Ever since its structure was unraveled in the early Fifties, DNA has been considered the mastermind of the cell. Sitting in splendid isolation in the cell’s nucleus, DNA encodes all of life. It sends duplicates of itself (RNA) to direct the manufacture of proteins; and proteins, as high-school biology teaches, are the building blocks of the cell. In terms of biological machinery. The genetic picture has gotten more and more sophisticated ever since.
But something doesn’t look quite right here. If every cell is a biological robot, and the entire body is made up of cells, then we must be biological robots too. This view, which a surprising number of geneticists believe in, cannot be true. It is a conclusion that the old model of DNA supported because that model was reductionist–that is, all complex processes can be explained by breaking them down into more basic processes. The whole approach is totally logical, but nobody can seriously claim that the works of Shakespeare and Mozart are explainable by protein manufacture. And in our daily lives we think thoughts and feel emotions, which proteins don’t, or cells for that matter.
As a result, genetics has been racing to catch up with human reality. On several fronts there has been progress, of a sort. So-called Systems Biology has emerged to examine how the body works as a dynamic, changing organism responding to input from the environment. In this way DNA stopped being so rigid and got into the game. On another front a field known as epigenetics began to study how everyday experience, including our lifestyle and memory, actually gets chemically imprinted on our genes. Again, DNA became more dynamic and responsive.
But while DNA was getting liberated, what was really happening? One could argue that the only thing changing was a scientific model. Reality wasn’t changing at all. Now it is dawning that DNA is fundamentally so mysterious, biology can’t even contain it, much less explain it. The crack in mainstream genetics came from the huge shock administered by the Human Genome Project, which discovered, to widespread dismay, that the complexity of human life came down to only 20,000 genes. This number was ridiculously small, about 20% of the previous guesstimate. To quote geneticist John Mattick, “that number is tiny. It’s effectively the same as a microscopic worm that has just 1,000 cells.” Continue reading
Sometimes the very things we find attractive in someone may actually be warning signs that they may not be good for us in the long run. Those high expectations that make him a success in business, may turn to unnecessary pressure in a crisis. That dramatic flair that makes him exciting, may actually keep him from being a comfort to you in a time of need. Here are 5 warning signs that your guy may not be good in a crisis. Continue reading
“We conceive…a sort of gratitude for those inanimated objects, which have been the causes of great or frequent pleasure to us. The sailor, who, as soon as he got ashore, should mend [build] his fire with the plank upon which he had just escaped from a shipwreck, would seem to be guilty of an unnatural action. We should expect that he would rather preserve it with care and affection, as a monument that was, in some measure, dear to him.”
–Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments
I love this passage, but the old-fashioned language may make it difficult to understand Smith’s point: when some object has done us great service, we’re reluctant to get rid of it.
Do you feel this way? I sure do. Continue reading
For a long time, there was a point in our lives where the things we were saying were not being heard. Nobody was listening, and we didn’t understand. But we saw our mothers and fathers get things done in more evasive ways. They never came out and said directly what they needed or what they wanted done, but things got done. As we got older, we noticed that we had picked up the habit, but that other people didn’t communicate in the same way. They felt no shame asking someone for what they needed, and they didn’t have to stomp around, cursing and making noise in order to get a message across.
For the most part, passive-aggressive tendencies are not appreciated. For instance, someone I once knew moved to college and was put into a suite with several other ladies. Having an early class, and not wanting to wake the other girls, she left a note that asked if the person that left the dishes in the sink could please clean them up. Well intended as the note was, it did not have a happy reception on the other end. The note ended up causing tension, and the writer of it did not understand what was so bad about it. In her mind, she was doing what she was taught – tell someone something indirectly when she felt like she couldn’t directly. She felt since the note wasn’t angry or very urgent, it wouldn’t make sense to wake someone up just to tell them that. The other girls, however, thought that she was too afraid to go directly to the person that left the dishes and ask them. Of course, things were returned to normal afterwards, but it led the note writer to examine her communication skills, and find that she really was not very direct – even though, in this case, it worked out. Continue reading
Nearly everybody suffers from anxiety. While it’s frequency and intensity varies from person to person, it effect is universal. Chronic anxiety can take an extensive toll on the body. Anxiety often drains energy resources and keeps the body in an almost constant state of stress. Anxiety’s negative side effects are often proliferated when the body is not exercised. While general or basic exercise can serve a venue of stress relief, one exercise in particular stands out for creating this spectacular effect: yoga. Continue reading
By Deepak Chopra, MD and Rudolph E. Tanzi, PhD
Since one of us (Deepak) began advocating the mind-body connection thirty years ago, a time of great opposition among physicians to the very notion that thoughts have physical consequences, the trend has been entirely against the physicalist position, i.e., that the human body is a machine that needs fixing when it gets broken. One research after another has validated what should have been obvious in the first place: mind and body are too intimately related to be seen as separate entities.
Several principles can be listed that are backed by the best science, and yet which have had minimal impact in a doctor’s daily practice.
- Every cell is in some form of communication with the brain, either directly or indirectly, is receiving messages triggered by all of our thoughts, feelings, moods, expectations, and beliefs.
- Experience gets transformed and metabolized, exactly as food, toxins, pollutants, air, and water get metabolized. In a word, if you want to see what your experiences were like yesterday, look at your body today. If you want to see what your body will be like tomorrow, look at your experiences today.
- The body is a verb, not a noun. In other words, it’s a continuous unbroken process.
- Cells are born and die; atoms and molecules fly in and out of each cell constantly. Yet despite this constant flux, the blueprint of the cell remains intact. This blueprint is invisible, intelligent, dynamic, and self-organizing.
- Lifestyle choices make the dominant difference between wellness and chronic illness. Years, sometimes decades before symptoms appear, cells can be gaining negative input that lead to the onset of disease.
- Our genes are dynamic and respond to everyday experiences and lifestyle choices. Habits lead to longer term changes in the programming of our gene expression via “epigenetics”, as explained in our book “Super Genes”.
- If we knew the pivot point that creates positive cellular activity out of positive experiences, a state of radical well-being is possible.
- Purely mental practices, especially meditation, have been shown over and over to improve various physical functions, and these improvements are now known to extend all the way down to gene activity.
The Roman Stoic Philosophers, Lucius Annaeus Seneca the Younger (4. BCE – 65 ACE), made this observation about human planning gone awry:
Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.
Not knowing what harbor you are making for is what transition feels like. It is that in-between place where you cannot go back to a season in your life where the door has closed, and the new door has yet to open.
We often get stuck in-between the chapters of our lives when one chapter ends and the new one hasn’t begun yet. We tend to look for immediate and quick fixes to alleviate the dis-ease of uncertainty we feel when we are in what William Bridges calls “the neutral zone, the nowhere between two somewheres” in his classic book “Transitions”. Know this, that dis-ease is a form of anxiety. Also realize that you have crossed a threshold, and the anxiety is the sign that you have. You can turn your anxiety into anticipation (because it’s the same chemical reaction in your brain), however the former is fear-based “what if” thinking, whereas if you can shift to thinking and acting “as if” your future is determining your present, you will find new motivation to move forward!
In the space of the neutral zone, the “nowhere” zone, you have to learn to be with your anxiety and not attempt to fight it. Fighting it only gives it power. Being with it allows you to embrace the uncertainty and release your creative energies by learning how to ask new questions that free you from the limitations of the former chapter that came to an end precisely because it took you as far as was possible. You outgrew it! Yet you still have a future, and it is waiting for you! Continue reading
“One lives in the naïve notion that later there will be more room than in the entire past.”
–Elias Canetti, The Human Province
I continually remind myself of this truth. Too often, I tell myself, “I’ll have time for this when summer comes,” “Things will slow down in the fall, and I’ll be able to tackle this,” “Next year, I’ll do it.”
No. Now is the time to do the things that are important to me.
It’s false to believe that there will be more time in my future than there has in my past.
How about you? Do you promise yourself, “I’ll do this — later?”
Hello all! Today I want to talk about the topic of perfection. As codependents and love addicts, we have striven for perfection constantly, only to be disappointed when our expectations were not met. Whether it was someone else we were trying to impress or just ourselves, we were hard on ourselves for not executing it perfectly.
We don’t have to be hard on ourselves. Nobody in this world is perfect! We seem to hear that from people all the time, but the struggle is in understanding and really believing it.
We look at other peoples’ lives, especially with social media, and they seem to have it all – jobs, families, houses, vacations, and happiness. But there is so much of peoples’ lives that we do not see, and each person has their struggles. Truly, nobody is perfect. Continue reading
Most of us have gotten used to the traditional opposition of science and religion. This opposition arose because two worldviews clashed, and only one could win. It was a zero sum game. On one side science stood for facts, data, measurement, experimentation, and a goal of pure objectivity. On the other, religion was cast as entirely the opposite, being faith-based, irrational, unprovable, totally lacking in data, and inherently subjective, which is to say, unreliable. But this was a case where the winning side (science and the larger secular world) claimed the right to paint the losing side (religion and the spiritual world) in the worst possible light.
If you actually explore the religious worldview, two things become instantly evident. First, that spirituality is much wider, deeper, and older than any single religion. Second, that spiritual experience exists on a level playing field with any other experience. Seeing a microbe under a microscope uses the same perceptual apparatus, so far as the brain is concerned, as seeing an angel, a soul, a departed ancestor, or God. This seems preposterous to the average science-minded skeptic, but in fact it is science itself that proves the validity of perception, and its deep mystery.
Let’s set aside the common skeptical argument that anyone who has had a spiritual experience is necessarily a charlatan, mentally unbalanced, self-delusional, lying, or all of the above. By “setting aside,” I mean that we won’t accept such experiences as ipso facto true, either. In fact, since religious and spiritual terms are so suspect in our present culture, let’s call the sight of a beautiful red rose spiritual; most people would call this a valid experience, and generally speaking they’d enjoy it. Continue reading