Really? A Philodendron?
Contributing Author: Kirsten Pabst, NDAA Well-being Task Force Chair
I was on my treadmill, watching scenic videos, and catching up on my “Listen Later” files and came across a TEDx Talk by a Scottish doctor named David Reilly, called Human Healing Unlocked: transforming suffering into wellbeing. He was talking about when it comes to healing how humans could learn from plants. I’d never thought about our wellbeing in the context of horticulture, plus I had 15 more minutes to burn, so I gave it a listen.
Dr. Reilly emphasized a plant’s inherent drive to live and thrive and reminded listeners that seeds, which had been frozen in the permafrost for 30,000 years, when thawed and tended, were still able to sprout and grow. Each seed’s tiny but fierce life force was dormant, patiently waiting for conditions to become favorable.
When humans aren’t well, we look for problems. Our honed issue-spotting, trauma-button-survival-trick programs us to look for harmful things, so that we can evade them. That’s why we’ve survived as a species, but it is also counter-productive for those of us who over-do. Most plants don’t operate that way and, if we follow the good Scottish doctor’s advice, we could learn something from our green leafy friends. He posited that we’d be better off looking at and caring for our life force, rather than waiting until we are sick when all we can do is attempt to remediate.
I got to thinking, because I do love a corny metaphor, that my wellbeing is very much like Phil the philodendron sitting quietly on the piano across from me. We should put as much effort into nourishing our inner life force as we do looking for trouble. We need to practice self-care; plants need regular watering. We profit from mastering neuroplasticity; plants too benefit from guiding and pruning. We need peer connection and support and, I’ve heard, that plants improve with interaction, though admittedly I do not sing to them. Finally, we need our leaders to offer a plausible work landscape with doable caseloads and reasonable pay; little Phil just asks for decent soil and sunlight.
What makes someone a “green thumb”? They 1) read and learn what various plants need to thrive; 2) pay careful attention to their progress; and 3) adapt when necessary. It isn’t too much to expect we’d do the same for ourselves.
Let’s spend less time dwelling on what’s wrong and start investing in our own life force. Less news, more music. Less chasing, more pioneering. Less TV, more nature. Less griping, more art. And definitely more sunshine.
Kirsten Pabst chairs NDAA’s Well-being Task Force and serves as the County Attorney for Missoula County, Montana.