In honor of Earth Day, reflections by Chopra Center co-founder, Dr. David Simon . . .
The ancient Vedic sages declare, “I am not in the world; the world is in me.” From the perspective of universal awareness, everything is consciousness―everything is Spirit―in disguise. Our inner world of memories, desires, fantasies, and feelings expresses the subjective face of consciousness. Our outer world of form and phenomena expresses the objective projection of consciousness. According to the 5,000-year-old healing system of Ayurveda, the environment is an extension of our physical bodies. When I first heard this, I thought it was an interesting metaphor, but the more I explored the idea, the more I realized it was true.
There is no “there” out there. The ecology is us in a less localized state. Our personal bodies and the environment are in a constant, dynamic exchange. We transform the energy and information of food, water, and air into the energy and information of our bodies, while simultaneously returning molecular bits and pieces of our bodies back to the environment. With every breath we exchange approximately 10 billion trillion atoms with the universe. Even more amazing, we claim ownership in our body of a quadrillion atoms that have been in someone else’s body within the past few weeks.
Perhaps most mind-boggling of all is the math that shows that at any given moment, each of us has at least a million atoms in our body that were once in the body of every person who has ever lived, from Moses to Lady Gaga, from Marcel Proust to Newt Gingrich. Our skin, the largest organ in our body, is completely shed and regenerated within about one month. The lining of our stomach is replaced every week, and our liver is swapped out about nine times a year. While you may identify closely with your body, the truth is that the molecules that compose it are only on temporary loan to you from the environmental library.
If society collectively recognized this inherent inextricability, we would dramatically change the way we treat Spaceship Earth, as the great visionary and engineer Buckminster Fuller called it. Most of us wouldn’t allow sewage in their living room or throw out garbage in our backyard, yet the toxicity we deposit in our environment is every bit as irrational and destructive. As evolving beings it’s in our highest interest to treat the planet and its living inhabitants with reverence and responsibility. We can put our attention on living in balance with our ecosystem, making choices that reflect the intimate relationship between our individuality and our universality. We can minimize our exploitation of the environment whenever possible.
I asked my young children to elaborate the things they could do that would reflect their love and caring for Mother Earth. In honor of Earth Day, here’s a partial list of what they came up with:
1) Turn off the lights when they leave the room.
2) Take shorter showers.
3) Eat organic foods whenever possible.
4) Don’t leave the refrigerator door open.
5) Recycle bags, cans, and bottles.
6) Use less bottled water.
7) Be nice to bugs, plants, and animals.
8) Pick up trash when they see it.
9) Buy fewer plastic toys that have lot of packaging.
10) Drive a hybrid or fuel-efficient car.
We can learn from our kids, who tend to personify everything around them―their dolls, caterpillars, flowers, and so on. From the innocence of children to the awakening of yogis, taking the world personally spontaneously leads to treating it with compassion. As Daniel Quinn told us in The Story of B, we don’t need to save our souls―our souls are already whole.
If we care about humanity, we do need to save our planet. It starts with the choices we make today.
David Simon, M.D. is the co-founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing in Carlsbad, California. The Center offers programs and retreats focusing on mind-body health, Ayurveda, meditation, yoga, and other practices for physical health, emotional wellbeing, and spiritual awakening. For more information, visit www.chopra.com or call (888) 736-6895.