Janine Romaner, ND, is a Shadow Work® Mentor and Certified Facilitator, a founding member of the Shadow Work Guild, a co-founder of Women In Power, and a doctor of natural medicine at the Naturally Healthy Clinic in Woodstock, Georgia. She lives in nearby Roswell, Georgia, with her beloved canine children.
September 24, 2008, by Alyce Barry
AB: How did you first come across this kind of work?
Janine: In college, I was extremely interested in behavioral psychology, and particularly abnormal psychology, which to me was much more normal. [Laughs.]
AB: So we could say you were certifiable even back then. [Laughs.]
Janine: My whole life, I’ve never been mainstream. My mother wasn’t mainstream. I’ve always tended toward alternatives in one way or another, without really knowing they were alternative.
I did a lot of studies in therapeutic work, even music and dance psychology. I started at the University of South Florida in Tampa and transferred to Colorado State, where I didn’t get a degree because I got so bored. I started studying unconventional forms like hypnotherapy, for which I got a license that I never used. Instead, I got involved in a spiritual organization and moved to Canada. That was the beginning of my 27 years living in British Columbia.
While living in community, part of my work involved running three-week intensive trainings with two men I knew. As the years went on, I was being pushed to the edge of my experience. I remember making a decision at the end of one of those: I’m not doing another one until I get more training.
Wouldn’t you know it, the way the universe magically works, within two weeks, somebody gave me a video to watch. It was Cliff and Mary Ellen doing Shadow Work with participants.
AB: It sounds as if you saw the videos of two real processes that were for sale at one time.
Janine: Yes, real processes. As soon as I was five minutes into the video, my cells were vibrating. I knew I wanted to train with Cliff. I knew that’s what I needed and wanted.
I was primarily thinking of getting more training at that point, but as I stepped into it, I realized more and more that I myself was in real need of doing personal growth work. What I didn’t know was that within the next year, my life was going to crash, and I would be going into a long period that I came to call the dark night of my own soul.
AB: After watching the video, what did you sign up for?
Janine: This is one of the ways that the universe conspired. In a matter of two months, without my doing anything about it, Cliff and Mary Ellen, with Dmitri Bilgere and Erva Baden, came to British Columbia. It must have been in the works, but I was unaware. As I recall, they gave several Shadow Work introductory events, which I participated in. Shortly afterward, they came back and gave their first facilitator training, which I also participated in.
For the next few years I was bitten by the Shadow Work snake, as Cliff once said, and it was a combination of doing my own personal work and going to trainings whenever I could. Learning Shadow Work was a gift to me personally that gave me the tools to rebirth, to come out of a former life in a healthy and creative way over time.
AB: What memories do you have of those first Shadow Work experiences?
Janine: My first Shadow Work experience was in a grouping of maybe 30 to 35 people I knew, within a larger community of some 110 people. I remember being very scared of exposing myself in front of people I knew. I felt a cocktail of emotions. There were, in my opinion, a lot of political dynamics in the community, and it was very hard for me to be vulnerable in that setting.
On the other hand, being kind of a fiery person myself with some background in music and dance, I remember being awestruck with the theatre of Shadow Work, and the color, music, variety, and the broad spectrum of emotions. It was activating parts of me that had been numbed over time. I still recall the physical sensation of parts of my body becoming alive.
The language of Shadow Work touched me very deeply also. I still think to this day that the languaging of Shadow Work is so elegant.
AB: Did Shadow Work change the way you saw yourself?
Janine: It helped me to be more compassionate, more accepting, and gave permission for me to be who I was. That was new for me back then. It was something I needed very much in order to do my own work.
I also remember the dance between Cliff and Mary Ellen. Seeing a strong female figure back then was new for me. It helped me to awaken my own voice that had been silenced.
AB: Do you remember the point at which you decided to become trained to facilitate Shadow Work?
Janine: I think the truth is, I never considered not. At some cellular level, I simply knew that this was part of my mission.
It was also probably that a central part of my own rebirth during that journey into and out of the dark night of my soul was to reclaim my inner she-wolf. She had been lost. Shadow Work helped me to reawaken that part of me that would not be tamed; the part of me that instinctively knows, that ancient wisdom that I believe every woman has. I was able to reclaim the gold in my wounds.
Our wounds eventually become a gift if we choose to use them that way. The deepest sore places in my life have now become what I draw from to help other women and men.
AB: You went on to finish the trainings and become certified, and you ran workshops for some years in Vancouver with George Hanson.
Janine: George and I are like a brother and sister. Our lives seemed to parallel each other. We moved south to Vancouver from the community in central British Columbia at about the same time and started to create a Shadow Work community.
My day job, though, was beginning a career in natural medicine. Even before I moved to Vancouver, I had begun training in natural approaches to healthcare and biofeedback devices. They are brilliant tools for testing acupuncture meridian points, testing for toxicity, inflammation, low organ function or degeneration, and for a myriad of substances to discover underlying contributors to ill health: metals, chemicals, viruses, allergens, bacteria, yeast, fungus. There are over 45,000 specific things we can test.
In Vancouver, I built a private practice as a health consultant, primarily using a biofeedback instrument. I kept my work well within the range of my training. It was wonderful, and gave me years of experience working with people, helping them to reclaim their health with dignity. George and I were also running Shadow Work weekends quite frequently, and I saw Shadow Work clients within my practice as well.
So a lot of people came to our weekends through my practice. Vancouver is such a beautifully open spiritual community that a lot of people wanted to work on both physical and emotional health. That’s how the two things began to dovetail in my life.
AB: What drew you to working with people on a body level? Had that always been an important thing in your life? Or did you notice that people who were coming to you to do Shadow Work were physically ill and become convinced that their emotional issues were showing up in their bodies?
Janine: Some of both, but probably more the latter. When I lived in central British Columbia, in the midst of exquisite nature, there was a lot of Native American influence, and people were into herbology and natural approaches to healing.
But in Vancouver, I had a couple of close friends who were naturopathic doctors. They were watching me doing emotional work with people, and they kept elbowing me and saying, “Haven’t you been noticing that you could also be helping them at a physical level with detoxifying protocols?”
I see that when people release emotional toxins, they release physical toxins as well.
However, I also learned about me that I didn’t want to be in people’s emotional stuff full-time. I love doing that part-time, but I didn’t want that as a full-time career.
AB: Why not full-time?
Janine: I found myself much fresher at a mental and emotional level when I wasn’t doing it day after day after day. When I built a practice that incorporated both, I loved the variety.
I’m built for variety, which is another thing I learned about me. I do best when I have a balanced mix of variety in my life, variety that all fits under one umbrella in my world. If I do only one thing in my life, I get bored with it.
When I began to train in natural medicine, I was equally impassioned and so excited about learning. I love to learn. So I found that emotional transformational work and natural medicine fit beautifully together in my work.
AB: Would you describe natural medicine as a grounding influence?
Janine: The emotions and the physical body are intricately tied together. When a person is in emotional depression, that will begin to depress their immune system sooner or later. And when their immune system gets depressed, their innate physiological weaknesses are going to give way, and they will develop an associated illness.
AB: Yes, a little.
Janine: She’s an oby/gyn, known worldwide now, primarily for empowering women in their health, and has written numerous books.
One of the things she has said that strikes me accurately is that whether we are male or female, when we’re a fetus in our mother’s womb, we are literally made up of the biochemical soup of our mother. We take in the emotional and physical nutrients and toxins from our mother through the umbilical cord, and do not receive the nutrients she does not have to give.
But if that wasn’t the case, if instead our mother went through trauma or got ill or was a heavy smoker, her biochemical soup didn’t have the full spectrum of nutrients. Our placenta was lacking.
What I see at a physical level, when I’m working with people, is that we can see what’s going on, not just at a nutrient level, but at an emotional level. Whether we’re doing Shadow Work or we’re in other personal growth arenas, what we’re really doing is creating a new placenta for each other.
AB: What a powerful image, of a container acting like a placenta.
Janine: Using that analogy, I think it’s a gift that, whether we are men or women, we can mother one another. We can provide some of the nutrients we may not have gotten from our mother. Maybe we were missing a neurotransmitter or crucial vitamins, or an emotional frequency of support. That analogy is sometimes in the back of my mind whether I’m working with somebody emotionally or physically. We can provide things for one another that we never got.
AB: To what degree would you say that Shadow Work and natural medicine are based on similar beliefs acting on different levels?
Janine: For me there is a principle or premise that underlies both. That’s part of why I can do both.
The principle is that, whenever we develop an issue, usually unconsciously, whether at a physical or emotional level, I believe we’re doing it as a coping or survival mechanism.
For example, in the emotional realm, let’s say a child has lost a parent and doesn’t have the tools for coping with that. The child might go into denial, and you could say that later in that person’s life, the denial becomes an issue. But early on, that denial was probably a necessity that was the best possible choice.
By the same token, on a physical level, let’s say a man comes into the clinic with very elevated cholesterol. It could be in part because of dietary habits and no exercise. But it could also be that he has underlying metal toxicity. His body is coping by elevating his cholesterol, which is the body’s most natural and effective way of detoxifying metal.
AB: How interesting. I hadn’t heard that cholesterol might have that purpose.
Janine: If you look at the hormonal feedback loops, that kind of pattern is there. Whether it’s emotional or physical, what I see is that the body gives signs.
In Shadow Work, as facilitators, we’re listening to what the participant says, and for what’s not being said. We’re looking at body posture and body language. We use all this information, and more, as signposts that tell us how to help the person get what they’ve come for.
In the physical arena, we also hear languaging, watch posture, see which organs are covered with excess fat deposits, etc, but we also include saliva panels, blood chemistry, lipid profiles, biofeedback tests and more. Again, there are patterns that show up. In my opinion, most allopathic or conventional doctors don’t look at the patterns. They look at what’s missing and give a drug to try to replace it. In natural medicine, we try to look at the patterns.
So we look at the high cholesterol and ask why it’s there, why it developed in the first place. We try to track it back to the root. If you follow unwanted symptoms back to as close to the origins as possible, much of the time they can be healed or at least improved. For me that’s one of the principles that underlies both.
AB: At what point did you make the decision to become a doctor of natural medicine?
Janine: I realized, after moving from Canada to the Atlanta area, that I wanted and needed a doctor’s degree, for a few reasons. I was newly building a practice as a health consultant and a biofeedback technician in a natural medicine clinic. What I found very quickly was that a lot of conditions coming to me were severe. I wanted to fill in the holes in my training.
Also, the Atlanta area is a much more conservative part of the continent than Vancouver. In this part of the country, having the credential of being a doctor meant a great deal to people. It put them at ease, and I thought that was very important.
Becoming a doctor proved to be extremely helpful to me. More and more, I’m finding that people are turning to natural approaches to healthcare because they’re not healing with conventional drugs. I don’t say that with any disdain for conventional drugs.
AB: What’s your take on drugs?
Janine: When they’re needed, they’re a godsend. My opinion is that they’re vastly overused, just as antibiotics are.
Many conditions can be turned around through very specific natural medications, whether it’s homeopathics or botanical blends, natural hormone supplements, dietary approaches or exercise.
Another reason I wanted to get more training was that autism started to show up in my practice.
AB: I remember your showing me several years ago an article you published about autism. Has that become a specialty?
Janine: Autism is a spectrum disorder. So there are children who are mild on the spectrum, children who are severe, there are children who have ADHD, asthma, and apraxia (speech delays). All of this is rampant in our society right now — one in 150 children are diagnosed with autism in 2008.
Families with autistic children started coming to me about eight years ago. In natural medicine I was having success with children whose speech, cognition and focus were returning. The parents of autistic children have networks, so they share their stories. Parents will do whatever they have to do to get their children healed.
There’s a brilliant organization called Defeat Autism Now (DAN). DAN provides tremendous education to parents and doctors, and it directs parents to those of us who are DAN doctors listed on their website.
Autism and developmental delays is a division of my work that I didn’t go out seeking, but because it’s such an epidemic in this country, the children and their parents come. It represents probably 60% to 65% of my practice now.
AB: I’ve read that some parents are reluctant to get their children immunized because they believe that certain vaccines might be responsible for some types of autism. Have you come to a conclusion about that?
Janine: What I have seen is a pattern, a progression that can happen in a young child’s life. In that progression, if enough insults occur, the immune system begins to break down and neurological blocks occur.
So for instance, let’s say that a child was given the usual vaccines right at birth. Will that cause autism? In my opinion, probably not. But it can, with some babies, begin to compromise the immune system. Partly because of all the preservatives in the vaccines, and partly because of the number of viruses a vaccine contains. Some babies are strong enough to handle that and some are not.
Many kids then begin to develop ear infections. A common pattern I see, with probably 90% of my kids, is that they’re taken to the doctor and put on antibiotics. Excessive use of antibiotics will break down the gut and respiratory immunity more. It starts to impair the mucosal lining in the intestines, which blocks absorption, and then yeast overgrowth develops which can impact brain function due to an opiate-like toxin excreted. And they get more vaccines. Thus the progression continues.
If a child’s system can’t withstand all these insults, as I’ll call them, at some point there’s a last straw. For some children, the last straw is a vaccine. Many parents say that, after the MMR vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella, their child is not the same. Many parents tell me that their child lost their speech overnight or within days after getting the vaccine. Again, did that alone cause the autism?
AB: What was it you were saying about the number of viruses in a vaccine?
Janine: In 1985, the vaccine schedule in North America changed. The schedule was increased, and more viruses were put in the vaccines. The list of preservatives in vaccines is scary. Is one piece of candy going to knock your system out? Probably not. But if you have so much candy that your system can’t handle the sugar and dyes, it’s going to break down.
I heard a news broadcast on this tonight. It’s not so much that vaccines cause autism, but we need to be intelligent about how and when we’re administering them. Many moms have told me they took their little one to the doctor because he or she had a cold and wasn’t well. And the doctor said, While you’re here, we’ll give your child a vaccine. In my view, that’s the worst time.
AB: This will be an ignorant question. Are you saying that autism is an immune system disorder? Or are you saying that once the immune system has been violated repeatedly, a final insult happens, and that sets the stage for something to cause autism?
Janine: It’s not a stupid question at all. A couple of my mentors call autism an auto-immune condition. For sure, it’s an extremely complex condition.
These insults definitely impact the whole intestinal and respiratory mucosal linings, which means they impact immunity. The children become malabsorptive: many of these kids have to eat a gluten-free diet and have trouble digesting certain peptides. Some have had injections that contain metals, which are neuro-toxins that can affect brain function. The body’s whole detoxification process is compromised. The methylation process is compromised. I could go on and on. It’s multi-faceted.
Because of autism’s complexity, I put the kids on a very comprehensive program, which isn’t the same for everyone, but there are a lot of similarities. Where I used to apologize for this years ago, now, I don’t apologize any more. I believe the comprehensiveness is actually what allows for so much progress.
AB: Is there a success story you’d like to share?
Janine: Yesterday, I was in tears for joy. A three-year-old autistic child had only been on our program for five weeks. He had worn the same outfit for more than two years because his skin was so sensitive to other fabrics. He was hardly speaking, had minimal focus, wasn’t sleeping well, seemed to be in another world, etc. He was toeing — walking on his toes — which I think is largely because the reflexology points for the digestive system are on the flats of the feet, and they hurt until we get the digestive system cleared.
There had been a lot of signs that this child was not healthy. We used the test results from the child’s body to determine a comprehensive program.
I had my fingers crossed when the mom came in yesterday, and I asked, “How’s our little one doing?”
Her eyes filled up, and she said, “I kid you not, this has been like a miracle. We’ve got our child back.”
Usually I hear that comment after a number of months. This child was so beautifully responsive.
He was talking a little bit to me, where five weeks before he wasn’t. His eye contact was there. He was wearing different clothing. His mom said his behavioral therapist sees great improvements.
She went on and on, and I sat there with the tears rolling down my cheeks. I credit the parents, because they are the ones who must stay committed to protocols, diets and therapies to bring their children back.
AB: I’m wondering what a medical intuitive like Louise Hay or Carolyn Myss would say about the symbolism of autism. An autistic child seems to be turned more inward than other children. Is it possible that autism on a symbolic level is children responding to the toxicity of our modern lifestyle by turning inward? And that there are many degrees of autism because our lifestyle is toxic in such a variety of ways? Does that make any sense?
Janine: Sadly, yes, it does. It hurts my heart to hear that because I think there’s truth to it.
Some of these children amaze me. I’m thinking of this little one who was sitting next to his mom in my office. All of a sudden, he looked at his mom and said, “Are you okay?”
She said, “Yes, I’m fine. Why?”
He said, “Because I can’t hear your heartbeat.” His hearing was so acute that he could hear her heart beat. For some reason, he hadn’t been able to in that moment.
I think that underscores what you’re saying. Some of these children are so sensitive, on all their levels of senses: their hearing, sight, taste, touch. In this world, that sensitivity is being bombarded by so much that it can be a massive coping or survival tool to turn in.
AB: To what degree is the patient’s belief a component of the healing process? If you had three parents coming to you, and one of them was a believer in natural medicine, the second was skeptical, and the third just flat-out didn’t believe it, how do you think their belief would impact their treatment? Aside from affecting how closely they followed what you’re describing as a demanding protocol.
Janine: I think belief is crucial. In our patient questionnaire, we ask, Do you see yourself cured of your condition? We’re basically asking them, Do you believe you can get well? If they say no, I flag that in my mind.
AB: Do you also ask children that question?
Janine: Absolutely. With most young children I don’t have to ask because their parents can hardly wait to get in. The referral network has done that work for me.
However, once in a while I have a teenager or an adult whose attitude says, I don’t believe this is going to do anything.
What I usually do is talk with them about it first. Because if in their heart and mind they don’t believe it, I believe there’s a blockage in the body that isn’t going to be able to use the treatment fully.
I am daily appreciative for what I call the grace of God, the healing power of whatever that mysterious force is that created our bodies in the first place. And I’m also extremely grateful for the brilliant mentors I have, who are there for me in case I run into questions or difficulties. That’s a great comfort to know that I’m not alone.
AB: I want to ask you about Women In Power and how you became involved. You’re one of the leaders of the organization, which is growing a good bit.
Janine: As you know, the design of the Women In Power (WIP) initiation was created by ALisa Starkweather, Sara Schley and Jude Blitz.
When they put the call out for women to attend the first initiation in 2001, there was more response than they had expected. So they invited Nicola Kurk and me to assist.
Alyce, it was going to be in about three weeks, but as soon as I heard Jude’s loving voice, something in my cells just knew I had to be there. I looked in my day book, and those days were jam-packed, and I called her and said I’d be there. It was one of those times when there was just no decision to be made.
The way it registered in me was that I felt a constellation coming together, and I was part of it. So I went in service of my sisters and in service of the women who were coming.
AB: The year I came to help facilitate, it was at Bullard Farm in Salem, Massachusetts. I understand it’s now happening at additional locations in the US and England.
Janine: Yes. So many amazing women all over North America, England, Europe and now South Africa are connected through this network. Stellar women have offered and continue to offer their presence, their gifts, their vulnerability in all kinds of leadership ways, just as you did at Bullard Farm when the initiation was newly occurring. Bless Becky Schupbach, our Executive Director (Den Mother) — if I began to name women to honor and bless, the list would be endless. I think this is because there is something archetypal in women that calls us to love and support one another.
This pushing-the-edge initiation is one way in which women can come and touch something very ancient about sisterhood, about our own authentic rhythms masked by societal demands, and become familiar with the internal predator/prey circuitry.
We’ve generally held three a year, though not every year. There have been several in Massachusetts, in the UK, one in Wales. As we speak this evening, another initiation is starting at Gaia in Maryland. And we held our first Pacific Northwest initiation earlier this year. And there are other locations on the horizon.
AB: I wanted to ask what you’ve gained from being a leader in WIP. And since it’s been about eight years now, I’m guessing you’ve gained many different things.
Janine: Yes. Many gifts. One is to be a part of a growing community of women. This has changed me. When I go to these initiations and get to know in a deeper way women whom I met when they initially went through the initiation — when I listen to them, and I hear the experiences of their rich lives — that changes me. These are women from all walks of life, leaders in their unique ways. I’m in awe of their life experiences, the amazing gifts that we each bring, and I feel very honored to be a part of that.
And for me it definitely touches something ancient. It fills an ache that I think I had in knowing that women have something to give and receive from one another that we get only from other women. It’s bringing to life an ancient memory.
AB: That’s a beautiful way to say it.
Janine: I think of some of the women I’ve known for eight years or so, and I’m awestruck by their passion for the work. These are the kinds of friendships where we may not see each other for a couple of years, and when we see each other again, no time has passed.
I’ve also appreciated my personal growth challenges in working so closely with the other co-founders and leaders of this initiation.
AB: What do you say today about those challenges?
Janine: Well, in the earlier years, we had some real tough things to go through together, working out dynamics between us, decisions, or aspects of the design. That predator/prey circuitry runs through us and between us, and to walk our talk we’ve been as thorough as possible to stay “in love” while clearing anything that arose.
The gift that I live with now, every day, is that in a way it’s like a marriage: we’ve been through it all together, and we’re still there for each other. What I’ve learned is that it’s okay for my sisters to see in me the places that I once wanted to hide: the bitchy parts, the dark places. My sisters not only won’t go away, I think they love me more. They support me. It’s such a treasure in my life to have close women friends who I know are there for me no matter what.
And that took going through some raw places together.
I think being part of WIP helps me to know that I’m on the right path. Part of my life mission is to make a difference in people’s lives. My heart is settled knowing that to whatever degree, I’m doing that. That’s been another really priceless gift for me.
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