Welcome to Pushing the Limits, the show that helps you reach your full potential. With your host Lisa Tamati, brought to you by lisatamati.com.
Lisa Tamati: Welcome back to Pushing the Limits. Your host, Lisa Tamati, here with you and today I have another very, very special guest for you that is perhaps going to change your life. A really very interesting man. Dr Dawson Church, PhD, who is an award winning science writer with three bestselling books to his credit. The Genie in Your Genes was the first book to demonstrate that emotions drive gene expression. So that's all-around epigenetics, epigenetics and how your emotions can actually change the way your genes are expressing. The second book Mind to Matter, which is really something that you must read, shows that the brain creates much of what we think of as objective reality. And his third book, Bliss Brain demonstrates that peak mental states rapidly remodel the brain for happiness.
Now, Dawson has conducted dozens of clinical trials and founded the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare to promote ground-breaking new treatments. Its largest program, the Veteran Stress Project has offered over free treatment to over 20,000 veterans who are suffering from PTSD. All for love, no money involved, an absolute amazing project. Dawson now shares how to apply these health and performance breakthroughs through his EFT universe. It was just an absolutely fascinating conversation with him. I'm very, very interested always in neuroplasticity because I was told, with my mum story, as you all know, that there was no hope that her brain would not be able to remodel and not be able to learn again and that is so far from the truth. In his new book, A Bliss Brain, award winning science writer Dawson Church focuses on the positive and negative mood and negative thinking and how it's associated with activation of brain regions like the prefrontal cortex - the state of yourself, and positive emotions such as altruism and compassion.
He blends cutting edge neuroscience with the stories of people who've had first-hand experience or brain change. And Bliss Brain really examines the effects of emotional states on brain structure. Suffice to say, you have to listen to this episode. I think if you're struggling with anxiety, struggling with stress, feeling the effects of ongoing long-term stress on your body and with illnesses and sicknesses and depression and all of these things that hamper just so many of us, so many of the people that I work with, and certainly I struggle with it on occasion, as well, then this is a book for you.
Dr. Dawson really emanates happiness and joy. But that wasn't always the case, he was someone who had suffered from depression quite badly in his early years. And this is what sent him down this great path. He manages to marry the science with the traditional things like Chinese medicine and Meridians and energy medicine. He's been able to quantify it so that people like me who love science in general open minded sceptics, I like to call myself, can actually understand why these things work. And that's really, really important.
Before we head over to Dr. Dawson. I just like to remind you, we have now our Patron membership for the podcast. If you'd like to get involved with the podcast, if you'd like to support what we do here at Pushing the Limits. We've been doing it now for five and a half years, and near on 200 episodes. I can tell you, into each episode goes a heck of a lot of work and a lot of research, and a lot of book reading, a lot of time. And we really need — to keep this on air — we really need your help. So if you'd like to come and support us and get a whole lot of extra member benefits, then head on over to patron.lisatamati.com, that's patron.lisatamati.com. You can join us in our tribe there. I would really, really appreciate you doing that. And as always, please give us a rating and review for the show because that really does help us as well and share it with your family and friends if you get benefit from us. I'd also love to hear from you, if you've got a question about one of the guests. If you want to dive deeper into one of the topics, please reach out to me, email@example.com.
I'd like to remind you too, that we also have our epigenetics program, which is our flagship program that we have that looks at your genes and how to optimise your genes, and how to understand the nuance of what foods, what times of the day, what types of exercise, what are your dominant hormones, what are your dominant neurotransmitters and how that plays out in your life. So if you'd like to join us for that, please head over to lisatamati.com and go under the Work With Us button and you'll see all the information there.
Now over to Dr. Dawson Church.
Lisa: Hi everyone, and welcome to Pushing the Limits. I'm super excited to have you here with me today. I have an absolute legend, a man who has done so much research and so much good in the world, Dr. Dawson Church with me. Welcome to the show. Dawson, it's really, really exciting to have you with us today. Thanks for taking the time.
Dr. Dawson Church: For me, too, Lisa. We have had such fun now and the next hour. We just had off the air, this would be a fabulous time for you and me and everyone else combined.
Lisa: Exactly. We already had a couple of really good connections. That’s fantastic.
So, Dawson, well, you are an incredible man with a number of books. You have your research, you're an expert on the brain and the mind and body connection. Can you give us a little bit of background about how did you get into the space and what you've been studying? I mean, it's a big question, but we'll start there anyway.
Dr. Dawson: Well, let’s start right in the middle. I worked at a book about five years ago called Mind to Matter. It was really off the cuff project — I was interviewing scientists, I was trying to trace all of the scientific pieces, the links, the chain between having a thought and a thing. And I thought, “Well, I'll find some links to the chain, not others.” But I found all of them. It was so interesting to see how our thoughts literally become things, how our brains function like transducers, from the universal field of information and we then manifest those things all around us. While I was doing that I got into — so I've been meditating everyday for like 20 years plus — but I own some really esoteric forums, our meditation practice by masters who've done it like 10,000 hours. By the end, I find myself getting really, really, really, really happy. I was already a really happy person. But at the end, I had to find myself getting super happy, no matter what the circumstances. But we had to look at all why people who do certain styles of meditation gets so happy. That's why I wrote the book, Bliss Brain. I began the process, 50 years before that, as a teenager, when I was so toxically depressed and anxious and miserable. I was suicidal, I mean, I want to just kill myself when I was 12, 13, 14 years old. And I looked into my own eyes, walked past a full-length mirror one day when I was 15, looked into my own eyes, and I said to myself, those are the saddest eyes I've ever seen. I realised I was so messed up inside. So, I went to live on a spiritual community for many years. I learned meditation, learned energy healing, studied psychology. Wanted to figure out how I could make myself happier, and got a little bit happier over the years. And then when I began to meditate every single day, I didn't have to use energy therapies like EFT tapping, suddenly I got a lot happier. After Mind to Matter, doing these esoteric meditations, got super happy, I want to then just tell it to the world. So I had this epiphany. But I don't want to retreat every New Year's Eve and spend about two, three weeks just really getting quiet meditating, asking the universe, “What are my marching orders for the coming year?”
I was walking the labyrinth with a group of about 40 people at a meditation centre in New Year's, couple of years ago. I stood at the centre of the labyrinth at the stroke of midnight. And I just said, “Universe, what is your purpose for me in the coming year?” And the universe, I heard these words, they said, “We've given you the gift of happiness. Now, go give it to everyone else, too.” So that's really what I see myself doing now and where I came from originally and where I am today.
Lisa: Oh, wow, that is beautifully put in. So, Bliss Brain because you’ve written a number of books. Mind to Matter was the last one and then Bliss Brain is this one. And when people are listening to this, a lot of people will think, “Well, yes.” But is this, especially a lot of the people that are scientifically, believe in the science and they want evidence. What I found so interesting with your work is that you've met managed to marry the science, the quantified effects of energy medicine, of meditation, of pressure points, of EFT, all of these things is energy, things and actually quantified those with science in very rigorous-based, evidence-based, which for me is always a fascinating thing. Because I'm very much an open minded person, but I like to have that rigor, that sceptical mind, that prefrontal cortex that often jumps in and goes, “But is this real?” And you said, on the cusp between, being open minded and being scientific and you've seem to marry these two, just beautifully in your work and being able to quantify some of the ancient traditions the Chinese medicine, the Meridians, these types of things that have been known for thousands of years, but are now actually being shown to be correct and with science. Can you tell us about that?
Dr. Dawson: What's amazing is if you're taking a pedal instrument, handheld instrument, called the galvanometer. It's battery powered, it picks up the electrical resistance on your skin. And so, at my live workshops, I will run this over people's skin, and the little muscle device makes beeping sound whenever it hits an acupuncture point. And it's because those points are very, very high conductance, low resistance. You'll run this little deal over the person's face, nothing's happening, it'll hit an acupuncture point like this over here is on the bladder meridian, this point over here, and suddenly the machine goes crazy and starts beeping and flashing only in this tiny point about a millimetre in diameter, and no other surrounding skin. That's the exact point shown in a 2400-year-old Chinese scroll.
These ancients knew about all these points, energy flows, the chakras, the meridians, and so on. Now, we have instrumentation to measure them. At least the cool thing about the measurement process is, as we're measuring the effects of energy therapies, energy treatments, we're finding that as we quantify them, the effects aren't tiny. They aren't 3%, 5%. Sometimes they're astronomical. Like for example, the EFT. So in meta-analysis, meta-analys-s gathered together 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 studies into a bundle. And then, they extract all the information on a scale of how effective a therapy is. An effective therapy gets a score of two. A really effective therapy gets a score of five, and an extremely effective therapy is a score of eight. So two, five, eight, those are the three points in a meta-analysis that tells you whether a therapy has some effect or a huge effect.
In studies in meta-analysis of EFT tapping for anxiety on that 2-5-8 scale, the effect of EFT is 12. It’s off the odds, off the scale, off the chart. Same thing for depression, same thing for PTSD. So now that we're quantifying these therapies, meditation, EFT, other kinds of therapies, we're applying some of them, have incredible results at the level of the genome, proteins, proteins expression, enzymes, all kinds of processes in our bodies.
Lisa: Wow, that is, okay, because you've written a book called The Genie in Your Genes. It was a marvellous title because I studied epigenetics and genetics. I know that you collaborated on the book with Dr. Bruce Lipton. I was like that’s one of my favourite books of all time, and actually got me down this rabbit hole of epigenetics. And so, I've looked at epigenetics in relation to the food and the nutrition and the social environment and your neurotransmitters and these sorts of things. But when I heard you talking about how it affects, like meditation — you're able to see, I think it was 72 genes or something, where it actually changes the expression of those genes in real time, when you're doing these meditations. And these were areas, I mean you know the areas better than me, perhaps you can talk about it. Because I think a lot of people don't understand that we have a DNA that we've inherited from mum and dad, that's our code if you like. But all throughout life and throughout every day and with everything that we do, we're turning genes on and off for the want of a better description, up regulating or down regulating certain genes with our environment. So what sort of things can we influence through meditation and through EFT, and so on?
Dr. Dawson: That is the key question to ask me, Lisa. We can influence our gene expression with things like diet. You eat certain foods and eat really healthy foods is to turn on certain genes and result and certain processes in your body. And so, the early after they studied and study, 1999, 2002, were all about introducing dietary factors usually in experimental subjects of rats, mice, and then seeing how that affected their gene expression. But what I am much more interested in than things like drugs and external factors like food, is I am super interested in what we can do with this thing behind our bars over here and our beliefs and our attitudes and our energy. It turns out, I mean, that's funny you just mentioned, by done by remarkable, insight-filled therapist called Beth Maharaj. And she found that in an EFT session, a one hour EFT session of psychotherapy using EFT acupuncture tapping, all those acupuncture points, 72 genes were changed. And again, about 15% of our genome is fixed, like I am two metres tall, I have grey eyes and brown hair, not very much of that anymore, and I just have certain physical characteristics that are what they are. Those are fixed genes, but those are only about 15% of the genome. The other 85% is changed. When I have a negative thought, I start producing cortisol, I send a signal down to the medulla on my adrenal glands, my adrenal gland starts producing cortisol, and adrenaline. Adrenaline is your fast-acting, stress hormone; cortisol is your slow acting, but still, it hasn't two minutes and two minutes is turning everything on and off all kinds of other processes off in your body.
And so I'm doing that with my mind alone. If I'm having high cortisol day after day because I'm worried, because I'm stressed, because I’m anxious. Now, what I'm doing is I'm driving my body into this fight or flight state over and over and over again, chronic stress. It's depleting everything else, my body, my immune system, it results in muscular wasting. It literally, over time, produces calcification of the brain's learning memory centres. And you want a lot of calcium in your teeth, a lot of calcium in your bones. You do not want calcium in your brain, but it does. It literally deposits calcium in your brain's memory centres. So that is the effect epigenetically of our thoughts and our beliefs. So, it's so important that we take control of this, like there's a saying in the biology of belief that has positively positive thoughts releasing the ones going our way as having a dramatic effect on our physical bodies.
Lisa: And this is like, because I've seen those scans where you have the shrunken brain that's been exposed to a lot of stress. The hippocampus shrinks and the prefrontal cortex and then you have the healthy brain that's nice and plump on the other side, if you like. It is a very good visual because this is very much like we tend to think, ‘Well, yes, I'm stressed and but that's neither here nor there, toughen up and get on with it’ type of attitude. I think that this, I think we need to distinguish between short term hermetic stressors, which are good for us - the things like going in the sauna, or going into cold water or going for a run and exercise and things like that, that are slightly outside the comfort zone. But not these long-term or even medium-term stressors that are going on day for day and week upon week, and month upon month. Those are the ones that really, when you are affecting the genes on a daily basis and your cortisol, and your adrenaline are just pumping all the time.
And this is something like with my genetic makeup, I have a deficiency in receptors of dopamine, so I'm constantly after dopamine. I'm always chasing the source that I can never reach, right? And I have a lot of adrenaline and I was exposed to a lot of testosterone in the womb. So I have that personality that take action, risk taking, jumping, still playing, no strategy, that type of a personality. And these things really affect us.
However, I can take control of that through practice. I can do things that can actually help me control my innate biology if you like. So, how can people, I wanted to ask, because I think a lot of people won't know what EFT is, per se. Would you explain what that particular type of energy work is?
Dr. Dawson: EFT is very popular. It's used by over 20 million people worldwide. It's grown purely by word of mouth, there is no drug company, there is no advertising campaign, people study each other on EFT. It is often called tapping because you simply tap like this on acupuncture points. There are about 13 W's, commonly they're linked to the 13 meridians of the body. It's amazing. I'm working on a video now where I have to describe EFT in two minutes. And it's like the body's reset switch. A therapist used that in a paper, in a peer-reviewed journal recently. It's like pushing the reset button for your emotions. So if you're upset, you're angry or you're stressed whatever way, then you simply tap on these points very, very quickly and it resets you.
So, there are several of these points. While you are thinking about the bad stuff in your life, you combine that reflection of ruminating on the stuff that bothers you with the tapping. And if you ruminate on the bad stuff, what happens normally, if you're just thinking about the bad stuff, is you're sending a signal through those neural bundles and they're getting bigger and bigger and faster. That's what we call re-traumatisation. That's when you re-traumatise yourself and we find over time, that shrinks the brain; the brains of people who are traumatised as children are on average 8% smaller than those who weren't traumatised as children. Traumatic stress is, it isn't psychological, it's physiological. So that's what you're doing if you're retraumatising yourself.
If you remember that bad thing at the same time you tap, then what we see in MRI EFT studies is that the emotional midbrain gets all upset, it's all aroused as a result of thinking about the bad things. When you start tapping, all that arousal just goes down. For example, one veteran I was working with, because we work with over 20,000 veterans, giving them free treatment free of charge. What one veteran was really bothered by a memory when he was in Iraq, he was a medic. And right in the beginning of his tour of duty, one of his friends was shot. And so, he had to deal with all the gruesomeness of that friend's death. One of the things he had to do was he had to clean the uniform of his dead friend to send back to his mum and dad back in the US. Cleaning the human remains and tissue out of the uniform was tremendously triggering for him. He remembers this event, he was cleaning them out in the medic’s hut. And then he'd have to run outside to take a breath of fresh air because the smell was so bad that he'd run back in a little more cleaning, run back out again. We tapped on this terrible traumatic memory. He just then had this complete sense of relaxation. He said, ‘I'm so glad I was the person who got to clean that uniform because it was my way of honouring my friend’. And as his emotional midbrain calmed down, his story changed to where it was no longer one of tragedy, but one of honouring and one of love and one affection with his friend, and you do this act of service. So if he shifts brains function that way, and it shifts it in just a few seconds like that. There's no therapy, there's no elaborate attempt to understand how you are the way you are, you just tap while you're remembering the bad stuff, while all of those new neural pathways are fully engaged, that then calms the brain down immediately. And then I met this young man again, I saw him again, about three months later, talked about the uniform, talked about his dead friend, he was still totally calm about it. And we find in long-term studies, that once you break the association in the brain between that traumatic memory and going into fight or flight, the association stays broken, and people find later on down the road.
Lisa: That is absolutely amazing because I think, the longer we all live, we all end up with traumatic, hopefully not as horrific experiences as that. Are you aware I had last week on the show Dr. Don Wood, who I'd love to introduce you actually to. He is also a trauma expert who works with vets and PTSD and everything, addiction and so on. He has a four-hour program that he takes people into the, out of beta into alpha brainwave states and takes that high definition sort of movie that's playing in people's heads around this event or events. And he says, as a description, puts it into black and white, and it's no longer triggering. So probably a different direction to get to a similar result. But you think we can do this actually, in minutes with EFT, where you can actually take away the power of that memory. Because I mean, I've been through, unfortunately, my listeners know, I lost my dad, just seven months ago, eight months ago. It was a very traumatic event and process that we went through. The intruding memories, the recurrent nightmares, all of the horror that surrounds that event is very powerful, how much it drains your daily life and your energy. I've found, since that event, I've been doing various things, but it's still very, very raw and very real to me. You are triggered a hundred times a day, and it's just draining your power to be able to work fully in the world, and to be the best version of you that you can be. I sort of know that and I'm trying to work out ways. So this is definitely one that I'm going to jump into.
Dr. Dawson: Sorry, you lost your dad and what you'll find is that you don't have to let go at the normal sense. In fact, we encourage people to really grieve, really get into their feelings, that and then do the tapping as well. What happens is you process them very quickly. So we aren’t telling these veteran, ‘Don't think about the bad thing. Don't think about the death. Don't think about all the trauma’. We say, ‘Do think about it, but tap while you're doing it’. And then that breaks the association in the brain between that traumatic memory and going into that stress response.
So I really encourage you to do that because we've seen so many people do this now. We work with examples, with kids who lost their parents in the Rwandan genocide. Many of them, still 25 years later, have severe PTSD. We work with victims of school shootings in the US and various places. And again, mothers and fathers who've lost their kids in school shootings. We work with them successfully with EFT. So it's not like we're just working on superficial stuff, but it is that we're trying to work on what you’re being worried about in the report you have to turn it into your boss next week, and it also works on severe psychological trauma.
Lisa: This is so exciting. And it is like resetting the brain. I mean, Dr. Woods mentions that it's sort of like a error glitch, and you're just going round and round and you can't get out of this sort of pattern of things.
Dr. Dawson: Yes. The trauma loop, we call it the trauma loop. The trauma loop, it's literally a loop between the thymus, thalamus, hypothalamus, the hippocampus, the amygdala in the centre of the brain. What's supposed to be happening is that input associated be referred to the prefrontal cortex and other regions to moderate emotions. And it isn't; it's stuck in an emotional midbrain, looping and looping and looping. Here’s the thing is, you can't talk yourself out of it. Like I was worried about a situation at work a few weeks ago, and I would say to myself, ‘It's time to meditate now. It’s 6am in the morning, I'm meditating. I will not think about that thing at work’. Well, of course, within nervous sighs, obsessed with a theory, I say that ‘Dawson, I'm going to let that go. It's meditation time now. I'm not thinking about thing at work, I’m going to return my mind to the meditative state’. Now, the thing at work, we cannot talk ourselves out of it, our conscious minds hard, because our brains didn't evolve that way. Our brains evolved to be extremely attuned to the tiger in the grass, or the remotest possibility, the tiger in the grass. And if you had an ancestor who took her mind off the potential threat to focus on smelling the flowers —
Lisa: You wouldn't be here. So it makes sense that we have this hyper vigilance. When you've got a PTSD situation going on, you're really hyper vigilant, and you're in this constant state. But it is even all the little things, like in preparation for this interview yesterday, I was just so into researching and stuff. And then all night, my brains just going about Dr. Dawson and what he's doing. Like at three o'clock in the morning, I had to get up and read, keep reading one of your books because it was just, it's not leaving my brain. And then I did my breathing exercises, I did my meditation and eventually went back to sleep. So, you gave me a bit of a sleepless night last night.
Dr. Dawson: I’m so sorry about that.
Lisa: But in a good way.
Dr. Dawson: At least you’re reading something good.
Lisa: Yeah, well in a good way, because I was excited about all this stuff. I think it's very powerful. As a health coach, and I work with people on a daily basis. Probably the first thing that people come to me with is depression and anxiety. And then all the health problems and in follow on from that, and that seems to be what so many people are dealing with on an absolute day to day basis. In our modern world, I think that a lot of these things, not that our ancestors didn't have stressors, because they obviously did. But we have perhaps, a hundred tigers coming at us a day in the form of grumpy emails from our bosses or whatever. The amount we have to process in a day for many of us, especially people working on computers and all that sort of stuff with a thousand things coming at you all the time. And it can feel like and so, often, I say when I say to people, ‘You need to do some meditation, and you need to calm the mind. You need to get out in nature’. But they go, ‘I haven't got time. I haven't got time. I'm working 17 hours a day, and I’m a mom of three, how the hell am I going to find time to meditate?’ What's your answer to that?
Dr. Dawson: Actually, you don't have time to meditate. In one piece of research, I talked about several of these in my book, Bliss Brain. One piece of research done by really forward thinking US agency called the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, they've been at the forefront of all kinds of parts of the human potential movement for the last 50 years. They did a study of complex decision-making. Now, this isn't whether I should have grilled cheese or macaroni for lunch, this is when you have to do a scenario that’s meant to solve global warming, or reduce the deficit or solve racial violence in a city. It's the really complicated problems. What they found was that when you're in a kind of flow state, generated by meditation, that people are 490 times better, percent better at solving complex problems; five times is good. Another study by the McKinsey Consulting Group found a 10 year study of high performance executives found that they are five times as productive when they're in these flow states. We're measuring flow now as people meditate, we're finding the same thing. So that even 15 minutes, 20 minutes spent at the end of the day will literally pay dividends. Another series of studies done by Harvard University found that if you do that for only an hour, meditate for an hour, you are more productive and more creative for 48 hours in the future. So you cannot afford not to meditate. The gains in productivity, problem solving ability and creativity are so enormous that if you don't spend that hour or that half hour, you are missing out on your biggest single leverage point for success in your life.
Lisa: Well, that's a really good argument for it. Have you read the book, we’re talking about Steven Kotler, have you read Stealing Fire?
Dr. Dawson: I love Stealing Fire, I’ve seen Steven Kotler several times on that and I use — and I have five books, in Bliss Brain and the acknowledgments say, ‘This book, Bliss Brain, was based, there five people really influenced me’. As Steven Kotler’s Stealing Fire was one of those five.
Lisa: His book really influenced me, too. It was like, ‘Wow, this is incredible stuff, understanding how to get into the flow state’. As an athlete and my background as a ultra-endurance athlete, we did stupid distances. I would sometimes get into that flow state, and I still can't do it at will, unfortunately. Maybe I need to meditate more. But the performance that you could bring when you were in that state was far beyond what you normally could bring, and understanding how to tap into that on an actual day to day basis. I find it, too, in a previous life, I was a jeweller as well, so I was a goldsmith in head shops, retail shops. And that I would get into the flow state making jewellery when I was creative, now in painting. So when I get time, do those types of things like painting and making something, do they qualify as meditation? I mean, what actually qualifies as meditation because a lot of people seem to think you have to be sitting on your floor or with your legs crossed and humming or something, doing a chant. Is that the only way to meditate?
Dr. Dawson: After World War II, there was a British engineer who worked on the radar system in the defence of Britain and his name is Maxwell Cade. And he put together a simple EG, and they had hook up spiritual masters. This EG, he was reading the five basic brainwaves — now, we know there are more than that — but he was reading the simple brainwaves. What he discovered is that he took up a Pentecostal faith healer, or a Taoist healer from China, or he hooked up a Confucian or in like a Buddhist or a Hindu or kabbalistic Jewish mystic. What he found was that even though their religious backgrounds and religious practices were totally different, they all have the same brainwave pattern. So that was the pattern of the mystics, we now knew what it was.
I talked about this in Bliss Brain, this void of discovery, as Maxwell Cade was doing this in the 50s and 60s. And then he had a student, at a wise he had hooked out. They said, ‘Well, let's hook up other people. Let's hook up Louie Armstrong. Let's look up jazz musicians in flow’. And they found same bliss brain pattern in them. They said, ‘Well, let's hook up some high performing executives and business people who are at their peaks and scientists’. So they found that regardless of the profession, whether in flow, they all have this characteristic brainwave state. The next thing that we had to realise over the last 20 years of MRI research is, now this is crucial, we used to think that it was just one of those happy accidents. There are only a few Louis Armstrong's. There are only a few Hussein Bolts. There only are a few Swami Vivekananda’s. We used to think these were special people. Once we discovered the brainwave state, some smart scientists then said, ‘Let's reverse engineer this. Let's train ordinary people to attain the same brainwave state’. And lo and behold, bliss brain, they could. We now like — I do seven, eight retreats sometimes. I'm doing virtual retreats now, but we do live retreats, usually once or twice a year. And the first day, it's going to take people, maybe we can induce that state, usually within 30 minutes. By the end of the retreat, start four minutes, they have learned to hit the state of a 10,000-hour meditation master. And they're doing it in under four minutes at the end by the end of the retreat.
So they're trainable now that we're reverse engineering them. And so one state, one way into the flow state is through meditation like the mystics do. The second way is through peak performance. Either way, you can get to that same state and be ignited by flow triggers that put you into that state, and they're reliable. They put you in that state every single time. And once you hit that state, Lisa, over and over and over again, the cool thing in bliss brain is all about addiction. For example, the one molecule that you generate in your brain in these deep states is called anandamide. It has the same chemical structure as THC, the active molecule in marijuana, docks the same receptor sites in your brain.
So you're flooding what are called your endocannabinoid receptors in your body and your brain, with natural THC, just generated by your own brain. It's a very big boost of serotonin. You're mentioning dopamine earlier, and I'm going to send you a meditation that, I've just been playing with this recently. This isn't available to the public and won’t be for about two years. But Mind Valley is working on a huge new program, and we're training people in this one meditation. They literally feel the rush of dopamine they get because dopamine is the same reward system as engaged by cocaine and heroin. So they're sitting there doing this meditation. They're getting serotonin, which is the same as suicide and magic mushrooms. Same Lego structure, they're getting anandamide, THC. They're getting the same molecules that are getting in ayahuasca cocaine and heroin and alcohol, all in one meditation. And so what we're now having to do, it's so crazy, we're bringing people to these ecstatic states, when you read Rumi and St. Catherine of Sienna. I mean, these people were in absolute bliss. Essentially their brains were full of these endogenous drugs. And so, we’re actually learning to generate these in people's brains. What we now have to do at the end of my meditations is you have to spend a few minutes, talk people down, talking them down off this high. They are so spaced out, they can't drive a car, they open their eyes off meditation, they don't know what planet we’re on. So we spend some time doing some orienting. ‘By the way, your name is what's the name again? What time of day, is it? Which country do you live in? What's your job?’ So we have to help them back into reality because they get so far out there, in just a few minutes of meditation. We’re now able to do that.
Lisa: Without any extraneous sort of, chemicals and things that can damage your impulse?
Dr. Dawson: No, none whatsoever.
Lisa: I have to ask this — because and this maybe outside the wheelhouse a little bit — when you're in those sorts of states, do you think you can connect? Is there a spiritual, wouldn’t you know? Do you believe that there's a spiritual dimension to what's on the other side, when people pass away, when we die? Is that what the mystics and some of the spiritual healers are tapping into something higher? I mean, I know we probably can't measure this, although I've just read some books on NDEs like near death experiences and the scientific rigor that a couple of these amazing scientists have spent years studying. What's your take, just your personal take on these higher states and being able to connect perhaps, to something beyond us?
Dr. Dawson: Albert Einstein wrote in the 1930s, he wrote that also the big discoveries have been made in that altered state of oneness with the universe. In chapter 15 of his book Think and Grow Rich, people think that Napoleon Hill's book from the 1930s Think and Grow Rich is about money, but it's actually about spirituality. It's about letting go. Napoleon Hill says, ‘I let go of my ordinary states, I enter an altered reality. And there I commune with St. Francis of Assisi, and Thomas Edison, and Napoleon Bonaparte, and all these great figures from the past. And that's where I download all of my answers, these questions from’.
So throughout history, people have been letting go of — what I call, now in my books, I call this local reality and non-local reality. And so in meditation, for a little while, you let go of local reality, and you simply identify with the field of consciousness that is the cosmos. There's this huge information field in which we swim in it. We're like fish looking for water. When we're looking for God or spirituality, we're like the fish looking for water. We're swimming in consciousness, and our brains are not generating consciousness. Our brains are transceivers of consciousness from this universal field. They then translate this universal appeal information into what we think of as local reality. But we're making up or making it up and we change our minds. When we shift our belief systems, when we orient ourselves deliberately to non-local reality, our local reality shifts dramatically and super quickly. Our brain shift, Lisa, in one of the examples I give in Mind to Matter, I talk about a TV reporter called Graham Phillips, who has a show called Catalyst. He went on an eight-week meditation retreat. They took his whole TV crew into a lab. They did a whole work up on his brain, his body. They use the high resolution MRI to measure the volume of neurons in each part of his brain. He then learned to meditate over the next eight weeks, and they brought him back to the lab after eight weeks ran the MRI scans again and the piece of his brain that is responsible for coordinating emotional regulation across different brain regions called the dentate gyrus — it's really tiny, it's about the size of a little fingernail, but it's right in the centre of your brain. It has tentacles going all over the brain and helps regulate being upset, being irritable, being angry, being annoyed, being stressed. That, the hardware of his dentate gyrus grew 22.8% in eight weeks. When you enter a non-local reality, it's changing the hardware of your brain, and it's not taking 10,000 hours, it's doing it in just a few hours. And he then started to see very different as your transceiver, transducer changes, then it is very different results outside of yourself.
So we are pure consciousness, we happen to be the body for a little while. We won't have a body forever. What you can do is every morning meditation. You can simply let go of local reality, you become one with non-local reality. The other cool thing there is when you come down from that space, Lisa, you are so full of love. I mean, I just cry when I come down. I walked on the beach the other day after meditation, I was just weeping with gratitude. I wrote in my journal, ‘My heart is just burning with love and bursting with gratitude’. Because you come down in the states of such ecstasy and the rest of the world in your life, and it is a world of magic. You then create that magic all around you. That's how I write my books. That's how I live my life, how I do my marriage and children and friends and everything. Well, I just can’t tell you how let's call this brain. It isn't like I'm feeling a little bit of hay brain, it is an ecstatic brain. I mean, in this exciting state, and becomes your new normal. Every day, it starts to change your physical brain. It starts to change the hardware of your brain, and then that starts to change your entire life.
Lisa: That sounds like a piece of something that I want. And I think, everybody who is listening will be like, ‘I want what that guy's got’. Because you emanate this. I've listened to many of your lectures and your talks and your podcasts and stuff, and you emanate this beautifulness — for want of a better description — it just seems to pour out of you. That is obviously the work that you've done. What I find, I was listening on Ben Pakulski, my amazing man. You're on his podcast, that was one of the ones that I listened to. He was talking about, as an athlete, and I've had an athletic background. As a young athlete, especially, and he said he was the same, we're actually running from stuff and we were fighting and we were forcing and actually probably brutalising our bodies in order to deal with something that was going on in our brains and trying to prove things. I think a lot of athletes live in that state and it's actually encouraged to live in that state, if you have a burning and I've even propagated the state and others. Where you're using the fire of anger, of being put down, of being let down to fuel your performance. And into a certain degree that works. I mean, being obviously, an incredible bodybuilder in my life that turned into running ridiculous kilometres and across deserts and so on. I don't run any more though stupidly long distances. One of the reasons is, I don't have the massive issues in my brain anymore. I have not needing to run away from something, prove something. I'm not saying that all athletes are doing this. But I do think that there is a large number of people who are handling things through expression of this sports, and how do you change that mindset? Because I still very much have that mindset. When I go to the gym, I'm there to smash myself, I'm going to punish myself, I'm going to work hard. I'm going to push through the pain barriers because that is the culture we've grown up as athletes. You work hard. If it's not hurting, then you're probably not doing it enough. How do we change that conversation and reach still these very elite levels without having that type of a mentality? Sorry for that.
Dr. Dawson: If you aren't in flow, you will injure yourself. I remember interviewing members of American football players and these are usually very large men. They’re very large men and they're very athletic, and they can jump like a metre share, vertical jump, and they reach remarkable speeds. They can start running and running really, really, really quickly, the catching. I remember this one young man said, ‘This is my million-dollar hand’. He was going to pay a lot of money as an American football star and he said ‘I've broken my fingers, at least one sometimes two or three times every season. And I can't afford to have this happen to my million-dollar hand’. After he learned EFT, after he learned to meditate, after he learned centring, getting into flow each game, he never broke another finger. He had one injury when he was just learning to meditate and do EFT. And they said, ‘Oh, it's the Achilles tendon injuries. You'll be out of the game for at least 12 weeks or maybe 16 weeks.’ Three weeks later, he was fine. And so, athletes, first of all, when they're in the zone, when they're in flow, they injure themselves less and their performance goes up. It's that old Yerkes-Dodson law, currently referred to a little bit of stress is fine. Anyone has a little bit of stress. Now what I'm what I'm getting at right now, I mean, to you and me, if I didn't have a fair amount of cortisol and adrenaline, I'd be a really boring guest.
Lisa: To some degree, we want that when we’re ready.
Dr. Dawson: We want that. Absolutely, but not too much of it.
Lisa: And like we're in a flow state, I'm in a flow state right now. Because I feel like I am because I just love learning from people like you. I'm just, give me more, all the heroes and stuff, because I'm learning and that is for me, one of my flow states studying and science. That really helps me. But how do we change that conversation for athletes? So that they're not going out to deliberately hurt themselves, but still able to reach those. I remember one story if you don't mind sharing, I think it was with your niece? Was it Jessica or something?
Dr. Dawson: Yes, Jessica.
Lisa: Do you mind sharing that story?
Dr. Dawson: Yeah, she is the national champion at rhythmic gymnastics. She meets me out there after the rank every year. So four years in a row, she was the US national champion. But again, she was pushing herself, she was collapsing inside. She was not doing it all well. On the outside, her performances look great. On the inside, she was just suffering and she eventually just couldn't go anymore, and just had withdrawn from the sport and collapsed. So that's not sustainable. What you find for the athletes who have a long-term career usually is they've learned to pace themselves. They've learned to reach that state of flow and stay there over time, they aren’t pushing themselves.
The other cool thing that happens, I've done a lot of work with women who are overweight or obese. They are often at war with their bodies, they have been ignoring their bodies, turning their bodies out, hating their bodies for over four decades. They don't like exercise on the whole. And it's hard for them to exercise. Like if you're heavy, there’s strain on your joints and your muscles. It's difficult to exercise, there's no great reward for exercising. So what we try to do, we don't even call that module of our program exercise, we call it joyful movement. Joyful movement. And so I say, ‘Go to the gym. Grab that maybe a 10-pound weight. And if you're just doing dumbbells and doing 10-pound weight, that's fine. If you have a goal of doing 10 reps, do as many reps as you feel good doing. Wait for the endorphin rush to kick in when you feel good. And the moment you feel bad, stop’. Now what they do is they then do eight and then they start to feel bad or stray, they stop at eight. Now they’re feeling an endorphin rush today. And maybe in the next week they feel the endorphin rush, and they're doing 11. But what has then happened is that they are associating going to the gym with pleasure neurochemicals, not with pain. And then you can't keep away from exercise. I mean, once you've learned to rejig your neurochemistry, to re-associate those exercise bands, or that piece of exercise equipment, or your kayak or your mountain bike with pleasure, rather than with compulsion and pain, then you find people are highly motivated to exercise. So we retrain them to do this. It also has the effect of listening and listening to their bodies. No longer is your body a threat and a problem. It's now something to listen to. It's a signal, ‘Hey, this doesn't feel good’. You stopped right away. So in my own workouts, if I decided to do 20 reps or something, and after 17, I'm no longer feeling good. I stopped at 17, then my body is saying, ‘Wow, 17 feels wonderful’. And then you completely change your conditioning to make that exercise a joy and a pleasure. After a while, you can't stop people going to the gym, if you use your own neurochemistry in an intelligent way like that.
Lisa: Well and you don't limit your performance when you do that? Because like, as an athlete you know that you have to endure a certain amount of pain to reach the next level, or that's what we've been told at least. You have to high intensity interval training and better back in CrossFit and rah, rah rah. The gentle approach, I can see being super good for somebody who's never exercised and just wants to break into this field, does the same apply for elite athletes wanting to get to the best that they can be? Because you're up against the competition that are training in this way of brute force training type of way. Is that as well?
Dr. Dawson: Yeah that too is a way of training, one way of training is the brute way of training. The other way is the supported way of training. That's a very good question. So that way works great for people who are getting into exercise for the first time. But what about people who are at that elite level?
There is a time to push yourself and there’s a time to back off. Only you know that. No one else can really tell you what that point is. But you know yourself. Like me, for example, I do a lot of mountain biking. There are sometimes where there's a long, steep hill. I’m exhausted and I think, ‘I'm exhausted, there's a steep hill ahead. I am just kind of go for it’. And it feels so exciting to do that. But if I had a coach saying, ‘Go for it’. If I was riding with somebody, and they would say, ‘Go for it’. I was trying to keep up with them. And I wasn't listening to my body, then probably I'd injured myself. That's what I have injured myself actually, in the past. So, you tune into yourself, and no one else is something no coach knew for you.
Are you meant to just put in that extra burst of effort? And then transcend yourself. We don't know for another person, we only know for ourselves. So it's really an interesting meditation. And again, it means being sensitive to yourself to know when to do that. The other thing is, it's not the same every day, we have by rhythm. Sometimes, we are just so in rhythm. That's the time to say, ‘I was planning on this 35-minute routine, I need to do the 55 minute routine instead.’ And you just know that day, ‘I’m so in-sync, my body wants to do that.’ You get good at reading your body and you know. I think the best lead athletes and how are some football players, the average football player in the National Football League in the US has about a 4-year career. How does someone like Tom Brady have a career that spans decades? You want these great athletes often, or great musicians or great scientists. They aren't a flash in the pan, they’re sustaining peak performance over time. I think they're the ones who are pacing themselves.
Lisa: Yeah. And are the ones that are listening to the body. I think, with training athletes, I often say, ‘If you start, you have to sort of look at how has your day been? How much sleep did you get? Did you hydrate? Have you had a lot of stress?’ Before you decide what your training is today. Even if we've put it on your plan to do a big, hard long training session, but you had a very bad night or something went wrong yesterday, then maybe today, we want to shift that out. And it's learning to be that sort of intuitive and rather than rigid, ‘This is what coaches said, and this is what I'm doing because I have to do that.’ The give and take means that you will eventually have more performance. I think, while others also, is in the recovery phase is where you actually get the benefit, not on the training phase. Contrary to people think that when we’re actually doing the weights is when we’re getting the strength. No, it's actually in recovery. So if you're not recovering properly, and you're just smashing yourself again the next day, then you're not going to get there with those wins anyway.
That’s just a new perspective for me to take on and maybe I'll be a little bit more gentler on mum in the gym today. She might be thanking you later, Dawson. I had her yesterday in the gym and we were doing weights. She doesn't like weight. She doesn't mind the treadmill and the bike and so on but when it comes to weights, I'm pushing her quite hard, “Come on, mom. You can do it.” Maybe I need to be a little bit more, how shall we say, sensitive.
Dr. Dawson: Yeah, also, if somebody you trust, like for example, a teacher will challenge you. A teacher will, we mentor people, we train people in EFT, in meditation and we train trainers, we train practitioners and that certified what's called clinical EFT, using EFT with other people. We push them. We definitely say that that's a challenge and we recommend you go for it. And sometimes your coach will see a possibility in you, you don’t see in yourself. Well very often we see that this person could be a brilliant healer, they might be a bus driver or a hairdresser, and we’ll say, ‘You can do this’. And we’re experts, we know that they can. So it does take an extra lie sometimes.
Also on the spiritual journey, take somebody that you talk to. I train thousands of EFT practitioners. I wrote the book EFT Manual, the most recent edition of the book. I've written about EFT and have done more research than anybody else in EFT and I have my own practitioner who may say to me, ‘Dawson, you need to sharpen up in this area. I think you can make a shift over here’. So we are living past the point of needing a trainer, of needing a coach, of needing extra eyes to look at us and to guide us, very, very useful at every stage of our development. We require even people who've been doing this for 50 years, they'd love to have their own therapist and do their own inner work. Because if you think you're past needing a therapist or doing your own inner work and alluded, there's always stuff to work on.
Lisa: That's a brilliant way of looking at it, and a very humbling approach to life. Now, I wanted to just shift gears a little bit, if I may, and talk about the bigger ramifications of changing our brain. Because when we change ourselves personally, we are also affecting our environment, our family, and then our community, and then our country, and then the world. If we're looking at the bigger picture, our world has some big major problems in it that we, and I think, we're not always focusing on the positives that are happening in our society because our media very much concentrates on just the negative. But if we all started to meditate today, and we all really adopted Dawson's approach and these other great researchers and scientists, and these people’s approach, to changing our own brains and how they're functioning in our own lives, and we're happy and nicer people, what sort of effect can we have on the environment do you think?
Dr. Dawson: I have a whole chapter in my book Mind to Matter on this. This is a phenomenon that's been studied over the past since the 1970s, called emotional contagion. And it began when one person noticed that in her workspace, in her office environment, there are good days and bad days. There are generally days when everything seemed to flow, people were nice to each other, the work flows smoothly. And then there were a lot of bad days as well. When people were grumpy and things didn't work. She realised that the good days were when one particular person was sick and took a day off. That one person was removed to the equation, everyone functioned better. And she realised that this was a phenomenon and she named it emotional contagion. We’ve now, have applied the — epidemiology is the study of infectious disease — we've now applied this in various research studies, to emotions, and we find that emotions are contagious.
So in one long-running studies, from guys since the 1950s called the Framingham Heart Study in Framingham, Massachusetts. And now includes five generations of inhabitants at Framingham. The researchers have found that a happy person is highly contagious, and actually produces contagion in her neighbour, and her neighbour’s neighbour, and her neighbour’s neighbour’s neighbour, who she's never even met. So when we are happy, you will literally — there’s this old saying Frank Sinatra in 1950 saying — ‘When you smile, the whole world smiles with you’. And it does, happiness is contagious. So when we do that, we're going to see a therapist, use EFT, take care of our physical bodies, love ourselves, tune into the infinite, tune into a non-local mind. It floods our hearts and our bodies, we feel so much better and we're just nicer to everyone around us. And they're nice people around them, that effect travels a long way.
In one study, I talked about in Mind to Matter, the researchers tweak the feeds of Facebook users, just a few dozen Facebook users, for a few days to make them either a little more positive or a little more negative. Just a tiny touch, more positive, more negative. And those people then pass those certain stories along in their feeds, and others and passed further stories along in their feeds. Within two weeks, they produce emotional contagion in 600,000 other people. So we are highly contagious, our positive energy.
I'll give you one example. Donald Trump is the previous president of the US and a tremendously polarising a triggering figure. And so, people talk about Donald Trump and I've been told so that we just lie or done something really harmful to other people, they get so offended. And so I really counsel people to stay in your heart and just hold Donald Trump and everyone in his party, in compassion, just hold. Take the people who offend you the most and hold them in compassion. Tune into their suffering and hold them in that way. When we do this, when we are as Jesus said, ‘Love your enemies,’ to go to them that hate you. Very good advice, even though it's 2,000 years old. When you do this, you're producing emotional contagion around you. You have no idea how far it's going. But as the Facebook study found, just a few people could produce emotional contagion in hundreds of thousands. So by becoming happy yourself, you walk around happy.
During the pandemic, we all like to wear masks all the time. One study found that when I talk behind the mask, so no one can see whether I’m smiling or frowning. People can hear by the tone of your voice, if you're smiling or frowning. They can tell with a very thin slice of information, what it is. So you're just talking to somebody kindly and nicely, that's using emotional contagion. There’s one story I tell in one of my books, Lisa, that just touched me was this guy who was having a really difficult time. His wife had left him taking with him, their two kids, he couldn't see the kids and missed the kids terribly. And then he lost his job. He just spiralled downward and decided to commit suicide. He’d been suicidal for a few months, but that was the day he decided he was going to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. He literally drove to the Golden Gate Bridge. There's a parking lot there, he parked his car, that he had to cross the serious bester and crossings to get to the bridge. And as he was having chills, I tell the story because such an emotional impact. But I just think of this guy. And so he was stopped at a light waiting for the traffic light to change. He looked at the car next to him. There was a woman, an elderly woman with long grey hair in the car, also stopped at the light. As he looked at her, she happened to look at him. And she smiled, she smiled at him. Suddenly he realised life was worth living. He turned around went back to stop with suicide. You have no idea of the effect you're having on other people. We're reducing emotional contagion and other people all the time. It might be your smile that stops somebody from doing something harmful, or gives them a sense of hope about their lives. So, we support each other, we love each other. And after a while you just live in this world where there is so much love, your sensitised love. You attract loving people into your life, you attract time people into your life, compassionate people. And so now suddenly, you're in this environment that is beautiful.
Are you struggling to deal with people who are homicidal and suicidal and nasty and mean and angry and stressed? Absolutely. And when I drive down the road, sometimes they'll be, maybe a young man and a pickup truck. And he'll be weaving in and out of traffic. They'll be angry. It'll be having episodes of road rage, and maybe have a finger. And that used to really trigger me. And now I say, ‘That guy is probably having a terrible day. He probably does not have a very good life. And I need to just love it.’ So I will just drive in my car in the slow lane. I shower him with love. Now, is that affecting him? Who knows? Is it bringing my cortisols down? Oh, yeah, absolutely. My cortisol is going down. I am now a better driver. I am now making waves to the people around me. So, we are agents of emotional contagion. I urge people in my books, go out and be an agent of conscious, positive emotional contagion with every thought you have, every word you say, you have no idea who might be affecting, and you will certainly be lowering your cortisol. But the other cool thing is, in one study I did recently, we show that when you lower your cortisol, this is people tapping and meditating for a week, they were doing this and they lower the cortisol. The cortisol went down by a huge amount, 37% drop in stat and baseline cortisol in only one week. Their immunoglobulins, which are these molecules are antibodies that attack coronaviruses, emitted lobules globulin is a y-shaped molecule that attach to the spike protein on the coronavirus and neutralise it. Those molecules in those people's mucous membranes went up 113%, more than double, in one week of tapping and meditation intensity in the retreat center.
So we now know that, am I affecting the young man? I have no idea. Am I driving my own cortisol down and my own immunoglobulins up? Absolutely. I'm much healthier and I'm able to exert that influence on the world around me. So it is powerful to practice these things and be the agent of positive emotional contagion.