Presto Change-O: Our Magical, Mystical DNA

On December 17, the New York Times ran a piece on How Exercise Changes Our DNA,” thus proposing we can affect our genetic makeup by how actively we live our lives.

Nice!  But we can go a lot further with this —  to that oft ignored, and invisible place where we know that our genes are affected not only by how we move our muscles but how we move our minds. That place where it’s possible to create a self fulfilling prophecy that is not a dream, not an illusion, but undeniably real.

A Body in Motion

The idea that we need to “Keep Moving” is  more essential to our vitality and health than we think. At a certain point, too many of us, myself included, set the more active phase of life aside. We think slowing down, sitting back, laying low, is natural. Just the way it is. Yet, If we choose the high road, believing instead, that we’re the pattern makers of our destinies, in both body and mind, how much more willing might we be to take part in sparking the creation of our lives?

Instead of men and women in their fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties falling apart, we might continue to alter the old, accepted pattern of decay to one of healthy growth and active engagement. Why not?

It’s Epi-ge-What?

This is no pipe dream. It’s Epigenetics, a type of biology that studies changes in how a gene expresses itself when it’s influenced by events above and beyond the gene itself, such as environment, experience, beliefs, and images — events other than specific changes in the underlying DNA sequence — hence the term epi-genetics (from the Greek for over, above, outer). Although these influences from outside and above don’t change the underlying sequence of our DNA (i.e. our hard drive), they do cause our genes to function, or “to express themselves” in a different way. And these new genetic expressions, once created, need not stop. They can be passed along to future generations.Holy moley. Shazaam. And so forth.

The science of using outside behavior and our innermost thoughts to affect what’s going  on, on the inside, may, in another twenty years, inform the way we live our lives. At least for those who want to live better, healthier, happier and longer.

A client of mine, a psychiatric nurse/dancer worked with patients in a large Manhattan hospital, where she managed to get a donation of tap shoes and started holding tap classes twice a week for the patients. The “short of it” is it changed their mood, and the way they thought and behaved. The “long of it” is the change extended into all areas of their lives. Sadly, they left their tapping and the concurrent changes it wrought, behind when they left the hospital.

Imagine what might have happened had they not.

Tapping it Forward

So let’s keep tapping. Never stop. Our bodies and minds are the laboratories of both our personal  and universal futures.Imagine! Happier, healthier, more engaged generations to come, living happier, healthier, more engaged lives. Genetic engineering at it’s best! Not a bad thought, not bad at all. . .

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New Year Musings: Out with The Old

New Years eve was never one of my favorites. Perhaps it’s those memories of dates and days past when I expected so much and wound up with so little. The right place, but the wrong boy. The right boy but a lousy kisser. Worse even. A blind date. A beautiful dress worn to a terrible party where some dolt spilled his drink on the dress, ne’er to be worn again ─  where it was too close for comfort, too disappointing to do anything but ignore, then forget, as I stood in the freezing cold, waiting for a cab that refused to show up, or even worse, passed me by.

But there was one New Years eve that I gave a party and it all came together. When everyone showed up in formal dress. When everything clicked. When the snow started falling before midnight and we all went off to play and allowed it to anoint us with a moment of magic. When romance was in the air and in my heart and anything seemed possible. I tried to create a repeat performance the following year but it fell flat, as my neighbor’s husband decided to hit on me, the guests left their fun genes back home, and the snow refused to snow on cue.

New Years gets so much hype that it’s hard to live up to the foreplay.The peak moment comes and goes; there’s lots of noise and hoopla; the rockets rock; the bubbly bubbles; the kissers kiss; and the ball comes down in Times Square while the people from Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, Indiana, Ohio, and Kansas, watch and cheer and stand there in the freezing cold insisting they’re having a fabulous time. Then poof, its over and done with. And everyone goes home. And the old year is out and the New Year is in. And we make our resolutions and get set to do it again in one form or another the following year. So what ‘s it all about Alfie?

On a scale of 1 to 10, (10 being the best,1 the worst) 2013 was a 2. Not  quite a 1, which I reserve for events like September 11th. It earns this dubious honor via government shutdowns and mass shootings. Petty, self interested law-makers who refuse to tame gun rights or renew unemployment benefits. And right wing rants by Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Hannity, and the Palin woman, insisting that the poor give up more, and the rich give up nothing. That ObamaCare, is destroying American civilization and must be stopped at all costs.That Obama is a Kenyan who’s destroying American civilization.That Obama’s birth certificate is destroying American civilization. And that American civilization is exceptional and must be saved by getting rid of Obama and all things that bear his name, likeness and subversive socialist soul in any shape or form. Also, that Pope Francis, who may be way too cool a dude for a pope, is really a communist who threatens the pillars of Christianity, which they consistently fail to recognize is based on those awful “socialist” concepts about being thy brother’s keeper, especially if thy brother is poorer than you and less powerful.

It feels good to leave this past year behind although the Toronto mayor proved good for some laughs, and Chris Christy managed to show his true colors by closing down the access lanes to the GW Bridge as punishment for the  mayor of Ft. Lee, New Jersey having failed to support his reelection campaign for governor. Speak of ego gone wilder than usual. Even for a politician.

Despite this undistinguished history I look forward to a better and different 2014. Yet we had best stay vigilant. As actor, producer, writer, and general all around bigger than life talent Harvey Fierstein says: “You can’t just ignore evil.”

The author Thomas Cahill, spoke with Bill Moyers on Moyer’s show this past week and set my priorities straight.

“There are only two things in this world,” Cahill said. “There’s cruelty and there’s kindness.”

For this year, just beginning, as yet unblemished by anything cruel or dark, I pray we choose kindness. Each of us. One by one. It may just be enough to put a protective circle of light, a blessed imprint of “good” on our lives and on our world.

Thomas Cahill is the author of “How the Irish Saved Civilization,” “Pope John XXIII, ” “Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter,” and most recently “Heroes and Heretics.”