Ghosts in the Genes: Cellular Memory

We’re having good friends over for dinner in a few weeks and my friend and I are discussing what to serve: I’m thinking Italian and I tell him that I want to try my hand at making homemade pasta. A few minutes later, after proposing and rejecting various menu items, I close my eyes to organize my thoughts and it happens — I see my hands as clear as day making pasta in front of me. In reality, one hand is holding a cup of coffee and the other is resting on my lap — but in my mind’s eye I can feel the smooth dough against my fingers as I roll little orrechiete “ears” over my thumb. In reality, I have never made pasta, but in my fingers I have the sense memory of efficiency, of making thousands of these little hat-like macaroni.

This has happened to me before: I wield a hammer or a saw in an unexpectedly smooth manner and I wonder if my cells carry the memory of my grandfather, the master carpenter. I pick dandelion greens for a salad and see, through the haze of centuries, the crone who foraged to feed her family and, without thinking, I know which plants are good and which to skip over. Now, as I read the recent research showing that birds, squirrels and other mammals are born with innate memories, what some are now calling cellular memories, I wonder if we hold all the knowledge and experience that our ancestors acquired.

What a wonderful and terrible gift to have. For along with the knowledge and the skill sets I see and sense generations of troubling attitudes and behavior: the ancestral alcoholic who shadows my 30 year struggle with smoking; the old country husband who beat his wife underlies the extra breath I take not to lose my temper; the great- great- grandmother who wept because she had a worthless girlchild charges my life long tom-boy-ism and rejection of overt feminity. As a society we routinely ask about a medical history going back generations, but what if our genes carry more information than just our health? We’re all familiar with enough psychology to know about the importance of early childhood on our mental health, i.e., how a person was raised, what their parents were like, the impact of addiction on a family, etc., but what if our mental health history, too, goes back much, much, further?

The Chinese revere their ancestors while propitiating them with offerings. Other cultures teach that the dead watch over us and guide us. I would like to believe that if we do carry all of these ghosts and memories that in some way our ancestors live on through us. In my imagination I see us all seated around a giant campfire and I watch as my ancestors pass along these great and terrible gifts, given freely and asking only for forgiveness in return. I look closer through the fire and I see my son and my grandchildren and future generations not yet born. I pass along my gifts to them and I ask for forgiveness, too.


Tell Me A Story: Stirring Up Cellular Memories with Meditation

| by Cheryl Shainmark

I have been meditating for over twenty years now and find it an essential part of my life. Many have written about the substantial physical and emotional benefits, and while I’ve certainly found that to be the case, too, I’ve also noticed that there is a component of releasing “cellular memories” that is rarely addressed. People shy away from phenomena that are not so easily explained, but whether you call it “cellular memories,” “past lives,” or releasing “old patterns,” I have found that there is something extraordinary happening that also brings welcome relief to the body and the spirit.

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The Voice of Your Higher Self

| by Cheryl Shainmark

I learned over time that this is the sound of my higher self. Sometimes it’s barely there in the background, pointing me in the right direction with a nudge or a song lyric, or a bit of humor and love. Other times she comes through loud and clear with precise instructions or suggestions. No topic is too large or too small to engage my higher self, and the range of comments over the years have both startled and amused me.

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The Booming Market for Meat Alternatives

| by Cheryl Shainmark

White Castle and Fat Burger now feature Impossible Burgers, Del Taco has Beyond Meat on the menu, and Burger King is about to roll out a Beyond Meat Whopper. Hard Rock Cafes in Europe carry a veggie burger now, (though you’d have to skip the cheese to make it a vegan meal), and they expect to offer it in their US locations next year. As Phil Shainmark, our columnist for The Unlikely Vegan noted recently, “It’s quite possibly the best time to be a Vegan. There are so many amazing choices and places to go.” Even if you’re not a vegan or a fast food fan, the variety of meat alternatives is great news as many grocery stores and regular restaurants have also added plant based options to meet growing customer demand. According to Market Insider, the $14 billion dollar meat alternative industry is expected to grow to $140 billion over the next decade.

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Feeding Body & Soul

| by Cheryl Shainmark

If you’d asked me a few years ago whether I’d be following a virtually wheat free, 90% vegetarian — hell, 90% vegan diet, I’d have said, “That’s nuts.” Now I’m likely to say, “That’s raw cashews to you, and by the way, do you know how many recipes you can make with them?” It’s safe to say that I’m not alone in making a big diet and lifestyle change, either. Based on the latest bestsellers, opinion pages in the New York Times , increase in vegetarian and vegan websites and buzz on the Internet, it seems we have reached some kind of “tipping point” toward a radical change in the way we eat and what we will accept from the food industry.

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Have You Seen the Garden of 1,000 Buddhas in Montana?

| by Cheryl Shainmark

This video has lit up our imaginations! Can you say road trip? Dateline NBC has captured the peaceful and sacred feeling of this wonderful site, called The Garden of a Thousand Buddhas. Located just north of Arlee, Montana, the multi-acre garden is nestled on a beautiful valley that is part of an Indian reservation for the Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Created through the visionary guidance of Gochen Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche, the Garden aligns positive properties of the physical world…

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Helping Our Fellow Animals

| by Cheryl Shainmark

There is a growing movement to recognize what every pet owner and animal lover has known for years: that animals are capable of feeling most everything that humans feel. This, in turn, is part of what is driving the movement to a plant based diet, or more ethical treatment of animals raised for food consumption. In this model, the labels “organic,” “free range,” or “grass fed” are as much about the quality of life for these animals as it is about nutritional quality.

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When Your Body Speaks: Paying Attention to Food Cravings

| by Cheryl Shainmark

Several weeks ago I caught a doozy of a cold, leaving me with a stuffed head, chronically runny nose, sore throat and a bit of a cough. Bad enough for the first few days, weeks later it seemed like it just wouldn’t go away. I didn’t have the flu or strep throat or bronchitis, but the symptoms lingered. Finally, after weeks of getting more rest and watching my diet, it passed. During that time I ate lightly, (when I wasn’t sleeping,) but found myself throwing handfuls of thyme and garlic into virtually everything – from scrambled eggs to soup. It was a little bizarre, actually.

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Asking the Big Questions

| by Cheryl Shainmark

A dear friend of mine, Nick Borrell, says that when you ask the BIG questions, you open a window into the Universe. As he puts it, “It creates the opportunity for fresh air to flow in and for a fresh answer to emerge.” It invites the enormous energy of creativity to pour in, and you must be very careful to leave the window open long enough to get the answers you seek — you must be patient. Now, in the beginning of the New Year, is the time that we traditionally ask the big questions: what do we want in our lives? What do we want in our world?

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They Are Us by Cheryl Shainmark

I remember in the ’60s, being six or seven years old, and visiting my great-grandmother Teresa in a nursing home, shortly before she died at age 94. She only spoke Italian, and my Dad taught us a few words to say to her: Come sta? Bene; prego. Her son Henry, my grandfather, was bi-lingual; her grandson – my Dad – had a smattering of the old tongue, and now I had the four words he taught me….

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