coast of Japan when I was born. Twenty-one years later I went to Japan as a missionary for the Mormon church. Finishing university back in the US, I returned to Japan with my girlfriend to teach English. I studied shiatsu, a kind of Japanese body work and learned about meditation and Buddhism, while I was there. I have Japanese pears growing in my Connecticut garden. At Bo Eason’s Personal Story Event, one of the “10 Coolest Things About Me” was, “I speak Japanese.” I am not yet at the end of my life, but I see a current running through it. Japan connects my religious heritage and my chosen meditation practice; it colors my worldview and the way I see the potential in people. I have learned a lot about my inner strength through my connection to Japan. I joke that I am Japanese. The word for a Japanese person is “Nihonjin” and can mean, “land of the rising sun person”, literally “root sun person” but also “two legged person”. The joke is funnier in Japanese, which I speak, and that means — I can do anything.
In Christine Kloser’s book, Pebbles in the Pond, Transforming the World One Person at a Time (May 20, 2012), I tell my story of vision recovery and share some of my experience with clients — the miracles I have seen. Writing my story and then telling clients, family, social-media friends, and perfect strangers about it has forced, or at least encouraged, me to see the gifts in my vision-disorder diagnosis and how that propelled me into a search for answers, which has been, I see now, an incredible journey. The telling has been powerful because I am embodying a story of what can change, and every cell in my body is listening to me reinforce my belief in my ability to heal and everyone’s ability to transform their lives. I believe it gives people hope that their physical reality can change, positively influenced by the stories they tell themselves and the story their nerves and sensory body is telling them.
I often ask clients to send me an email about what has changed, what is better a few days after a treatment session. This request does two things. One: they are consciously connecting experiences and looking for what is better. Two: they are writing, telling a story of what is healing, spiraling in a positive direction. You can get tremendous insights by looking for how you are connected to what is good in your life.
Often the last place I touch on a client is an area that feels good rather than where they have pain. I make that the last place because they leave the clinic thinking about that place where they feel good. And that changes everything.
Q: What people have most influenced your story work recently and why?
A: I am presently in Laurie Wagner’s Telling True Stories course. Her “wild writing” is transformative, freeing the stories inside by writing as fast as possible, messy, juicy, without editing until it is all there on the page. The gems that come out magnificent.
Laurie also turned me on to Ellen Bass’s narrative poetry, “What if you knew you’d be the last to touch someone?”
What story would you tell?
Michael Margolis’s Reinvention Summit in April 2012 showcased three minutes of my story of vision recovery and my ideas on how consciously telling your story of healing is vital.
Tell your story, knowing that every cell in your body is listening, responding to the stories you tell yourself and others. My favorite quote from Michael was: “Storytelling is a kind of pattern recognition.” Published last year, my messenger mini-book, Our Fractal Nature, a Journey of Self-Discovery and Connection seeks to shine a light on the patterns, the changes that occur at each iteration of the story of your health and healing. Every cell in your body is an information seeking pattern detector, listening as you tell the stories of your past and imagine the future. Your cells are constantly seeking to uncloak the secrecy, share information and find worthy resources.
Earlier this year, I spent precious moments with 50 Pebbles in the Pond authors and remarkable writers at Christine Kloser’s Transformational Author’s Retreat. Not only did we tell our stories, we deeply shared our dreams, hopes and vulnerabilities. By speaking of what we had experienced, what we had come through as well as how we transform our lives, we created community.
Entwined in Bo Eason’s Personal Story Event, I enjoyed the “Tell us the 10 Coolest Things About You” exercise and the Timed Storytelling exercise. Facing the man across from me, I have three minutes to tell my story. Moving down the line with two minutes for my story of vision recovery and migraine relief, I talk faster trying to massage more syllables into the ticking seconds. Moving again. One minute. My tongue can’t go faster, my heart must choose the words with the most impact. I look at each story in the 300 pages I prepared to be here. If I knew I had only one minute to have a positive impact on you, what story would I tell? What offering of myself will have the greatest healing impact?In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg explores, “it takes a while for our experience to sift through our consciousness. It is hard to write about being in love in the midst of a mad love affair. We have no perspective. It’s not yet in our body.” Writing, telling, talking and listening I gain perspective. I share my voice so you and I and others may live better — see more clearly.
In Matrix Energetics, the Experience, developed by Richard Bartlett, I use two points to explore the particles of experience, mine and yours. I feel into the waves of possibilities, tapping into the quantum physics field to find the story of change, of healing, of vibrancy. I mentally time-travel forward and backward to exploring how the story of the past can change and how the story of the future can develop. Photons and sounds moving all in the service of quality of life, of creative expression, and of love and light.
I am the master of what I create. There are no victims here, as I tell my life, grateful for the experiences, sharing what I have learned, sharing what can to help another on their journey, sharing the ways we can journey together in peace and joy.Q: If you could share just one piece of wisdom about storytelling with readers, what would it be?
Q: The placebo effect is the result of storytelling. It is the story the patients tells themselves about the benefit of a particular substance or treatment. It is the story the doctor, researcher or healthcare practitioner tells the patient about their future, about their recovery. Are they believable? Does the way they tell the story of healing benefit the patient or does it create a nosebo effect?
The nosebo effect is when you believe something bad will happen as a result of a substance or treatment. When a doctor tells someone with cancer they have six months to live, I believe he or she is using storytelling to curse the person. The power of clinical stories should not be taken lightly.
In one of my favorite movies, The Last Holiday, Queen Latifah’s character is told she will die from a brain tumor, and there is nothing she can do. She sets off to spend all her money doing things she has always wanted to do but didn’t take the money or time. It turns out she was misdiagnosed. The movie is really about how a person living fully, passionately, holding nothing back can do amazing things.
Here is a poem I wrote about the placebo effect in my own life.
Controlling the Uncontrollable
Only nothing is nothing: placebo
psychology plays in your electric brain
physiologic effect in my blazing body
is not nothing
Only the placebo effect
white coat scientists mock my alternatives
You feel better, pain-free
She dances stronger, hips flexible
Tottering becomes balance,
a credit to all powerful placebo
I can live with that, I am good with that
Nosebo, placebo telling me I am, I have
a wicked genetic condition
Saying there is nothing
I can do anything
This is not okay!
Alternative medicine solutions
genes without change
better vision than 40
Seeing the pattern of flow
Avoiding the car accident by a hair.
Placebo storied pattern recognition
new stories as every cell listens
telling hopeless doctors
I see you, placebo my eye.