Who has not ever heard that we need to have a well-furnished mind?

I have never resonated with that metaphor. Which kind of furniture do people mean? Classic or the latest design? Borrowed, second-hand, or inherited furniture? Assemblable, removable or multipurpose furniture? Indoor or outdoor furniture?

Whichtever they are, furniture ends up occupying a static place. And, before we realise it, they will be full of dust, memoryless decorations, bills, to-do lists or useless objects.

Some people like to rearrange their furniture at home from time to time as a way of renovating the space to create a different environment. But in the end, they are still the same furniture occupying a place that perhaps it would be better to leave empty and enjoy some more room.

Perhaps, instead of having a well-furnished mind, we need a «Well gardened mind». That is the beautiful metaphor with which the psychiatrist and psychotherapist Sue Stuart-Smith has called her magnificent book. «Rediscovering Nature in the Modern World» is the subtitle with which the author seduced a good friend who gave me this book that instantly captivated me.

What an enjoyable book! I loved reading it! The author weaves and interconnects her personal story, her passion for gardening, and her professional experience by combining psychology, literature, history and the latest neuroscience research clearly and entertainingly.

Sue Stuart-Smith brings us the story of some of her patients. Many of them were affected by severe mental health issues or by a criminal background. The invisible wounds of an upbringing without security or attachment and the psychological trauma caused by war or abuse disconnected them from their humanity. Thanks to their contact and interaction with nature, they managed to reconnect with their inner-healthy part for the first time in a long time. That meant for them the beginning of a long road back home.

Equally, the author draws a portrait of our increasing connection with the colour grey, which is the colour of concrete, instead of green, the colour of nature. She explores the impact that this has on our mental health. A garden, nature, needs observation, presence, respect and care. All that is, precisely, what we need to cultivate ourselves to keep a healthy mind and spirit.

And finally, I could not miss mentioning the title of three precious chapters «The last season of life», «Garden time», and «View from the hospital».

I have personally resonated with many of the experiences that Sue Stuart-Smith shares. I mean, the way nature influences me, how my mind interacts with our garden and the parallelism between gardening tasks and the necessary tasks for psycho-emotional self-care.
I would suggest that, while reading the book, you work in a flower or vegetable bedding, in your flower boxes, or even in a single pot. This book will root on you in a unique and personal way.

And finally, when I think about children, we all know they need to be in touch with nature. That is so essential for them. We need to show them how to plant flower seeds. They perhaps choose to look after a resilient aromatic herb. Children learn playing and deepening their hands into the soil is fun.

Doing all that from a very young age promotes the cultivation of presence, consciousness, care, and responsibility for the welfare of another living being and the environment. Children also learn and understand the cycles of nature. Therefore, the cycles of life.

Elena Lorente Guerrero

22nd December 2022

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