I part took in an exercise from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way*. This exercise required me to dig through my memory bank and find people who may have seen something in me that I didn’t, those who encouraged my interests or natural aptitude. In short – I had to find those people who backed me with whole confidence.
The beauty of this exercise is that we can quickly realise that these people have helped us beyond the time we’ve known them. Their confidence in us has actually laid a permanent place in our lifelong development of not only giving us a wider view on life, but on being a better person. And it always comes from their kindness.
The added benefit of this is that during lowly times, when our confidence is knocked, when we’re looking for some respite from negative thoughts, we can turn to these old champions in our minds to inspire us again.
The ultimate champion – Ms. Jill Barker
In this exercise I cited my Year 12 English teacher, Jill Barker. English had never been my strength in school (I’m sure you can pick out errors in the way that I blog). The final year of high school saw a tremendous upswing in grades only because I gave extra attention to it.
I did away with being intimidated and overwhelmed and tackled text in ways I never had before. It meant less indulging in TV and music and more time dedicated to reading all the prescibed novels across the Summer ahead of the school year. It meant being curious and participating in class discussions where I had to swallow my pride and be prepared to be wrong.
What I found were potent universal themes in the books we studied. One in particular, David Malouf’s Fly Away Peter, beautifully embraced the theme of mortality – a topic I’ve always been fixated on since the passing of my father as a child. And there was Ms. Barker guiding our young minds through it all with all her grace, intelligence and positive reinforcement.
Yes, I had to show up and do the work. This was coupled with her flawless manner. Her teaching was gentle, yet effective. She didn’t have to yell to command respect in the class room. She wasn’t patronising. I think what was most important is that she treated us like women instead of girls. You wanted to be a good student of hers. You wanted to do your best. The feeling in every class was always warm and supportive. The result? Top grades for all.
At the end of the school year Ms. Barker wrote a poem – a line dedicated to each student.
“I love Faustina to the ends of her every curl…”
To this day, this has been the kindest words ever said to me.
The year long experience still sits on my bones. And the lessons learnt in that class room still act like a slow release or a late bloom – purposefully designed to only be understood as we grow older and embrace the enormity of life.
I have no doubt that I’ll keep being taught these lessons, these epiphanies from that time til the day I breathe my last breath.
These old champions of self worth, they’re real treasures to hold onto.
*I’m down for borrowing books over purchasing them. We pay for them with our taxes.
Australian Artist, Lisa Mitchell is presenting a talk and taking part in an interview on some of her interests; the feminine and connecting to the sacred at The Brainery Store. Tomorrow, this Weds 13th November from 7.30pm in Kyneton Vic. Tickets are $22.
Intrigued I asked Lisa if she could take part in a Q&A about the talk over email. Here it is.
Hi Lisa! Tell us about your connection to the Brainery Store – how did this link come about?
Sarah contacted me after I started following The Brainery Store on Instagram. LOVE social media for that! I saw Dumbofeather ( amazing magazine) mention them a few weeks back when they did their ‘Backyard Party’ together in Geelong so I followed them.
You’re talking about your interests. I know they’re vast. You mentioned on Instagram your talk will involve the feminine and connecting to the sacred. Firstly, the feminine. Here’s a big call. I personally believe it’s the strongest energy on earth. Agree? What will you be exploring about the feminine.
Firstly, totally grateful for this interview already, but now I’m even more grateful as it’s helping me prepare soooo much for this talk!!!! ( Thanks Fuzzy! ) I don’t usually do presentations like this, so I am feeling so challenged, but also SO GLAD that I am being asked to share in this format as well as through my music.
The Feminine: yes, HUGE topic. HUGE! What is the Feminine? She embodies the mother, the lover, the gardener, the one that tends, the one that shows compassion, who nurtures – herself, himself or others – she is fierce and she is all power too. She is death and she is life. She is in man and woman. I am in process, like all of us, so this is a talk from someone that is on a path, not at a destination. I will share about my experiences with her, and how I connect and remember her love.
Connecting to the sacred. This would naturally interlink with the first topic. Can you explain a little more what you’ll be talking about with the sacred?
Yes, connecting to the sacred for me is interlinked to the Feminine as the Feminine is sacred to me. Everyone holds different things and aspects sacred. Even if they don’t realise… Ritual is SUCH a powerful way of connecting to the deeper tides that are going on within us and around us and I really feel SUCH a craving to bring more ritual back into my life and hopefully the lives of others. Yes, making a pot of tea can be a ritual. Ritual is basically ‘doing’ something – from drawing a picture to holding a dinner party to making a cuppa – and consciously attaching an intention to it. ‘This circle that I draw around myself in the dirt will make me feel safe’, for example. I will share about the Women’s circle that I started with my friends and family as well as other ways that I connect to these deeper tides.
Does this also mean you’ll touch on some of the ideas you learnt about Bio-Dynamics while working on a farm this year?
I spent some time at a an incredible bio-dynamic farm near Melbourne earlier this year. Bio-Dynamics is a school of thought and a way of organic farming that was developed by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920s. (Yes, the same guy that created Steiner school). I saw the tip of the iceberg in terms of Bio-Dynamics, but I was delighted to catch a glimpse of such a multi-dimensional way of looking at how the earth interacts with itself and the cosmos. Once, at the farm as the sun rose we hand-sprayed a fine mist of carefully prepared ground quartz & water all over the fields to help stimulate the light energy available to the plants, assisting photosynthesis and giving the faeries some special sparkles in their morning dew-tea! Bio-dynamics is an intensive way of farming and way of life that seems full of intention-filled rituals like the quartz-spray.
I love listening to a great talk and having fruitful conversation. What encounters have you had that have left a lasting impression on you and why?
Me too! I have realised I retain SO MUCH more through conversation and listening to people speak than I do through books. I buy so many audio-books now! I’ve been so lucky to have spent some time with Ben Lee this year and his talk at The Conscious Club in Melbourne earlier this year was a memorable talk that stands out to me. He spoke so openly of his experiences with the powerful plant medicine of the Ayahuasca vine. It is well-worth looking up some of Ben’s interviews on his latest album, ‘Welcome to the Work’.
One of my main sources of inspiration in terms of story-telling is Jungian psychoanalyst, Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Her most famous book, perhaps, is ‘Women Who Run With the Wolves’. She has written many many other books. She is a story-teller, a keeper of the old stories of her families, being raised in the oral and ethnic traditions. I highly recommend listening to her voice – wow, what a voice. So low and wise and of a trillion lives. She has many audio-versions of her books – get on the audio-book train!
I’m keeping my Friday commitment to share with you something that I’ve read, watched, experienced or listened to. Upon the week of its release in mid October last year I picked up Pharrell: Places and Spaces I’ve Been. An excellent book even for those with a slight interest in what Pharrell has created for himself and for an insight to the people he connects with.
There are many elements to this book, plenty of photographs of Pharrell’s career highlights, art work and designs from his fashion label BBC/Ice Cream. The biggest highlight for me is his transcribed conversations with Buzz Aldrin, Anna Wintour, Jay-Z and Kanye West among others.
The words are fascinating. Buzz Aldrin speaks of how Americans should bypass sending astronauts back to the moon and aim to make a permanent settlement on Mars. Kanye West brings up many interesting ideas. The most surprising for me was how he creates music visually. He reveals that to this day he can’t play piano and that he used draw the covers of his records before even thinking about the music. His example, “Let’s put this fountain in Vegas to music.”
Our health and happiness depends on the quality of our thoughts. So simple. So true. Yet some of us a lot of time time find it difficult. I’ve been there. Boy have I been there. I’ve seen my friends, family, people I’ve met recently here in Los Angeles either miserable or kind of happy but hitting a rut. So I wanted to share with you some things I’ve learnt in the past few years and particularly over the past few months that have made my thoughts better and therefore made me a much happier person. [This is the disclaimer part where I’m telling you to not entirely rely on me to medicate you, so please don’t make my perceptions or ideas professional advice, consult your local doctor. Oh and this is French Bulldog, Arrow by the way. I met him on Melrose and thought this picture may help lure you in to read this. Who doesn’t love a cute dog?]
HOW INCREDIBLE OUR BRAINS ARE. AN ACE STORY TO GIVE YOU CONTEXT
My fascination about how our mind works was sparked from a book suggested by an old mate’s Dad. Ray had finished reading The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumphby psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Norman Doidge, MD. Ray gave it a glowing review a few Christmases ago and it’s one of very few non-fiction books that has left a firm impression on me. The essence of the book is that our brains are capable of changing, sometimes even drastically, and for the better.
One of the best examples in Doidge’s book was about Catalan poet and scholar, Pedro Bach-y-Rita. Pedro was 65 years old when he suffered from a severe stroke that left him disabled. Pedro lost his ability to walk and talk. One of his sons, George, loved his ‘Papa’ so much that he taught him how to walk and talk again. Beyond the typical rehab he was given, George took his Papa home with him. George’s theory? Teach him like he’s a baby and start from the beginning. Speech was starting with basic sounds to whole words to sentences. To walk he got him to crawl, with kneepads and often supported my a wall on Pedro’s weakest side. New synapses fired up in undamaged parts of George’s brain. Papa got a new lease on life, he went back to full time teaching at City College, New York and ended up climbing mountains.
So if countless of stories of brain and practical training can make us do brilliant things such as recover from stroke, surely our thoughts can change for a happier and healthier life? I think so.
HOW TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF OUR THOUGHTS. A PRACTICAL APPROACH
Doidge’s book touches on it though his book his greatly weighted on medical conditions and more serious human behaviours.
I want to shift the discussion back to more everyday issues that so many of us come across – negative, depressed, unhelpful thoughts that leave us feeling low on life and for some of us stuck in bed, anxious not being able to live life to its full potential. There’s only so many positive quotes one can read on Facebook and Twitter and I’m sure at times when you’re feeling the lowest of low that stuff seems to just wash over you.
In May this year I met Tim Sharp all from a retweet of… well … one of his quotes. On Twitter he’s Dr. Happy. Tim is based in Sydney and is the leading expert in happiness and positive psychology. My curiosity made me meet with him. Tim has a lot of literature on positive psychology but a lot of it, which he encourages, needs to be practiced. So Tim’s work is quite the opposite of lying down and pouring out one’s sadness and worries – it’s much like the elbow grease of George and Pedro.
Here’s the essential excerpt that comes from one of his books The Happiness Handbook. Tim catagorised 10 types of Automatic Negative Thoughts a lot of us generally have. The practice comes from after reading this, writing your thoughts down for a couple of minutes twice and day and then analysing your thoughts according to his guide, recognising it then reminding yourself to think about every day situations differently.
10 types of Automatic Negative Thoughts by Tim Sharp
1. Over generalisation
Coming to a general conclusion based on a single event or one piece of evidence. If something bad happens once, you expect it to happen again and again. Such thoughts often include the words ‘always’ and ‘never’.
I forgot to finish that project on time. I never manage to do things right.
He didn’t want to go out with me. I’ll always be lonely.
I didn’t get that job I went for last week. I’ll never find work.
Concentrating on the negatives while ignoring the positives; ignoring important information that contradicts your view of the situation.
I know he (my boss) said most of my submission was great but he also said there were a number of mistakes that had to be corrected… he must think I’m really hopeless.
I’ve just lost my job… my life is a complete mess (despite the fact that I’m very healthy and have a loving family who cares for me)
3. All or nothing thinking
Thinking in black and white, or all or nothing terms (e.g. things are right or wrong, good or bad); a tendency to view things at the extremes with no room for middle
I made so many mistakes… If I can’t do it perfectly I might as well not bother
I won’t be able to get all of this done, so I may as well not start it
This job is so bad… there’s nothing good about it at all
Taking responsibility for something that is not necessarily your fault; thinking what people say or do is some kind of reaction specific to you, or is in some way directly related to you.
John’s in a terrible mood… it must have been something I’ve done
It’s obvious she doesn’t like me; otherwise she would have waved to me.
I didn’t get the job because of my appearance.
Overestimating the chances of disaster; expecting something unbearable or intolerable to happen (such thoughts begin with ‘What if…?’)
What if I make a fool or myself and people laugh at me?
What if I haven’t turned the iron off and the house burns down?
If I don’t’ perform well, I’l get the sack.
6. Emotional reasoning
Mistaking feelings for facts – negative things you feel about yourself are held to be true because they feel true
I feel like a failure, therefore I am a failure
I feel ugly, therefore I must be ugly
I feel hopeless, therefore my situation must be hopeless
7. Mind Reading
Making assumptions about other people’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours without checking out the evidence (e.g. asking them)
John’s talking to Molly so he must like her more than me
I can tell he hates my shirt
I could tell she thought I was stupid in the interview
8. Fortune Telling
Anticipating an outcome and assuming your prediction is an established fact. These negative expectations can be self-fulfilling; predicting what we would do on the basis of past behaviour might prevent the possibility of change.
I’ve always been like this; I’ll never be able to change
It’s not going to work out so there’s not much point of trying
This relationship is sure to fail
9. ‘Should’ Statements
Using ‘should’, ‘ought’ or ‘must’ statements can set up unrealistic expectations of yourself and others. It involves operating by rigid rules and not allowing for flexibility.
I shouldn’t get angry. I should always be happy
People should be nice to me all the time
I should own my own house, have a great job, be happily married
A tendency to exaggerate the importance of negative information or experiences (making mountains out of molehills) while trivialising or reducing the significance of positive information or experiences.
She noticed my bad haircut. I know she said she will go out with me again, but I bet she doesn’t call.
She said I did a good job but she was probably just saying that to be nice.
After reading all that you can see that all of us fall into at least a few of those categories at times, which is human. Completely human.
When I personally went through this list I spent a solid 2 to 3 months analysing my thoughts. It was hard to write honestly and pick my thoughts apart but some of the questions I had to ask myself were are these thoughts helpful? And am I being realistic? Do I have everything into perspective? Am I jumping to conclusions? Am I focusing too much on the negatives? Will this really be bad in one, two or five years? Even if it did really happen, is it really that bad? How likely is it that the worst would happen?
Going through this has helped me a great deal just with my every day thinking, and if you read my previous blog post about my first few weeks here in America it’s helped me to adjust with transition a great deal. I’m certainly no pro in relaying information, people like Tim Sharp and Norman Doidge are. If you want to read more on Tim see below, there’s also a link to a lot of his free literature and I’ve included a link to Norman Doidge’s book as well.
Following the end of Video Hits in August last year I decided to take some serious time off to travel the world and make a lot of reassessments in my life and career. Although I traveled considerably with work and with friends I hadn’t really ventured off on my own for a long period of time. I spoilt myself. I hung out in rain forests in Madagascar, went on Safari in Ngala, South Africa, visited Soweto, Cape Town, Rome, Florence, saw my family and friends in London and then at one point of my travels I decided to rent an apartment in New York City for three months.
Since my first visit o/s from Australia as a teen, something has always drawn me to this place. It’s the people. A multicultural melting pot. The energy the the people bring to the city – they are limitless with their ideas. It’s infectious. I needed to be there. And with that I researched and watched a lot of television. What I was after was a role model. I was also after inspiration. After all there’s a whole lot more TV to choose from in America and they really do set the tone of the majority of what we watch on commercial networks in Australia. Why not be where the action is?
So in my NYC pad I surfed, and so be it – I watched a whole lot of the Oprah Winfrey Network. Some of the major things I had gotten from this were a) I had found my role model – Lisa Ling – whom deserves masses of praise forever more for reasons that I’ll explain in later blog posts I’m sure and b) of all the programming one particular episode of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday really resonated with me.
It was Oprah’s chat with an author named Mark Nepo. The man was a writer and poet who had survived cancer. In the time that he was going through his treatment he had written stories of his discoveries on life and would he would share it with his friends over email. His friends would pass his emails on, so much so that it became its own movement. It resulted in his New York Times best selling book – The Book of Awakening. This book has a piece of inspiration for every day of the year.
One of the parts of the book that really resonated was titled “Fame or Peace” here’s the excerpt:
Fame Or Peace
Much of our anxiety and inner turmoil comes from living in a global culture whose values drive us from the essence of what matters. At the heart of this is the conflict between the outer definition of success and the inner value of peace.
Unfortunately, we are encouraged, even trained, to get attention when the renewing secret of life is to give attention. From performing well on tests to positioning ourselves for promotions, we are schooled to believe that to succeed we must get attention and be recognised as special, when the threshold to all that is extraordinary in life opens only when we devote ourselves to giving attention, not getting it. Things come alive to us only if we dare to see and recognise everything as special.
The longer we try to get attention instead of giving it, the deeper our unhappiness. It leads us to move through the world dreaming of greatness, needing to be verified at every turn, when feelings of oneness grave us only when we verify the life around us. It makes us desperate to be loved, when we sorely need the medicine of being loving.
One reason so many of us are lonely in our dream of success is that instead of looking for what is clear and true, we learn to covet what is great and powerful. One reason we live so far from peace is that instead of loving our way into the nameless joy of spirit, we think fame will soothe us. And while we are busy dreaming of being a celebrity, we stifle our need to see and give love, all of which opens us to the true health of celebration.
It leaves us with these choices: fame or peace, be a celebrity or celebrate being, work all our days to be seen or devote ourselves to seeing, building our identity on the attention we can get or find our place in the beauty of things by the attention that we can give.”
Pretty bold words. I think this rings true in all of our lives in varying degrees. Some time or another we seek attention for the work we do in hope that it will make us content that we’re doing the right thing or being seen is a validation of our actions. The complexity around this is that I do think it’s good to be encouraged to work at our utmost potential and we yes do live in a society that rewards people being the best at what they do – it has been in our very nature for a long time. I guess it’s a balancing act to know that we all throughout our lives have done the best that we could at that time. It becomes unhealthy for those who just want recognition or to be seen.
And this is amplified many times over because of the business that I’ve chosen to work in. Media. Ei! And some of you reading this might think referring to this passage of the book is a bit rich coming from me. A woman who works on tele who has made a career so far talking to celebrities. And in my travels and research I really questioned the work I had been doing and what path to take moving forward. Firstly this trip was grounding in many ways. I mentioned earlier that the intention for this trip was to reassess everything. I began studying media (along side Human Geography) and then began work in television with the overall aim of wanting to work in documentary and factual entertainment, and after 10 years of study and experience in both production and presenting these goals are slowly coming into fruition.
I’m thankful that I worked on a show that mostly focused on the artist’s music and career and not the “celebrity” and “gossip”, it’s allowed me to travel to major cities in the world, I’ve met some fantastic people in television that share the same vision both in the factual space and entertainment space, I’ve seen the great side to the TV business and its ruthless side, I’ve been able to support charities and foundations beyond the capacity I had before working in the media, I’ve loved talking to schools about education – my passion for it and the trials I went through in VCE and University to other VCE, HSC and University students. And most importantly I love working in teams – I love love the process of production, I love interviewing interesting people and hopefully shedding light on a persons life for viewers which they may not have seen before, I love research and I love learning and the best learning has been from learning from my mistakes.
Which brings me to the purpose of this blog. I was hesitant on even starting my own site or blog cause I used to think that blogs (especially for people in media jobs like mine) to be a platform to be self promoting, moralising, self righteous, or on the other hand cheeky while taking stabs at other people. It’s been great people like Sarah Wilson and Marija Ivkovic that have shown me otherwise. I hope my entries are here for discovery, discussion and hopefully help inspire you in some ways while I follow my passions and interview people of interest for who they are on the inside. It’s here to celebrate all that’s great in life. I’m learning all the time. And this will be a fine balance of sharing what’s going on in my life and career to the things that interest me the most.
This gives me peace, in knowing that the intention is in the right place for me to share with you. If you’re looking for a trove of inspiration and poetry please do pick up Mark Nepo’s Book of Awakening. It’s helped me a great deal on reaffirming perspective on life and knowing what’s most important.