SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE for OCTOBER 2023 on the theme of HERITAGE – Epigenetics and You
This I challenge you to reflect on your life in the light of the re-emerging evolutionary focus on epigenetics.
The Center for Disease Control defines epigenetics as the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible and do not change your DNA sequence, but they can change how your body reads a DNA sequence. Gene expression refers to how often or when proteins are created from the instructions within your genes. While genetic changes can alter which protein is made, epigenetic changes affect gene expression to turn genes “on” and “off.” Since your environment and behaviors, such as diet and exercise, can result in epigenetic changes, it is easy to see the connection between your genes and your behaviors and environment. (https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/disease/epigenetics.htm_
Recent research demonstrates that physiological changes at the level of DNA are caused by trauma. Changes in DNA can be passed down through the generations. The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Sean Pratt, Bessel A. van der Kolk, et al was the first major popular work to discuss epigenetics and how the body holds onto hurt, pain, trauma, and emotional experience. My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies byResmaa Menakem is just one of the recent popular works that looks at how the genetic inheritance of trauma for both white people and people of color shapes the experience and thus the understanding of race. Lamarck’s Revenge: How Epigenetics Is Revolutionizing Our Understanding of Evolution’s Past and Present by Peter Ward places epigenetics in context of the larger conversation about DNA and evolution by natural selection.
My challenge to you this month is reflect on your life in the light of the fact that trauma can be passed down through generations. What trauma might you have inherited that has informed who you are? What trauma have you experienced that might influence your children? What healing has an ancestor done or what healing have you done that might be an influence on correcting the course of generational trauma?
Once again expressing your internal reflection by journaling or creating art is a great way to process what you’re pondering. As always, I’d love to hear about your experiences with this challenge.