Author: Deepak Chopra & Rudolph Tanzi

Publisher: Harmony Books

ISBN: 978-0-8041-4013-3

ebook ISBN: 978-0-8041-4014-0

                              Epigenetics- A Revolution in Well-Being

The keyword is “epigenetics”.

The prefix “epi” means upon. Epigenetics is the study of what is on top of genetics. Since the human genome project was completed in 2003, there has been a plethora of discussions and research on the subject, primarily with a view to management of disease. The subject of “epigenetics was born when geneticists focused on the controls behind gene expression.”

It was believed that the information contained in our genes is fixed and passed on from generation to generation. While the above statement is true, even a cursory study of the epigenome shows that there is an enormous amount of flexibility of expression in it. The epigenome consists of three parts.

  1. the roughly 23000 genes inherited from one’s parents.

  2. the switching mechanism in every strand of DNA so that it can be turned on or off that is controlled by the epigenome.

  3. the genes in the billions of microbes that inhabit the alimentary canal.

In this book, the authors try to document the kind of leverage that is offered by the science of epigenetics. They interpret the constant dialogue between the cells of our body, the gut and our brain as so many feedback loops, which when combined with certain lifestyle changes, can bring about a transformation that “goes far beyond prevention, even beyond wellness” to a state they call “radical well being”. As the authors claim, the new science of epigenetics offers tantalizing possibilities in which both Nature and Nurture cooperate to create a sense of expanded well-being. Not only that, they affirm that it is ultimately possible to guide our own evolution.

The text consists of three sections. In the first, they introduce the concept of the epigenome and map out the scope of the same. The next section deals with the lifestyle changes required to reveal  the potential expression of the epigenome. The lifestyle changes that are mentioned include dietary changes, stress reduction and the incorporation of exercise, eight hours of sleep and meditation in our daily routine. They also require increasing our EQ (emotional quotient) so as to uncover the real individual behind the many masks that we wear, the individual that is secure in himself/herself, unperturbed  by emotion, be they positive or negative.

Every lifestyle choice, we’ve recommended comes down to one thing, obeying and restoring the wisdom of the body.”

The last section weaves together the need for the lifestyle changes mentioned above with the mind body connection. This involves taking into account the wisdom of the body which is regarded as a self-organized system that conducts a number of metabolic functions without involving the brain. The mechanism of the mind body connection lies in the viewing of the mind- body- spirit of the individual as an expression of an overlying intrinsic consciousness. It would involve the individual living out his/her Dharma, the Sanskrit word Dharma being an euphemism for living the life one is meant to live and doing what one is meant to do in a cosmic context. As the last could be a little too esoteric for many to accept, the authors show awareness of this gap in understanding, by presenting the results of many studies in consciousness to bolster their case. The authors’ premise is that the same consciousness pervades and propels every cell of our bodies and is the driving force behind the feedback loops of the ongoing mind- body conversation between the cells with each other and other organs of the body, including the brain. Since they are all self- organizing systems, the body is not separate from the mind, as opposed to the classicist picture of consciousness being a byproduct of the brain.

There remains a sharp divide between two domains the visible and the indivisible. All of us live in both.”

The last chapter, the epilogue focuses on the real “you” behind the various labels that we bear, the you in the larger evolutionary context, the result of the billions of years that has gone into the making and survival of the human species on Earth.

There are three appendices, two of which deal with genetic clues for some complex disorders such as Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s Disease, cancer, mental illness as in bipolar disorder and schizophrenia among others. The third contains a more detailed discussion of the character of DNA that makes it possible for genes to switch on or off.

An important departure from classical evolutionary theory is that there is reason to believe that mutations aren’t always random, but may also be induced by the environment and interactions between the feedback loops of the genes which are constantly monitoring the former for new messages and information. Also they postulate that evolutionary change doesn’t need millions of years, it could occur in a single generation.

This book has been written by two of the world’s foremost experts in their respective fields and bears the imprint of their virtuosity. The text is extremely lucid and fast paced, this book couldn’t have been more riveting reading. One can get a sense of deja vu as one reads, (I did), I sensed a coming together of hitherto unrelated concepts, a re-memberiing of a basic unity consciousness that I knew existed before the world and its reality impinged on my mind and heart. This is a book that can transform lives. At the very least, it offers a scientific basis for hope, a vision of a life that could have been.

Strongly recommended.