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Can you ace the ACE test? Why a high score might be bad news.

When I was 32 years old, I found out about ACE at one of my lowest moments.

I had been referred to the social worker at the UCSF Cancer Center to help me find charity options to help pay for my cancer treatment. We talked a bit about my current work and financial situations, as well as my health and family history.

After I gave her the lowdown she stopped, put down her pen, pursed her lips and asked, “Have you heard of the ACE study?” I nodded my head no. “ACE stands for adverse childhood experiences. They’ve found that people who score a 4 or above on the test are at an increased risk for cancer and other diseases. Let’s see how you score.”

I’m a 4 on the ACE scale. Not the worst score possible, but enough to statistically put me between 400 and 1200% higher risk for things like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, obesity, smoking, broken bones, depression, and COPD than people with ACE scores in the lower range.

So what’s the connection? From what the scientists have found, there are several different causes.

Early childhood trauma or neglect causes the brain to become wired differently and the “fight or flight” mechanism is left permanently in the “on” position. This causes the body to be constantly flooded with cortisol, and too much cortisol is no bueno for the body. It causes an inflammation response which is the underlying cause for everything from weight gain to fibromyalgia to cancer.

Another connection is epigenetics. We all know about DNA, but our DNA isn’t necessarily always “turned on” or translated into proteins.

Let’s look at an example from evolution. Since we all evolved from the same cells, you have genes in your DNA for all the body parts and functions of every species we’ve evolved from. For example, all land creatures evolved from fish. You have a fishy great great great great great great….great great grandpa somewhere in your evolutionary history. Fishy grandpa had DNA that coded for gills, which allowed him to breathe underwater. Since you’re not a fish, you don’t need gills, but you still have the gene for gills in your DNA. (In fact, at one point in your embryonic development, you had gills. But just for a hot minute.) Now that you’ve evolved into a land mammal, you don’t need gills. So, that DNA isn’t turned on in humans.

This is epigenetics – the ability to turn on or off certain strands of DNA. In people with high ACEs, certain genes that allow for certain diseases may be turned on as result of the adverse childhood experiences. Or certain ones that protect from diseases may be turned off. This is especially true if your mom or dad had substance addiction issues or were going through trauma when you were conceived and in utero.

Believe it or not, our genes can be affected even if mom or dad had trauma way before we were even conceived. More recent studies show epigenetic information is passed down just like genetic (DNA) information. Epigenetic information can encode not only for physical changes, but also for psychological characteristics like hopes and fears.

The last connection, and the one I’m most interested in, is belief systems. Belief systems can be passed down culturally, epigenetically, or in the case of many ACE households, by having a parent repeatedly and consistently tell you that you are not good enough, worthless, unloved, or unwanted. No matter how resilient you are, if you are 5 years old and are told you are not good enough or unlovable by the head honcho in your life, it ends up worming its way into your subconscious.

So, how does a belief system end up giving you cancer? There are two mechanisms by which this works.

The first is that our bodies are inextricably intertwined with our emotions and our belief systems. Emotions, belief systems, and self-concepts are not merely patterns of neurons firing (although that’s part of it) but they are also housed in our organs, connective tissue, and even our bones. If you have a belief system that you are weak and worthless, this can easily play out in your immune system and you can be one of those people who are constantly sick and unable to fight off even the smallest virus, which can lead to chronic infections with things like Epstein Barr, the main cause of fibromyalgia and Myalgic Encephalopathy (a.k.a. chronic fatigue).

If you believe that there is something fundamentally wrong with you and you are unlovable, your body may not attack the routine cancer cells that crop up daily in your system. Or it may fundamentally integrate that voice of your mother or father telling you that you’re not good enough, and your immune system may start attacking your own perfectly good body parts, causing an autoimmune disease, just to prove mom or dad was right.

The other mechanism is sort of like the evil twin version of “The Secret”. Many physicists now agree that consciousness and observation have a huge role in creating our reality. We can use this to create and manifest all sorts of crazy and amazing things, but the reverse is also true. We can also create disease and terrible circumstances. If it’s true that you can manifest abundance and joy in your life, you can also manifest lack, unhappiness, and disease. Manifestation isn’t just something that happens in the outside world, it’s and inside job, too. You can manifest a disease just like you can manifest getting fired.

For example, people who have had a spouse die have a 66% greater chance of dying within the first three months after their spouse’s death. Grief, loss, and the fear of being alone manifest incurable disease in their bodies.

Conversely, in a study of people who have gone into spontaneous remission from late stage cancer, the one factor that all the subjects had in common was a realization that they were connected to a larger consciousness. They had a realization that they were connected spiritually to everyone and everything and they had all the resources from that vast and all knowing consciousness to fight their disease. At some point soon after that, their cancer disappeared. The change in their consciousness manifested spontaneous healing.

In my work I’ve found that a two-pronged approach to belief systems has helped to heal many of my clients. First, I get to the root of the belief system. I find out family history and what type of adverse events they experienced and then I “tune in” and find the exact phrase or set of beliefs that their body has decided to act out through their illness or disease. Most of the time, we all want to just feel listened to, validated, and loved. Once we do that on a cellular level, the body feels like it can release the old belief system or programming. At that point we can replace it with another belief system that is better for the client’s health and highest good.

The second way is to reconnect or remind the client’s body of its spiritual nature and connection with the Source. We are all spiritual beings having a human experience. But despite our physical appearance, we’re all still connected to Source Energy (or God, or Universal Consciousness, or the Big Wow) and the deeper that connection, the less chance that these human fears and beliefs can resonate and set up shop in our physical bodies, causing imbalance or disease. Once I reconnect the direct line to Source, clients start to feel calmer, symptoms start to resolve and general well-being improves. It’s a beautiful thing to witness.

 

 

If you’re interested in finding your ACE score, here’s a link to the test:

http://www.theannainstitute.org/Finding%20Your%20ACE%20Score.pdf

 

 

 

 

The secret to being a better person and improving your relationships

I’m going to let you in on a secret for how to be a better person. It’s easy, fast and has been scientifically proven to improve your relationship with yourself and others.

It’s called Mettā meditation.

I first came across Mettā, or Loving Kindness, meditation years ago when I was first studying Buddhist meditation. The first time I practiced it, I was blown away by the effect it had on me. My whole physiology changed. It’s a simple meditation where you send heart energy outwards, but sometimes the simplest things are the best. It has greatly changed how I view myself, my friends and family ones, and even strangers. Simply put, it has made me a happier, better person.

Mettā meditation is a simple, guided meditation that has profound effects when done on a regular basis. According to an ancient Buddhist texts, the Pali Canon, if you do Mettā meditation regularly, it has some pretty awesome side effects:

One sleeps easily, wakes easily, dreams no evil dreams. One is dear to human beings, dear to non-human beings. The devas protect one. Neither fire, poison, nor weapons can touch one. One’s mind gains concentration quickly. One’s complexion is bright. One dies unconfused and – if penetrating no higher – is headed for the Brahma worlds.

Now, I can’t really attest to the fact that “neither fire, poison, or weapons” can touch me after practicing this type of meditation, but I can tell you that my capacity for being open hearted and loving with myself and others has increased more than I could have imagined.

It’s really not hard to do. Here are instructions for a simple Mettā meditation practice. (I’ve recorded a more in depth version of this meditation that you can access for free ***here***, if you’d prefer to listen along as I guide you.)

  • Sit or lie down somewhere where you wont be disturbed for about 15 minutes.
  • Close your eyes and feel your heart filling with love and compassion.
  • Imagine this love and compassion as a light building in your heart. Give the light a color.
  • Imagine someone you love dearly standing in front of you. Send them the light from your heart while you send them the prayer:

May you find happiness and the causes of happiness

May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering

  • Now imagine someone who is an acquaintance. You know there name and a little bit about them, but you don’t know much about the details of their life. Imagine them standing in front of you and send them the prayer:

May you find happiness and the causes of happiness

May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering

  • Next, imagine a stranger. It could be someone in your town or halfway around the world. Bring a detailed image of them to your mind and say:

May you find happiness and the causes of happiness

May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering

  • Finally, imagine someone who has hurt you or wronged you. That person also has had good days and bad, experienced love and loss, just like you. See if you can open your heart and tell them:

May you find happiness and the causes of happiness

May you be free from suffering and the causes of suffering

  • Now see your heart fill to capacity and beyond with love and the wish for all beings to be happy. Send this love from your heart to the world, see all the people on this planet striving to find happiness and avoid suffering. Send them your love.
  • Slowly open your eyes and notice how your heart is still filled with love and compassion.

This is a great meditation to do in the morning as it starts you out with such a good vibe for the day. There’s nothing better than going through your day shining your light on everyone you encounter and giving them the gift of love and compassion.

Xoxo

Megan

Three ways to turn off your inner critic

My inner critic likes to try to bring me down.

“What if you really suck at that? You should just give up now.”

“Do they really want to hang out with me? Maybe they’re just being nice.”

“I can’t even compete. Look at how amazing everyone else is. I’ll never succeed.”

Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera.

Sigh. Why does she talk to me like that?

We all have inner critics saying variations of the same things. So, what can we do? Here are three ways I’ve found to shut that voice down and feel better about myself.

1. Realize that EVERYONE has an inner critic.

Oprah? Has an inner critic. Tim Ferris? I’ve seen him talk about his inner critic! Jennifer Lawrence? Inner critic, I guarantee you. That person you feel you can’t compete with because they are so awesome? Super crazy inner critic.

Just like everybody poops, everybody has an inner critic. So, when you feel intimidated by someone or like you can’t compete, try to remember that they are struggling with the same thing you are. You are completely, wonderfully, perfectly normal for feeling like this. It’s part of the whole human experience shtick. You are an amazing, deserving, loving person just like everyone else, despite what your critic says.

2. That’s the hurt part of you talking. Ask why he or she is saying those things.

Sometimes I get into a loving dialogue with my inner critic. I know that that voice comes from a place that feels hurt, sad or less than. When I’ve asked my inner critic why she says these things, I’ve heard some interesting answers.

“I’m just trying to keep you from making a mistake and feeling disappointed.”

“If you truly believe that he loves you, you’ll have to give up the self concept that you’re unlovable.”

“If you don’t rock the boat, you’ll be less likely to alienate people.”

3. Understand that what the inner critic is saying is likely from an old tape loop that’s playing over and over, but isn’t relevant to who you are now.

You’ll notice that there are themes to what our inner critic says and the particular times he or she pops up to whisper nasties in our ears. If you look at that what and when you hear your inner critic, you’ll see some patterns.

Is it around work? When? Is it talking to bosses? Or when you want to share an idea? Is it around friends? Or in your romantic relationships? Look to see if you can spot the patterns.

Then ask yourself, “Is that true about me? Was it ever true about me?” Sometimes you’ll find that your inner critic has latched on to an old narrative. For example maybe you didn’t have many friends in high school. But now you do, so why is the critic still making you feel insecure around your friends? Or maybe you had a terrible relationship with your father and felt like you disappointed him, and now you feel that way about any boss or person in charge.

If you do find these patterns, here’s an exercise to help let them go.

Sit quietly and close your eyes. Imagine your inner critic sitting across from you. They may look like you or they may look entirely different. Ask them for a peace treaty. Tell them you want to come to an agreement about your highest good. Tell them that you want to find happiness and the causes of happiness and they are running a script of an old unhappiness that isn’t true anymore. (Note: at this point, they may rant and rave about how you don’t deserve happiness. That’s fine, that’s just what they do. If this happens, send them pure love and ask them once again to listen.) Show them what you know in your heart – that you are a kind, amazing, passionate person who is looking for success, happiness and human connection. Ask for their help in achieving this. Tell them it’s only sapping the energy you could be putting toward finding these things when you have to rehash old patterns or old hurts through their criticisms. Ask them if you can leave the past in the past, and live in the now. See them nod in agreement. It’s time to move on. Take a deep breath again, and open your eyes.

3 Steps to Fail Successfully

I hate that sinking feeling in my stomach when I realize I’ve messed up. Or when I put something out there in the world and all I get in response is crickets.

Feelings of doubt and worthlessness creep in. “Uh oh”, I think, “That’s not good.”

I failed. I tried, put in my best effort (or maybe not even my best, maybe I even half-assed it) and it flopped. I’ve let myself down, I’ve let others down.

This isn’t a good feeling.

So, how do you get past that? How do you learn to fail and not let it get you down?

1. Acknowledge that it was your best effort.

“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”  Maya Angelou

Many people miss he first part of this quote, I’ve seen it online as “When you know better, you do better” many times, but that’s actually missing the point. “I did then what I knew how to do…” That’s really saying that given the circumstances, your knowledge, your emotional state, your options at the time, you made the BEST effort you could given all of those contingencies. Notice that I didn’t say your best effort. Given the perfect circumstances, a lifetime of wisdom, and a feeling of complete calm and confidence, you could have undoubtedly rocked it. But this is real life. Perfection is an idea, not a reality and you are living in reality. So, don’t just look at the failure, look at what you were dealing with when you put in that effort and give yourself some slack. You were doing the best that you could do then. Now that you know better, you’ll do better.

2. Salvage the good parts and learn the lessons

A failure can make you feel like crap for a while, but you know there are some nuggets in there that worked and some that you can improve next time. Once you can forgive yourself and process your emotions around the failure, it’s time to take it apart and try to see which parts actually were successful (I promise that there are a least a few parts that were good!) and which parts need to be reworked. Forgive yourself AGAIN for doing the best you could in that moment. It’s okay that there were parts that worked and parts that didn’t. That’s how we learn, you try several times, keep what’s working, and revise the parts that didn’t work as well.

3. Be resilient

Lastly, and most importantly, try again. Studies have shown that the most consistent indicator of success is resilience, knowing how to try again after you made a mistake. Doing anything (especially something new) is a process, a learning experience. You’ll be less likely to make mistakes after many attempts, but that first few tries can be brutal. None of those people you’re comparing yourself to started out doing things as well as they do now. None. Of. Them. Most likely, you just aren’t aware of their first (and most likely crappy) attempts because of exactly that! They were crappy and unsuccessful. But I guarantee you that that’s where they started, just like you. So, yes! You are just like your mentors and biz crushes, because you start out doing now what you know how to do, and when you know better, you’ll do better.