For me, the last few months have been largely about mushrooms and meditation. I’ve been reading about how mycelial networks connect trees in a forest, allowing them to communicate with each other and create resilience against drought, viral infestations, and the vagaries of climate change. On the flip side, I’ve been practising the fine (and very difficult!) art of doing nothing for half an hour every day. No phone, no book, no coffee, no formal meditation posture.
Interestingly, the messages from these practices align. Both suggest that we are all connected in ways that are both tangible and mysterious, and simply being present to feel these connections makes the heart lighter and the world an infinitely more beautiful place. Here’s hoping you can plug in too.
What I’m Reading
Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard
Part-memoir, part-archive of scientific research, Suzanne Simard’s exquisite book explores the ways in which subterranean fungal networks help trees and plants communicate, collaborate, and nurture each other through their lives. It also speaks of her family’s history as loggers in British Columbia, and her own personal journey as a female researcher in a largely male-dominated world. A simple and moving book that breaks down hard science in a manner that is heartening and approachable. It made me curious about the soil, excited about my next long walk in the woods, and grateful to live in a place like the Palani Hills, which still has the protection of these mother trees.
The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love—Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits by Judson Brewer
Dr Judson Brewer is an American neuroscientist and a long-time practitioner of Buddhist meditation who works with people to overcome addiction. His book alternates between his patients, working to understand their addiction to cigarettes and drugs, and his own experiments with mindfulness, or, as he puts it, freeing himself from addiction to thought. For me, it was a book full of aha-moments, and offered plenty of food for thought, especially in this age of algorithms.
What I’m Viewing
Fantastic Fungi by Louie Schwartzberg
In this film, mycologist Paul Stamets introduces viewers to the intricate and intimate world of fungi: how they came to be, the role they play in our ecosystem, and the many, many ways they shape our lives. Stamets is a devout follower of the fungi school of philosophy, and his enthusiasm for mushrooms, whether medicinal lion’s mane or psychedelic psilocybin, is infectious. The documentary is also spectacularly filmed, with Planet Earth–style time lapses of mushrooms and subterranean worlds, previously unseen. It’s likely you’ll never look at a shroom the same way again.
Black Forager is an Instagram account run by the quirky, adorable, and mad-knowledgeable Alexis Nikole, an environmental science enthusiast from Ohio, USA, who creates hilarious TikToks and Reels about foraging for mushrooms, seaweed, and all manner of wild edibles. Many of the plants she mentions are not local to our region, but her high-energy vibe, genuine joy, and love of plants is contagious in entirely delightful ways.
What I’m Listening to
Solo & Indrė
Solo and Indrė are a musical duet comprising Senegalese kora player Solo Cissokho and Lithuanian kanklės player Indrė Jurgelevičiūtė. Their eponymous album, Solo & Indrė, combines their native musical roots to moving end. The music is earthy, mellow, and just the thing for a quiet day at home or a long solo stroll. I also love listening and shimmying to them while I cook.
Insights at the Edge
When I’m seeking stimulation of a different kind, I turn to Insights at the Edge, a podcast in which host Tami Simon interviews people ranging from feminist storytellers and neuroscientists to Buddhist meditation gurus and practitioners of Wicca. Her style of interviewing is honest, insightful, and has a rare quality of stillness that really allows the subject to shine. To begin with, I recommend the episode with Pema Chödrön, a Buddhist nun who offers the kind of heart-guidance we all need every once in a while.