Sondra is a scientist, author, speaker and workshop leader who travels the worlds of inner space with her microscope, mind and heart. She integrates medical science with spirituality walking with practical feet.
Dr. Barrett received her PhD in biochemistry from the University of Illinois Medical School followed by post-doctoral fellowship at University of California Medical School (UCSF) in immunology-hematology. Heading up her own laboratory, while on the faculty at UCSF (Radiation Oncology and the Cancer Research Institute), she investigated the growth and maturation of human white blood cells for application to diagnosis and treatment of human leukemias and lymphomas. This work brought her into ongoing contact with patients, particularly children with leukemia and their families. With the clinical staff of Pediatric Oncology at UCSF she helped deliver Back to School programs for teachers and provide support to sibling groups and complementary practices to children. This was long before we had the word complementary. Dr. Barrett offered pediatric patients imagery and edutainment of the inner worlds of cells and molecules. She also mentored medical residents in hematology and radiation oncology on how to do clinical research.
Research questions – beyond diagnosis of cancer, how can treatment be improved. She began asking the question – could cancer cells be made to become normal and she and her team were able to trigger abnormal human leukemia cells into exhibiting some properties of normal cells. The American Cancer Society, National Cancer Institute, UC Cancer Coordinating Committee and private foundations funded her work.
Her educational supportive work with cancer patients has been funded by the Flow Foundation, Symington Family Fund and Broderbund Foundation. She has also been on the team delivering “Ornish-like’ cardiac care programs with Marin Cardiology Associates.
Though Dr. Barrett first used the microscope searching for cellular clues and cures for human leukemias, a surprising photographic exhibit of brain chemicals showed her that the microscope could also be used to create art from science. And life began revealing itself in new ways as she began photographing, along with human cells, vitamins, minerals, tastes, and the substances of life. Her first audiences to these inner space images were children with cancer.
Shifting attitudes, becoming an educator. A turning point from thinking as a hard-core scientist to heart-core was spending time with these children whose lives were threatened by cancer. She began traveling two worlds – her lab and pediatric oncology. Over the decades she explored healing traditions namely those based on somatics, expressive arts, spirituality, sound and energy. Her work strongly embraces what she considers ‘stuff that works’ for healing the heart and spirit.
A pioneer in the field of psychoneuroimmunology (bodymind medicine), Dr. Barrett offers a balanced view of medical science with practical applications. An innovator in understanding microscopic patterns of cells and molecules, she shows how they relate to the building blocks and activities of life.
Leaving UCSF she focused on developing educational supportive programs for people with cancer and immune disorders, developed and delivered psychoneuroimmunology (mindbody) courses, helped develop the Integral Health program at California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS), offered stress management programs combining qigong and psychoneuroimmunology at California Pacific Medical Center’s (CPMC) Institute for Health and Healing, and delivered continuing education programs to health professionals throughout the United States. Continuing to ask what facilitates healing, she with Dr. William Stewart of CPMC, developed a weekend event Come to Your Senses bringing together sound, energy, and somatics practitioners plus complementary medicine pioneers Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. David Sobel to present new views of healing to physicians, students and the community in San Francisco.
On the faculty at CIIS, while at the same time apprenticing to a shaman and studying qigong, her perspective grew to seeing cells and molecules more than physical. In fact, her teaching evolved from mindbody medicine to cellular mysteries and mystic molecules. She began offering these programs as workshops and graduate programs at retreat centers and universities.
Delving deeper. Dr. Barrett fosters the new idea that the architecture of life – our cells and molecules – reveals both universal laws of design and principles for living. She speculates that the inner life of our cells forms a framework for our social and spiritual lives. Translating sacred ancient teachings as aspects of cellular intelligence, Dr. Barrett secretly refers to herself as an “unwitting code finder and cellular anthropologist”.
Sondra’s passion to merge science with practice forms the keystone of her new book Secrets of Your Cells, strategies she has been offering people in their healing process. Delivering experiential explorations along with scientific explanations of how our cells and molecules work, Sondra is a dedicated teacher whose additional photographic adventures through the microscope add another level of vision and comprehension of complex biology. An author of numerous peer-reviewed scientific articles, her new book Secrets of Your Cells marries science, practice and spirituality.
Her unique perspective through the microscope offers the reader a bird’s eye view into one’s cells and molecules. Her photographs have won awards from both Nikon and Olympus and have appeared in Scientific American, Lawrence Hall of Science, Napa Valley Museum and numerous venues and international publications. Dedicated to guiding people in discovering their own innate wisdom, Dr. Barrett’s illuminates life in a user-friendly manner so that people can ‘get it.’ Her goal is to deliver motivational information that provides meaningful experiences for people to know themselves better and see our connections to one other and all of life.
Her first book Wine’s Hidden Beauty explores the inner life and spirit of wine and our senses. This sold-out book may still be available on her website, bookstores, museums, and Amazon. She delivers exciting interactive programs on shaping taste exploring our instinctive intuitive intelligence.
- American Cancer Society
- American Heart Association
- Alpha Omega Winery
- Aum Cellars
- Bauman College
- Born of Woman Films
- California Institute of Integral Studies
- California Pacific Medical Center
- Cardiology Associates
- Children’s Cancer Study Group
- Cortext/Mind Matters Continuing Education for Health Professionals
- Dairy Council of California
- Elson Haas, MD
- Esalen Institute
- Grgich Hills Estates
- hope & grace wines
- Inglenook Winery (the old original)
- Jessup Cellars
- Kaiser Hospitals
- Lawrence Hall of Science
- Marin General Hospital
- Monticello Cellars
- Moveable Media – Crushpad
- Naropa Institute
- Northern California Oncology Association
- Red Car – The Pearl labels
- San Saba Vineyards
- Sonoma State University
- Sterling Vineyards
- University Creation Spirituality
- University of California Medical and Dental Schools, San Francisco
- Viscira Interactive Digital Solutions
- Washoe Medical Center, Reno, NV
How did a medical scientist go from photographing CELLS to discovering the art within WINE?
A colleague who saw the art in my photographs of cells, vitamins and minerals connected me with Sterling Vineyards, which had an artist-in-residence program. In preparation for the interview I photographed my first wine – a 1978 Sterling merlot. When the winemaker said the picture looked like the wine tasted, I was hooked on the inner world of wine.
As artist-in-residence I spent two years working with the winemakers, photographing their questions – what would wine from a mountain vineyard look like compared to valley floor, what about changes during aging. Too numerous to mention here, over the years patterns emerged that I could interpret related to winemaking techniques like malolactic fermentation or ageability.
What we are seeing are the intriguing patterns made by molecules coming together. Photographs through the microscope of table salt shows cubes and squares reflecting the crystalline atomic pattern of sodium chloride (table salt). With wine, a much more complex mixture than salt solution, we see the patterns formed by the dominant molecules in their unique vinous environment. These inner views certainly reveal beauty.
Detecting designs and patterns where no designs and patterns were previously apparent can produce tremors of faith… As far as contemporary science can tell, nearly everything about the universe—its knack for self-organization; its fine-tuned potency to bring about galaxies, life, consciousness; its sheer existence—is vastly improbable. This would seem to suggest that we are here because of a deliberate supernatural design.
—Herbert Benson, MD, Timeless Healing
The inner beauty of wine is perhaps related to the spirit of the wine or the signature of the winemaker. Clues to life and death are certainly evident in some wines. I’ve always seen the forms as a visual language or textural expression of a wine. Can you imagine them on every wine label heralding the style inside the bottle – drink this if you want something complex, this one is light. See for yourself the beauty in the bottle in my first book “Wine’s Hidden Beauty” which bridges the art, science and spirituality of wine.
The images offer clues to ‘divine design’ of the exquisite universe within us and of which we are a part. To me, the images make more real the mysterious; they help us understand experientially. They offer an AHA moment!
For the most part I have used these images to teach about life. Seeing a photograph of caffeine, some of my students have kicked coffee. Hearing about, and seeing, the art and soul of wine, others say now they understand why wine is sacred.
I feel grateful that I have been fortunate to have my scientific blinders removed as I traveled into these interior landscapes. What I glean from these images – that inner visions from the shaman and earlier times perhaps included seeing our molecules. Of course they weren’t named but were seen and included as part of sacred art and traditions.
The POWER of the Image
Seeing how those kids became peaceful watching the images from inner space, I was compelled to explore the power of the image – how can if affect our consciousness, mind and mood. This led me to imagery and shamanism. The senses are – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch – all different ways of accessing information. Different doorways access different parts of your consciousness. What doorways do you have open? What would you like to open?
Molecular photography captures a world invisible to the naked eye…. It opens the mysteries to molecules and cells. It is art based on reality, not an artist’s imagined representation. Images tell a story or act as a portrait. They may even communicate scientific information visually so it is more easily understood, then it becomes a teaching tool.
John Naisbitt ~ High Tech, High Touch: Technology and Our Search for Meaning