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17

Oct

The Fertile Ground of Bewilderment

charles-eisenstein

 

Does the phrase The Fertile Ground of Bewilderment perfectly sum up the current election to you?

Does it point to the real path forward when it comes to climate change?

How about the way to figure out what to do with your career or your health?

If the fertile ground of bewilderment does not point towards a solution, perhaps it should. This is the argument that one of my favorite thinkers on the planet puts forth in his forthcoming book and in the lecture that gives us a preview below.

Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics and The Yoga of Eating, is working on a new book about climate change that promises to evolve the discourse around this topic by asking us to go deeper than the simple solutions that we have all been talking about. Through an exploration of our fear of the phrase “I don’t know” Charles pushes us to look deeper. The simple, linear, carbon is the enemyTrump is the enemy, sugar is the enemy, lines of thought are great for choosing our enemies, but doing so can actually make things worse. Charles invites us in to a space of deep unknowing where true insights can emerge. In essence, he asks us to let go of the overly mechanistic/rational ways we view our problems and move towards a more sacred view of ourselves and our planet. Ever wonder why caring for children or for the dying doesn’t seem to be a great way to make a living? This is the place where even your smallest efforts to connect with and care for others are essential to all of our futures. (It’s worth the journey just for the parking lot metaphor)

The New & Ancient Story Podcast (the audio has a little static, but it’s worth it)

30

Apr

How to Be Creative

the emergence at cosm

Do you consider yourself to be creative? Do you have a strong critical mind? What connection do you think there is between these two? Which has your education helped develop? Which does the world need you to have more of right now?

Reading the first chapter of the book Presence today I came across the words of Stanford business school professor Michael Ray. Mr. Ray teaches very popular courses on creativity. His courses start with three assumptions:

  1. Creativity is essential for health, happiness and success in all areas of life, including business.
  2. Creativity is within everyone
  3. Even though it is in everyone it is covered by the Voice of Judgement

I couldn’t help but be reminded of the work of Ken Robinson. Sir. Robinson has written some wonderful books on creativity, the modern education system and finding your purpose or “element”. I wrote about “The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” earlier in one of my posts on FLOW. In his previous book “Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative” Robinson raises the very pressing possibility that “we are educating people out of their creativity.”

In an article on the Huffington Post Robinson writes, “First, we’re all born with deep natural capacities for creativity and systems of mass education tend to suppress them. Second, it is increasingly urgent to cultivate these capacities — for personal, economic and cultural reasons — and to rethink the dominant approaches to education to make sure that we do.”

Years ago I came across a popular story, perhaps from Robinson, about what happens when you ask school kids who in the room is an artist. The story starts out in a kindergarten class. The question is asked and every hand goes up. Then the question is asked again in the 1st grade classroom, then 2nd grade and on up through senior year in high school. In elementary school the number of hands going up quickly drops towards half and then less. By high school there are only a few hands and by the end of high school a room is lucky to have one hand go up. Often all of the other students agree and say “yes, she is the artist.” What happened? Is school to blame? And does this narrowing of identity really have an impact on our health, happiness and success?

Mr. Ray tells the authors of Presence about “a study by Howard Gardner’s Project Zero at Harvard that involved developing intelligence tests for babies. The project also tested older subjects. The researchers found that up to age four, almost all the children were at the genius level, in terms of the multiple frames of intelligence that Gardner talks about – spatial, kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, mathematical, intrapersonal and linguistic. But by age twenty, the percentage of children at genius level was down to 10 percent, and over twenty, the genius level proportion of the subjects sank to 2 percent.

Everyone asks, ‘Where did it go?’ It didn’t go anywhere; it’s covered over by the Voice of Judgement.”

The solution offered by Ray? Become aware of the Voice of Judgement, the voice that tells you “that’s a stupid idea” or “you can’t do that” and choose to disregard that voice. In a sense we must practice willful disobedience within our own minds. The key is simple awareness. Much of what he describes sounds just like meditation, albeit meditation with a specific intention. The first, hardest and most powerful step is simply deciding to notice this voice and label it. That’s it. As I am found of saying, consciousness is curative. When we decide to bring awareness to something with the intention of loving and healing ourselves the solutions do become apparent. We don’t have to be fearlessly creative to begin. We simply have to open up to the possibility that deep within us there lies an immense capability to be creative. We must consider the possibility that our education, training and cultural conditioning has been unbalanced and has favored critical reasoning (the Voice of Judgement) over creative imagining.

If you would like to re-invigorate your creative side and are having a hard time doing so perhaps it is time to look for, label and summarily dismiss your Voice of Judgement. The Voice of Judgement relies 100% on the past to determine what it thinks is possible or reasonable. Being creative, being an entrepreneur or an artist is an unreasonable act. It must be. It is about bringing into being something which does not already exist. All great creators are unreasonable in the eyes of those who did not share their vision. There is a playfulness, a childlike naivety, in all acts of creation. What would you do if you were suddenly free from your Voice of Judgement?

This post is from a series called Insights that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life Coach.

If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose then I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.

25

Feb

Habit Reversal Training – How to Change Habits

Devin_Martin-nose_pick

PART 1  : THIS IS PART 2 OF A 3 PART SERIES ON HABITS : PART 3

Last week I began talking about how habits work and how, by increasing our awareness of the simple pattern that all habits seem to follow we can choose to replace bad habits or install good ones. The ideas that I am discussing are from a new book by Charles Duhigg called “The Power of Habits.” I Introduced the cycle of cue – routine – reward that Duhigg describes and gave you a brief overview of how to identify and bring more awareness to the cues that precede the behavior or habit you wish to change.

Once you have identified and tracked the cues that send you into autopilot you can now choose to follow that cue with a healthier, more supportive behavior. Consider the woman I mentioned who bites her nails. When she gets bored and feels a tingling in her fingertips her old behavior was to start rubbing her finger tips feeling for bumps or edges. When she found one she would chew on it and then, on autopilot, proceed to chew every nail on her hand until here nails were completely smooth (or completely removed). Once she had smoothed out the skin and nails on every finger she felt a sense of completeness, her reward (more about this later).

Step two of reprogramming her habit after identifying and tracking her cues was to install a new program. Whenever she became aware of the cue, of boredom leading to a tingling sensation in her fingertips, she was to do something which physically stimulated her fingertips such as rub them on her arm or wrap them on a hard surface. She practiced this routine with her therapist for 30 minutes and was then sent home with another index card. This time she made a check when she felt the cue and a hashmark when she successfully engaged the new physical stimulation. A week later, after biting her nails only 3 times instead of the usual 18 she rewarded herself with a manicure. This felt satisfying and rewarding in much the same way that completing a round of nail biting did.

cue-routine-reward-swap

Did you catch that? The key is not avoidance. When I say “don’t think of a purple elephant” what are you doing? You are thinking of a purple elephant. When I say “don’t bite your nails” what are you thinking about? Biting your nails. This can actually increase the compulsion and anxiety. If I help you to recognize the trigger that leads to biting your nails and then offer you an alternate behavior suddenly you have options. You have a new coping mechanism and instead of simply trying to shortcircuit the cycle you are completing it in an alternate way.

A similar routine replacement is described for other patterns. A man who snacks when he is bored at work recognizes that the rewards of going to the cafeteria include a break from his desk and some social engagement. He chooses the routine of walking over to a co-workers desk and talking to them instead. New habit installed, same rewards felt. One of the reasons that AA meetings work so well is likely that the habit of drinking is replaced with a habit of meetings (90 meetings in 90 days). The cues such as anxiety remain the same, but the coping mechanism or habit is replaced and the reward can be surprisingly similar. The social engagement, sharing of stories and camaraderie of a meeting are often shockingly similar to those at a bar, party or other social drinking event.

A cue must be identified, a new routine chosen and a reward given for following it. Sound too simple? Too good to be true? This simple process is called Habit Reversal Training. Duhigg quotes one of the developers of this process, Nathan Azrin, “It seems ridiculously simple, but once you’re aware of how your habit works, once you recognize the cues and rewards, you’re halfway to changing it. It seems like it should be more complex. The truth is the brain can be reprogrammed. You just have to be deliberate about it.”

Let’s be clear. This tool is massively powerful. A simple awareness of it and dedication to following it has helped many and can be a positive tool for anyone. But it will not always be enough. Each habit is complex and unique. And there is another factor which plays a huge role in both whether or not we can succeed at changing a habit and in whether or not the habits that we do change last. This factor is belief.

Next week we take a look at the role that belief plays in changing habits. Belief is the key to understanding how to succeed in creating the habits we do want, changing the habits we do not want and why some new habits fail completely at critical moments.

PART 1  : THIS IS PART 2 OF A 3 PART SERIES ON HABITS : PART 3

This post is from a series called INSIGHTS that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life & Career Coach.

If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose than I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.

17

Feb

What are Habits?

Devin Martin Nail Biting

THIS IS PART 1 OF A 3 PART SERIES ON HABITS  : PART 2 : PART 3

Do you have a bad habit…or 12? Maybe you have or have had an addiction? Have you ever tried to pick up a new, more healthy habit? Do you know how to change bad habits? Or how to install good habits? That’s right, I said install, like installing a program in a computer. Conventional wisdom tells us that habits are mysterious and control over habits is an elusive and mysterious process. A new book by Charles Duhigg tells us otherwise.

“The Power of Habits”, published by Random House in 2012 takes the complex issue of habit change and boils it down to a simple formula with cute little graphics and one magical element. Much like computer language, Duhigg refers to habits as routines. A routine is a patterned behavior that we perform with such frequency that it has become mostly automatic. We routinely repeat habits with little or no effort or conscious awareness of a decision to do so.

If we have good habits we pat ourselves on the back. When we have bad habits we often chastise ourselves and feel as if we are failing somehow. Either way the behavior seems to happen without much effort. Some will say that they have created a good habit implying that their will-power is strong. Most are aware of some habit that they have tried once or a thousand times to alter with little or no sustained success. Most of time you hear someone speak of the effort that habit requires they are referring to failed attempts to create or curtail a habit. What if there really were a formula for changing habits that any of us could use to choose our behaviors?

Cue – Routine – Reward

cue-routine-reward

This is the forumula that Duhigg offers to explain all of our habits, good and bad, from working out to smoking cigarettes to drinking coffee and alcohol to over eating or biting our nails. The exciting thing is that bringing awareness to this loop with a very simple plan does seem empower people to change their subconscious patterns. As I love to say, consciousness is curative. When we increase awareness enough we tap into enormous power with very little effort.

First we must understand cues. A cue is a trigger. It is the stimulus or experience that starts the cycle of a habit. Most of us focus on the habit itself and put all of our effort into preventing or creating a change in our behavior but completely overlook the very thing that put that pattern in motion. Duhigg describes a woman who can’t stop biting her nails even though it causes her much pain and embarrasment. When asked by a therapist when or why she starts biting she describes a sensation, a tingling in her finger tip. This sensation is the cue. Becoming aware of the cue is step one. Her task then was simply to carry an index card with her and make a check every time that she felt this sensation. Instantly her awareness of the cue increased. Later, when asked when she felt the tingling sensation she was able to recognize that this happened when she was bored. The habit was not fixed, but she was on the way to increasing her conscious awareness of the process simply by developing her awareness of it at an early stage she had never before attempted to objectify.

A cue can be identified and monitored for any habit. For smoking or snacking or drinking we can look for and find a feeling or experience that precedes the actual habit. An uncomfortable emotion such as boredom, anxiety, frustration or restlessness is common. The need to take a break, relax or simply switch gears while working is often cited as the reason to smoke a cigarette or take a snack break. Often times physical cues such as dread in the stomach, shortness of breath, tension in your shoulders or an elevated heart rate exist much like the tingling in her fingertips. For some a particular type or tone of thought might be a cue. Identifying and charting this cue will bring you one step closer to understanding and changing your habit. For some, this alone will radically alter your relationship to your habit or addiction. For most this the necessary groundwork to then take a look at the rest of the cycle.

What I have described are the types of cues that precede a negative habit that you wish to change (notice I am not saying get rid of, but change). This same concept will be important as we talk about installing new positive habits. First we must understand the rest of the cycle. Then we will explore the magical element.

Next week we talk about routine and reward.

THIS IS PART 1 OF A 3 PART SERIES ON HABITS  : PART 2 : PART 3

This post is from a series called INSIGHTS that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life & Career Coach.

If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose than I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Coaching Program can kickstart your journey.

31

Dec

Gumption Traps

Devin Martin Spilled Milk

Have you ever been caught in a gumption trap? I am going to guess that you have. A better question might be ‘how did you handle the gumption trap?’

Put simply, gumption is your initiative, your energy to move forward and your ability to do so with commonsense and shrewdness. Gumption is the drive that pushes you to start a project and also the focus, clarity and motivation that carries you through until you finish it. When your gumption is high you will find yourself scribbling feverishly, drawing up plans, writing with acute focus, speaking with confidence and full of insights. When gumption is high you work through a project with enthusiasm and a sense of possibility. States of extremely high gumption are akin to FLOW states.

In his 1974 novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Robert Pirsig coined the term gumption trap. Here he explains the power of gumption while working on a motorcycle:

“Gumption is the psychic gasoline that keeps the whole thing going. If you haven’t got it there’s no way the motorcycle can possibly be fixed. But if you have got it and know how to keep it there’s absolutely no way in the whole world that motorcycle can keep from getting fixed. It’s bound to happen. Therefore the thing that must be monitored at all times and preserved before anything else is the gumption. “

What Pirsig so clearly understood is that it is not knowing how you will succeed that drives you forward, but rather an ineffable sense that success is possible. Gumption is our ‘reservoir of good spirits’. Another word for gumption in this sense might be faith.

A gumption trap is something which saps your energy, undermines your faith or otherwise causes you to falter in your drive towards completing a project. Gumption traps can stop you cold before a project is begun at all.

Pirsig identifies two types of gumption traps. One arises from external circumstances, he calls these “set-backs”. The other arises from internal circumstances, he calls these “hang-ups”.

Set-backs come in all shapes and sizes. In motorcycle maintenance Pirsig describes going through a complicated assembly process only to realize that you skipped an early step, “What’s this? A connecting-rod bearing liner?! How could you have left that out? Oh Jesus, everything’s got to come apart again! You can almost hear the gumption escaping. Psssssssssssss.” Set-backs could also be a stubbed toe, a lost computer file or an unaccounted for expense. Basically, any circumstance that adds time, effort or expense to your project is a potential gumption trap. When you first become aware of such a set-back there is a very real sense of having the wind taken from your sails and if you are not careful the entire project is now in danger do to one simple question: Will you have the gumption to continue?

Hang-ups come in many forms as well. The key to hang-ups is that they are something that you brought to the project with you. They are your own personal kinks and shadow issues that threaten to steal your thunder when working on a project. Pirsig identifies a few: Ego, “if you have a high evaluation of yourself then your ability to recognize new facts is weakened.” Anxiety, “You’re so sure you’ll do everything wrong you’re afraid to do anything at all.” Often times anxiety is mislabeled as ‘laziness’. Boredom, “the opposite of anxiety and commonly goes with ego problems. Boredom means you are not seeing things freshly, you’ve lost your “beginners mind”.

Each gumption trap has its own unique request and getting your gumption back takes many shapes ranging from taking a break to studying more to seeking inspiration elsewhere (go to a show, make love, exercise) to doing some self exploration and facing your demons.

Many things can be a gumption trap; a bad work environment, disrespectful coworkers, cheap tools, self doubt, an accident or an unsuccessful first try. The key is to recognize that gumption is not a fixed commodity. At times you are full of faith. At others you need a break. Awareness of this dynamic can free you to choose how to use your energy more wisely and free you from beating yourself up unnecessarily for not being 100% at all times and in all circumstances. Learning to recognize gumption traps will help you to avoid them at times, but simply acknowledging them when they do arise and adjusting accordingly can save you immense effort and may be the thing that allows you to finish what would otherwise have become an aborted project. 

This post is from a series called Insights that are inspired by the work I do with my clients as a Life Coach.

If you are ready to live with more joy, more passion and more purpose then I would love to be of service. Contact me to find out how my Life Coaching Program can kickstart your journey. – Devin Martin

30

Apr

A Heart Blown Open

A Heart Blown Open
The Life and Practice of Zen Master Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi
by Keith Martin-Smith
Anytime I can open a book and the first two words I see are Zen and LSD I am intrigued. When said book happens to be about a Zen master hedonist with an incredibly checkered past who was has spent time in prison, modeling on a runway, made millions manufacturing LSD for people such as the Grateful Dead, is deeply versed in integral theory, friends with Ken Wilber, an abuse survivor, yogi, true iconoclast and by all accounts a fearless seeker who consistently refused to accept setbacks as a limiting factor along his journey; I’m enthralled. This is the true life story of one Jun Po Denis Kelly Roshi recently wrestled into book form by Keith Martin-Smith.
I have known about Jun Po (I’ll pick that section of his name for the post) for years via the world of Integral. He is a Zen master in the Rinzai tradition who has developed his own accelerated version of Rinzai which he calls Mondo Zen. If we go with the notion that a dedicated student on the Rinzai path often takes 20-30 years to be recognized as an adept or enlightened master, it is speculated that Mondo Zen may be able to cut that by 5 years. Neat, and a wonderfully exciting idea. More importantly Mondo efforts to integrate aspects of shadow work that traditional Zen dangerously overlooks. We all know the stories of the spiritual leader who got into trouble sleeping with a student. Jun Po is one of them. He speaks of it candidly so that we may all benefit from it. Speaking from the heart with the type of audacity that doesn’t flinch at the idea of updating 12th centurey Japanese tradition is exactly the kind of iconoclastic attitude that Jun Po brought to most every aspect of his life.
Raised and abused by a misguided alcoholic father. A high school drop out. A heavy drug user and the creator of multiple failed marriages Jun Po also consistently displayed a fierce work ethic and unwavering determination to step outside of the limitations that life seemed to be handing him. It would be hard to call his life charmed. It would be much harder to call it dull or lifeless. He succeeds only through dragging himself through adventures that would send most people back home to the familiarity and security of a more rote life.
This is why this book is an inspiration to me. Jun Po’s life is the classic american story with a spiritual finale. Yes, he went from rags to riches, but that’s the beginning of the tail. After that is where things really begin to get interesting. While his is perhaps not the kind of life we might seek for ourselves or hope for our children, tucked directly inside each of the fumbles and hurdles that he moves through is a sense of possibility, wonder and openness to exploration that I think we could all learn quite a bit from.
I also really respect the openness with which someone such as Jun Po talks about his drug use and how it led him to find more stable ways of accessing the peak experiences that he glimpsed through altered states. It seems to be a little discussed truth that a very large percentage of the westerners who spend significant amounts of time on a meditation cushion owe a not so small part of their inspiration and insight into what a human being is capable of to psychedelics. I am one of those people. Any wise being recognizes quite quickly that substances alone are a paltry excuse for growth and transformation. But, as Aldous Huxley proclaimed quite loudly, the doors of perception can be cracked open amazingly quickly with a little chemical assist. From there we can spend decades learning to replicate and surpass the initial glimpse that psychedelics offer. Like everything else in his life, Jun Po jumped into the world of altered states head first, smacked his head on the bottom, did a bit of damage, but then managed learning both how to swim and how to teach others. It is this unflagging determination to self correct that I think we can benefit from emulating.
Laughing out loud, check. A gasp of breath, check. Tears streaming down my cheeks, check. A sly knowing smirk and a giggle of recognition, check². Crazy tales of supernormal powers, check. My full heartfelt recommendation, duh.
Oh, and enlightenment, this is a story of enlightenment. A fierce and unrelenting chase, many dark alleyways, many brightly lit fields and more than a few gloriously unexpected exaltations.

 

28

Jun

Starcrossed

Disclaimer: I have known Josie for most of my life. She is a phenomenal human being in many ways. So I may be biased here. None the less, when any friend hands you something they have created, there is always excitement mixed with the fear that you will hate it. More often than not I am underwhelmed by my friends attempts at greatness. Aren’t we all? This is not the case with Starcrossed. I fucking loved it!

Starcrossed is exceptional. Recently published by Harper Teen it is the first book in a trilogy. It takes the Illiad, the epic Greek poem with Helen of Troy, the Trojan War, gods, demigods, love and destruction, and places it in a high school in modern day Nantucket. Josie described it to me as Romeo and Juliet meets the Iliad. There might be a touch of Twilight and Harry Potter in there as well.

It is an epic love story and a battle for the fate of humankind with the gods. It has super powers, timeless beauty; there is mystery and deceit both hidden and revealed around every corner. I started it on a flight and finished it the following day at 1:30am. I was totally hooked. My sister Aileen is mentioned (as a dead character). And I think one of the actual living characters takes a few notes from Aileen’s chutzpah.

The story of how the book got written is equally amazing. Check out this video piece that tells the tale. Basically, her amazing husband Leon demanded that Josie stop working for a year and finally write a book. Over the course of that year they went into credit card debt, but stayed true to the goal of Josie finishing her book. With the book complete they were now staring at real financial uncertainty. But! Within weeks of Josie finishing the book and getting it to an agent she had a seven figure publishing deal! Everyone who read Starcrossed loved it. It is already published and becoming a best seller in multiple countries.

Check out this video that tells the story:

I loved reading it. I can’t wait for part two of the trilogy to come out. And when do they start making the movies?!

Go buy a copy today.

31

Jul

Correlation vs. Causation – DNA and Epigenetics


Correlation and Causation seem to me to be two of the most commonly confused terms in the modern world. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the reporting and interpretation of genetic research.

I got only 50 pages into ‘The Biology of Belief’ by Bruce H. Lipton and already was in love. It is rare that a scientists views of the world truly resonate with my own interpretations. I have long argued that DNA as a causative factor in our lives is a confused and partial truth. I occasionally read of studies that point at this, but far too often the opposite conclusion is drawn. ‘My genes made me fat, caused my cancer, leave me crippled with ADD, depression, chronic fatigue, addiction, obesity, etc. and there is ultimately little that I can do.’

The fact that there is some truth in this does not mean that we are powerless, quite the opposite I think.

Lipton makes some very important points early on ‘…genes can not turn themselves on or off…genes are not “self-emergent”. Something in the environment has to trigger gene activity.’. So our genes certainly speak of (often latent) potentials, but they alone can not be studied to tell us why we are as we are. (p26)

Later Lipton gives us the analogy of the belief that keys ‘control’ cars. If one were to study all cars that are moving (much as geneticists may study all people with cancer) in an attempt to determine causes of this ‘movement’ phenomenon they may well find that all moving cars contain keys. They may even go so far as to look and find no stationary cars containing keys. Does this mean that keys control cars or cause them to be moving? Obviously not, they are correlative, not causative. (p50) There are other environmental and interior factors at work here as well (driver, gas, battery charge etc). DNA (keys) may very well be the newest and most fundamental factor to receive sciences attention, but how is it that this leads us to ignore or belittle the myriad other factors at play? And more importantly, how useful is this towards empowering us to make positive change?

Mr. Lipton goes on to point out Darwin’s late life realization: “the greatest error which I have committed has been not allowing sufficient weight to the direct action of the environments, I.e. Food, climate, etc., independently of natural selection.”

“When a gene product is needed, a signal from its environment, not an emergent property of the gene itself, activates expression of that gene.” – H. F. Nijhout (p52)

Lipton also points out that, while it holds a wealth of information and can rightly be considered a warehouse of potentials, DNA alone does not interact with the environment to determine our response to stimulus. “In the chromosome, the DNA forms the core, and the proteins cover the DNA like a sleeve. When the genes are covered, their information can not be “read”.(p67) What causes the protein ‘sleeve’ to roll back and allow the DNA to express itself? Environmental signals. So, it would seem that in many ways the regulatory proteins surrounding our DNA are deciding which potentials we will express, and when, more than the DNA that is getting so much media attention these days. Lipton even points out that more often than not, in an attempt to get at and study DNA, the proteins surrounding it are removed and discarded. Is this because DNA houses all of the necessary information for the life that is me?

Consider that our bodies are made up of over 100,000 different proteins. “Conventional thought held that the body needed one gene to provide for each of the 100,000…Add to that 20,000 regulatory genes, which orchestrate the activity of the protein-encoding genes. Scientists concluded that the human genome would contain a minimum of 120,000 genes.” (p62) But it turns out that they found closer to 25,000. The spineless, thousand-celled Caenorhabditis worm has 24,000. Obviously there is more at work here building each of us than just DNA.

Epigenetics – Control above genetics

Epigenetic research is now showing us that, not only is there a lot more to our complexity than DNA can account for, the whole process is a lot more fluid than previously believed. Epigeneticists are the scientists who keep the regulatory proteins and study them when breaking open a cells nucleus to get at its contents (DNA and regulatory proteins). These are the scientists who are teaching us that the holy grail of building life is not DNA–>RNA–>protein, but Environmental Signal<-->Regulatory Protein<-->DNA<-->RNA<-->Protein. Notice that the arrows actually go in both directions. ‘DNA blueprints passed down through genes are not concrete at birth’. They change!!! They respond!

Yes, this does seem to imply that the outside world, and our interactions with it can actually rewrite our genetic code. Is this actually surprising? Does the idea of ‘random mutation’ followed by ‘natural selection’ really make more sense? What does the word random usually imply in a scientific context? It usually means ‘we have no fucking clue what is happening, and are not going to admit any attempts to figure it out’. Thank god someone did.

In attempting to explain what I view to be one of our current limitations when attempting to understand what DNA, RNA, proteins etc. are and how they interact with the world I have come up with a train analogy:

Picture the human mind/body as a train. Let’s say that science wants to know what’s happening inside of the train in order to determine where that train will end up, and in what condition. So science decides that people control trains. Science then finds a way to capture a static image of the entire contents of the train, who is in it, what they are saying, what their plans are, etc. Science then spends a great deal of time studying the content of that one image and comparing its findings to similar snapshots of information gathered from other trains. What science can not yet honor is that the train is full of holes and its contents change over time. Windows and doors open and close both as the train stops and when it is in motion. The train made many stops before the image was captured and has made many more stops since the image was captured. Most likely it was making stops or had windows open while the image was being captured. And what is happening at these stops and through these openings? People are getting on and off, they are smelling the air outside, breathing its contents, hearings it’s sounds. The environment around the train is permeating and changing the contents of the train and vice versa. The conversations that the passengers on a train are likely to have rest heavily on where the train is, who has entered, exited, and who is being mesmerized by the sights out the window. The train may have a schedule, and should environmental conditions be one particular way, it may even follow that schedule to the mili-second with no malfunctions or mishaps, but neither this schedule nor the people on the train at the time of the imaging are necessarily causative. They are correlates. And not one piece of this ever changing information can be looked at in a deterministic fashion if we really want to have a clue how that train is going to end up.

We currently have the capability to sequence the entire human genome (It’s still really fucking expensive) and have done it quite a few times. I am not aware of any comparative studies that attempt to look at the human genome at birth, death, and at many intervals in between. I suspect that we will see differences. I do not believe that our genetic code is static or causative. We are a product of our genes, our proteins, our community, our society, and, as Mr. Lipton states clearly in other sections of the book, of our beliefs as well.

What is beautiful about all of this is that the idea that we need to dominate (survival of the fittest) or control others so that we can survive just doesn’t make sense when it is precisely those others whom we rely on for all of the growth that we have ever made. It seems as if by nurturing our environment we are actually nurturing ourselves.

What is the impact of all this? Not that survival of the fittest is necessarily 100% wrong, but that it is certainly not the whole truth either. There may be more value in cooperation with our environment (others) than previously imagined. There’s really no reason to feel trapped and scared, as if the environment is out to get you and you are ill prepared to meet it. We are being created by it. We are creating with it. We are perfectly in sync with it. The imaginary lines that we have drawn around ourselves, separating self from other, are melting every day.