Guts are not a frequent topic of conversation but they have been very much on my mind this week. There is an enormous variety of bacteria that thrive in our guts which are a major factor in our quality of life. There is a very convincing argument that our modern way of life can have a serious impact on the bacteria – the biome. The health implications are extraordinary.
Your brain is in your guts
Practitioners of qigong may have heard the euphemism of the guts being our second brain. I first came across this years ago in Embryonic Breathing by Dr Yang Jwing Ming. In The Spark in the Machine Dr Daniel Keown clearly refers to it, too. According to Dr Michael Mosley in The Clever Guts Diet, there are indeed brain cells lining the whole length of the gut. If put together, they would be larger than the brain of a cat. Gosh. These are linked to the cerebral brain and there is constant communication between these two centres.
Guts and zen
The subject of the biome and its influence is very complex. It is the subject of an enormous amount of research by some very great minds. But it strikes my quite simple mind that if microbial secretions in our guts can strongly influence our moods and desires, then our view of life – how we see ourselves and everyone/everything else – might also be significantly affected by little lives we cannot see. Another gosh – are bugs playing with our zen? And maybe not only bugs?
What we need to do
The popular media is full of alarmist headlines. Their sole motive is to make us take a look at the latest story. But as you read this, you are still breathing, as am I as I write it. We’re okay, then, in spite of all. What we really need to do is stop chasing information and clear the head. Allow ourselves to become a little still. Then we can gradually become more aware.
Zen and the art of not doing
If we feel the body as it is, it will often deliver up the information we need to put things right. The intuition is brilliant if we let it percolate through.
Sometimes we will know that a certain food is not good for us, for example. We may intuit that we need more, less or a different type of exercise. If we really listen, we will know when we need fresh air, a change of environment or no change at all.
None of this is a replacement for professional medical help, of course. Nevertheless, we can learn a great deal if we allow our awareness to settle and expand before reaching for a remedy or phoning a therapist.
This is part of the art of not doing. Discomfort and bugs need not interfere with a zen approach to life. Indeed, they, and our guts, can teach us a great deal.
A zen approach to life is explored in The Art of Not Doing