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Mindful : April 2019
CBC RADIO Episode: Wearables go beyond fitness tracking to help people with chronic health conditions ON BEING WITH KRISTA TIPPETT Episode: The Magic Shop of the Brain, with Dr. James Doty FREAKONOMICS RADIO Episode: Think Like a Winner PODCAST Reviews Rapidly evolving technologies are revolutionizing health science, a prime example being wearable health trackers—think the FitBit, but capable of feats like tracking the blood glucose of diabetics, or monitoring blood pressure, via a tiny patch on the skin. For people with chronic illness, Most people don’t appreciate “ the power of their intention to change everything,” says James Doty, a neurosurgeon who also directs Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. He’s talking about the scarcely understood potential of the human brain, but also about the equally miraculous power When we say we’re “off our game,” it’s understood that there is a psychic aspect involved—a preoccupation, a case of the “blahs,” a nagging self-doubt. Whatever we’re seeking to improve at in life, being able to get back on our game is a crucial skill. In this episode, some well-known athletes describe how their this may take the constant vigilance and guesswork out of maintaining health. But for healthy people, these devices—like self-driving cars that “remember” the route for us—may tempt us to ignore the feedback we’re always getting from our body, rather than growing to better understand that feedback. of compassion arising from it. Doty—for whom learning present-moment awareness as a teenager was transformative—considers our brains’ suppleness (that is, neuroplasticity) to hold the key to creating “an environment where we ultimately can flourish, and give those around us the opportunity to flourish.” mental game impacts their competitive edge. For many professional athletes, for example, game prep includes affirmative self-talk and visualization. If that sounds a bit woo-woo, just take it from baseball legend Bob Tewksbury: “Confidence is a choice. A lot of people think it’s a feeling. But if you wait for that feeling, it may never come.” First with The Hidden Life of Trees, then The Inner Life of Animals, followed by The Weather Detective, and now The Secret Wisdom of Nature, Peter Wohlleben is on a roll. In each of these little books, released in rapid succession, Wohl- leben presents scientific evidence with the exuberant wonder of your favorite high school teacher, the one who loved nothing better than a field trip to the woods. The Secret Wisdom of Nature seeks to increase our empathy for the living things that surround us, including our fellow humans, and to take time to appreciate how important our home is—not the home that has walls, doors, win- dows, and a roof, but rather our bigger home. How easy it is to forget something so simple as the beauty and necessity of light, its life-giving power. When we see how vital the cycles of light and darkness are to the balance of nature, we can come to appreciate the consequences of our predilection to bathe the whole world in artificial light. Wohlleben has been accused by fellow scien- tists of straying too far from science, of being too emotional, making trees and animals and even the weather seem human. In the epilogue, he defends his approach, asking whether “a language stripped of emotion” can “even be called a human language.” For Wohlleben, so long as we treat our natural world as just another machine, we will lack the empathy required to care for it as we would a beloved family member. THE SECRET WISDOM OF NATURE Trees, Animals, and the Extraordinary Balance of All Living Things Peter Wohlleben • Greystone “...we’d do better to keep our hands off everything in nature that we do not absolutely have to touch.” 72 mindful April 2019 reviews