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Posts Tagged ‘human genome’

tree of life and yin yangI’ve been reading a paper by Roger Jahnke, a much respected author of many works on energy  medicine, and Qigong –  a rare sane voice in a field otherwise beset by fools and charlatans. The paper is quite technical and discusses research into how the body functions at the cellular level, how it sometimes fails, and how it repairs itself. It basically says Qigong is good for you, and then presents the evidence.

There was a lot of hype a while back about Genetics and the mapping of the Human Genome. We were told you could read the profile of a person’s DNA then tell them what illnesses they were going to get, even when they were going to die. It was a scary idea and only the life insurance companies really took to it with enthusiasm. For the rest of us, it was a depressing concept; here’s the roadmap of your life, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

But now we know better. Your DNA can present you with statistical data on those ailments you’re most susceptible to, but whether you fall foul of them depends mainly on environmental factors. In fact we have about the same number of genes as a rodent, but there’s clearly a great deal of difference between a person and a rodent, a lot more going on in the maintenance of our well-being than the bare facts suggested by a DNA profile.

What do we mean by environmental factors? Basically stress.

When early man roamed the wilderness with his bow and arrow, his stresses were obvious – an angry bear, a hungry lion, the threat of being killed by another man. Faced with an immediate and obvious danger of death, the body responds by pumping you up, it sets the heart racing and readies you either to fight for your life, or to run like the wind.

We still have this “fight or flight” response, but in modern living the things that scare us are less obvious. A powerpoint presentation in front of the top brass? The ever spiralling cost of utility bills? Rumours of redundancy at work? A two hour commute in heavy traffic? An endless list. But how do you fight or run from such things? You can’t. Modern man is presented with a new kind of predator, one against which the old responses are useless – indeed worse than useless, because if you don’t physically fight or run, your body’s response becomes toxic and makes you ill.

The fight or flight mechanism is Yang. It’s active, dynamic, hot, and potentially dangerous. It can burn you out. It pumps you up and it says: “Do something!”. But without balance, Yang is indiscriminate and self destructive. Fight or flight is important, but should be used wisely, and for that we need the Yin side of our nature. Yin equates to the body’s “relaxation response” – the mirror image of “fight or flight”, like the nestled tadpoles in the yin-yang symbol. It’s natural and we all possess it, but modern living  causes us to neglect it, to belittle it,… even to laugh at it.

Techniques like meditation, yoga and Qigong work by awakening the relaxation response – defusing and dissolving toxins, encouraging repair rather than corroding us with the bitter acid of a million nagging worries. The methods are quite easy to learn and they allow the mind to enter the whole body, to sense it, to enjoy its vibrant aliveness, and to soothe the parts that are tense and troubled. Over time, the stillness these methods induce becomes a part of who you are and you no longer see the old stressors in quite the same way. You react to them with more discernment. Instead of terrifying, your old enemies begin to look jaded and foolish.

Internal methods like Qigong are taken to their extreme in martial arts. When skilled opponents face one another, they do so, not in a state of tension, pumped up with the fight or flight chemicals, but in stillness. When action comes, it’s swift and purposeful, rising forcefully out of stillness. And that’s the healthy way to live: acting when required but out of a more general stillness, rather than being forced to run like the rodents those early geneticists tried to tell us we were, forever moving, jumping at shadows, for ever reacting to life’s imaginary enemies.

So stop. Think. Breathe.

Relax.

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