Lessons From My Octopus Teacher

I didn’t know what to expect when I decided to watch My Octopus Teacher, a documentary on Netflix about a filmmaker and free diver whose life is changed by meeting an octopus, but it had me hooked from the beginning. I was skeptical about what I could learn from an octopus, which in itself has led to a lot of reflection. How often does your pre-existing knowledge, or lack thereof, prevent you from entering a relationship with some part of our world? I didn’t realize I was already learning one of the main lessons of the film before even diving in.

My Octopus Teacher is a beautiful story of vulnerability and self-discovery. It is a love story. It demonstrates embracing and adapting to a place, surrendering any control you thought you had when you entered and seeing the beauty and gifts you receive, and the pain you can hold, when you are open.

Foster getting a hug from the octopus, via IMDB.

In Western Cape, South Africa, from the time he was a child living on the edge of the “Cape of Storms,” Craig Foster has surrendered to the power of the Atlantic – admiring the shallow pools, the kelp forest, and the enormous crashing waves. Foster was burnt out and desperately needed something in his life to change. He started by freediving in the cold waters of False Bay. In one of the scariest places to swim on the planet, Foster began a journey to enter the natural world without barriers. He craved to belong to it, and besides giving us an exclusive view into his beautiful bond with a common octopus he meets in the wild kelp forest, Foster shares some of the things he learned on his journey to synchronize with this living ecosystem just outside his doorstep.

Foster opens the documentary saying:

“A lot of people say that an octopus is like an alien, but the strange thing is, as you get closer to them you realize that we are very similar in a lot of ways.” 

After reading that quote how many words could you replace with octopus? 

Foster and the octopus, via: IMDB.

Craig Foster entered the Great African Sea Forest tired and lost and emerged curious, engaged, and rejuvenated. He found connection and meaning because the octopus reminded him of his relation to even the most wild places on this planet. As Foster recounts: “What she taught me is to feel that you are part of this place. Not a visitor. And that’s a huge difference.” Isn’t this story just amazing?! How much good would it do this living planet if we truly felt that we are an inseparable part of it all?

“What she taught me is to feel that you are part of this place. Not a visitor. And that’s a huge difference.”

Craig Foster

You might not have the Great African Sea Forest on your front doorstep, but you have a sidewalk, some trees, a park, or a pond where you can show up everyday to connect with the environment around you. Who do you think will be your teacher? I hope you stay open to the wonder of all the possibilities. After all, whatever change we’re yearning for is only going to come about through relationships…at least I think that’s what the octopus was trying to teach me.

Foster following his teacher, photo via Sea Change Project.

Thanks for being here.

Now go watch some Netflix (or get outside)!

By: Madison Cooper

Check out Sea Change Project (co-founded by Craig Foster) to learn more about the documentary and other storytelling projects from a community of scientists, storytellers, journalists, and filmmakers passionate about helping us engage meaningfully with nature.

  1. My Octopus Teacher – Sea Change Project: https://seachangeproject.com/my-octopus-teacher/
  2. The Love Story We All Need Right Now: https://www.thecut.com/2020/09/my-octopus-teacher-on-netflix-is-the-love-story-we-need.html
  3. My Octopus Teacher – IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt12888462

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s