Becoming an adept meditator does more than simply relax the mind and body. It is in this relaxed mind/body state where the most beneficial and rewarding aspects lie, and it’s not just reserved for surface level changes. Our trillions-strong community of cells feel it too, and scientists have the data to prove that where there is a change in perception and awareness, there is a change in the most foundational levels of our organism.
A study headed by Herbert Benson of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has found that not only do the typical physiological effects of meditation and relaxation play out, but there is a marked change in genes as well. The study was conducted with 26 volunteers, all of whom had no previous meditation experience. Their gene profiles were analyzed prior to teaching them any meditation techniques. Benson and his colleagues found, after eight weeks of 10 to 20 minute relaxation exercises practiced daily, upon analyzing the volunteer’s gene profiles again, that beneficial genes expressed more than non beneficial ones. This lends credence to claims of perception literally shaping one’s health. (source article: http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn23480-meditation-boosts-genes-that-promote-good-health.html#.UbnaALvLigV)
These findings also tie into cellular biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton’s findings in his decades long research in epigenetics, which propounds that perception controls our genes, and not the other way around, as was previously thought and taught.
Lipton began his teaching of cellular biology with the mainstream school of thought, that genes control everything, and there was nothing that we could do about it. But around 1985, he received a great insight into the true workings of our genes, and ultimately of our reality.
While studying the functioning of cell membranes, from the phospholipid bilayer –– held together purely by the automatic interactions and properties of the hydrophilic and hydrophobic ends (no bonds – part solid, part liquid or liquid crystal) –– to the two types of proteins which act as receptors and effectors, he discovered that the cell membrane is a liquid crystal semiconductor, with gates (receptors) and channels (effectors). The definition seemed familiar to him, so he referred back to a book on microprocessors he had laying around, and inside, it defined the microchip as “a crystal semiconductor with gates and channels”. From here, Dr. Lipton’s research into the workings of our cells unlocked the insight that perception and awareness are the ultimate determining factors in the inner manifestations of our bodies and of our realities. He came to the conclusion that the cell and cell membrane are akin to a computer and keyboard respectively, and the genes, programs. “The cell membrane IS a chip!”
His studies allowed him to observe the fractal nature of our world, noting that from the smallest constituents of cells to entire communities of them that make up the body, and the communities of humans on this planet, to the planets, the solar system, clusters of celestial bodies, galaxies and beyond, everything is reflected again and again at all levels of observation. (for more on fractals, refer to The Still Mind’s article on the holographic nature of consciousness)
Lipton also conducted work with stem cells, producing an even more curious result. He found that when he placed stem cells in certain media, according to what it was, the cells would form muscle, bone, or other tissue. His findings led to a fundamental understanding of cell development, and that is that environment shapes the formation of particular cells. “The exciting new science of epigenetics emphasizes that genes are controlled by the environment, and more importantly, by our perception of the environment.” (source article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bruce-lipton/spirituality-modern-science_b_869903.html)
Just to drive the point home, the MGH study additionally analyzed the gene profiles of 26 long time meditators, and found that not only did their genes alter as expected, but previous to initiating the relaxation/meditation session (this time 15 to 20 minutes in duration), their genes already displayed the changes in expression, illustrating that “the techniques had resulted in long term changes to their genes.” (Newscientist.com)
Adds Benson: “the relaxation techniques should only be an adjunct to conventional medicine and surgery, not a replacement.”
Bruce Lipton delivers his findings on perception and the nature of our world in this informative lecture entitled “As Above So Below – An Introduction to Fractal Evolution”.