In our previous blog, comparisons were made between the “old” biology – Darwinism, with its emphasis upon the DNA code inside our cells and where evolution is the result of the population evolving over centuries.
Epigenesis on the other hand can be created by an individual influencing their own genetic printout as the result of one’s consciousness, diet, toxins, social rituals, predators, sexual cues – all of which can effect gene expression.
Epigenetic changes can happen in a matter of minutes or hours. These genetic changes can then be passed on to one’s offspring without influencing the “fixed” DNA code of the general population within the nucleus of every cell.
The good news is that an unwanted epigenetic change triggered by environmental conditions may be reversed when environmental conditions change again.
Diet and epigenetics appear to be closely linked. The most well known example is that of the Agouti mice: they are yellow, fat and are prone to diabetes and cancer. If Agouti females are fed with a cocktail of vitamin B12, folic acid and cholin, directly prior to and during pregnancy, they give birth to mainly brown, slim and healthy offspring. The offspring will also have offspring similar to themselves – brown, slim and healthy and these epigenetic changes will carry on for at least, if not more than, three generations.
I have been utilizing and teaching various visualization techniques in workshops and to clients for years. My publisher, Nightingale Contact asked me to produce a program they titled The Power of Visualization and it has been on their best seller list continuously since the program came out.
However, at the time, I didn’t realize what specifically at a cellular level caused visualization to be such a powerful and effective process until I recently read a colleague’s (and friend) report on one of his clients “Mary” who was diagnosed with stage IV uterine cancer. Against her doctor’s advice, she rejected medical treatment stating to my friend “If I or my body created this condition, then I can un-create it”.
She quit work, spent hours in the bath visualizing tiny stars circulating in her body. Whenever the sharp edge of a star touched a cancer cell – it punctured the cell, deflating it lke a balloon and then imagined the water washing away the dying cancer cells.
In addition, she readjusted her nutritional intake, began to exercise and continued with her baths and the stars. Equally important, after reviewing the research literature on cancer and emotions, she decided to release her anger from the past, forgave both herself and others and was very careful about being caught up in negativity and blame.
Mary experienced a complete remission, many years later she is stronger and healthier than ever before. Despite excellent health, she still playfully utilizes the stars whenever she has a bath.
The question that must be going on through your mind as it did mine – did Mary’s visualization and health care practices change her epigenetic profile with a cascade of different genes favorable to cancer remission? Since belief, intentionality and consciousness are primarily responsible for gene expression, what other explanation might there be?
Of interest to most of us, is it possible to raise our intelligence and/or intellectual performance? Stanford University psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck noticed that students had varying beliefs about the nature of intelligence, and how it had an effect on their performance. Some students believed that intelligence is a fixed measure, like the number of inches in your height. Others believed that intelligence can grow and develop or blossom, like a plant. Then she compared the math scores of the two groups over the following two years. She established that students who believed that intelligence can grow had increasing math scores. The math scores of those who believed that intelligence is fixed – decreased.
Dr. Dweck then wondered – if students were given a ‘growth’ mindset, how to perceive intelligence as growing or expanding with experience, would this benefit their grades? She took one hundred seventh graders who were all performing poorly in math and divided them randomly into two groups. The first group received instruction in good study skills. The second group was told our brains grow and form new and denser neural connections when confronted with novelty and challenge. At the end of the semester, those students who had received the mini-course in brain development had significantly better grades than the other group.
Dr. Dweck reported – “When they worked hard in school, they actually visualized how their brains were growing”. What we imagine, we can create.
Thus, filling one’s mind with positive images of intellectual growth can produce not only an epigenetic environment to enhance mental performance but the same “setup” can also change and enhance our health and physical performance.
Harvard psychologist Dr. Judith Rodin, in a 2007 study, recruited 84 maids who cleaned rooms in hotels. She wanted to examine the differences between physical exertion and physical exertion plus belief.
The 84 maids were divided into two groups. One group heard a brief presentation explaining that their work has many benefits and qualifies as good exercise. The control group got no information i.e. business as usual. Over the next thirty days, the changes in the bodies of the women who heard the exercise lecture were significant. The exercise informed women perceived themselves to be getting markedly more exercise than they had indicated before the presentation. They also lost an average of 2 pounds, lowered their blood pressure by almost 10% and displayed drops in body-fat percentage, body mass index and waist to hip ratio.
These significant physiological (and epigenetic) changes occurred in just thirty days. What would happen if we were more proactive in changing the background music of our on-going inner dialogue – or self-talk as we perform our daily routines? Filling our minds with positive images of well-being can produce an epigenetic environment can produce an epigenetic environment that reinforces the healing process.
And perhaps of related interest about genes, a water flea that is a largely transparent crustacean that is half an inch in length – with only one eye in the centre of its head – has 30,907 genes – about 5000 more than humans have.
So much for hubris and cerebral chauvinism!