The Spirituality of MindfulBiology

Biology has always been central to my maturation as a human being. It helped me survive a harrowing childhood; it diverted me from delinquency; it gave me a focus in young adulthood; it led me away from addiction; and it provided me with an income that has kept me comfortable despite disability, granting me the space to focus on meditative growth.

Most of those benefits are personal, but this website aims to show that a contemplative approach to biology can offer some of the benefits that traditional wisdom paths have long delivered: feelings of connectedness, meaning, and love. From those flow ethical behaviors to sustain our communities and our exosphere.

I do not strive to create a new belief system. I only hope to show that a belief system already widely accepted—the facts of life science—can be framed in a way that offers many of the benefits of ancient traditions.

Biology is simply the study of life, and humans have always been keen observers of the living world. For instance hunter-gatherers need to understand game and local plant species, upon which their lives depended. Their understanding of how the world worked led them to respect—indeed, worship—their living companions on this earth. In the modern world we know from the formal study of ecology that our lives depend critically on the health of the environment. The sort of respect advocated by MindfulBiology (and by numerous environmentalists) reconnects us with humanity’s aboriginal worship of nature.

We now know much more than our ancestors about how life works. We can describe it from molecular, genetic, metabolic, cellular, physiologic, anatomic, ecologic, and paleontologic perspectives. It’s a breathtaking body of work. But somewhere along the line, the deep connection people once felt with life got lost.

Why was that? There are many factors: urbanization, industrial food production, and quasi-hermetic dwellings. Most of us only interact with nature in passing, when walking through a park or driving through a forest. We have adopted the attitude insects, spiders, and small rodents are pests we must destroy. Other animals will naturally be attracted to our warm houses and full pantries, but rather than figuring out ways to coexist, we simply kill.

The result of these and many other behaviors is that we are isolated from the ecology upon which we depend. At best, we form loving bonds with domesticated animals and do our best to limit consumption and waste. At worst, we harbor the delusion that technology can substitute for a balanced relationship with nature.

A contemplative attitude toward biology can help. It reminds us that life surrounds us and even lives within us. After all, we depend on plants to synthesize food from sunlight; we depend on gut bacteria to help us digest food and tune our immune systems; we depend on birds to control ‘pests,’ and we rely on insects, spiders, and other small animals to pollinate crops, decompose waste, and build healthy soil.

It makes little sense to destroy that which makes our lives possible, whether on a large scale by disrupting global climate or on a small one by taking antibiotics unnecessarily. This is true, I believe, not only because of self-interest, but also because we are in relationship with a living world. Wise and loving people tend their relationships. They act supportively and compassionately; they don’t mindlessly neglect and abused those they love. By analogy, we owe the earth and all its lifeforms the same respect and concern.

MindfulBiology connects the human consciousness with the human body, and it connects the human body with the earth that gave us birth. Through these connections, we find renewed awe and respect for the biology that supports us. Whether that biology is local to our own physical form or distributed across the globe is immaterial; it is all the same living process. As we recognize how much Life gives us (not just food, not just shelter, but the human experience itself) we begin to feel love and gratitude for our bodies and—by extension—the living world.

Awe, respect, love, and gratitude. These qualities are similar to the benefits of traditional spiritual practices.