Ever heard the old adage “an old dog can’t learn new tricks”? Many still believe this and live thinking that growth stops at a certain age. However, this episode’s guest strongly disagrees. For Dawson Church the award-winning author and founder of the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare, change is possible at any age. Dawson cites studies from his books, Mind to Matter, The Genie in Your Genes and Bliss Brain about how our brain changes even during old age. He also shares how to apply recent breakthroughs in energy psychology to improve our health and personal performance. And in our current environment of uncertainty, chaos and even panic, Dawson offers wisdom from neuroscience about controlling our consciousness and building resilience.
DOING THIS for 10 Seconds Can Change Your Life! Click here to watch Adam’s Inspiring TEDx Talk!
Watch the episode here:
Listen to the Episode Here:
Read the Show Notes Here:
The Neuroscience Of Change, Consciousness, And Resilience With Dawson Church
My dad is a fiction writer to this day. I read somewhere that one of the hardest things for writers in particular, and maybe it’s any creative pursuit, is be in the seat. It’s like you can think about it. You can talk about it. You can research it. To be in the seat and put your hands on the keys and do your thing, do the writing, that’s the hard work. That’s also the rewarding work. To me, what that means in the moment is to be in the seat and do what’s on my heart and what I believe in our collective best interest, which is to create and maybe even facilitate conversation about important things that are going on in our world right now.
Our world has much in flux and flow. As dynamic as I’ve ever experienced it in my many years of trips around the sun, I feel incredibly blessed, grateful, appreciative, even lucky in this moment for being alive, being on this planet, having the family and the friends and the people that I adore and I feel loved from. I feel incredible gratitude in this moment for the guests that I have who is somebody that I’ve come to appreciate of late. I haven’t known him very long. We’re a part of a wonderful group of people who are leaders in very diverse areas of business, authorship, speaking and the human potential movement. Many different people that come together a few times a year and that’s where I met this gentleman. I think the world of him.
I also believe he has a very special gift that he has already been sharing for many years with many people. The fact that we get to create this conversation together and we get to be blessed by his insight and his perspective, I’m already feeling this lift from the knowledge that he will share things with us and may very well change our lives. I know that’s drastic or a big thing to say, but he has that level of insight that is powerful. In this time right now, it’s also something that will help.
His name is Dawson Church. He’s a PhD. He’s an award-winning author of bestselling books like The Genie in Your Genes, which was hailed by reviewers as a breakthrough in linking emotions and genetics. His follow-up title, Mind to Matter, reviews the science of peak mental states. He has conducted dozens of clinical trials and founded the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare to promote groundbreaking new treatments. He shares how to apply the breakthroughs of energy psychology to health and personal performance through EFT Universe. The EFTUniverse.com website is one of the largest alternative medicine sites on the web. Dawson, it’s such a pleasure to have you with us. Welcome.
It’s great to be here in body, mind and energy connection with you, Adam. Thank you.
I have fallen in love with you. I’m in love with humanity. I love people. I don’t like everybody. Not that many people I like, but I like you a lot. You’re a good man. I mean that sincerely.
I’m a happy person and that to me is an amazing thing to say because when I was a kid, I was incredibly, desperately unhappy. I was depressed. I was anxious. I had PTSD from a whole bunch of miserable things that happened in my childhood. I have ten more years around the sun than you do. To reflect each morning, tune into the universe and breathe and meditate and realize I’m absolutely fundamentally, genuinely happy, it’s like a miracle. It’s the miracle when you’ve known the opposite. I’m so grateful that we can rescue ourselves from our human misery and I rescue myself from mine. When we use these wonderful techniques you talk about, the people at The Transformation Leadership Council teach, we truly can radically change our lives.Change is possible at any age. Click To Tweet
Change is possible at any age. Sometimes that whole adage about the old dog can’t learn new tricks. I love to poke at that because my experience anyway is it’s not the case. Even my parents, I’m blessed that they’re still alive. My mom and my dad are in their 80s. They don’t change on a dime. Their pivots aren’t as extreme, but they are still changing. They are still evolving. They’re still open. Maybe that’s one of the great legacies that they leave to myself and my brother and everybody that we ourselves might impact is this idea of openness. With openness, an open mind, open heart, anything is possible including changing our old crusty selves.
Two studies about an old dog and new tricks idea. One of the most revolutionary studies in neuroscience was done in the mid-1990s and it shattered a paradigm. It was a study of people who are in their 80s. We’d always believe that the brain was pretty much fixed when you were 17, 18 years old and had grown to fill out your skull. That’s pretty much the way your brain stays thereafter. In this study, they showed neurogenesis, the growth of new neural pathways in 80-year-olds. Learning new things was producing brain change at those ages. That’s one study I cover in Mind to Matter. The other study I cover in my book, Mind to Matter, I mentioned briefly is a study of change.
There was a study done in the 1970s and it was a longitudinal study that looked at people over the course of about fifteen years of their lives. They looked at people over that long stretch of time, a decade and a half. They found people didn’t change. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. People do not change. When I was going to school in the 1960s and ‘70s, the prevailing paradigm was our personalities formed around the age of 17, 18, 19. Some neuroscientists were saying that our set points are all fixed by the time we’re between 9 and 11 years old. That’s pretty much the way we are. That study came along and confirmed that long-term study showing that there was no change in people’s personality over a decade and a half.
Another study was done and this looked at people who went to Harvard as undergraduates in the 1950s. This was a 50-year study. This is a study with much longer duration. They found that over time not only did people change, but they changed so much on average that if you looked at the personality profile of that person who was at Harvard in the 1950s and look at them again 50 years later, you couldn’t even tell who was who. They changed so much. We can change. Our brains can change. Our habits can change. Our beliefs can change. We have a remarkable ability to change our bodies, genes and neurons using our mind.
When we talk about the brain and it being capable of changing, are we talking about it being able to regenerate in some ways to be resilient? I’ve heard that word plasticity. Maybe it’s flexibility. I’m a visual person and maybe people reading could use the visual as well. How do we describe or what’s the right way to create a visual image of the brain and its evolution to either a place where it’s stuck or where it can take in new information and create change?
I love the gym. I love working out three times a week. I lift weights. I love engaging my body. I had a little ache from challenging myself. As you do that, you increase muscle mass. Muscle mass goes up and that’s pretty well known. As you use neuropathways in your brain, they grow and the ones you don’t use atrophy and shrink. If you are passing signals through the parts of your brain that have to do with happiness, joy, contentment, peace, altruism and optimism, if you’re engaging all those neural pathways, they grow in size. The ones you don’t use over time begin to shrink.
The work of this Nobel Prize winning doctor called Eric Kandel. I talk about him a lot in my book, The Genie in Your Genes, he showed that if you pass a signal through a neural bundle over and over again, you can double the number of connections in that bundle in one hour. It doesn’t take ten years to grow a different brain. You start to influence your brain activity with every thought you think. In Mind to Matter, I dramatize this thought. I write evidence-based books. They’re all about science. They’re all about facts. They’re all about studies. I tell stories and in Chapter One of Mind to Matter, I tell a story now probably over 100 times and I still get astonished every time I say it because there was this TV reporter who write about mindfulness and his name is Graham Phillips. He had a show called Catalyst in Australia.
Graham Phillips wanted to learn about mindfulness. He was a bit of a skeptic about meditation, but decided to go on an eight-week program. Before he did, he went into this state-of-the-art university lab at the university called Monash University where I’ve lectured. He had an extensive workup done on his physiology and his brain. They used a high-resolution MRI to measure each part of his brain. Nowadays, MRIs are like your screen on your laptop. The resolution has gotten better and better over the last few decades. Like your cell phone, it was all pixelated, but now it’s clear. It’s the same thing with MRIs. MRI can trace the activity of a single neuron. He got this work up by this team of neuroscientists in the lab at Monash.
He began to do be mindful, practice meditation. After two weeks, he felt different. After eight weeks, he went back into Monash. They ran all the same tests on him over the course of another day with TV cameras on. They found that his brain had changed. It was heavier and bigger. Parts of his brain had grown by 2%, 3% or 4% in that eight weeks. The part that grew the most was the part that coordinates emotional regulation all over the brain. It’s right on the center of the brain. It’s a little C-shaped piece of tissue called the dentate gyrus.
In eight weeks, his dentate gyrus grew by 22.8%, almost a quarter bigger in two months of mindfulness. That’s how quickly you can teach an old dog new tricks. You start to do new things, start to think positively, be altruistic, be optimistic. You send signals through neural pathways. Those pathways start to grow. The pathways are anger, stress, resentment, blame, guilt and shame. Those will start to shrink. After eight weeks, you start to have a substantially different brain. You are not just feeling better, you literally are better in your neural anatomy. You’ve done it all by yourself with your consciousness.
Like your body, if you exercise your biceps, they will grow and be stronger. If you don’t exercise, you don’t use them, they atrophy and shrink. It’s the same thing with our brains and a question of which areas of our brains are we in fact exercising. Having spent some time with you previously, one of the things that struck me, and I still think about it and it was helpful to me, is this way of looking at the brain and what the brain does. The brain is very complicated things, a lot of parts. I don’t expect anybody to be fascinated, researching and discover things, but to remember what all the parts of the brain do. It’s not maybe the goal here. There’s a part of us that are constantly worrying that we get into this groove, let’s call it like a record. In that record groove, we worry. That’s one thing that everybody pretty much can identify with. Anybody who’s not, I want you to email us. Let us know you’re not a worrier.
There’s this other part that plans. I’m using my words, not yours now. This is worrying part and this planning part. A part that you described as the default mode network, which I’d love for you to share what that is. This other part that’s the positive task network. In my own attempts to become a better meditator, because I did a TED Talk where I admit openly and keep admitting evidently that I was a crummy meditator. I’m declaring right now, I’m no longer a crummy meditator. Part of the reason I’m no longer a crummy meditator is because I put some focus into it. I also spent some time with you, Dawson, at one of our TLC retreats and you gave me some additional distinctions. I’m hoping that you might even lead a meditation for people because in the times that we’re in right now, that would be helpful for people to have.
There’ll be a caveat as the old lawyer and me, you will not be able to drive any heavy machinery, operate heavy machinery, to get off the elliptical machine and the treadmill, pull the car off to the side of the road. Otherwise, there’s a liability here. Dawson, if you would explain these different networks, those two networks in particular. It feels to me in both scenarios that we’re not necessarily present. Where my meditation has taken me is to try to find this balance or more of the middle point, the center point between this worrying mind of mine, this planning, doing, acting mind of mine and the place which almost feels like the head of a pin is what peace feels.
It’s right in the middle between those two things. I talked about it in TLC at the meeting there. I wrote a book called Bliss Brain where I talk about those two networks. If you look at an old image of the brain, like in 1800s, 1890s when we were already getting into neuroscience, discovering what neurons look like and so on, you’ll see that it’s divided areas in terms of the language area, the speech area, the vision area or the emotional regulation area. Now we’re in neuroscience, we’re much more thinking about not brain regions but brain networks because networks of different regions work together to accomplish certain things. When we’re doing something, when we’re writing a poem, when we’re talking to our friends, when we’re composing an email, when we’re withdrawing money from the bank, anything we’re doing, any task engages us. It engages what’s called the task positive network.With an open mind and open heart, anything is possible, including changing our old crusty selves. Click To Tweet
When people are doing something, they are usually emotionally neutral or fairly happy because the brain is busy. What we now come to discover over the last years in neuroscience is that when we don’t do anything, the task positive network isn’t being used, the capacity in the brain is not active, it goes dark. That part of the brain doesn’t mean used. All those regions aren’t being used. A different part of the brain lights up called the default mode network. The default mode network is active to the degree to which other brain regions are inactive.
It uses any surplus capacity. If you think like a computer and having a number of programs on there. If you aren’t using your browser at all and you’re using your spreadsheet program, your spreadsheet program grabs all of your working memory. The default mode network is like that. It grabs all the available resources, all the glucose, all the energy and it uses that. The default mode network kicks on to the degree to which the task positive network is turned off. The default mode network does those two things you were talking about. It plans for the future. It worries about the future and it thinks back about the bad stuff from the past. “This bad thing happened to me in my childhood. I was betrayed by my colleague at work. Suzie took my research and passed it off as her own.” The default mode network, endless parade of bad stuff of the past and bad stuff that might happen in the future. That’s what our brains do by default.
This sucks if you’re a meditator because you close your eyes initially and you try and meditate. The task positive network goes quiet and the default mode network pipes up and says, “I should be meditating now. Do you how many emails there are unanswered in your in tray? Someone that might be mad and get it to you. That’ll be like that situation that happened a few years age when you neglected somebody.” That is what our brain is wired to do. That’s what we had to learn using that emotional regulation machinery that Graham Phillips grew in experienced meditators like Tibetan monks who have meditated for 10,000 or 20,000 lifetime hours. They can control a default mode network, shut down that part of the brain and then they have inner peace.
We are living outside of the 9/11 event. In my memory, at this point, that’s the last time that I recall feeling the world as on shaky ground as it feels at the moment, the level of fear, the level of uncertainty and the level of people walking around a little dazed and confused. That’s what it feels like. The goal of this conversation for me is that we’re able to provide people with new awareness about it. Not so much trying to crystal ball what’s happening out there because we can’t control any of what’s happening out there, but we do have some measure of control of what’s going on inside of us.
We have complete control of our consciousness. All this stuff’s going on out there, but you don’t know. At the end of Mind to Matter, I talk about meditating in the morning and orienting to what’s going on up here and connecting with non-local mind where we are local minds. The old vision of our brains was that our brains were the source of consciousness. We now recognize that you can’t find consciousness in the brain. The brain is a transceiver of consciousness from the universe, from outside of ourselves, from vast information fields. It is a transceiver of this and a creator of our local reality. If you are totally attuned to and attending to local reality, if you’re watching the news and worried about this, worried about that, checking the stock prices and seeing the stock market plummet and worried about the coronavirus stories and all the other things to worry about in the world, there’s always bad stuff happening.
If you are at the level of local mind, if you are allowing that to flood your consciousness, then you get fear. If every morning you’re closing your eyes, meditating, going deep, releasing your clutch, releasing your close-fisted white knuckles, grip on reality and merging, that’s what all the mystics talk about is merging with non-local mind, you do this infinite love, this infinite wisdom, this infinite creativity out there and there is. You download that all into your consciousness, not the news, not the latest stock prices. You download all that into your brain and into your mind and suddenly you’re inspired. You’re enthusiastic, optimistic, altruistic. You feel fantastic. It doesn’t mean you ignore what’s going on in the world around you, but you internally are then chosen to attune yourself to that signal and not the chaos out there in the world.
I want to talk about one other thing too that’s relative to the brain, which is gray matter. I’m hearing that enlarging, growing our gray matter is an important thing for us. I want to tie it to this idea of resilience, of how we can walk out the door or when we’re in our homes as we may spend a little more time inside or within that home base than we planned, how is it that we’re creating resilience for ourselves despite the fact that there might be things that would otherwise distract us or deplete us or drag us kicking and screaming. We go willingly into that place of fear, which it feels like people are able to go fairly easily especially when others around them are panicking. When you see professionals talking about things on TV, also expressing great uncertainty about the future. Resilience is the thing I want us to focus on if we can.
My big experience of that comes from a project I started in 2007 called the Veterans Stress Project. We’re trying to get energy therapies into the VA and getting nowhere with our approaches to the VA. I went to Washington and I testified before a couple of different House of Congress committees. I had a lot of correspondence with people in the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee and other places. We were trying pretty hard to get these therapies into the VA. We couldn’t do it. We started our own private group called Veterans Stress Project where we treat thousands of veterans a year. On average, it takes us six one-hour sessions for them to move from clinical PTSD in the form of nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, hypervigilance and all these symptoms to being calm.
We’ve done seven randomized controlled trials showing that people have a 65% drop on average in those symptoms after just six one-hour sessions. I’ve written two books on PTSD. These are people who get PTSD, who aren’t resilient, who aren’t able to deal with the whatever it is life throws at them. There were the people like these monks, these meditators who are so resilient that even when they have horrible circumstances on the outside there, some of them get tortured, murdered and their monasteries get destroyed, they’re completely resilient. There are two components of it, which I want to emphasize from the terms of neuroscience. One of those is the state in which you feel resourceful. “When a bad thing happens to me, am I in a mental state that feels resourceful? Do I feel as though I have the resources, the inner strength, the anchoring to deal with that thing?” What these monks do, what happens in their brains after 10,000, 20,000, 30,000, 45,000 lifetime hours of meditation, resilience has moved from a state of resourcefulness to a trait.
A trait is a personality quality. I’m not going to state temporary feeling that I have that resourcefulness, that resilience. I have a trait. A trait is a personality characteristic. If someone’s patient, for example, they embody it because they have enough neural wiring built. That’s what we’re studying now in neuroscience, which is fascinating. It’s people who turn temporary states of feeling better to permanent traits like resilience. These people are resilient. You can throw all kinds of things at them. They’re resilient because they’ve built enough neural wiring in those emotion regulation circuits and also the happiness surface of the brain to where it’s not dependent on the outside circumstances, not only outside world. Anything can happen outside there, but they have resilient brains. You move resilience into something you literally own. That’s the neurological personality characteristic of resilience. That’s what you want to be because no one can take it away from you.
We’re agnostic to the circumstances, but you define yourself as resilient. We are constantly defining ourselves and creating our identity by the words we habitually use anyway. I look back at my life and think, “I’ve been resilient.” We all might have a different definition. Dawson, I’d love for you to share your definition of resilience as well.
As you practice these things, we talk about them as though the psychological characteristics are supposed they are so being patient, being optimistic, being resilient, being compassionate. What become over time is they become the wiring of your brain. They become those traits that you have. That is a powerful shift. We finished doing a study at Bond University. We had 25 people in this study with randomized controlled trial. We were using MRIs. We’re using a big multimillion-dollar piece of equipment to study their brains before and after. Normally, it takes 10,000 to 20,000 hours to become resilient, to have that brain functioning that is able to shut down the default mode network and create inner peace. What we’ve found was that in this study, in eight weeks, not 10,000 hours or 40,000 hours, of deep meditation, a very particular meditation that brings you deep quickly and keeps you deep while you’re in it.
In that meditation, we looked at the brains of those people after eight weeks and they had had structural changes in their brains where the default mode network literally was shut down like turning up and turning down a light switch. Its activity was much reduced and that’s the part of the brain right in the middle of the frontal lobe. It’s part of the prefrontal cortex and that’s called the mid-prefrontal cortex. That part of their brain was quiet after only eight weeks, like the 10,000-hour meditator, except they’ve only done it for 25 minutes times eight so a few hours. Another part of their brain was highly lit up, which was a part of the brain called the insula. The insula has to do, amongst other things, with feelings of compassion for yourself, not being so hard on yourself, being compassionate for the world, for the universe, for everything else outside of yourself as well. Their insulas were brightly lit up, high activity in the insula, low activity in the default mode network after only eight weeks.
That’s somebody again who is neurologically resilient because their brain function has changed. They’ve literally shifted. You can see this because the way they handle problems is very different. When they have an upset, when they have a crisis in their life, they don’t go ballistic. They don’t react strongly. I was teaching at an institution called 1440 Multiversity, this teaching campus here in the Bay Area. After class, I wanted to go for a walk. I drove to a little park locally. I was a behind the big SUV. It was making a right turn and another SUV came around him and hit my car. There was heading for the park and the sun was shining into the driver’s eyes. He couldn’t see anything. He drove right into me. It took a long time for the emergency services to arrive.
The other driver and I were chatting and he said, “I can’t believe this. You’re completely calm. I’ve seen so many crazy people who explode, have all this anger and upset and stuff. We’ve been talking now for an hour. I don’t get it. How can you be calm?” You have a fender bender or you have a financial setback or you have a crisis in your work. You had this gift of resilience. You’re smarter as well. When you were stressed up to 70% of the blood drains out your thinking part of your brain and you can’t think clearly at all. When you’re resilient, you can think and act. Some of the studies I’m talking about in Bliss Brain, the researchers find that people who are in these elevated States of flow you get into when you’re meditating, they have five times the productivity at work as when they aren’t in flow. Their productivity increases fivefold. There are a lot of advanced research showing the same thing. You’re far more able to handle the stresses of life. That’s pretty the hallmark of the resilient person.
We had dinner at our home and our older kids came over. My son, we were discussing things going on in the world and he’s very well read. He’s my son-in-law. I didn’t bring him up, but he’s a son to us and we love him. He’s very analytical. He’s different than our kids and different than our oldest daughter who he married. I adore him. He’s a worrier and he thinks a lot. He thinks deeply about things. Part of the reason why we had this gathering and got everybody together was simply to create some normalcy, to create what my wife and I refer to as base camp, to bring everybody back to a place. You just know by things that you’re not thinking about that there’s normalcy. I wasn’t wanting to be judgmental or critical in any way of how he’s responding to all of this and thinking about, and other people are talking about these catastrophe plans, apocalyptic plans and what do we do if this happens and what do we do if that happens?In the non-local mind, there is so much love. Click To Tweet
I was a lawyer for eighteen years so it’s not like I can’t what if. I can what if think would the best. I can come up with worst case scenarios too. What I know of many years we’re married, Randi and I, and we’ve been through a lot of things, etc., it’s certainly in my career and whatnot, that whenever things get chaotic and in any number of contexts, I get quiet. I am a talker. You can probably tell. I get quiet on the inside. My heart rate goes down. My blood pressure goes down. My breathing slows almost to the point where I could take a nap while this crap is hitting the fan around me. I find myself yawning at times in the middle of some great thing happening.
I realized that what that’s done for me is it allows me to be alert but not alert in in the cortisol producing fight or flight alertness, but that I’m awake and aware of what’s going on. There’s no other activity that’s vying for the resources in my brain. I can be quiet and present. I suppose on alert for where I might need to respond to something. I saw him take a deep breath on that. He’s so intelligent that for him when something drops in, you can tell because he’s got his mind made up in some ways. He’s young, ardent and all that. I could see him take a deep breath and take that in.
When the masses, when the herd can be going in one direction, can feel that energy and independent thinking can get tuned down to almost nothing because you’re swimming with the school. You’re running with the herd. I feel like at those times, it’s so important for us to be independent in our thinking. In fact, Randi and I, when we started having kids, we were shocked frankly that they even let us take the kids home from the hospital, with Chelsea in particular. I remember we walked outside with her and we go, “Can you believe they’re letting us take this baby home?” They don’t know us. We don’t know a thing. We haven’t a clue how to be parents. At that time, we said the one thing that we wanted our kids to grow up to be would be independent thinkers. They have that independent mind. To maintain your independent center, that center that is knowing, that’s wise, that understands when there’s truly a threat and when there’s a lot of noise.
There are a lot of other people feeling under threat, but that there’s not any threat to you, maybe not even to the globe. On some level your inner knowing, that peace inside will tell you that everything is all right. Even as the wind is blowing the way it can. In any event, that’s one of those important things that I felt so blessed that you’d be on the show because if there’s a takeaway that I would like to at least explore with you on behalf of myself and everybody else, it’s that in times like this where the predictions are that things will get weirder, scarier on some level, things are likely to get weirder over the coming months. People being able to maintain their independent thinking, especially their knowing, not that thinking, but the knowing and the experiencing of truth inside of themselves that they’re okay, that everything is okay. They can still maintain their compassion, their kindness and their peace despite anything else.
Giving people a tool to be able to get to that place, Dawson, while it’s more prevalent that we react, that somebody leans on their horn when you haven’t hit the gas at the green light. Instead of your reaction to leaning on the horn being to stick your middle finger up at them or find yourself tense, instead they can go into the mode that you described where somebody hits you, an accident happened, but you immediately assess, “Nobody died here. I’m okay. He’s okay. That’s what insurance is for. It’s a beautiful day. I get to meet a new person now,” and whatever else was going on for you. I want to put it right back into your lap and ask you to take the heavyweight of help us to find a tool, Dawson. Maybe even lead us through something perhaps that would help people to maintain and create peace.
I have researched these tools and use them myself and teach as many people and they have a huge effect on our bodies. Another practical effect is that in one study I did, and you look at these all up on PubMed or go to EFT Universe and find them. One of the studies I did published in a journal called The Journal of Evidence-based Integrative Medicine took people at a retreat and they were there for a week. We measured their happiness, anxiety, depression, PTSD and various psychological characteristics. We also measured their physiological characteristics like resting heart rate, heart rate variability, cortisol, immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulins are your main line of defense against viruses. Immunoglobulins found in your eyes and your nose, sinus passages mouth, anywhere where your body has an opening to the outside world and a virus or a bacterium can attack you, you have immunoglobulins to neutralize those organisms.
The higher your level of immunoglobulins, the more resilient you are physiologically. We’ve found that over the course of that week, that people’s anxiety and depression dropped dramatically by over 30%. Happiness rose over 30% and their cortisol, the main stress hormone dropped by an average of 37% in one week, which is a massive drop. When your body isn’t using your internal biochemical resources to make stress hormones and stress enzymes and all the other biochemistry of stress., when it isn’t making stress molecules, it frees up all that biological material to make stuff that helps you, like help your immune system. The cortisol went down by 37%. Their immunoglobulins shot up by 113% in one week of EFT tapping at meditation. That’s what these kinds of practices can do for you practically. They are making you far more resilient at a physiological level as well. Your body is much better equipped to stable those kinds of insults in the outside world. If you’re stressed, if you’re angry, if you’re upset, your cortisol goes up.
It was fine for our ancestors to have this hair trigger stress response. We needed to escape from the woolly mammoth charging down on us or the Neanderthal running at us with a spear. It was perfectly useful at that phase of evolution 18,000, 25,000, 500,000 years ago. It was great to have a nervous system geared to respond to threats in the outside world. The Neanderthals, the woolly mammoths, saber tooth tigers are extinct. My daughter lives in Austin, but she’s staying with us. She announced one day that she had a pimple. She’s 6’2”, gorgeous, has a fantastic job and a husband. She has every everything going for her except that she was obsessed by this pimple. I looked at her closely and I couldn’t even see the pimple. The pimple was all she could see when she looked at her face in the mirror. That’s what the brain does because that’s what kept us safe from the Neanderthals. That’s profoundly unhelpful to us nowadays. We have to learn to rewire our brains.
These practices are focused on sending those signals to those neural bundles, rewiring our brains quickly, 8, 10, 12 weeks, not 10,000 hours. We’ve used these advanced scientific tools like EEGs and MRIs. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the 10,000, 30,000, 40,000 meditators we’ve studied. We’ve now been able to hack into what they do, what their brains look like, reverse engineers it and train people to attain those same brain states. We had a seven-day retreat and the first day, people were where they were. By the end of seven days, they were cheating these high emotional spiritual states within four minutes. Some people within 50 seconds of being hooked up to the EEG. They were like totally in this flow state. We can use these practices very deliberately. We can train these changes in our lives, our awareness and our brains. They have these big effects on our bodies and we can feel peace and build that resilience quickly. I’d love to do a brief meditation with everybody.
You did one for the CDC, didn’t you?
I did. I opened my eyes up to hearing of the first of the bad news about the coronavirus. I had this wonderful download from non-local mind. It said, “Record this meditation right now.” I sat down and recorded it. Wanting to let people have some relief from the fear because there are viruses out there all the time trying to attack us. It’s the people with low resilience, with weakened immune systems that are most under threat. Even raise your immune system by lowering your cortisol. How do we quickly do that? We can do it in 4, 5 minutes, it doesn’t take long and you reap those benefits.
Let’s do it. One of those incredible things that you can look at how it is that we can reallocate our resources because as you said, when we’re stressed out, those resources are being used to maintain that stress response versus if you’re able to deal with things or alleviate the stress, you have those resources available to build up things that will keep you healthy and resilient. Thank you, Dawson. If you’re on a machine of any kind, I would recommend that you take a moment, get off that machine and sit down. You can pull your car off to the side of the road and find a wonderful place to park and give yourself this gift, this moment because this will be special. Thank you, Dawson.
Begin by feeling the breath, flowing in and out naturally through your heart, your own natural rhythm of breathing. You breathe 28,000 times a day. Feel that breath flowing in and out of your heart. Tap very lightly on this acupuncture Meridian with the side of your hand, which is a potent point for releasing stress. As you tap there, imagine all the stress flowing out of your body like a fluid. Stress is leaving your body as you tap on this acupressure point. Tap on a couple of more acupressure points as well. Tap on the side of your eye, feeling the breath, flowing in, flowing out. Tap under the pupil of your eye, feeling your breath. Tapping on your nose, on your governing meridian. Tapping under your lower lip, on your central meridian. Tapping on your kidney meridian, which is to the side of your breastbone, imagining all the stress leaving your body. The last tapping point is to tap again on the side of your hand. Feel the breath flowing naturally in and out.
Stop tapping. Relax your hands. If your eye is still open, close them. Imagine your breath flowing in and out through your heart. Slow your breathing down to six seconds per in-breath and six seconds per out-breath. Relax your tongue on the floor of your mouth and picture a big empty space between your eyes, breathing in through your heart for six seconds. Breathing out through your heart for six seconds. Relax your tongue on the floor of your mouth. Picture a big empty space between your eyes, breathing in and out through your heart. Feeling the energy in your heart area and send a beam of that heart energy to a person or place that makes you feel wonderful. Envision that person or place and fold it in your heart’s energy beam. Tongue relaxed on the floor of your mouth. Big empty space between your eyes, breathing six seconds in, six seconds out.
Hard energy beam going from your heart to this person or place that makes you feel wonderful. Expand your heart energy beam 360 degrees all around you to connect with every single atom in the universe. Feel the compassion energy from your heart touching every single atom in the universe. Tongue relaxed on the floor of your mouth. Big empty space between your eyes. Breathing in through heart for six seconds. Breathing out through your heart for six seconds. Feeling your heart energy radiating out to touch every single atom in the universe with compassion. Focus that hard energy beam again tightly on only that one person or place that makes you feel wonderful. Detach your heart energy from every other place and focus it all on that one person or place. As you wrap them in the energy of your heart, very gently disengage your heart energy and bring it back your own body, inside your own heart.
Send the beam of heart energy to any part of your body that’s in pain, that’s in low energy, that’s sick or struggling. Wrap that part of your body in your heart energy. Tongue relaxed on the floor of your mouth. Big empty space between your eyes. Breathing in through your heart for six seconds. Breathing out through your heart for six seconds. With the next three breaths, prepare to bring your attention back into the here and now, back into your environment. Feel the weight of your body on the surface of which we’re sitting. Feel this volume of space inside your hands, inside your feet. The next breath, open your eyes and look around you. With a gentle gaze, notice the biggest green item in your environment. Notice the smallest round object in your work environment and give thanks for the privilege of being in a body, being in a mind, living a life full of love and compassion, wisdom and resilience as you feel your breath give thanks for the privilege of being alive. Thank you. It’s powerful to use this wonderful facility of consciousness that we have to tune in to those levels of consciousness and make that the source from which we draw our reality.We are walking agents of emotional infection, love, compassion, and optimism. Click To Tweet
This is one of the most remarkable tools. It is a tool. I love how you were speaking of resilience from the standpoint of science, that there’s a way for us to create resilience and that resilience only helps us to do better in every area of our life, not to survive the things that are disruptive but also to thrive in so many other ways. Dawson, I would love to know if there’s a ritual that you want to share about how you create resilience. You said you go to the gym, that’s one of your things. Is there something else you want to share about resilience in your own personal practice?
In my book, Mind to Matter, I give you 30 evidence-based practices you can use that trigger gene expression for your positive gene expression and also build resilience. There are 30 different things there because there’s no one-size-fits-all. I do believe that meditation is something that everybody should try to at least do for a few minutes every day, preferably for half an hour, maybe 45 minutes every day. I also think that tapping routine is powerful for releasing stress. Those are the two fundamental ones, but there are plenty of others, Qigong, Tai Chi, yoga, time in nature. What I do personally, what nurtures me is, one is time in nature and the other is tuning in to that non-local mind. I find that I am as liable to get confused, get discouraged and get baffled when I’m at this level of local mind.
Sometimes I can’t figure things out there. When I tune it to non-local mind, there’s wisdom, answers, huge information fields in the cosmos that we can download into our personal lives. For me, time in nature, exercise, meditation every day is so valuable. In Bliss Brain, I go deep into the seven neuro chemicals that your brain creates in meditation. They are the things like serotonin, dopamine, the most pleasurable because it is the same molecule that is active when people smoke marijuana. A nanomite docks with the same receptor sites in our brains that THC docks with, the main ingredient in marijuana. Serotonin docks with the same receptor sites as psilocybin, magic mushroom, docks with. Other bunch of chemicals dock with the same Iowasca docks with. There are all these ways we have in meditation of uprooting intense pleasure in our lives and then you become addicted to doing it. You feel so incredibly good.
You start to change as a person. Your life starts to change. Definitely meditation, tapping, then try other thing. Try Qigong, Tai Chi, yoga. Definitely do time in nature. If you live in the middle of Manhattan, take a walk into the park and spend a little time in the park. Do something to hook up with those great cycles. When you’re confused, upset, disturbed, your energy gets disrupted by whatever it might be, breathe, tune into non-local reality, in non-local mind. There’s so much love, Adam. When I opened my eyes off meditation in the morning, I am so overwhelmed with love that I cry tears of gratitude. I’m so overwhelmed with all around there for me, for humankind, for all of the cosmos. When you enter that state every day, that’s where you begin the day, life can throw a lot at you. You’re tuned in to the cosmos and that’s where you’re getting your signal from and that changes everything.
This is a way to become hardier. There are many ways and things to try on. Not everything is going to fit for you. Randi and I love yoga. Yoga is one of our favorite things. The meditations we’ve been doing are your meditations and some of the Qigong work that we did. There are so many things, but the thing that is nonnegotiable is that you find time, that you create time in your day. We all do that on a regular basis to be able to bring ourselves to a place where we feel great. Starting the day that way is like what grandmother used to say, “Leave the house on the right foot.” I still think about those words that she shared.
What does it mean to leave the house on the right foot? To me, how you begin the day, those first practices, the morning, those first thoughts of the morning, the first things that come out of your mouth in the morning, what you do when you wake up. Many people pick up their phones when they wake up. They look at the news or social media or the texts they received at 4:00 AM or the emails that need responding to. That first step out of the bed, maybe there’s another way to do it. Humbly say, “There are other ways.” I’ve turned my phone to gray scale. My phone is not by the bed.
Randi does have hers because we use Insight Timer for meditation at night before bed. She wants to make sure if the kids call in the middle of the night or there is some emergency that we’re in contact. There’s that for sure. There are so many things available to us in these times in all times where we can, as you said earlier, Dawson, reallocate the resources of our brains to things that only build strength in us, build resilience, create that heartier version of us that will not endure for endurance sake, but endure for the work that we’re here to do in the world and the lives of the people that we get to be a good influence on. You are a good influence on many lives.
I love the whole idea of emotional contagion. This idea was picked up by epidemiologists, people who study epidemics and infections and how they spread through populations. They looked at happiness and they applied this epidemiological model to emotion. They found that if I’m happy, my neighbor is 34% more likely to be happy. His neighbor is 15% more likely to be happy. We are walking agents of emotional infection, love, compassionate optimism. It’s an agent of optimism, joy, altruism, compassion and all those things. You’ll find you have a pretty good life.
The first words that come out of my mouth every day are these four simple words. I did a whole TED Talk on these four simple words, but they are powerful and have been for me for a long time and for a lot of other people too. Those four words are, “I love my life.” Dawson, do you love your life?
I love my life. I love my future life. I love my past life. You get to the point where you are grateful for everything that’s happened to you in the past. You’re grateful for whatever will happen to you in the future no matter what it is. You’re at that point of perfect peace. It’s powerful to live in your life that way.
The book, Bliss Brain, is it available for preorder now or will be soon?
It’s available for pre-order now. It’ll be out soon. That follows on from Mind to Matter, which is all about manifestation. It’s all about these advanced brain states you put yourself into.
I love the way you integrate both left and right, the hemispheres, but the science and what is tangible and practical with what is part of the beingness of us, which I don’t know that we can put in a Petri dish and examine. It’s this beautiful blend of both those things with you that I love so much. Let us know your comments, perhaps questions for Dawson, questions for me. You can go to AdamMarkel.com/podcasts to leave a comment. Put your questions into an email to Team@AdamMarkel.com. We look forward to hearing from you all. I wish you the most peaceful day. Use this meditation. This is a gift Dawson gave us something special here that you can come back to it again and again and create your own practice. Dawson, thank you so much. Ciao for now.
- The Genie in Your Genes
- Mind to Matter
- National Institute for Integrative Healthcare
- Bliss Brain
- Veterans Stress Project
- https://www.YouTube.com/watch?v=JOYI6O_qaHM&feature=youtu.be – Dawson’s Fear Meditation
- TED Talk – Adam Markel
About Dawson Church
Dawson Church, PhD, is an award-winning author whose best-selling book The Genie in Your Genes (www.YourGeniusGene.com) has been hailed by reviewers as a breakthrough in linking emotions and genetics. His follow-up title, Mind to Matter, (www.MindToMatter.com) reviews the science of peak mental states. He has conducted dozens of clinical trials, and founded the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare (www.NIIH.org) to promote groundbreaking new treatments. He shares how to apply the breakthroughs of energy psychology to health and personal performance through EFT Universe (www.EFTUniverse.com), one of the largest alternative medicine sites on the web.