By Suma Varughese
Suma Varughese interviews Dr Bruce Lipton, author of the international best-seller, The Biology of Belief, and a path-breaking pioneer in bringing together spirituality and science
Bruce H Lipton’s book, The Biology of Belief, is considered almost mandatory reading among the spiritual community, for it gives us compelling proof of many of the truths glimpsed intuitively by the great sages and prophets. Echoing the Buddha or Sri Krishna, the book tells us that our thoughts are the greatest determinants of our destiny. A stem cell biologist, through his experiments with cloning stem cells, Bruce, as he asked to be called, discovered that it was the chemistry in the culture medium that determined the fate of the cells, not the genes. And this, he goes on to prove most excitingly, is equally true of the human being.
Our lives are not determined by the genes we inherit in the lottery of life; but by our thoughts, feelings and the beliefs they create. As he repeats doggedly, we are not victims of a predetermined destiny. We can change our lives and realise our highest potential. In one fell stroke, Bruce has brought together science and spirituality, and made it easier for the rest of the scientific community to ford the gap.
Like all good spiritual aspirants, Dr Lipton walks his talk, and has used his own findings to radically shift and change his life. He began to practice mindfulness, and changed the subconscious programming that determined his negative thoughts and beliefs. From someone who once considered himself to be lacking the happiness gene, he now calls himself the happiest man on Earth. Best of all, from someone who wrote off marriage after his 10-year-old marriage collapsed in a debris of emotional pain, he and his new partner, Margaret Horton, are creating what he lyrically calls a Heaven on Earth.
Recipient of the 2009 Goi Peace Award, he has been a guest speaker on hundreds of TV and radio shows, as well as keynote presenter for national and international conferences. He is regarded as one of the leading voices of the new biology. He is also author of Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There From Here, and The Honeymoon Efffect.
Life Positive was lucky enough to get a Skype interview with Dr Lipton especially for our anniversary issue. Friendly and approachable, he marshalled his arguments with remarkable clarity and simplicity, and with a disarming sense of humour.
Excerpts from the interview:
Can you give a brief summation of the discovery that made you write The Biology of Belief?
I was teaching medical students cell biology in the university. At that time, I taught the conventional story, about how genes control the characteristics of the cell. When we teach people that, we are teaching them that they are victims. They can’t change themselves. Life is not in your control. The genes control you. When people believe that they have no power in their lives they look outside for happiness and health; that is why pharmaceutical companies make money.
Back in 1967, I was cloning stem cells. At that time, very few people in the world knew what stem cells were. A stem cell is the same as an embryonic cell. If I did a tissue section in your body before you were born, I would say this is an embryonic cell. If I took the tissue section one second after you were born, I would call the same cell a stem cell. A human being is made of 50 trillion cells. Everyday, hundreds of billions of cells die. To stay alive, we need to replace these hundreds of billions of cells everyday. Where do they come from? The answer is stem cells, originally embryonic cells. Doing the same thing they did in the womb – making the body.
While I was teaching at the University, I was cloning a stem cell. I take one stem cell and put it in a petri dish by itself. The stem cells divide every eight hours or so. First there is one, then there are two, then there are four. After a week, I have about 50,000 cells in my petri dish. All the cells are genetically identical because they all came from the same one cell.
I split up these cells into three different petri dishes. Cells are like fish. They have to be in a fluid, which is called the culture medium. I changed the chemical composition a little bit in the culture medium of each of the three dishes. In one dish, the cells became muscle, in another they became bones, and in the third they became fat.
|True love: Bruce with partner Margaret Horton|
What does that imply ?
What controls the fate of the cells? Earlier, we thought genes controlled them, but they all have the same genes. What was different was the environment. The fate of the cells is not controlled by genes but is controlled by the environment – in this case, the culture medium.
What does that mean for the human being?
When you look in the mirror, you see one organism. But that is not actually true. The human being is made of 50 trillion cells. The cells are living entities. You are a community of 50 trillion cells. A human body is a skin-covered petri dish. And the culture medium is blood. That is what nourishes the cells. From the experiment in the lab, we have seen the culture medium can control the fate of the cells. Simply, the chemistry of the blood controls the genetics and behavior of the cells.
What controls the chemistry of the blood?
The brain is like a chemist. The secretions from the brain, or hormones, are what control the chemistry of the blood. Here comes the most important answer. It’s what the mind is thinking that controls the chemistry of the blood. If you are thinking about love, the brain secretes important chemicals like dopamine, which is the pleasure chemical, another chemical, oxytocin, which is the bonding chemical, and another important chemical is the growth hormone. The function of the growth hormone is to enhance the health of the body. When people fall in love, they are healthier. They have lots of energy. People say that you glow in love. The glow comes from very healthy cells. Thoughts of love make chemistry in the blood that gives vitality to cells.
If that same person is living in fear, the brain releases different chemistry. Fear chemistry has stress hormones and inflammatory hormones. If I were to put these chemicals in the petri dish, my cells would sicken and die. This is the story of the mind-body link. How your thoughts, how your beliefs, are translated into chemistry and change the health and vitality of the body. If you want to change your health, you have to change your mind.
Were you into spirituality before this discovery or did the discovery open you to spirituality?
I was not spiritual. I was teaching science of genes. I learned about spirituality from the cells.
The mind controls the chemistry, and the chemistry controls the genes and the behaviour. But what is the mind? (laughs). There are two parts of the mind. One part is the conscious mind and the other is the subconscious mind. The conscious mind is the latest evolution in the brain. It is located right behind the forehead, in the prefrontal cortex. The brain behind that, is mainly the subconscious mind. What is very important to know is that first of all, the two minds have different functions. The two minds do not learn in the same way. I can teach the conscious mind, but that does not mean the subconscious mind learns anything. The conscious mind is creative, and imaginative. It is the seed of the spirit. That is why you are a unique human. Your conscious mind is you. It is your identity. It has by definition, your wishes, desires, aspirations. The subconscious mind has little creativity. It’s where habits and patterns come from. It’s like a computer. It is much more powerful than the conscious mind. A million times more powerful. It learns to control the body and respond to our experiences. When we learn something complex, the subconscious remembers it as a programme. This is very helpful. I will give you an example. Everyday, when you get up, if you didn’t have a subconscious mind, you would have to relearn how to walk!
The subconscious is a machine. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s the programmes in the machine which may be good or bad. To be conscious, you have to have something to think about. Here’s what happens. A baby is born, it has no experience. It doesn’t know anything about life. A baby can’t be conscious because it has nothing to think about. How does a child get its programmes? EEG shows us that a conscious mind has higher vibrations than a child has; until about seven. The conscious is not really kicking in until about seven, when EEG moves into alpha. At 12 it jumps up to an even higher vibration called beta, which is the level of brain activity when you are thinking or working.
Until the age of seven, the child has a lower brain vibration called theta. At the theta level, you are in a state of hypnosis. So a child under seven is in a state of hypnosis. This means it does not have to learn like in a school. All it has to do is to observe. It observes and records. It observes its mother, father, sister, brother, community. A child is going to be a member of a social group. How many rules does a child have to learn to be a functioning member of a community? Thousands. Hypnosis is the only way an infant can learn that much information.
The problem with the fundamental behavior that the child gets from the subconscious mind is that it’s behaviour learnt from the family and the community. Every family is different. We have good parents and bad parents. Whether the behavior around him is good or bad, the child records them all. This is how the child, before it is conscious, has programmes put into its subconscious. So the behavior that we use to deal with life, with our family, our partners, comes from the programming picked up from the community.
What is the implication of this ?
About 90 per cent of people who are muscle tested, will not test positive when they say ‘I love myself.’ The reason is this. Parents are critical of their children. The child is not thinking, only recording. If we say, ‘You don’t deserve that’, the child’s programme says, ‘I do not deserve’. About 70 per cent of programmes that a child gets are negative, disempowering, limiting and self-sabotaging.
Now you say, but that’s okay, because I am running my life with my conscious mind. But here comes the biggest thing that people have to know. The conscious mind can move in time. The conscious mind can move from the past to the future. If I were to ask you, Suma, what did you buy at the supermarket, your conscious mind stops paying attention to what you are doing now and thinks. When you are thinking, whatever you are doing is now taken over by the subconscious programme. If you are talking to someone, and then you have a thought, and you continue talking, the talk is coming not from the conscious mind but from the programme. You start talking like your father or your mother. What’s more, science has now found out that 95 per cent of the day our minds are thinking. That means 95 per cent of the day, your behavior is controlled by the subconscious mind.
That is the biggest problem of humans today. When I am thinking — I am not paying attention. So you don’t see it if you behave like your mother or father. But everyone else can. Why is this a problem? If you are programmed with behaviour that is not healthy, then 95 per cent of the day, you will be negative, and you will destroy relationships, break partnerships, and you will have no idea why. Your health, behavior are controlled by the basic programmes in your subconscious. I want to be healthy, but why am I not ? I want a good job. Why am I not getting it ? Your invisible subconscious behavior does not support it.
So what’s the way out ?
What would happen if you did not operate from your subconscious? What if you were mindful? What happens when you are mindful? You don’t default into the subconscious programmes. You create every moment with your conscious mind’s dreams and desires. What would happen? I’ll tell you what would happen because when people fall in love, they are healthy, have energy and life is beautiful. When they are in love like that, their conscious minds don’t wander.
The fate of the cells is not controlled by genes, but is controlled by the environment
When you fall in love, the honeymoon period is so beautiful, so healthy. When you are with your partner, expressing to each other, you are only using your creative conscious mind. And things happen just the way you wish. After the short period of honeymoon, you still have to deal with regular life. You have to pay the rent or go to the job. The minute your conscious mind starts thinking, the behavior you are going to express is controlled by your subconscious mind. And your partner is shocked because she has never seen that part of you. Your partner looks at you and goes, “Who are you? What kind of behavior is that?” And since you did not see that behavior, you think, what is she talking about? And that ruins the relationship. But if you stay mindful, the honeymoon will never end. Or what if you changed your subconscious programmes and put in positive programmes? In that case, whether the mind is thinking or not, you have the same wonderful behavior.
It will be honeymoon all the time.
Can we talk about the impact of this understanding on health ?
Let’s look at what happens to children who get adopted into families with cancer. The adopted child has the same percentage of risk of contracting cancer as the normal kids in the family, even though the genes are different. Genes don’t cause cancer. Behaviour does.
Furthermore, up to 90 per cent of doctor visits are related to stress. Only one per cent of diseases are governed by genetics. But why are the rest of the 99 per cent of human beings not healthy ? The answer is that the chemistry that is released by the blood does not support health. Because stress hormones are not good for health. You must have heard of the adrenal gland and the flight or fight response. What is interesting is that when stress hormones are released, the blood vessels in the gut squeeze shut, in order to push blood into the arms and legs. The gut takes care of the body, and when stress hormones are released, nourishment to the gut is denied. Number two, the immune system protects the body from bacteria and viruses. It also uses a lot of energy, so when stress hormones close the blood to the gut, they also shut down the immune system. That is why people fall ill when stressed out.
These stress hormones are released by programmes of the subconscious mind – the beliefs that we are not good enough, don’t have enough. Today, we are stressed out all the time. All day long the immune system is shut. And one day, you meet this beautiful partner, fall in love and the next thing you know, life is beautiful!
What solution do you have for those who do not have partners ?
You don’t need a partner. Look at an artist. He has so much love for his art. Or a musician. That’s a honeymoon too.
What has been the impact of your work on science and scientists?
I came out to talk about this in 1985. The new science was not identified as a science till the ‘90s. Earlier, they called me crazy. Over the years the message has spread, and we now have a whole new science called Epigenetics. This is a special field that studies how behavior controls genes.
Did you create this science ?
I am one of the pioneers.
How has this discovery influenced the way you lead your life ?
I am my own experiment. I find myself very healthy. I have not gone to a doctor for 20 years. I have a wonderful partner, Margaret (Horton). Our lives are busy, but we are serving, we are happy. The world is giving us back heaven on earth!
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