Our Bodies, Our Cells: An Interview with Dr. Joyce Whiteley Hawkes
“…a rare combination of rational scientist and enlightened healer”
by Hayward Hawks Marcus
Ten thousand could dance on the head of a pin - if they could dance. Invisible to the human naked eye, they are with us from conception, doing their best to protect us from harm and keep us healthy as we focus on the business of our daily lives, largely unconscious of their presence.
No, they’re not angels - at least not in the literal sense. They are our cells, and just like those legendary guardians, they work night and day without rest on our behalf, doing the countless tasks needed for bodily maintenance, including supply, communication, renewal, repair and defense.
Recently, while researching human cells myself, I realized that the description of life at the cellular level read more like science fiction than science. The world of cells is so fantastic and mysterious that a hair-tingling epiphany swept over me - I had tens of trillions of these tiny beings working all at once to support me. They kept me going no matter what my endeavor. Suddenly, no matter how much I felt myself as an ego with a body, I had to acknowledge and appreciate their ceaseless labors. Realizing these tiny, selfless creatures worked within me each day, immediately I felt revitalized at a deep level.
Three days later, on a road trip from California to Oregon, a woman’s voice on my car radio introduced one Joyce Whiteley Hawkes, Ph.D. She was, it seemed, founder of Seattle’s Healing Arts Associates clinic and the author of a new book called Cell Level Healing. For the next hour, Dr. Hawkes discussed her book on the amazing world of cells.
It was a fascinating story. Before a life-changing accident re-directed her career path, Dr. Hawkes had spent almost fifteen years as a prominent scientist; researching, publishing and lecturing on how cells were polluted by environmental toxins. She had been honored with a U.S. Department of Commerce National Achievement Award, and was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a position she still holds today.
She confessed that neither metaphysics, religion, nor heaven were in her belief system until the day a heavy leaded-glass window fell on her head, causing a near-death experience. It would both alter her view of life and dispel her fear of death. In addition, this experience also awakened in her astounding psychic and healing abilities, and, to quote her book, “My view of myself as a levelheaded, rational scientist became unhinged.”
She began to explore phenomena that defied scientific explanation, and what she found inspired Dr. Hawkes to become a healer: she then went to live and study with shamans and priests in Bali, in the Philippines and in South India. In Bali, a female mentor sat her at the entrance of a fire ant hill to meditate; incredibly, she came away unbitten by the fierce insects, by focusing on her teacher’s chanting.
When I later interviewed Dr. Hawkes, she rattled off facts about cells that still leave her awestruck:
“The sheer number of cells within our bodies is astounding - estimated at between 50 and 100 trillion cells, or roughly 1,500 times the population of the earth. Their ability to stay in balance and harmony in our bodies is amazing. By the time we have an adult body, with all the cells we’re going to have, those cells are slowly replaced, at different rates. For instance, skin cells live about a month; red blood cells about four months - about three million red-blood cells are replaced in our bodies each second! Inside almost every cell, are all of the components needed for life: information (in the nucleus, where our DNA lives); communication among cells and to cells in the whole body (chemical information [is] released via [the] cell membrane and its nanotubes). There’s a power pack in each cell (the mitochondria) and there’s an action part of each cell (the endoplasmic reticulum), that’s able to synthesize all the enzymes and proteins are needed for life. And all of this churns along, in every single cell!”
In fact, this factory-like makeup of cells, and the sheer complexity packed within something so small that it takes an enormous electron microscope the size of a VW bug to see within, is what I found so incredible. The original nanobots, cells are complex machines that do a vast array of specific tasks we’ve probably never even thought about.
A glance at a Wikipedia page shows over two-hundred cell types, each with specialized jobs. We have cells that produce mucous, saliva and hair; cells that make up muscle, bone and store fat; cells that sense touch, taste, smell, sound and are the photo receptors for our eyes.
One family of cells, called phagocytes, (which translates as “eating cells”) gobbles up dead cells which are then digested and recycled into material to be reused by healthy cells. These cells know how to make tooth enamel, for instance, because of their ability to read and follow instructions from our 3 billion bit-long strands of DNA, those double-helix strings of unique information that are at their core.
Cells do their best to take care of us, but what happens if we don’t take care of them?
“For their life, cells require nutrients,” say Hawkes, “and if we’re limiting the nutrients we get because we’re eating nothing but sugar, then they can’t work. And if we’re putting lots of toxins into the body; the cells are work to survive all this toxicity. So we’re killing them off, then asking them to [still]work for us and keep our body going. The body, with a 100 trillion cells, is very resilient. It’s got a lot of extra cells and resources, but they’re not unlimited. So if we’re poisoning them, or we’re not giving them the basic nutrients, then they can’t repair when they need to, nor continue their life.”
Dr. Joyce Whiteley Hawkes is that rare combination of rational scientist and enlightened healer that makes for an interesting if unlikely mix - a position she nonetheless balances quite effectively. For instance, asked if she would describe cells as having an intelligence of their own, she replies,
“As a scientist, the scientist part says no, they don’t have an intelligence of their own as we experience intelligence. [However] as a healer, I experience at times something that feels like the life force consciousness [is] in everything, including the cells in my body. But to go to the point of saying that each cell has its own intelligence stretches farther than I can go as a scientist.”
But Dr. Hawkes, the healer, has a deeper concern about thinking of our cells as conscious beings.
“If the cell becomes ill, we [can] begin to look at it as a conscious act of that cell, and that limits the ability to heal. I always assume each of my cells is doing the very best it can with the environment, the attitudes, the food, everything I’m giving it, and that if it’s sick, well maybe its genetic code couldn’t handle that particular part of life that got dealt to it. Maybe the environmental toxin it took in just overloaded it - just pulled it right off the edge of what it could handle.”
Whether one is in a healing crisis, or would just like to learn how healing thought can assist cell health, Dr. Hawkes’ book, Cell Level Healing (Atria Books, 2006) is written as an easy guide to understanding the nature of our bodies and our cells. With simple guided visualization and meditation exercises, Dr. Hawkes leads her readers to appreciate their bodies and those busy cells. She suggests how to clear energy blockages, and teaches how to connect with and strengthen the cells’ own healing ability. Breathing in balance and breathing out harmony is one such exercise.
Those who believe that thought has no impact on the physical part of our bodies should know that recent scientific experiments have shown otherwise. “Current information coming out of Richard Davidson’s lab at the University of Wisconsin, in his research on brain waves of advanced meditators (Tibetan monks), shows that when compassion meditation is involved, there’s an increase of neurons in the brain...it generates the division of cells with the brain,” says Hawkes. This may prove to be good news in the fight against brain dysfunction.
Dr. Hawkes leaves one final tip for health from her work as a healer, which might go a long way to healing many of the world’s ills.
“[From] my experience, working with people for 22 years in healing modalities, I know that we all heal better the more kindness and compassion that we live in our lives, and we [must] give [that] to ourselves as well as to others.”
About the Author
Native Californian and Monterey Bay resident, Hayward Hawks Marcus, has written for several west coast magazines, the online literary salon, Fresh Yarn, as well as plays, screenplays and a budding first novel.