(click here for posts on mindfulness)
From an essay written in 2005 by HH the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet:
“The radical advances that took place in neuroscience and particularly in genetics towards the end of the twentieth century have led to a new era in human history. Our knowledge of the human brain and body at the cellular and genetic level, with the consequent technological possibilities offered for genetic manipulation, has reached such a stage that the ethical challenges of these scientific advances are enormous.”
Even while a great many heritability studies (some covered here) show that the brain and the mind are greatly influenced by genes, the data show that the firing of each and every neuron in the brain is also heavily influenced by one’s expectations and experiences. Even while this blog covers certain aspects of genetic biology that seem somewhat deterministic, we know that the genome does not determine one’s thought processes per se, but rather may influence the the way the brain’s neural systems interact with the environment.
One of the main purposes of this blog is to build a resource that supports the development of so-called “P4 medicine” (Predictive, Preventive, Personalized, and Participatory) in the area of mental health. It has been a joy to use my genetic data as a mere starting point to reflect (ie. participate) inwardly on my own mental life – my own expectations, thought processes and emotions etc.. As I’ve noted in many posts, my genome doesn’t tell me anything definitive, but rather just prompts me to look more closely at how I think and feel and how I might be similar or different to others.
As a means to improve this ability to look inwardly, I have been practicing yoga, meditation and other types of activities that help me relax and pay attention to my thought processes. So far it has been a lot of fun and I’ve met many great folks at my yoga shala and meditation group. I think the methods used in these practices are helping a lot, but, certainly, one can develop an inward looking awareness via many, many other activities where one simply makes an effort to pay attention to the present moment. For instance, the great painter Paul Cezanne once suggested that, “Right now a moment of time is passing by! We must become that moment.” which echoes the ancient yoga sutras, “Study of the silent moments between rising and restraining subliminal impressions is the transformation of consciousness towards restraint” (III.9). So, with this personal effort underway, I hope to explore the basic biology – and perhaps even genetics – of these self-reflective forms of activity in the blog.
To follow this theme, just click on the lower right margin “TOPICS” “. These posts address the basic biology of meditation and various mental states associated with inward awareness and relaxation. Again, this is just a means to facilitate a bit of inward self-exploration. Meditating on genes and the role of genes in meditation, etc., etc.! “