Lessons from Our Cells

In his book, The Biology of Belief, Bruce Lipton draws on his experience as a cell biologist to create an elegant framework for understanding our lives and our health. Among the many lessons in his book, I'm emphasizing one in particular. Human beings, like each of the 50 trillion cells from which we are made, are never stagnant; we always move either into growth or into protection.

His particular experiments involved cloned stem cells in a petri dish. They exhibited two survival mechanisms. In the presence of nutrients, they opened themselves to their environment and brought those nutrients inside as part of a growth response. In the presence of toxins, they closed themselves off and moved away as part of a protection response. The cells' growth and protection structures were totally different from each other, and they could only be in one mode or the other at any one time.

Humans, too, can exist in either a growth state or a protection state. When we are mobilized against stress, our sympathetic nervous system literally takes our energy away from growth and repair processes. Only when we are relaxed does our parasympathetic nervous system direct the processes that lead to growth.

So why, you may wonder, must we always be in either of these states and not just stay neutral? The answer is that just to remain alive, our body has to build hundreds of billions of new cells each day to replace those that die. So a certain amount of growth is necessary just to maintain life. Additionally, growth-oriented processes like digestion are required to produce the energy that we require to move, think, breathe, etc.

Moving one step further, a natural conclusion is that we are always somewhere on the spectrum between growth and protection. Everything that we do moves us in one direction or the other. And our body is always responding to every stimulus that we encounter, including our thoughts, our movements (including the position in which we hold our bodies), our interactions, our food, our breath, etc. Whether you look at this spectrum as growth-protection, parasympathetic-sympathetic, anabolic-catabolic, health-illness, or life-death, be aware of the importance of each and every thing that you do and think. Every moment is an opportunity to move along this spectrum in the direction of your choice.

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