If there is one thing that is true about me, it’s that I’m a life-time learner. I love learning more than almost anything else, and I get really excited about opportunities to be a student. While I’m learning, I feel like everything else in the world is okay and, for me, it’s like there is never any sense of being lonely or disconnected.
Indeed, I was a double major in college (Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology and Anthropology…that could almost be 4 majors lol), a double minor (French and Finearts) and later went on to receive my master’s in Marine Mammal Ecotoxicology. One of the things I loved most about my majors, and even minors, is that there were so many surprising connections I would learn between different topics and areas that were so seemingly unrelated. It was like finding treasure when I heard a professor lecturing about a concept in my Cultural Anthropology class that was also just previously discussed during my Cognitive Neuroscience class — Every time it ASTOUNDED me that these extraordinary connections existed.
So when I graduated with my my collection of degrees, while it was certainly a happy accomplishment, I was also devastated at the same time. At the time, I thought it meant that the treasure trove of connections were forever behind me. No more learning. No more interesting and novel philosophies and concepts to be absorbed. And worst of all–I felt alone.
It wasn’t long before I realized that there would–and could– be more learning. Of course I would continue to find ways to make interesting and novel connections across seemingly unrelated areas. First, because it’s simply my nature. Second, because we attract that which we manifest.
So, into my life came podcasts. Those of you who also enjoy learning, or crave a bit of mental stimulation, I HIGHLY recommend downloading the “podcast” app to your phone RIGHT NOW. And then do a search on topics and people. When my friends come to me needing advice and support, do you know where I tell them to go first? Yes. Podcasts.
So I was listening to the TED Radio Hour on NPR the other day and had another one of those golden moments of unexpected connection and knew I could not delay in sharing it with you all. I know you will be just as excited as I was. Especially since it really gets to the root of why so many of us love and stick with our yoga practice and meditation work.
In the deserts of Arizona lives a facility which simulates and tests a model of a habitat which is fully enclosed and fully self-sufficient. A Biosphere. For two years, a group of scientists LIVED there; growing their own food, recycling their own waste, breathing only the air that was found in this fully enclosed space. They had their own miniature rainforests and a private beach with a coral reef. They had a savanna, a marsh, a desert. They had their own half-acre farm upon which they had to grow everything. I’ll let you check out the talk if you want to learn more about it on your own, but let me tell you now why I bring this up.
One of the things said in the talk struck a chord so deeply in that same familiar resonate way that I used to feel in college when I heard something in one unrelated class be said, perhaps in very different words but with the same meaning, in another class. The scientist discussing the experience, Jane Poynter said this:
The most profound experience I had in the biosphere was the experience of not only being completely dependent on my biosphere, but being absolutely a part of my biosphere in a very literal way. I mean, as I walked through the biosphere, I was incredibly conscious of the fact that the plants surrounding me were providing me with the oxygen that I needed to breathe, and that I was providing them some of the CO2 they needed to grow.
When I breathed out, my CO2 fed the sweet potatoes that I was growing. And we ate an awful lot of sweet potatoes. And those sweet potatoes became part of me. In fact, we ate so many sweet potatoes I became orange with sweet potato. I literally was eating the same carbon over and over again. I was eating myself in some strange sort of bizarre way.
And then, a little later, in the context of broader learnings for all of us, she said:
And if you lose where you are in your biosphere or are perhaps having a difficulty connecting with where you are in the biosphere, I would say to you, take a deep breath. The yogis had it right – breath does, in fact, connect us all in a very literal way. Take a breath now and as you breathe, think about what is in your breath. There, perhaps, is the CO2 from the person sitting next door to you. Maybe there’s a little bit of oxygen from some algae on the beach not far from here. It also connects us in time. There may be some carbon in your breath from the dinosaurs. There could also be carbon that you are exhaling now that will be in the breath of your great-great-great-grandchildren.
CONNECTION. If you ever feel alone (and I know some of you do because I hear this a lot), Take. A. Breath. And reconnect with this perspective. Remember your part, your role in the world. Literally. Ecologically. Physiologically. You are so important, your existence, everything about you. Take a step back. And remember that.
I hope this message gave you the “aha” moment that I experienced. How cool is it that these scientists, interested primarily in the pragmatic applications of creating a biosphere to bring to Mars, ultimately had epiphanies shared by yogis worldwide?
I would love to know your feedback and find out what you think about this story. What connections did you make?
Much love and Namasté!