A recent hypothesis put forward by Dr. Chris Lowry, who is a neuroscientist in Bristol University, suggests that a strain of harmless bacteria (Mycobacterium vaccae) in the soil may trigger the release of serotonin which regulates our feelings of well-being. To inhale this naturally occurring antidepressant while repotting herbs in the balcony, weeding out dandelions in the garden, raking leaves in the backyard and hiking in the woods is an exciting idea, and makes more sense than popping Prozac in the mouth.
At the same time, the theory sadly reveals the degree to which we have alienated from our roots and the rest of the creation. When a scientist speculates that it might make kids more joyful and smarter if we introduced outdoor facilities in school environments where they would be exposed to nonpathogenic organisms, I can’t help but being sarcastic. Really? Any cute little piglet could teach us a lesson about the comfort of playing in dirt. Happy as a pig, they say.
Unhappiness is a serious problem in our society and it would be inappropriate to write about it maliciously – especially today, while the headlines talk about the suicide of a loved entertainer who professionally mastered comedy, but privately battled with alcohol and drug abuse, and depression. Tragically, such a conflict of character and position is more common than we dare to think, and reminds us that happiness is not a situation but an experience.
Our mind incessantly chases after pleasure and attempts to eradicate discomfort through the senses, but the soul – the real self who animates the body, and as whom we remain even after the body ceases to be – is of different energy and, thus, unimpressed by any amount of material perfection. Just like a fish cannot thrive out of water, whether it lies in a crystal bowl or on a bed of sand, the self cannot access transcendental bliss – which is the natural state of the soul – until we start developing our consciousness.
Having spent a good part of the summer in the garden, I agree that being in contact with earth and other natural elements contributes to a peace of mind – and there may even be a connection between the scent of compost and our serotonin levels – but as a spiritual person, I refuse to reduce my capacity for fulfillment to a mere biochemical reaction. Isn’t that exactly what so many have unsuccessfully tried to do by using marijuana, amphetamines, and psychedelics?
We want an easy way out from suffering but are reluctant to accept any alternative that requires adjusting our perception, values or way of living – even when it is free and available for everyone. It would be interesting to know how many of us would rather puff, inject or swallow Mycobacterium vaccae in a laboratory than, on a regular basis, pull down the socks, step aside from the paved streets and wander beyond the blocks of concrete where our children could climb trees and explore what is under a rock.
Perhaps we fear the nature – inside and outside of us – because it unveils of what a great biological, psychological, spiritual and devotional symbiosis we are a part of. We have worked so hard to disconnect and unlearn who we really are!
Gardening is great because it displays all aspects and stages of life within a short season and one has to be really stubborn not to sympathize with the relationships and events involved. Watching a seed grow into a sprout and mature plant that gifts a vegetable or fruit is bonding and rewarding.
It’s not even the harvest that makes horticulture purposeful but the sense of belonging it offers. Getting to know our extended family, in which various kinds of winds, raindrops, sunrays, mineral particles and organic matter share their special talents and wisdom is fun; it may not directly make us self-realized but it helps us to act thoughtfully, considerately, caringly and compassionately. Then, when we carry a basketful of spinach, carrots and herbs to home and cook them for the pleasure of those we love and want to interact affectionately with, we are a step closer to lasting happiness. There will never be a vaccination - Mycobacterium vaccae or anything else – that will supersede a balanced lifestyle and conscious endeavor to evolve as a spirit soul!
Since June we have eaten mainly what our garden has produced: radishes, lettuce, kohlrabi, turnips, spinach, chard, kale, beetroots, carrots, zucchini, beans, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes and herbs. A few days ago I dug up some of the potatoes. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, winter squash, peppers and chili are still developing. These colorful fellows are a real boon! They are so pure and tasty that I don’t want to complicate them with anything else but olive oil and simple spices.
Unfortunately I have lost the paper on which I had scribbled the recipe while making the chard rolls last week. I will give the ingredients here and you will have to figure out the rest if you want to make them. Take the concept and perfect it according to your taste!