Have you ever wondered why, despite our best efforts, certain situations cause us to act like our parents?
While we often think of this as a learned behavioral mechanism, new research by Dr. Brian Dias from Emory University points to nature playing a role, suggesting it’s possible some information is biologically inherited through chemical changes that occur in DNA. He came to this conclusion in a study which uncovered the fact that mice can pass on learned information about traumatic or stressful experiences—in this case, a fear of the smell of cherry blossom—to subsequent generations. This provides compelling evidence for the biological transmission of memory from the brain into the genome.
What this discovery tells us is that the psychological and emotional results of traumatic events that a parent (or previous generations) experienced can be passed on to their offspring. This concept is called genomic imprinting, and it may explain why some children of holocaust survivors have certain anxieties, or why a person who has been abused by their parents, whose parents abused them, then abuses others. However, just because a person has inherited a propensity (or a biological memory), does not mean this propensity is a sentence handed down. Epigenetics—the study of molecular mechanisms by which the environment controls gene activity—tells us that genes are not self-emergent, rather, something in the environment has to trigger them.
The latest research in epigenetics suggests that the emotions embraced by both parents moments to hours before conception are passed on, thus becoming our first genetic guide. The result is that the organism (or child) has to adapt to the same environment and emotional conditions that were being perceived by its progenitors.
So if the environment before conception was hostile, the nervous system of the new organism has to mold to be able to survive in the same environment. The genes that enabled it to succeed in that environment are then signaled, thus affecting the nervous system of subsequent generations.
As an example, let’s say since you were a child you observed your parents (genetic contributors) behaving a certain way and recreating the same experiences over and over within the family environment. On an environmental level you were being trained and conditioned to take on the same personalities as your parents, because within that family environment you began selecting and instructing the very genes that your parents expressed, which their parents had done as well—and on it goes.
Because it’s the environment that activates genes, these behaviors explain the concept of nurture. The concept of nurture says that, in fact, we can actually change who we are because of both the new science of epigenetics and neuroplasticity. All of this begs the question—if traumatic memories can be passed down through our DNA, couldn’t spiritual, cosmic, or transcendent memories be passed down as well?
Many of us have seen the brain scans of people who have had mystical, transcendent, or interdimensional internal events in our workshops. These participants will each tell you that what they experienced in their meditation was more real than anything in their external world. These types of inner events are so palpable, emotional, and profound that they cause an amplitude of energy, which rewires the brain and reconditions the body to a new mind. When these types of internal events occur, negative or traumatic events of the past can literally be washed away in a second. By the same principle in Dr. Brian Dias’s study, then positive and transcendent experiences should also be able to be passed on to the next generation.
So the next time you sit down to meditate, remember that by combining a clear intention with an elevated emotion, not only are you positively changing your nervous system and also reconditioning your body to a new mind—you’re also passing that information on to future generations.
It’s called your legacy of evolution.
Photo by Tim Shields