our adaptive nature
The beach in Autumn. Icy cold. Thick jackets, shawls, mittens, warm boots and headgear. Clothes that barely allow you to move. But, as my parents said: “The beach is most beautiful in Autumn. With a stronger wind, bigger waves and less people”.
And so we went. My parents, my brother and me in my immovable clothes.
As we arrived my brother and me would run (insofar running was possible in my outfit) to the shore. My brother is 5 years older than me and me, being the little sister, always looked up to him as some kind of God. He just always seemed to know, well, everything. He could write better, draw more beautifully, sing lyrics accurately. He could play the piano and stay up late. He had a best friend who I was determined to marry after I’d grown up. So basically, everything my brother said to me, I took as gospel.
That day on the beach, an easterly wind was blowing and it had washed jellyfish ashore. So many of them. Me, eager to save as many as I could, rushed from jellyfish to jellyfish. Picking the gelatinized fish up and throwing it back into the ocean with all my might. I saw my brother do the same thing except, before he threw the fish back into the ocean, he tore it apart. He then looked at me and said: “You didn’t know? If you take a jellyfish, tear it in two, you have two jellyfish. The more pieces you tear it into, the more jellyfish you get”.
I instantly felt stupid that I didn’t think of that myself. It sounded so obvious and true.
The events that happened after, well, I’m sure you can guess them.
Dear jellyfish, I am so sorry.
This idea of tearing an organism apart and then assuming that somehow the torn tissue will adapt itself in such a way that you end up with two beings made out of one is quite alien. Apart from the famous flatworm that can be cut into twenty pieces creating twenty living flatworms from one, I don’t know any examples. There are of course animals, like the lizard for example, that can let go of its tail when in danger. Live on after that and sometimes even grow a fresh tail.
We, humans, are not like flatworms, or lizards. But, we are able to adjust ourselves readily to different conditions. Our bodies do the best they can in order to keep our system running in its most effective way wherever we are, however we feel, and whatever our physical state is until the day we die.
There are several actions serving us to regulate our internal environment. This is what we call our homeostasis. The maintenance of stable internal physiological conditions under fluctuating terms. Homeostasis is what reminds me of Patanjali’s definition of Yoga: Yoga Chitta Vrtti Nirodha; yoga stills the fluctuations of the mind. Whereas homeostasis stabilizes internal physiological conditions under unsteady terms, yoga stills the oscillating mind.
So we could say that yoga is the homeostasis of the mind. Although, we can’t really divide body and mind of course. We are one entity.
The physiological homeostasis includes regulating our temperature, governing the gain and loss of fluids, managing the amounts of acids, bases and calcium in our blood, conducting the amount of glucose present in our bloodstream, taking care of our blood pressure and ensuring that our body is getting much needed oxygen through breathing.
Let’s take a look at some of our senses. The eye will adapt when coming from a very light situation into a darker one (positive adaptation). If we find ourselves in a stinky setting, after a while, we won’t smell the bad stuff anymore (negative adaptation).
Muscles re-adjust over time to imposed stresses. They become stronger. This also goes for our bones. As stated by Julias Wolff in Wolff’s law: Bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed. If loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel itself over time to become stronger to resisting that sort of loading.
An essential character of our fascial system is it’s great adaptability. Being both strong and flexible, our fascial structure adapts to our postural changes and dynamics. This threadlike, rich in collagen connective tissue can model us into new shapes we might take on.
There are great inspiring story’s about disabled people who readjust themselves in such a way that they can do incredible things with their bodies. For example Vinod Thakur, a breakdancer who misses both legs. Baxter Humby, a.k.a “The One Armed Bandit”, the kick boxer from Canada. Beautiful soul surfer Bethany Hamilton, and running on faith athlete Jason Lester.
When merely looking at our tissue and our physiological functions, we see that adapting is living. Adapting is surviving. Our ability to adapt to new situations is what makes us strong. When we look at our mental and emotional body, we find a different story.
It can be hard for us to open up to new circumstances, new opinions. We can become quite defiant to changing our ideas about something. Adapting is not about giving in. It is about adjusting oneself to altered conditions. Adapting is the opposite of becoming stuck. It’s unsticking in it’s purest form.
We are not fixed things. Immovable, solid, anchored entities. We know we are not. I sometimes can feel so alienated when I read stuff that I once wrote, old habits that died so hard, think about certain people I used to hang out with, consider jobs I’ve had in the past, fashion I used to wear (OMG), former beliefs about myself, city’s I’ve previously lived in, ideas I had about the future or ex love relations. Circumstances always change. We always grow accustom to new circumstances.
So whenever we find ourselves worrying about future changes, those haunting thoughts that can alienate you from this moment, we should try to see if we can find some faith. Trust in our ability to adapt to these future changes that might arise. Adapting is our nature.