Do you remember the blue celery experiment from fourth grade science class? The teacher put blue dye in a glass of water, and then inserted a celery stalk. In a matter of a day or two the celery turned blue much to our amazement and delight.
The blue celery experiment came to mind recently when discussing our physical bodies. Where does the body end? Is it at the boundaries of our skin? Or is there such a thing as an “extended body,” encompassing the environment that surrounds us as well? Like the celery—what surrounds us, becomes us.
Take the air we breathe. Once inhaled it begins to circulate throughout our body much like the water in the celery, and just like the celery stalk, we take it all in, whether it contains blue dye, pollutants or particulate matter. There is no Brita filter to strain the air and separate the good from the bad. Once breathed in, it becomes an integral part of our being whether it’s hanging out on the hair follicles in our nostrils, clogging up the lungs or being transported through the blood system.
Air isn’t the only thing we absorb—there’s food, too. We become what we eat. Remember the television commercial with the individuals walking around with honey buns glued to their posterior, and a doughnut encircling their waist? It’s not just the fat and sugar we metabolize; it’s the pesticides, the growth hormones, the chemical preservatives.
Then consider sight. Our eyes observe an image, and our bodies process it. A pleasing sight, like a beautiful sunset or a rainbow, makes us happy, peaceful and content, while a repulsive image can literally sicken us to the point of rendering a physical, gut response.
Odors, scents and fragrances whether pleasant or offensive, elicit a response, too. It’s true for sound, also. If we hear the gentle chatter of birds, wind brushing against
trees, or soothing music, our bodies resonate with calmness and serenity. You can’t say the same after a steady barrage of car motors, leaf blowers, jackhammers, or the radio blasting from the car beside you. Do you really think you’re immune to a constant diet of televised violence and foul language? Like a sponge we soak up the discordant vibrations sending shock waves pulsing through our bodies.
It operates on a subtle level, too. Ever walked into a room where emotions are strained and tension is high? Remain in the room for any amount of time and you begin to feel the same tension creeping into your own body. If you can sense it, you process it. It’s sort of like second hand smoke—you suffer the consequences even if you don’t smoke yourself.
While this may not have been the intent of the blue celery lesson, it is a vivid depiction of how our environment impacts us. Our bodies don’t stop at our skin. What we immerse ourselves in, is us. So if you’re unhappy with the world you live in, maybe you need to take a moment to review what you’ve surrounded yourself with, because, unlike the celery stalk, you do have a choice. You can choose to color the water any shade you want—so choose mindfully.