Not so long ago modern psychology defined a split between how we perceive our world; between flexible conditioned responses to stress, and our genetic inherited traits, the latter then considered as immobile and concrete.
At that time, researchers seemed confidant that our genetic predispositions were locked in genetic codes; that the only route to therapy lay within modifying conditioned responses.
But recent evidence from the University of Wisconsin, and the Institute of Biomedical Research, Barcelona, showed that experienced meditators practicing mindfulness turned down the activity of genes and enzymes related to inflammation of the body’s cellular structure. If not changing the genes, then as a by-product of meditation, changing the messages that genes send is possible, flexible, and provable.
As we have seen in previous posts on this site, mastering the mind comes through freeing it from automatic mental conditioning of life experience which we frequently become stuck in. After all, life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to live through. Where people fail is when they elect a state of mind, usually pleasant and ego- driven, to remain in. This avoidance of displeasure, becoming stuck, is a kind of death.
But meditation offers a freedom from suffering due to being stuck. This is accomplished, in varying states of success, by assuming a comfortable posture, controlled breathing, and a progressive yet passive wish to halt the inner mind-chatter that occupies much of our waking days.
University of Toronto clinical psychologists showed 14 years ago that six months of mindfulness practice, coupled with cognitive therapy, reduced the relapse rate of chronic depression patients by 40 per cent over the following year. With today’s brain monitoring instruments, researchers are discovering how and why this works.
I offer this information to new meditators who may be unsure of their progress, or have become discouraged by the influence of friends who elect to be stuck in their own lives, and feel threatened by we who choose a process of becoming, of experimenting in the human condition.