Category Archives: Mind

Mindfulness, consciousness, neuroscience and the brain

Biophilia for patients and visitors at the Khoo Tech Puat Hospital, Singapore

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, Singapore

This week I’m in Singapore as a Visiting Professor in the Biophilia Research Cluster, based in the Department of Psychology at James Cook University. I’ve seen dozens of fascinating examples of biophilic design here, but this post is about just one of them – the incredible gardens at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

It’s a general and acute care hospital which opened in 2010. Laik Teng Lit, its CEO, commissioned a design which lowers stress levels and helps patients and visitors to relax in what can so often be a naturally very anxious situation. The result is an astonishingly vibrant environment with dense plantings, water features, and carefully designed natural materials across the six floors of the building.

Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
Khoo Teck Puat Hospital

The hospital is keen to engage its visitors in auditing the wild inhabitants too, so it records all the many different birds and butterflies spotted on the site.

Some weekends there are free classes in yoga, tai chi, and meditation which are open to the public and take place next to the groundfoor waterfall amidst a biophilic riot of colourful plants and foliage.

And there’s another added extra. A rooftop organic community garden is cultivated and managed by local residents who grow a stunning variety of fruits and vegetables. Some of the produce is given to patients and some is sold to pay for the upkeep of the space.

Fig Tree at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Rooftop Garden
Fig Tree at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Rooftop Garden
Vegetable Beds at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Rooftop Garden
Vegetable Beds at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Rooftop Garden

Coincidentally, this week The Conversation featured an article about a rooftop garden project at a church in Sydney, Australia. This one was designed for patients recovering from mental illness, but the principles  remain the same – stress reduction, wellbeing, and general health benefits.

Giant melon in the Vegetable Beds at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Rooftop Garden
Giant melon at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Rooftop Garden

At Khoo Teck Puat we were told that members of the community are encouraged to spend time in the hospital’s social spaces. In other words, you don’t have to be sick to go there. And indeed, many students take their laptops and study amongst the flowers, whilst older people and families also regularly go to the hospital just to chill out and relax!

Travels in Virtuality: Death Valley

Chris Townsend’s recent wonderful photos and descriptions of his recent walk through Death Valley have inspired me to recall my own pathetic attempt to get there in 2002. I wrote about it in my memoir/travelogue of cyberspace, ‘Hello World: Travels in Virtuality’ (2004).

Last week I re-published the chapter in which I tell the story of my ill-fated trip. The lesson I learned  was that reality – and indeed virtual reality – should not be confused with the products of the imagination.

Read Travels in Virtuality: Death Valley at Medium.

“a tiny glass-bottomed boat” Sarah Boxer reads Proust on her cellphone

I glided through sentence after sentence, volume after volume, on my Android in the nighttime darkness. The experience was remarkably … Proustian.

I was absolutely thrilled to read this wonderful description by Sarah Boxer of her experience of reading on her phone, in bed, in the dark. You can find the whole thing online at The Atlantic.  After explaining her numerous failed attempts to read Proust all the way through, she reports that reading it on her cellphone was like no other reading experience she’s had before or since. This is how she did it:

Make sure no one else is awake. Turn off the lights. Your windows can stay open. Now turn on your phone and begin reading. Repeat as necessary each night. Do not stop until the very last word of the very last volume, Time Regained.

My favourite paragraph of all goes like this:

Your cellphone screen is like a tiny glass-bottomed boat moving slowly over a vast and glowing ocean of words in the night. There is no shore. There is nothing beyond the words in front of you. It’s a voyage for one in the nighttime. Pure romance.

Now, I have to say that although I read stuff on my cellphone all the time, it’s never been my tool of choice for whole books, let alone seven volumes, and I do tend to read with the light on. But maybe Sarah Boxer has changed my mind, because now I really crave her glass-bottomed boat gliding across a glowing ocean.