by Robert Schneider, MD
The cutting edge of modern medicine is coming to the place where mind meets body; where mind meets DNA; where we have control over DNA; where we can modify effects of our genes from the inside out. And this development of modern medicine much parallels the science of meditation and its description and technologies for developing the mind/body connection.
The latest research in modern medical sciences says your DNA is not your destiny. The old paradigm––that your genetic code was fixed, has been superseded. New scientific discoveries show that your lifestyle choices–– what you think, and how you use and develop your consciousness, can change your genes.
Examine the paradigm of modern medical science and you will see the representation of physiology from the surface level of organs, systems, tissues, cells, proteins, and, on the finest level of human physiology, there is one molecule: the DNA molecule that contains all of the intelligence that governs your whole physiology throughout your entire life span, as well as much of your behavior and personality.
According to Dr. John Hagelin and leading quantum physicists, DNA is governed by the laws of biochemistry, chemistry, physics, and ultimately, at the most subtle level: the least excited state of physiology, which can be identified as the unified field of all the laws of nature. Modern medicine has progressively followed this pathway, probing from the surface to the subtle over the past several decades.
Surgery operates on the more physical, mechanical level of changing your body parts, by sewing them up, for example. And that’s important in some cases. Pharmacologic medicine works on the cellular level of receptors and molecules, changing those cellular components. Molecular medicine works at an even deeper level attempting to manipulate on the protein level. Genomic medicine attempts to understand the code contained within the DNA––the information that governs your life and life span––and attempts to engineer on that level to change one’s DNA, to reverse disease and promote ideal health. Quantum medicine works on the most fundamental level of the quantum mechanical laws of nature. The quantum field theory identifies a unified field of all the laws of nature, which some physicists call The Theory of Everything.
Now let’s look at the science of meditation using the example of Transcendental Meditation. In this practice of meditation, individuals begin at an active level of thinking. As the meditation continues, they experience quieter, more refined levels of thinking. According to mind/body medicine, each of these states of excitation of the mind (or consciousness) corresponds to a state of excitation of physiology––until a person transcends their everyday active thinking process and experiences a least excited state of mind and body. If our mind and bodies are truly connected, when we enliven each of these levels and transcend active thinking, thereby creating orderliness and settledness on that deepest mental level, we should also create orderliness and coherence in each of the corresponding states of physiology. From this model we should be able to balance our DNA––if this connection is true, and if this form of meditation technology is effective.
So, let’s look at the evidence. We’ll start with the basics, and then move forward. The core paradigm of modern medicine is called the “central dogma” of molecular biology. It’s not religious. It’s scientific. The central dogma of molecular medicine is that DNA contains all the information in your physiology, and that the information contained in the DNA is transcribed to RNA. Little RNA molecules then leave the cell nucleus––traveling to the outer portions of the cell while carrying DNA information to the parts of the cell called ribosomes. That process then creates proteins which, in turn, go out to the rest of the body to create the building blocks of human physiology. So, DNA to RNA to proteins is the central thesis or central dogma of modern genomic medicine.
When you examine a depiction of DNA, you’ll discover that your DNA resembles a double helix. A helix is an object having a three-dimensional shape like that of a wire wound uniformly in a single layer around a cylinder or cone. A helix takes the shape of a corkscrew or spiral staircase. It’s wound around itself and has some proteins in the middle. This protein/DNA complex is known as a chromosome. Then the portions of the DNA which carry information for different parts of the body are called a gene. These are your genes that code for the different parts of your body and physiological behavior.
That description is all part of what is now becoming the old paradigm. The new paradigm, as has been discovered in just the last several years, indicates that there are control mechanisms on the DNA. The protein in the center of the DNA (called histone protein) and a methyl molecule on the outside can actually regulate the DNA. This regulation can both open up the DNA spiral or helix to express itself into RNA and proteins in the body, or these regulatory proteins can close up the DNA causing it to coil back on itself to inhibit the expression of certain information. The information is there of course, but it can either open up and express itself, or close down and not express itself.
This is the new science of epigenetics––that means the next advancement of science of genetics, showing these regulatory mechanisms. Now what triggers these regulatory mechanisms? It’s been found that the entire process of development: in utero development, the amount of love we experience throughout our lives, the drugs and chemicals we are exposed to, our food and diet, the aging process, our behavior and our thoughts all have chemical effects that cause these regulatory proteins (epigenetic factors) to change in order to open up or close down the DNA.
These are ways that the DNA expression can be modified after birth––in everyday life through our daily experiences and choices. And it’s been found that many diseases are caused by or contributed to by these epigenetic mechanisms. Heart disease, hypertension, cancer, and the chronic disorders of aging have all been related to these epigenetic mechanisms that are affected by our thoughts and lifestyle.
In a study undertaken in California and published in the major medical journal, Lancet Oncology, subjects with prostate cancer were taught to adopt radical lifestyle changes in their diet and exercise. As a result of these changes in lifestyle, some of the genes were opened up or up-regulated, and other genes were down-regulated or closed down. This was just about the first time it was shown that healthy behavior can affect these epigenetic mechanisms and change our gene or DNA expression.
If you’d examine an electron micrograph of your genes, you’d be able to see the chromosomes that are formed by the long, double helix strand of DNA which wraps itself around proteins. The ends of those chromosomes are called telomeres. They’re like the end-caps of your shoelaces. In a similar way, the telomeres form an end-cap on the DNA to protect those ends from getting frayed. In that way they protect the whole DNA molecule from destruction and disrepair. In fact, it’s been found that these telomeres are vital to maintaining health and integrity of the DNA and your entire body. However, these telomeres degrade with age. They actually get shorter, giving less protection to your DNA, and eventually, the DNA suffers disrepair and malfunctions. That process is what brings about the chronic diseases and disorders associated with aging.
There is one more very important molecule that needs introduction. There’s an enzyme that takes care of the telomere so it can take care of the DNA. That enzyme, known as telomerase, has been related to aging and chronic disorders because it repairs and maintains the telomere which, in turn, maintains the integrity of the DNA. Our colleagues at Howard University Medical Center and our Center for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University of Management Research Institute, with funding from the National Institutes of Health, studied this molecule telomerase. This was the subject of the PhD thesis of Dr. Shanti Lakshman.
In this study, 45 individuals were randomly assigned to either practice meditation, in this case the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique, or they attended health education classes to learn about the value of lifestyle changes. Because all these subjects had high blood pressure, this study was an attempt to treat their high blood pressure condition without drugs. The team measured their gene expression for telomerase before and after 16 weeks. At the end of the study the lifestyle modification group had increases in their telomerase gene expression. This replicated what was already found in the literature: that telomerase can be affected by intensive lifestyle changes. But the real news showed that the TM practicing group who were rested for 20 minutes twice a day experiencing the state of least excitation of consciousness (not making major changes in their diet, exercise patterns or lifestyle) showed major changes in their telomerase gene expression after 16 weeks. The conclusion was that the meditating group used their minds over their DNA to increase their telomerase.
It is generally accepted that this change in the DNA has a lot to do with heart disease. We also conducted a large study with National Institutes of Health funding in heart disease patients practicing meditation compared to controls. It took 10 years and about 5 million dollars to conduct this study, and what it showed was that people who meditated with the TM technique and who had heart disease had significantly lower levels of death, heart attack and stroke after an average of five years meditating, compared to controls. This was published in a major American Heart Association Journal. The Wall Street Journal did a story on this study and their headline read, “Doctor’s Orders: 20 Minutes of Meditation Twice a Day.” The actual data showed that the event rates of death, heart attack and stroke in the mantra-based meditation control group were actually reduced by 48 percent. These findings reflect a relationship between the subtle levels of physiology and the gross levels of physiology––consciousness correlating with changes in the DNA, correlating with changes in the organ systems, as well as cardiovascular health and longevity.
In summary, the old paradigm was the primacy of DNA. You had the DNA going to RNA, and the RNA in turn, going to proteins. They are fixed. Cell biologist Bruce Lipton states the new paradigm: our environment, our behavior and our consciousness can affect DNA regulatory proteins or epigenetic mechanisms, and they in turn cause the DNA to express or not express––changing the RNA and the protein. In effect we can change the effects of our DNA.
Scientific research shows that psychological stress can reduce telomerase and changes in telomere length. So, the negative side of our everyday thoughts has been very well shown, but the technologies on the positive side of thoughts have not yet been well shown. The most powerful technology that I have found is transcending meditation for operating at the deepest, most powerful level of thought. When you look at the positive side of stewarding the energy of thoughts, this is the most effective method for making holistic changes in mind/body health.
Time magazine proclaimed that we all have the “God gene”. That means we all have the potential to unlock the full intelligence within us––but it’s our choices in lifestyle, behavior and technologies of consciousness that can change our DNA and create more ideal health and longevity. This is our conscious future.
Robert Schneider MD is a leader in mind/body medicine and integrative medicine, and the author of “Total Heart Health.” Dr. Schneider serves as Dean of the College of Integrative Medicine and Director of the Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention at Maharishi University. In his upcoming lecture on “Epigenetics, Meditation and Lifestyle Choices,” Dr. Schneider will join the AMI faculty at the 11th annual Heart and Science of Yoga ® conference October 22-26, 2019, at the Cranwell Resort and Spa in Lenox, MA.