Sitting on my patio, I noticed a green shoot of something that did not look like a blueberry bush, growing out of the wooden planter containing the blueberry bush that I planted in April. On closer inspection, it proved to be a tomato plant, which puzzled me greatly until I remembered that last summer, this pot had been home to a tomato plant that was prolific with little tomatoes. I distinctly remembered cutting it down in the Fall, though, and grubbing out the root ball to make room for a different crop come spring. How then could I be seeing tomato shoots when nothing but – at most – bits of root had been left in the dirt?
Apparently, bits of root were enough to seed an entirely new tomato plant, whether that is what I wanted next to my blueberry bush or not. And this is precisely why I love gardening so much: the potential in the seed; the fact that things seemingly dead are not; and the desire and drive towards life, life, life. This mystical, powerful, inestimable force may have been what Dylan Thomas was writing about when he wrote his poem.
I fall in love every spring when I plant a seed and see the tender spiral of the bean poke its head out, or the green mist of onions and lettuce. It inspires me to see things filling their purpose. What else is life on earth about but to grow towards our potential? That’s kind of my personal motto, to live to my potential. There is always the opposite to this, however; the reality of blocks to this growth, whether it’s privation, lack of care, or even the gardener grubbing out the plant.
Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression. Our genome is our computer hardware, and the epigenome is the software that tells it when and how to work, and how much; telling our cells what sort of cells they should be. Epigenetic instructions pass on but they’re not necessarily permanent. Research indicates they can change, especially during critical periods like puberty or pregnancy. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/epigenetics.html
Certain circumstances can cause genes to be silenced or expressed over time; and over generations. Environmental factors can alter the epigenome as can exposure to contamination or deprivation. These events can leave an imprint on genes that endures; altering the physical, mental, emotional, and chemical structure of generations to come.
Research has shown that a generation that suffered food shortages and privations during WWII gave birth to smaller and, in some cases, less physically hale, children and grandchildren. The traumatic physical and emotional events of the Holocaust have been passed down to offspring, resulting in addictions, diseases, and mental issues.
One of SPRe’s areas of study – the work of Dr. Gabor Mate – runs along these lines, but is more specific to what you, yourself, actually experienced in your lifetime from childhood on. He asserts that early childhood traumas and stresses, if left unexplored or addressed, can lead to expression later in life as autoimmune disorders, cancer, MS, heart problems, and other conditions. I would also throw addictions into this list. https://drgabormate.com/book/when-the-body-says-no/
So, you inherit your genome, and you also inherit the epigenome inherited from your ancestors – along with whatever traumatic or difficult thing happened to them: there’s not much you can do about what happened to you before you could do anything about it. This could all be a little depressing. It appears that you’re hobbled from (before) birth with a program that could lead to obesity or disease. What gives me hope, however, is the fact that the epigenome can be altered in the first place. That means that maybe WE can alter our own system.
Yesterday, I laid down on Jill’s table for my weekly SPRe session. We’ve been working on my body for twenty years, now: stretching, changing, and affecting tissue; exploring, unearthing, and healing my roots. As she laid her hands on each part of me, starting with my feet, she got more and more excited. It seems my tissues felt pliable and soft in a way they never had before, and my joint structures more mobile and strong.
As she watched me get off the table and walk around, she could hardly believe the difference in my mobility. I’ve been experiencing changes of varying degrees since we started working together. Over the past year, however, it feels like the changes have been coming faster and are more extraordinary – and more exciting.
After the roots have done their job, what really matters is how you care for the plant, and it’s integrity; the health of the stalks and leaves, the right kind of food, plenty of water, support, and attention to growth. I treasure the knowledge that, apparently, I can create integrity for myself: through the ways I, and others, care and support my structure.
I placed a support cage around the tomato plants that grew from bits of root, and have been watering and feeding them. Despite their rough beginnings, I hope that, by providing them with support and nourishment, I can affect their health and what they produce; not unlike the care that Jill and others have provided to me.
When I finish my training, I hope to help others potentially do the same, and continue to spread the word that what you have inherited isn’t necessarily how you have to live. I hope to tell others that roots are what push you to the surface, decide what kind of plant you’ll be, and give you the chance to grow. Once you’re growing, though, care, support, self-exploration and the will for something better, for life itself, may allow new possibilities and the growth of something different – whether you’re talking tomatoes or people.
I can’t do anything about my past – the roots from which I live – it will always exist. My body is the fuse through which that past expresses itself, and there are things about it I can’t make changes to. I can’t do anything about my parent’s isolation, or mental illness, or the things they did to me out of their beliefs. And I can’t do anything about their childhoods or the actions of their parents. But, apparently, I can make changes to my current self. With help, I am changing my body – and maybe even my epigenome – through my own determination, and will to have something different.
“The force that through the green fuse drives the flower, drives my green age.” Dylan Thomas