Practicing meditation and yoga, my brain becomes more capable of traversing my limitations and adapting to situations without injury. Neuroelasticity is a structural change that enables adaptation, allowing me to break out of my perceived boundaries and limitations. It requires going to unpredictable places, where I have to use a new set of tools, senses fully engaged, and in that, I have to find calm. Epigenetics is the science that looks at how our genes adapt to belief and behavior. The environment and belief systems we establish determine our genetic expression. To me, that's ridiculously exciting. You can wake up and decide what and who you want to be. With some work, and total dedication, practice, so much more is possible than what most of us believe.
The chaos into the evolution is fascinating. Because there are always breakthroughs into new levels of expectations. There's a lot of fear, excitement, disorientation, surprise. So, along the way, what do you do while hitting those moments. Just zoom back in to your goals. Through a mentor, meditation, practicing your belief system, you evolve. Fake it til you make it doesn't apply here. You have to be fully committed, fully believing that you WILL evolve into that person, be capable of doing the things you dream of. Building the practice, the community, the clarity, while breaking down doubt, fear and chaos is the key.
Semantics tend to dominate our behavior. We talk ourselves in and out of situations. We fully play out scenarios in words that determines whether it's something we can or want to do, whether the discomfort or risk is higher than the reward. Then, we adapt to whatever we’ve articulated and visualized. We want to create and know a determined outcome, to know what's going to happen. To have this control, our brain preps to send behavioral or action messages. We follow instructions. ‘Get stressed’, ‘relax’, ‘too much stimuli’, ‘injury’, ‘fatigue’, etc….In this mode, our brains translate a programmed response, without question. This is habit, un-intentional behavior, adapted to secure our responses, to secure our identity, so we think we know the outcome. Habits shape our neuro messaging, shape our behavior, and who we are. Becoming hyper vigilant about why you're doing what you're doing, and intentional about your thoughts and efforts, enables change.
Meditation and yoga provide tools for change, a platform to experiment with rewriting your neuromessaging and genetic expression. How do you want to respond to pain, stimuli, stress, fatigue? Observing fear, sensations when they course through the body, and sending new neuromessages can shift the way you respond to situations. As you send new messages, even if you don't quite believe them, you can create a different response. Moving in new territory, with new messages, can be exciting and calming, instead of terrifying or apprehensive.
Dr. Christianne Northrup states "Thoughts can literally determine which genes are expressed. The genes in the DNA of a cell are regulated by swarms of molecules—so-called epigenetic factors. These molecules can respond to environmental influences by silencing some genes and activating others as needed." Patterns then need to be created. Patterns that enable new genes to be activated. She writes in an article for Food Revolution Network about aging and our mental capacity to change how we age, what we look like, and how we behave.
Adaptation is our survival. We know that by changing our environment and more importantly, how we respond to conditions, we can modify our genetic expression. Through ritual, you get to know your patterns, develop waht Dr. Rachel Abrams MD calls body intelligence. From that intelligence, you can develop the patterns in physiological conditions to change your genetic expression. Modifying your physiological landscape, enables the opportunity to modify our DNA expression, train our genetic receptors to how we want to adapt to events, reinterpreting the impact things have and what our outcome is. She refers to her time in med school in an article about mental aging, "As medical students, we were learning about the “hardening of the arteries” that causes heart attacks and strokes. But Alan also discussed the “hardening of the categories” that often accompanied this. Resistance to physical challenges and to shifts in routine, as well as resistance to changes in thinking or point of view, are among the hallmarks of typical aging. But none of this is essential to aging."
In her article, Dr. Abrams discusses our need to listen and learn more about what our bodies need and how those needs change. You may dial in your food and sleep, but 6 months later, it's possible that will change. Hell, a week later it could change and it certainly changes with the seasons. Navigating the changes are the key to optimal health. But the piece that's so intriguing is the social element. " Dr. Abrams notes, "...according to Dean Ornish, MD, loneliness and isolation increase your risk of death by 200-500%". Love this. So, Who you are in these social circles enables or disables your genetic expression of the genes you want, desire to express. If you go out clubbing just because it's important to be social, is that consistent with the person you are claiming and most wanting to be or become? In change, one of the hardest pieces is changing the social tribe to represent your ethics and ideals. That may mean stepping into new territory, as an outcast, with little to no idea of the tribal behavior. that's something to evolve over time. But I think one of the most important steps.
I've been studying Buddhism on my own, reading, learning through my brother's deep knowledge, and my Tibetan sister in law. But forging a community on my own that is representative of the belief system I truly admire, and seek to understand better, is challenging. Going to local centers and retreats is slowing evolving and as soon as I get over my self conscious element I'll evolve more rapidly. Same thing goes for finding new mountain bike crews to ride with so I'm not putting in miles all alone. Every established tribe has it's own language, gestures, rituals, that goes unspoken. So, let it evolve over time, but don't abandon it. Just be humble, and have a sense of humor. Be willing to feel like an outcast and don't worry about it. You're becoming someone new. Celebrate each new shift out of that rut you were in. And give yourself plenty of time.
Your evolution is critical to your change, and we only have one life in this body. We are not stuck in our grandparents genes. The concept of being destined to be a certain person with certain health, behavioral or psychological limitations because of a genetic composition isn’t the case. Bruce Lipton, in his book, The Biology of Belief, tells his powerful story of being a cell biologist and realizing the “cell’s life is fundamentally controlled by the physical and energetic environment with only a small contribution by its genes. Genes are simply molecular blueprints used in the construction of cells, tissues, and organs…..Just like a single cell, the character of our lives is determined not by our genes but by our responses to the environment signals that propel life.” (P.xiv)
This is the magic. Epigenetics, to me, means we can continue to train ourselves to be any version of ourselves. We are not limited, and if there is any limitation it’s the fear of change, growth, expansion of our perception of ourselves. When we start to experience change through developing our homeostasis and health, we build confidence in the potential for cellular shifts.
Rituals, changing our physiological responses at minimum, adjusts homeostasis, the physiological balance, fending off any illness, psychological or physiological. In that state, we really can survive just about anything. I can adjust my physiological response through practicing just my morning ritual, clarifying my intentions and following through.
So, when I approach life tentatively, afraid that I’ll get hit by a tsunami of health, financial or ecological disaster, it seems more likely to occur. It’s all possible, and even if it does happen, you'll be more enabled to respond. You can’t necessarily avoid it with just positive thinking. Change and health requires activation of clear minded goals and enabling all the good, bad and ugly to present themselves in full color for you to feel, see and understand. Then, you can tap into the Swiss Army version of yourself who is better equipped to navigate situations, make savvy decisions, understand risk and approach events with a sense of translucent understanding, humor and skill. This flexibility, mental and physical, creates a sense of agelessness.