“The mind has great influence over the body, and maladies often have their origin there.” — Moliere
What were Dean Ornish, Mehmet Oz, Dan Brown, the Dalai Lama, and Dr. Mark Hyman all doing in Woodstock, New York, last week?We — along with an assortment of Tibetan monks and doctors, Buddhist scholars, meditation researchers, and prize-winning biomedical scientists in the field of aging, the immune system, stem cells, genetics, brain aging, stress physiology, and more from MIT, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Duke, and UCSF — were all part of a special conference at the Menla Center.
The subject of this conference: Longevity and Tibetan medicine. If that seems intriguing, it was! The goal of the conference might sound complex — but it was quite simple. We were there to investigate the relationship between the science of longevity and wellness and the ancient Indo-Tibetan practices of meditation and training the mind.
The point wasn’t to learn how to treat disease, but to learn what we know about regeneration of the body, protection from illness, and optimization of our function and wellbeing. The convergence of “post-modern biology” — the new science of “systems” thinking and medicine — and the ancient wisdom and practices of Tibetan medicine and Buddhism was startling.
So what did we talk about?
Well, for one thing, we explored the relationship between the nervous system and health and aging, and the connection between the immune system and health. As you get older, your immune system produces more inflammatory molecules, and your nervous system turns on the stress response, promoting system breakdown and aging.
That’s not just talk. It’s backed by scientific studies.For example, Kevin Tracey, the director of the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, discovered how the brain controls the immune system through a direct nerve-based connection.
He describes this as the inflammatory reflex (i). Simply put, it is the way the immune system responds to the mind. Let me explain.
Your immune system is controlled by a nerve called the vagus nerve. But this isn’t just any nerve. It is the most important nerve coming from the brain and travels to all the major organs. And you can activate this nerve — through relaxation, meditation, and other ancient practices.
What’s the benefit of that?
Well, by activating the vagus nerve, you can control your immune cells, reduce inflammation, and even prevent disease and aging! It’s true. By creating positive brain states – as meditation masters have done for centuries — you can switch on the vagus nerve and control inflammation.
You can actually control your gene function by this method. Activate the vagus nerve, and you can switch on the genes that help control inflammation.
And, as you know from my books Ultraprevention and UltraMetabolism, inflammation is one of the central factors of disease and aging. But that’s not all we learned at the conference.
From a blog post by Mark Hyman, MD,