Meditate on your DNA – Predispositions & Epigenetics.

Meditate on your DNA – Predispositions & Epigenetics.

– Composed by Rebecca Bourhill and Glenn Nangaku Leisching


Is it Nature or Nurture, or both? What is the interplay between your future of pure-potential, and the fixed limitations encoded in your memories and DNA? In this blog we explore recent research into how your genes respond to their environment. Research suggests your genes can be influenced to express themselves optimally, or not at all. Healthy behaviours (such as meditation) can slow, even stop, the ticking time-bomb of a potentially life-threatening genetic inheritance from your ancestors.

Defining predispositions and epigenetics?

Throughout the article, the term predisposition describes an individual’s increased risk of getting a condition based on their genetic makeup that has been inherited from their parents and their ancestral lineage.

These conditions range from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, – the list goes on.

Epigenetics refers to how your behaviour and environmental factors sets the scene, consequently affecting the way your genes express themselves. Epigenetics, broadly speaking controls gene activity without changing the DNA itself.

‘Epi-’ Greek for above. The term ‘epigenetic’ are factors that are ‘above’ or beyond the genetic code – external factors. Epigenetics is the study of how influences or modifications directed at your DNA regulate whether a gene is activated or not. These changes, in the form of chemicals, attach to the DNA genome, creating a ‘tag’. This tag – called the epigenome – does not change your genetic sequence itself. Rather, the epigenome affects the expression of your genes.

The good news is therefore, that because epigenomes (and their affect on gene expression) are influenced by lifestyle factors, chemical exposure and medication – all of which are controllable. Therefore, you can have a profound affect of your genetic expression!

The ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ in your genetic field

Let’s use the metaphor of yourself as a computer consisting of hardware and software. Your genome – what makes you, you – would be considered ‘hardware’…the unchangeable, inherited, part of yourself – your predispositions for different conditions and physical characteristics.

Now, what is exciting is that you have the ability to turn these gene predispositions ‘on’ or ‘off’ using lifestyle choices, or in keeping with the computer metaphor, ‘installing’ the correct, useful ‘software’ or ‘programs’ to create a positive outlook and keep harmful genes dormant.

Not only can you nurture or cultivate positive ancestral predispositions, you have the ability to dial the volume down on all the negative potential in your inherited nature.

The opposite is also true. Installing harmful ‘software’ will increase your chances of triggering genes that are potentially dangerous or life-threatening. Studies are showing that epigenetic changes (that are altered by lifestyle factors) can be passed on from generation to generation.

This essentially means the buck can stop with you! The changes you make today will influence the health of future generations.

Nature & Nurture: Influencing the outcome of predispositions

Identical twins, for example, inherit the same DNA, however, they can turn out to be vastly different from one another. At the age of say 55 one can get heart disease while the other can be running marathons in perfect health. Part of the answer to this lies in the way they have nurtured their genetic make-up by turning certain genes on or off.

Nature would be the genes the twins inherited – what has been passed down to them from previous generations. Nurturing is how one feeds or starves these genes. In one’s external world, pollutants, chemical exposure, diet and personal lifestyle choices encourage positive changes and impact on the epigenome. Your holistic choices in the form of dietary changes, increased exercise, stress reduction through meditation, and habitual changes, big or small, can determine which path your health takes.

A relatable example of smoking can be used to illustrate. If you have a predisposition for cancer you turn the cancer gene ‘on’ by feeding the fire. However, stopping the habit of cigarette use can immediately start reversing the damage caused. A similar model can be applied to sugar addiction with those who have a predisposition for obesity or diabetes.

Meditation: Between stimulus and response there is an opportunity!

Meditation can have a significant influence on your epigenetics.

The practice of Zen meditation for example, creates a moment of consciousness and space between whatever the stimulation may be and your habitual response. In the smoking example: the stimulus or trigger could be stress at work or a negative emotional experience. Often a smoker’s immediate response to the trigger or stress is to have a cigarette. The practice of Zen meditation develops mindfulness – awareness of unconscious, patterned behaviour. This awareness has the power to momentarily interrupt the stimulus-response cycle and affords youf the opportunity to choose a healthier, more empowered and self-aware response to the stress or what triggers you.


A daily morning practice of meditation sets the scene for the rest of your day and exercises your mindfulness muscles. In a highly charged situation taking a ‘mindful-minute’ helps you become present and aware of the trigger (stimulus) before immediately responding. Mindfulness can take the form of grounding yourself either through following the breath in and out and feeling the sensations in the body of your breath, or feeling your feet on the ground.

Beside the many other benefits of meditation and mindfulness, their practice gives you an opportunity to reprogram your software to make unscious behaviour more conscious thereby allowing time to consider whether your habitual response is helpful or harmful. Meditation supports these little pauses and provides the necessary space that help enhance positive behaviour or break negative programming which have a significant influence on the expression of your genes.


Nerlich, B. 2018. Epigenetics: Grappling with definitions.

Epigenetics: Grappling with definitions

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2022. What are Epigenetics?

Guerrrero-Bosagna, C. 2017. TED-ed. What is Epigenetics?. YouTube.