Making and Repairing Mistakes
Each day about a hundred billion cells in the human body divide, making new cells. Recall what happens to the DNA as a cell divides—the paired strands of DNA separate, unwind, and then are copied, letter by letter, serving as the template for an identical partner to be created.
While this is happening, a mistake can be made by mismatching the triplets, omitting or adding in a wrong letter; such a mistake is a mutation.
A mutation of a single code letter can change which amino acid is placed in the scripted protein. Even one change can alter the shape and function of the protein being produced—an incorrect code can make the protein stiffer or too flexible or a totally different shape from the original. The protein may no longer work the way it is supposed to.
Since even a single, minuscule error such as this can affect the health of the cell, a potent DNA repair mechanism must be available to protect the cell from damage and instigate cellular rejuvenation. In fact, in nature’s wisdom, multiple DNA repair systems are present in our cells.
At the genesis of this growth of cells, self-correction is insured by the wavy strands of molecular intelligence held tight unwinding and letting go only after perfection is created.
— Christopher Vaughan, How Life Begins
Much of the time, our cells get it right, yet sometimes they don’t. In fact, it’s been estimated that at least a thousand errors are committed inside our cells every day. Fortunately, the cell possesses innate wisdom and cellular rejuvenation mechanisms, built into the architecture of the DNA helix, that recognizes when an error has been made. Damage or errors in DNA trigger an astonishing sequence of events as a gene called p53 rides to the rescue in the interest of DNA repair.
The p53 system is both a “spell-checker” and an emergency brake on cell growth, and it has other genes under its command. If an error is created, the p53 gene orders other genes to stop being copied until repairs can be made to the DNA. Once the damaged DNA is repaired and the cell has essentially been rejuvenated, p53 turns on the green light and allows the cell reproduction cycle to continue. But what if the damage is beyond repair? In that case, p53 activate genes that direct the cell to self-destruct; this is known as programmed cell death or apoptosis, which comes from the Latin for “falling leaves.” Apoptosis, in contrast to traumatic or necrotic cytotoxic death, is a relatively gentle process in which parts of the cell slough off and are recycled or removed by the scavenger cells—falling leaves are an apt metaphor, with their ability to decompose, be recycled into the earth, and even nourish the tree that once sustained them.
A traumatic or cytotoxic death, by contrast, is one in which the cell is acutely damaged and basically explodes, releasing its contents into the cellular environment. This type of cell death can damage the surrounding tissues as it sets free potentially dangerous substances from the cell. Cells contain numerous substances that, if released, can harm other molecules; however, within the cell they are compartmentalized to protect against their damaging effects. Apoptosis is a slower process that allows the neighborhood to reclaim or eliminate cell parts, one step at a time, without damaging the area.
To sum up the role of p53, it’s the damage-control specialist with the capability to correct gene errors, prevent amplification of unruly DNA, suppress tumor cell growth, and when necessary, push cells into programmed self-elimination. Our cells have other numerous backup systems as well to ensure healthy survival.
How to Increase DNA Repair Rates
The rate of DNA repair—how quickly errors can be fixed—influences our vulnerability to cancer and other illnesses affected by genetic mutations. Long-term stress slows down DNA repair, as does cancer. In China, a study on improving the rate of DNA repair and cellular rejuvenation offers tantalizing and hopeful results. Researchers found that the DNA repair rate of people with cancer in remission compared to healthy people was much slower. The patients in remission were then taught qigong stress-reducing techniques. Following three months of practice, their cell repair rate had nearly doubled.
“Following three months of practice, their cell repair rate had nearly doubled.”
It is conceivable that the “new” energy medicines of qigong and vibrational sound can affect the erratic energy of DNA and stimulate cellular rejuvenation. Ancient qigong, tai chi, yoga, and the dance of the whirling dervishes all use spiral movements as part of their energy healing exercises—do they help realign our DNA? Prolonged stress damages the immune system, reproduction, digestion, memory, and even our bones. That is why stress reduction practices, which include the practices just mentioned as well as meditation and imagery, are important to our health at every level.
The use of guided visualization and imagery is growing in acceptance as a complementary healing modality, particularly in stress reduction, and easing pain, suffering, and other consequences of cancer and its treatment. Significant data indicate that the miserable feelings associated with a cancer diagnosis and the side effects of treatment can be minimized in some people who practice imagery. Many of the first popularized imagery scripts had people visualizing their immune cells coming to the rescue and killing cancer cells. What we have learned since is that the immune cells are not the primary removers of “demon” cells. So what if we instead base our imagery on a new, spiral model of fixing genetic errors? Here I offer two different suggestions for eliminating any abnormal cells in your body, enhancing DNA repair and cellular rejuvenation. They are only suggestions; feel free to use your imagination.
1. Visualization Exercise: Eliminating Unhealthy Cells
1. Take some time to relax and pay attention to your breath. Feel all the places your body touches: the chair, floor, or other surface you rest upon. Allow your breathing to be peaceful.
2. If you know that you have cancer cells in your body, imagine what they look like. Biological accuracy is not necessary—how do you perceive them?
3. Now allow yourself to imagine something that will eliminate those cells.
4. For example, you might imagine the cancer cells as dust mites and the eliminator as a vacuum cleaner. Make sure the eliminating force is larger and stronger than the tumor cells.
5. Once all the abnormal cells are removed, picture new, healthy tissue developing as DNA repair and cellular rejuvenation processes take hold. Take as long as you need for the process and then bring your awareness back to your breath and this present moment.
2. Visualization Exercise: Repair and Cover Up
Since our cells make errors all the time and abnormal cells do exist in our bodies, this script focuses on changing abnormal genes.
1. Take time to relax the same way as for the previous exercise. Now imagine or intend that any errors in your genes or cells are corrected. Picture the spiral DNA pairs being made to match perfectly, removing or correcting all the errors in your genetic repertoire.
2. Alternatively, you can envision preventing these genes from being expressed by covering them up with new proteins that adhere to them, keeping them hidden.
3. Allow your imagination to guide you in the way abnormal genes are taken out of action. See all of your genes as healthy and whole. Take as long as you need for the process and then bring your awareness back to your breath and the present moment.
4. Draw or write what you experienced.
The divine choreography of our DNA—its spiraling strands and ability to program both reproduction, repair, rejuvenation and self-sacrifice—brings us once more to life and death. Embedded within our cells is the ability to detect and correct errors in coded genetic messages. When correction is impossible, a gentle death is initiated. We know that ultraviolet radiation from the distant sun can penetrate and mutate the gene. And what about cigarette smoke that somehow is breathed into the cell, altering the gene structure so that faulty proteins are made? If invisible agents can initiate damaging changes, can we use the invisible laser of our energy or imagination to cut out or hide the damaged sections? Ancient healing practices including walking the labyrinth and chanting may provide valuable assistance for transforming our inevitable cellular errors.
3. Healing Energy Exercise: The Basic Posture: Standing Home Alignment
1. Feel your feet on the earth, grounded and anchored. Place your feet shoulder-width apart, parallel to each other. You can imagine roots from the soles of your feet that reach deep into the earth. To help find that solid and centered place on your feet, rock back and forth and then sideways until you feel yourself grounded in the earth. You can gain strength from the earth’s energy when you feel your feet upon her. You may also perceive or imagine that you are drawing up the earth’s energy through your feet.
2. Your knees are slightly bent, your butt tucked under. Your shoulders are dropped and relaxed. Your arms hang loose at your sides. Your tongue rests softly on the roof of your mouth behind your teeth. (This is called the inner smile, and you can practice it anytime.) Your chin is parallel to the floor; you can imagine a golden cord connecting your head to heaven, a link to another source of energy.
3. Rock a bit until you feel solid on the ground. All movements of this series start with taking this basic stance.
4. Another option of Standing Home is to assume this posture and then bend your elbows and place them at your sides by your waist. Hands are open and palms are facing each other at the level just below your belly button. This now becomes the Standing Stake, a standing meditation in which you begin to generate qi. Remember to keep your knees gently bent, and when you want to explore this, do it for a few minutes. With some teachers, this is the very first practice a student will be taught. They will work up to standing thirty minutes. It certainly strengthens your legs, body, and resolve.
4. Healing Energy Exercise: Energy Wash
This part of the sequence is perfect to do when you want to relieve the mind of unwelcome thoughts or stress, the act of which plays an important role in cellular rejuvenation and DNA repair.
1. Stand rooted with arms loose at your sides. Raise your arms at your sides, elbows slightly bent and palms facing up, fingertips pointing outward away from the body. Inhale while you are raising your arms until
2. they are directly above your head. Palms now face each other, elbows softly bent. When hands are above your head, fingertips are gently curved, facing up toward the sky.
3. Pause and exhale while you imagine receiving Qi from heaven or the universe.
4. When you are ready, inhale and turn your palms down, toward the crown of your head. Spread open your fingers and with your palms facing downward, slowly lower your hands in front of the midline of your body, imagining clear new qi flowing from your fingertips while the energy you don’t need is being washed out. You might imagine that new energy is being sent to every cell. Take as long as you need to lower your hands while you “wash.”
5. If you come to a place where you can’t feel the energy or it feels dense, keep your hands there until you notice a change. And you may not feel anything at all.
5. Healing Energy Exercise: Integration: Balancing Yin and Yang, Right and Left Hemispheres
This is another tensegrity movement useful for initiating cellular rejuvenation and DNA repair. It also balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain and is equivalent to alternate nostril breathing in yoga.
1. Beginning in the same Standing Home posture as all the other poses, bring your right hand in front of your belly, palm down. Your elbow is gently bent. Your left hand is hanging straight, not rigid, at your side, palm down.
2. Raise both your arms simultaneously. Extend the left arm out to your side while the right rises along the midline of your body. Continue until they both reach above your head, fully extended, palms facing one another. Pause.
3. Turn both palms down, with your left palm now going down the midline and the right arm extended out to the side. Slowly lower both arms.
4. Now reverse the sequence. When your arms reach the level of your belly, raise your left arm up the center while your right arm rises to the side. Repeat this three times on each side or until you get the rhythm of the movement.
This sequence took me weeks to learn, so be easy on yourself. When I recently taught this series, most in the class got it on the first try while one person never got it.
Tip: This is an exercise you have to let your body learn without your mind trying to figure it out.
6. Healing Energy Exercise: Gathering and Storing the Qi: Closing the Circuits
When you are finished practicing qigong, you always gather in the qi and “close the circuits.”
1. Take the Standing Home pose and cup your hands in front of your lower dantian, your belly. Now widen your stance and reach behind and around you, gathering the qi in a circular embrace. Embrace this qi in front of your belly and then press your palms close to your body, forming an upside down V with your hands. Remain in this position for a few moments. This is another position in which you can simply stand, relaxed, with gently bent knees and inner smile. Close your eyes and let the qi move you, fill you, and replenish your cells. This can be another form of a standing meditation.
If you’ve never practiced tai chi or qigong, it’s always useful to work with an experienced teacher. You may also find it worthwhile to keep a journal and occasionally map your energy and watch what happens.