Mindfulness Matters

Mindfulness Matters


Biology Casts Its Vote For Impermanence

posted by exquisitemind

First, mapping the human genome, now creating synthetic life. These are some of the accomplishments of Craig Venter, founder and president of the J. Craig Venter Institute a nonprofit genomics research institute. He was interviewed on the NPR program, On Point. His team was able to create sequences of DNA from four bottles of chemicals according to instructions provided by a computer. This chromosome was then injected into a microplasma micoides cell and was integrated into its replicating process such that after millions of generations it fully integreated the new genetic instructions. Venters calls it a “self-replicating cell that’s parent is a computer.” This is not artificial life or life from scratch, but life modified by changes in DNA. Venter says strikingly in a statement that might have been uttered by the Buddha if he had a Ph.D. in biology, “We change second to second in our cells and we are software driven machines, and the software is DNA.”
This is a good definition of impermanence — we are always changing at the cellular level and as Venter’s research demonstrates, quite changeable. We know that most of the cells of our body die and are replaced every seven years and we also know that the atoms in our bodies change over about once a year — EVERY atom! Now, too we know, moment-by-moment our cells are changing. We are not snapshots, still life’s capturing something fixed in place. We are motion and change, fluid and malleable. We are more video than snap shot, more action painting than still life.
What are the implications of this? In any given moment, I can ask myself the question, “What am I trying to protect here, and why?”  Instead of protection, can we move with the changing nature of things. After all, our cells are changing moment-by-moment and so is everything else. We can celebrate this change, or at least take a keen interest in its undulations and vicissitudes. Or we can try to keep these changing tides fixed. I’m in a good mood right now, my energy bright, my body relaxed. The part of my mind that doesn’t want to understand impermanence thinks this is the way it should be, what I’m entitled too. But, of course, reality doesn’t really care about what I think things should be like or what I think I should be entitled to, it just does its thing of change. So a few moments later I feel a twinge of tension in my neck shooting down to my hip. The frame of this moment looks and feels different from the last. I can complain about this. I can bemoan my fate and put energy into trying to recapture that previous moment. This winds up getting rather tedious after a while. So, rather than putting energy into trying to keep things the same, I’ll reflect on the dynamic, changing nature of my cells, imagine them dancing their dance of life.



Previous Posts

Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion
My dharma friend and mindfulness colleague, Elisha Goldstein has a fascinating new book out. It describes the ways that we can harness our own healing power to create natural antidepressants. These five include mindfulness, of course, self-compassion, living in accordance with purpose, play, and a s

posted 12:42:14pm Jan. 18, 2015 | read full post »

Find Your GPS for Success
GPS has become part of our lives. We find it in our cars, our phones, and even in watches (I got one as a gift over the holidays). In any moment, we can know where we are and also communicate that information to others. GPS can be helpful for getting to a destination and lends itself as a metaphor f

posted 11:02:53am Jan. 06, 2015 | read full post »

Getting Past the Tyranny of Should: A Timely Message for the Holiday Season
There are many things we "should" be doing around the holidays. We should be happy, merry, and jolly. We should be with family. We should be the consummate hosts. In the course of the day, we might impose expectations, rules, and agendas on ourselves tirelessly. This is the tyranny of should.

posted 10:36:45am Dec. 21, 2014 | read full post »

Finding the Fall Line: The Technique of Practice
As I was meditating this morning, I came up with a new practice metaphor. There were times when I was clearly in the flow of my body, very attuned the myriad body sensations and there were other moments where I was somewhere else or trying to manage some aspect of the moment, almost as if I was tryi

posted 10:13:53am Dec. 09, 2014 | read full post »

Prime Time, All the Time
An add for television streaming service Hulu states, "Every minute of every day should be considered prime time." This clever quip has a double meaning. On the one hand, it reflects the tyrannical notion that every experience that we have should be exciting, entertaining, and novel. On the other han

posted 9:31:08am Dec. 08, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.