The Enchanted Life begins with an allegory (or should that be anecdote?) about a woman going for a walk through the woods. There are two versions of this story. In the first, the woman tries to enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of her surroundings but she is preoccupied by life: a remembered row with her husband; worry about her daughter’s expensive tastes; concern about taking a holiday, work, and her mobile phone ringing. In the second version she has turned off her phone; she allows herself to be more in-tune with nature – she can smell the bluebells, hear the crows, think about ‘The Wild Swans’ fairy tale that walking through the wood reminds her of, feel the world alive around her…
The distractions of the modern world weigh on us more than ever before: although statistically healthier, wealthier and safer now than at any other point in history, we are not happier. We are increasingly disappointed with our lot and increasingly estranged from our environment, which is being destroyed. These issues are, of course, linked, and something has to change.
With cross-over appeal to readers and fans of mind body and spirit, nature-writing, feminist mythology, mindfulness and self-development, The Enchanted Life is not a self-help book in the way that most of us would think of self-help. The ‘enchantment’ that author Sharon Blackie speaks of is not a dim and distant fairy tale ideal – it is a simple message: we need to learn how to ‘fall in love with the world’ again, and rediscover our sense of wonder at all the remarkable things that can be and have been done. We need to reconnect to the environment. This is not a fey suggestion – it is good sense and of vital importance for the well-being of all.
‘Mindfulness’ has been, and continues to be, a hot topic: there are any number of mindfulness classes one can attend or books on the subject to be bought, but even the NHS has now adopted the terminology and promotion of this way of thinking, especially in terms of stress and depression – often linked to digital over-reliance. Disenchantment has become ingrained within our culture: we have become too jaded to appreciate what we have.
Sharon Blackie is an eminent psychologist, who, she tells us early on in The Enchanted Life first experienced disenchantment as a student in a lecture where the tenets of hypnosis were demolished. Her previous book was the internationally bestselling If Women Rose Rooted (September Publishing, 2015) – a unique take on women and their relationship with landscape, mythology and origin stories designed to make the reader re-evaluate their position within the world. The Enchanted Life builds on the ideas of the previous book, opening out to make suggestions applicable to all.
So, what are the solutions? Blackie’s ideas are easy to follow, encouraging a greater level of self-awareness and self-analysis. Each chapter ends with a short list of points to consider, tasks to perform, questions to ask ourselves – how to remember who we are and what is important to us. It is author’s wisdom, anecdotes and personal revelations as well as a suffusion of references and quotes from literature which make this book illuminating and thought-provoking, but also a genuine pleasure to read and learn from: the perfect antidote to the gloomy month of February.