Winter '04 Issue 28
Yoga-Agelessness in the Face of Aging
Put Away Your Toys - Poetry
Chronic Pain-The Hidden Epidemic
Mind Over Genes-The New Biology
Confessions of a Straight Man
The Courage to Fly
Stretched Toward Him Like a Dark Wake
Of Coastal Hikes and Buoyed Hopes
Let’s Get the Big Money OUT of Oregon Politics
Leaving Home: Facing Reality without Losing Hope-A Peaceful Nation
Some Dare Call It Treason-Wake Up America!
Radical Astrology: Inner Guidance and Outer Transformation
Dreams of Kindness, Love & Grace
Mind Over Genes-The New Biology By Bruce H. Lipton, PhD
Earlier in my career as a research scientist and medical school professor, I actively supported the perspective that the human body was a ‘biochemical machine programmed by its genes.’ We scientists believed that human strengths, such as artistic or intellectual abilities, and human weaknesses, such as cardio-vascular disease, cancer or depression, represented traits that were preprogrammed into our genes. Hence I perceived life’s attributes and deficits, as well as our health and our frailties, as merely a reflection of our heredity expression.
Until recently, it was thought that genes were self-actualizingthat genes could ‘turn themselves on and off.’ Such behavior is required in order for genes to control biology. But our understanding is evolving. Though the power of genes is still emphasized in current biology courses and textbooks, a radically new understanding has emerged at the leading edge of cell science. It is now recognized that the environment, and more specifically, our perception (interpre-tation) of the environment directly controls the activity of our genes. Environ-ment controls gene activity through a process known as epigenetic control.
This new perspective of human biology does not view the body as just a mechanical device. Rather, it incorporates the role of a mind and spirit. This breakthrough in biology is fundamental in all healing, for it recognizes that when we change our perception or beliefs, we send totally different messages to our cells and thus reprogram their expression. The new-biology reveals why people can have spontaneous remissions from disease or recover from injuries deemed to be permanent disabilities.
The functional units of life are the individual cells that comprise our bodies. Though every cell is innately intelligent and can survive on its own when removed from the body, in the body, each cell foregoes its individuality and becomes a member of a multi-cellular community. The body really represents the cooperative effort of a community of fifty trillion single cells. By definition, a community is an organization of individuals committed to supporting a shared vision. Consequently, while every cell is a free-living entity, the body’s community accommodates the wishes and intents of its ‘central voice,’ a character we perceive as the mind and spirit.
When the mind perceives that the environment is safe and supportive, the cells are preoccupied with the growth and maintenance of the body. In stressful situations, cells forego their normal growth functions and adopt a defensive ‘protection’ posture. The body’s energy resourcesnormally used to sustain growthare diverted to systems that provide protection during periods of stress. Simply put, growth processes are restricted or suspended in a stressed system. While our systems can accommodate periods of acute (brief) stress, prolonged or chronic stress is debilitating for its energy demands interfere with the required maintenance of the body, and as a consequence, leads to dysfunction and disease.
The principle source of stress is the system’s ‘central voice,’ the mind. The mind is like the driver of a vehicle. With good driving skills, a vehicle can be maintained and provide good performance throughout its life. Bad driving skills generate most of the wrecks that litter the roadside or are stacked in junkyards. If we employ good ‘driving skills’ in managing our behaviors and dealing with our emotions, then we should anticipate a long, happy and productive life. In contrast, inappropriate behaviors and dysfunctional emotional management, like a bad driver, stress the cellular ‘vehicle,’ interfering with its performance and provoking a breakdown.
Are you a good driver or a bad driver? Before you answer that question, realize that there are two separate minds that create the body’s controlling ‘central voice.’ The (self) conscious mind is the thinking ‘you,’ it is the creative mind that expresses free-will. Its supporting partner is the subconscious mind, a super computer loaded with a database of programmed behaviors. Some programs are derived from geneticsthese are our instincts and they represent nature. But the vast majority of the subconscious programs are acquired through our developmental learning experiences, and they represent nurture.
The subconscious mind is not a seat of reasoning or creative consciousness; it is strictly a stimulus-response device. When an environmental signal is perceived, the subconscious mind reflexively activates a previously stored behavioral responseno thinking required. The subconscious mind is a programmable autopilot that can navigate the vehicle without the observation or awareness of the pilotthe conscious mind. When the subconscious autopilot is controlling behavior, consciousness is free to dream into the future or review the past.
The dual-mind system’s effectiveness is defined by the quality of the programs carried in the subconscious mind. Essentially, your driving skills are molded by the person who taught you to drive. For example, if you were taught to drive with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake, no matter how many vehicles you owned, each will inevitably express premature brake and engine failure. Similarly, if your subconscious mind is programmed with inappropriate behavioral responses to life’s experiences, then your sub-optimum ‘driving skills’ will contribute to a life of crash and burn experiences. For example, cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death, is directly attributable to behavioral programs that mismanage the body’s response to stress.
Are you a good driver or a bad driver? The answer is difficult. In our conscious creative mind we may consider ourselves to be good drivers (never mind those self-sabotaging or limiting behavioral programs in our subconscious that unobservedly undermine our efforts).
We are generally consciously unaware of our fundamental perceptions or beliefs about life. The reason is that the prenatal and neonatal brain is predominately operating in delta and theta EEG frequencies through the first six years of our lives. This low level of brain activity is referred to as the hypnogogic state. While in this hypnotic trance, children do not have to be actively coached by their parents for they obtain their behavioral programs simply by observing parents, siblings, peers and teachers. Did your early developmental experiences provide you with good models of behavior to use in the unfoldment of your own life?
During the first six years of life a child unconsciously acquires the behavioral repertoire needed to become a functional member of society. In addition, a child’s subconscious mind also downloads beliefs relating to self. When a parent tells a young child that she is stupid, undeserving or any other negative trait, this too is downloaded as a ‘fact’ into the youngster’s subconscious mind. These acquired beliefs constitute the ‘central voice’ which controls the fate of the body’s cellular community. While the conscious mind may hold one’s self in high regard, the more powerful unconscious mind may simultaneously engage in self-destructive behavior.
The insidious part of the autopilot mechanism is that subconscious behaviors are programmed to engage without the control of, nor observation by, the conscious self. Since most of our behaviors are under the control of the subconscious mind, we rarely observe them, much less know that they are even engaged. While your conscious mind perceives you to be a good driver, the unconscious mind, which has its hands on the wheel most of the time, may be driving you down the road to ruin.
As we become more conscious, and rely less on automated subconscious programs, we become the masters of our fates rather than the ‘victims’ of our programs. Conscious awareness can actively transform the character of our lives into ones filled with love, health and prosperity by its ability to rewrite limiting perceptions (beliefs) and self-sabotaging behaviors.
A variety of new energy psychology modalities now enable rapid and profound reprogramming of limiting subconscious beliefs. These in turn send a qualitatively different set of messages to the cellular community that is our body. Thus the use of these modalities provides a key to personal growth and physical health. All of this affirms the notion that we live in a world of conscious choice, not genetic determinism.
Dr. Bruce Lipton is a scientist, healthcare practitioner and teacher. He will be lecturing in Portland, OR, on March 13 & 14, 2004. For more freely-downloadable and detailed information, including references, visit: www.brucelipton.com
Site updated Spring 2010