In the increasingly expanding world of “self-care”, have you ever searched for answers outside of the human world?
Wisdom from a Humble Jellyfish offers a refreshing look at self-care through the lens of nature. With bright illustrations and encouraging, accessible explanations, author Rani Shah encourages us to treat self-care as a natural part of life-a non-intimidating, intuitive ritual that forms our well being.
The encyclopedia of animals in Wisdom consists of what may seem like unlikely flora and fauna. Oysters, porcupines, and wombats all make up a cast of Mother Nature’s resilient studies in self-care. At the end of every section, the creative inspiration from a subject’s characteristics translates into perspectives and practical tips for self-evaluation and care.
The wisdom of the jellyfish, referenced in the title, is an example of how nature’s built in self-care can inspire humans. Without a contract and “relax” motion, Shah explains, the jellyfish can’t swim forward. And so an apt metaphor for our health appears. Themes of self-care can inevitably fall into teaching or lecturing mode, which can ironically become tiring. There can only be so many do’s and don’ts before self-care seems like a chore. In contrast, Wisdom’s pursuit is more curious than instructive, creating a portal to the animal kingdom. This evokes a fun loving and almost childlike approach that invites the reader not to take themselves too seriously.
The importance of taking breaks is emphasized throughout the book, whether by sea animals, sloths, or amphibians. It’s an interesting take when animals are probably not the first thing to cross our minds when thinking about relaxation and stress relief. Just as we may think that the fight or flight response is the most important survival process for an animal, we also misinterpret the reactivity and necessity to keep performing under the stresses of our own lives. Even though the “meaning of ‘thrive’ is very different for a creature in the wild than it is for us humans,” as the author observes, all species “practice” self-care.
Several sections throughout the book building blocks of a healthy lifestyle, including teamwork. This speaks particularly to entrepreneurs and side hustlers, many of whom feel they must do it all, and without making mistakes. Hustle culture may discourage cooperation, but nature doesn’t (always) reward ego. Wisdom wants you to know that you’re in the company of birds and night-blooming flowers when you ask for help.
Other things of beauty in nature, such as the oyster, offer more observations about hustle culture and rethinking negative setbacks. The classic example of the beauty of an oyster’s pearl demonstrates how adversity can sometimes result in positive effects. “A pearl begins to form,” the chapter begins, “when a portion of the oyster’s mantle is damaged.” The reaction from the oyster starts a process that eventually yields layers that form “nacre, or more commonly, mother of pearl.” The section explains that psychologists attribute some positive effects such as learned coping strategies after certain stressful or traumatic experiences.
It turns out that all of the unique species featured in Wisdom were not just chosen for fun or quirks: “A good number of the creatures mentioned in this book are currently on the endangered species list.” Nature’s lessons include our part in the destruction of our environment, and the author reminds us to look around and contribute to the maintenance of our various “ecosystems.”
Self-care isn’t selfish, but self-centeredness is an altogether different quality.
Wisdom encourages the reader to think differently about themselves, the planet, and the environment. This mindset shift is a form of self-care in and of itself, because “nurturing nature is self care for us all.”
Rani Shah is the author of Wisdom From A Humble Jellyfish, and regularly wonders who in the world allowed her to write a book in the first place. Featured in Cosmopolitan & Forbes, her book encapsulates what Rani claims to love: biology, comedy, and (kindly) telling people what to do. By day, she’s a content manager for Trello, by night she’s the founder and editor of Fuss Class News (@fussclassnews), a South Asian American satire blog. You can catch her in Brooklyn, probably in a bakery pointing at things.