there is a relatively famous example of a set of twins who chose two very different lives: one a distance runner the other a bodybuilder.
otto and ewald, as identical or monozygotic twins, have the same genetic information within each cell. the major differences between them, then, are a result of their training regimens, dietary inputs, and lifestyle choices.
when people think about their genes, they generally think of their dna as a hand dealt to them— a static set of characteristics and traits that will be with them for their entire life. this is where epigenetics comes in.
epigenetics is broadly described as the expression of inherited genes. yes, we are given a set of chromosomes from our ma and another set from our pa, but that does not mean we are expressing all the genes at the same time— a caterpillar and a butterfly are the same organism just expressing different genes at different times.
if we go into the himalayas, the low amount of oxygen in the thin and high air will cause a shift in gene expression. our kidneys will begin to produce more EPO, and that affects the amount of red blood cells in our blood— this means we can effectively ‘catch’ more oxygen out of the air with each breath. this is just one simple example of a change in our epigenetic structure, or gene expression.
so, i say we should ditch the idea of our genes being a hand dealt to us. i say we should think of our genes as a deck of cards and we draw cards to create our hands. different cards are appropriate at different times and we should not think of our genetic expression as a static document— it is as fluid and ever-changing as our self-identities.
my meditation practice began in late-august— so i’ve been at it for about a month now. i started small with just five minutes and now i can comfortably sit still for twenty minutes while working on my breathing. the benefits are huge, especially when done regularly. it’s like i am finally scratching an itch i’ve never been able to reach.
what is meditation? quiet time. it’s just sitting still and letting your mind wander, as it is wont to do, and bringing your focus back to your breathe when your mind inevitably wanders. mindfulness meditation doesn’t need to be practiced in full lotus or with an ohm chant; these are just tools used to focus the mind, just like the yoga postures allow for moving meditation.
my practice began without much fuss— i listened to this rich roll podcast with dan harris and was convinced to try just five minutes a day (i love podcasts and so should you!). i started by just sitting on my yoga mat and dragging out 20 breathes as long as i could— longest i hit was 4:45.
the first couple times you sit down on your mat, or chair or whatever, will be tough. the lack of stimulation/distraction from your own thoughts can feel like you are being dropped into space and your only reaction is panic to get away (opening your eyes). this is natural. there is a difference between the thoughts that come up when you meditate (what am i having for lunch? why did i say that thing to her? why is he such a dick to me?) and who YOU are (the person that navigates life). you are not your thoughts and your thoughts do not define you— this is the power of meditation. realizing that we are all crazy people with crazy thoughts, but we do not have to be influenced by these thoughts or neuroses.
now, i practice every morning after a cup of my bulletproof/buttered coffee. i like to face the sun as my sort of mecca. i set a timer for 20min and settle into the back of my eyelids. now that i am more comfortable practicing, i can actually time it so that i am working through my final three breathes when the timer goes off— so i have a pretty good sense of what twenty minutes is like without external reference, which is pretty cool.
in social situations, i have more control over my thoughts and that anxiety spiral. when coaching, i project my voice better and can better keep track of my own thoughts. more than working out or yoga, i think meditation is a practice that i will definitely continue for the rest of my life. it is a powerful stimulation of the parasympathetic system (rest and digest), a good balance to the sympathetic stimulation we get throughout the day.
i hope i have encouraged you to try out a little quiet time today. just five minutes of sitting there with no external stimulation— explore your thoughts and feelings. that way, they can’t be used against you so easily.
after a long hiatus, i have finished my secondary med school apps and just playing the waiting game for interview offers from schools!
the final med school app list:
took me way longer than expected to push these apps out, but they are finally done and i will get back to working out (haven’t completed a real crossfit wod in like three months!), logging said workouts, and blogging a bit! for many of my new followers, nice to meet ya! :P
Guardians of the Galaxy crossover by our storyboard artist Mario D’Anna Jr.!