Connie Bjerk is a Certified Guided Imagery Therapist trained to do counseling for relaxation, stress reduction, pain control, habit control, problem solving, and personal and spiritual empowerment. She received clinical training in Mind/Body Medicine from Harvard Medical School and the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine. She is also a Reiki Master in the Usui lineage. A firm believer in the power of learning, Connie holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of North Dakota. She taught in the public and private school systems for more than 20 years and worked 10 years in post-secondary education.
What Others Have Said:
I have nothing but absolute praise and deep gratitude for Connie. She has opened the doors to my spirit. The connection to my mind, body, and spirit that I’ve seen has been a fantastic journey into self-discovery and it has shown me what to do here on earth. I’m now seeing the big picture and feeling more connected to my spirit with each new opportunity I experience.
Thank you Connie, for your wonderful gifts that have shown me my spiritual connection and thanks for giving me hope for the future. I look forward to continue to expand my energy through your divine gifts and spiritual guidance. Thank you very much! I would recommend anyone who would want to reach their full potential in this lifetime to you.
I attended Connie’s presentation on Integrated Medicine and was quite impressed with her knowledge, style, and professionalism. She offered historical facts and research information that supported the use of integrated medicine. Attendants for her presentation appreciated her kind, approachable style that made them feel welcome to ask questions. She demonstrated excellent professionalism as she described how integrated medicine can be "integrated" into traditional medicine. Some speakers will advocate for their own area of interest and try to discredit others. Connie did not do this. Instead, she projected a vision of how all healthcare providers can work together to promote wellness.
-Cindy Janssen Holweger, MOT, OTR/L.
Grand Forks, ND
Connie is one of the most gifted healers I've met. Her natural talent and insight together with a wide aray of healing modalities lay the foundation for the amazing, life-changing sessions experienced by those of us lucky enough to know and work with her. Connie has more than earned my highest praise and gratitude. I would recommend her without hesitation to anyone wanting to shed the limiting patterns, thoughts and beliefs that keep us from reaching our highest potential. As a naturally gifted healer, she stands out in a field shared by very few. Invest in yourself and spend an hour with Connie, it could very well change your life.
Curious about guided imagery?
The following is a first-hand account written by one of Connie's patient after her first guided imagery session at Integrated Living.
PART ONE: AN OVERVIEW
The children fight. The phone rings. Size-12 mud tracks trail from front to back door. Your left heel snaps off. Your boss calls in sick. The meeting moves up an hour, and you need to race brownies across town before noon.
You say no problem. Connie Bjerk says no way.
Bjerk, a certified guided imagery therapist, Reiki master and owner of Integrated Living in Grand Forks, says everyday stress, if left unchecked, can lead to very serious health problems.
In fact, the American Institute of Stress reports that up to 90 percent of all health problems are related to stress.
Even more alarming, Bjerk explains, is that “most people don’t even realize they’re stressed because it’s become their normal.”
This is easy to understand when one considers as many as 55 stressors attack the average person on any given day.
“If we don’t learn how to de-stress in between them, our bodies suffer,” Bjerk says. “We are on high alert all the time.”
Studies have found that long-term stress can lead to insulin resistance, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Chronic stress also can promote fat deposits, increase the risk of tumors and infection, quicken your heart rate, increase your blood pressure and lead to stroke.
Stress is not only a problem. It’s a multibillion-dollar epidemic.
Bjerk, the first and only practitioner to be recognized in North Dakota by the National Holistic Health Association, is teaching people how to fight the adverse effects of stress. It’s just one of the many services she provides to help people find “inner peace and outer balance.”
She works with war-scarred soldiers, with high-powered brokers, crime victims, the terminally ill, cancer survivors and even athletes trying to improve their free-throw percentages. Bjerk teaches people how to unwind – naturally and regularly.
“There are so many people who are looking for something other than a quick fix or a quick pill,” Bjerk says. “I address the whole person, so it really gets down to the root cause of an issue rather than just the symptoms.” Bjerk is trained to do counseling for relaxation, stress reduction, pain and habit control, problem solving and personal and spiritual empowerment. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of North Dakota, and she completed clinical training in Mind/Body Medicine at Harvard Medical School and at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind/Body Medicine.
Framed accreditations hang on the mellow green and lavender walls of her offices. The lighting is soft. The seating is comfy. And a ceramic plaque resting on a miniature easel reads “Love what you do.”
This is a peaceful place. It’s a soothing, healing place. It’s a sanctuary for all who enter.
If this sounds a bit too heady or wildly New Age, Bjerk will assure you it is not. Her business – open since last fall – is far more than that. “My goal is to empower people to be the very best that they can be – mentally, physically and spiritually,” Bjerk says. “I don’t ask people to do things. I invite them to look at things in a new way.
“This is actually very ancient. Most of the things I do are very ancient practices.”
In fact, Reiki – a Japanese word meaning “universal life force energy” – is an ancient form of energy work used to balance the energies in the body. Working through the mind, body and spirit, Reiki helps the body heal. It can relax a person, reduce stress and nausea, and relieve the pain of migraines, childbirth and arthritis.
And guided imagery, a form of meditation, engages all the senses. The technique can help a person visualize an image to create a desired physical response – much the same way thoughts of a gooey caramel roll can make one’s mouth water.
Both Reiki and guided imagery are forms of what’s known as integrative medicine, a science that’s gained renewed notoriety because of publicity from cultural icons the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Oz.
Its popularity and mind-healing powers were expressly evident at a recent Thankfulness Party in Fargo. That’s where more than 130 people packed into the Zambroz Café to hear Bjerk and other experts share the benefits of integrative medicine.
“Everyone had a wonderful time,” Bjerk said. “It was fantastic.”
“Guided imagery helps when nothing else can because it talks to the part of you that has all the answers, not the part that created the problem.”
“This is not about a religion,” Bjerk explains further. “It’s about a spirit, the spiritual essence of who we are. You cannot separate the mind, body and spirit. The mind is so powerful.”
Powerful enough, in fact, that it can reduce anxiety, depression and physical pain. Research has shown the mind can speed recovery after surgery. It can boost emotional resiliency, and it can produce actual changes in the body’s biochemistry.
Documented evidence showed federal prison guards taught to regulate their breathing with the use of a small electronic device were able to save $700 in per-person health-care costs. In just one year, guards who at the beginning of the study reported bottomed-out morale, reported less stress and more happiness. Absenteeism, the number of sick days requested and the need for overall medical treatment diminished.
Similarly, wounded soldiers in Vietnam experienced physical relief and quicker recovery when they were told a simple saline solution contained morphine. While the actual drug supply had been depleted, blood tests, surprisingly, would indicate the presence of morphine when none had been given.
Back in her office, Bjerk shows her visitor the underlined paragraphs on the pages of “Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing.”
“This is all cutting edge,” she says. “In hospice care, in hospitals and in cancer centers around the U.S. I’m doing what everyone else wants to be doing, and I’m doing it all right here in Grand Forks, North Dakota.”
“There are so many ways to help someone, and all of them are non-medicated, which I think is huge,” Bjerk says. “I’m extremely excited about guided imagery. I haven’t found anything yet it can’t help.”
Bjerk already has aided countless people with weight release, smoking and other addictions. She’s also helped people heal from the emotional damage left by incest and abuse.
“If we understand it, we can let it go and move on. When you do guided imagery, it’s just miraculous what you can do and what you can find out about yourself.”
Bjerk offers classes – one on one and group sessions – to businesses, health-care facilities and organizations that include or want to develop a wellness program for their staff.
Among the consulting topics are:
-Integrative medicine and its modalities.
-Stress reduction and management.
-Change your mind.
-Change your mood.
-The relaxation response.
Bjerk acknowledges that parts of integrative medicine might sound a little out there to newcomers, but she counters by saying “some people have come because nothing else they’ve ever tried has worked.”
Less invasive, integrative medicine can work alongside traditional medicine. In fact, Bjerk speaks once a semester to occupational therapy students at the UND Medical School.
“It’s supportive, uplifting and empowering,” Bjerk says. “And who doesn’t want to be empowered? Who doesn’t want to be the best that they can be? People come out feeling so good. Because it worked so well, because they’ve grown so much and because they’re learning so much about themselves, they keep coming back. They want to experience it all.”
PART TWO: WHAT'S IT LIKE?
A visitor walks into the inner office of Integrated Living at 1165-E South Columbia Road in Grand Forks. Connie Bjerk greets her and asks her to pick a seat: A comfortable La-Z-Boy or a super-plush chair and ottoman covered in creamy leather.
The visitor picks the leather chair and is invited to kick up her feet. Aaahh, she feels better already.
Behind her hangs a poignant painting, a close-up of an older woman with the lines of life sketched and stroked in shades of brown and gray and black, a story unfolding across her face.
On her wrinkled forehead: Doubted, 1951. On furrowed brow: Miscarriage, 1952. Left eye: Cried for son’s mistakes, 1974. A first kiss in 1937. Laughed in 1929. And in 1950, struggled to put food on table.
The visitor reflects:
It is sadness and joy all mixed together. It is beautiful.
And it is time to begin. The shades are pulled, the room is darkened. The visitor closes her eyes as peaceful music floats through the room. Bjerk’s voice is soft and soothing, as she takes the visitor to a different place, a state of total relaxation. The visitor breathes air in through her nose, exhaling slowly and deeply through her mouth.
In her mind, the visitor follows a warm and powerful light as it flows through her body. First through her head, then down her neck, her arms, her hands, her middle with all its life-giving organs, her legs and her feet.
Eventually, she is asked to imagine herself in a meadow. What does she see? The visitor sees endless blue sky and tall, green grass swaying in beat with the breeze. She hears birds chirping, and she smells freshly plowed earth and the sweet scent of wildflowers rising from a sea of pink.
OK, the visitor is very relaxed. Next, she is asked to imagine an animal coming out to greet her. What animal does she see? She sees a brown bunny, twitchy nose and impatient. The rabbit (her rational self) cannot seem to stay still.
But the rabbit has a message for the visitor. The rabbit wants to tell her she should calm down. She shouldn’t worry so much.
She relaxes more and, some moments later, she comes across a snake (her emotional self) in the grass. At first alarmed, she calms when the snake tells her not to be afraid. It tells her to follow, and she imagines doing just that as the snake leads her down a path to a crystal-clear stream, waters gurgling over moss-covered rocks.
Fast forward. The visitor is coming out of her awake, but rested, state. Now, it’s time to explore the imagery. What does it all mean? The visitor and Bjerk talk. There’s a book, “Animal Speak: The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small” by Ted Andrews.
“When we’re done, we talk about all the symbols that came up during that time and people are able to gain great insight into themselves,” Bjerk explains.
What did this visitor learn during this hour-and- a-half session? She learned a great deal about herself and where she’s at in her life. The rabbit, considered a most fortunate sign in some cultures, can symbolize ambition, finesse and virtue. It’s known for its fleetness and its ability to make great leaps and bounds. It’s a sign of fertility. It also has a wonderful knack for avoiding being seen.
So, what of the snake? Surely, the snake must symbolize something awful, the visitor thinks. She is wrong. The snake is a symbol of alchemy and healing. It’s a creative life force. It’s artistic. A sign of wisdom and creativity. Often, the snake is depicted as a guardian. The snake represents rebirth.
Hmmmmm, the visitor thinks. It’s fitting that she imagined the bunny and the snake. She herself is at a crossroads, having lost her job and searching for a new career. Like a snake sheds its skin, she is looking for a new life. The imagery is interesting. And then again, it’s amazing.
Integrated Living is dedicated to helping individuals, business entities, and students of all kinds attain their highest potential through personal enhancement and empowerment experiences.
In the state of North Dakota,
Connie is the first practitioner to be recognized by the American Holistic Health Association.