Back Behind The Desk

July 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

On Saturday Angie and I had our first stall at the Wauchope Markets with our new business, Angie Gluten Free. I say “our” in a very loose sense, Angie is actually the talent.

Asleep on the job, but looking great in the chef's jacket

Last week we travelled down to Sydney for a birthday and while there, went to see Seeker Lover Keeper play at the Clarendon. It was a beautiful reunion, as I used to manage Sarah and Holly who play in the group, and have worked for Sally as well. It brought back memories of management and Angie and I both laughed that with Angie Gluten Free, I’m almost doing the same thing – ensuring the talent gets attention.

Carrot cake with cute little borrage flowers on top

I’m mostly in charge of things like promotion and organising stuff, a very similar role to what I was doing in the early days of artist management. The markets saw me back behind the merch desk, so to speak, as well. The main differences here were the punters weren’t drunk and I got to eat anything left over at the end of the day.

Angie's awesome Bliss Balls

It was a fantastic morning and we sold almost everything we took in, which was a huge surprise. I thought I was pretty much alone in enjoying the delights of chocolate beetroot cake before lunchtime, but it appears that I’m not.

Everyone loves cupcakes!

So now I only have to pull together our recalcitrant website (nothing on there yet) that’s not playing nice – it’s all set up ready to be adorned with photos and witticisms but it’s not unlocking the back door for me. I also have to get a Facebook page up and work on the twitternessof it all. I’m hoping to have the lot done by the end of the week – Angie heading down to Sydney on Thursday will help with that, I’ll have little else to do each night.

Like Aversion

July 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

I had two articles in the most recent BodyMindLife newsletter, quite exciting really. This one was all about the weirdness that is aversion.

 

Like Aversion

by Craig New, Jasper’s Village Resort

Art mirrors life mirrors art. Heather asked me a while back to write something “practical and/or fun” on the concept of aversion and I, of course, said “yes”. In hindsight, it would have been funnier if I had said “no, I don’t know if I should do that”.

Fast-track a couple of weeks later and I’m yet to create a page I’m happy with. Everything I write, I need to erase. I seem to have an aversion to writing about aversion.

I started off with the idea of compiling a list of all the times I’ve personally succumbed to aversion in my life and missed out on what could have been something special. But I couldn’t think of anything. It seems that most of my life I’ve taken opportunities as they arise. Well…I thought of one…a time when I had declined meeting a super-hot girl in a bar after a show I was working. But I didn’t want that incident to be the only thing on the list in case my girlfriend thought I’d been obsessing over that memory and got upset.

Then I started writing a long diatribe about the little voice inside, that seductive con artist who wheedles and coerces you to run away from anything that challenges its sensitive and fragile ego. But I realised I could have been talking about desire just as much as aversion and the whole thing unravelled in my hands.

I even resorted to quoting Seinfeld episodes (specifically the one called The Opposite where George Costanza makes every decision counter to his intuition and finds life suddenly getting better). In the end, I decided I didn’t want to be that person who relies on sitcoms for his article inspiration (yeah, too late).

So here I sit, trying to write a meaningful (yet practical and/or fun) article on aversion, and it’s all I can do to refrain from flicking back and forth from Twitter and Facebook, writing a blog entry, watching Jason Statham or Muppets movie trailers and sending emails. What is it about aversion that is so devious, so malicious, that to even speak its name causes a fog to creep around the senses and all rational thought to dissolve? Aversion is the Adjustment Bureau of kleshas. It sneaks in while you’re busy thinking about something else, freezes time for an indeterminate period, resets your thinking, then vanishes. When you come to, you’re on a different path with only the vaguest memory of what it was you were originally going to do.

The reason we allow ourselves to get away with it time and time again is because, ultimately, not much tends to happen when we avoid things. Lightning doesn’t shoot down to smite a kitten; the world doesn’t stop spinning on its axis. We generally don’t even feel much of anything – guilt, despair, sadness, contrition; none of that wells up. Aversion is a victimless crime; it does to what-could-have-been what Magna Doodle does to terrible sketches.

So, why on earth should anyone care? If it doesn’t make us feel bad, it doesn’t hurt anybody else and nine times out of ten we probably won’t even remember feeling it mere minutes later, why don’t we tolerate aversion with the same magnanimity we display toward those people who stand on the street offering coupons?

The only thing stopping us is imagination. Sure, we could happily get by in life walking hand in hand with our aversions, but it’s also possible to live out our lives sitting in a big room with a toilet, a bed, a monster screen television set, and a well-stocked fridge. To defy our aversions is to give ourselves a chance to discover something new or to grow personally in some way we never thought possible. Aversion is the bouncer at the door to our dreams. We can bow our heads and slink off when he tells us we’re not wearing the right shoes, or we can smile politely at him, leave the queue and sneak in through the back entrance.

Clearly, aversion has its role. It reminds us there is something of value on the other side, something worthy enough of having its own security force to keep out the unworthy. In this way, aversion can be seen as the measure of our potential, an ‘X marks the spot’ on our psychological map of hidden treasure.

As Madonna nearly sang, “Like aversion”. It is a reminder that something magical may be waiting around the corner, if you have the imagination and temerity to push past it and look.

Jaspers Origins

July 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

I had two articles in the most recent BodyMindLife newsletter, quite exciting really. This one was about the beginnings of our eco village project.

Jaspers Origins

By Craig New, Jasper’s Village Resort

I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

It seemed all of us had different reasons for leaving the comforts of the city. Some had imagined and planned this day for months or even years, carefully acting upon an inexplicable desire to return to a rustic lifestyle that had been visited only in dreams. Some flew toward it as a lost toddler hurtles toward his mother, frightened by the noise and cacophony behind him that could just as easily mean death or joy. I came partly to be hospitable to opportunity (who I never liked to keep waiting at the door in case she tired of knocking) and partly from a curiosity that kept me up at night. I had only the vaguest notion of the plans – words like community, mountains, veggie gardens were being bandied about – but it all sounded like something from a Steinbeck novel. I couldn’t resist.

We all left the city for the country with varied expectations. For me they seemed to be loosely based on becoming sustainable on my own terms. The problem was I only knew city living.

The honeymoon period was intoxicating. There was a motel business needing attention and after many years of staying in hotels, I was finally able to call the shots. I love late check-outs, so that’s what everyone gets here. I despise unhelpful staff, so helpfulness is my mantra. It was like a real- life version of a Zynga game, and the fact that screwing up might result in a lot more heartache than just an embarrassing Facebook update didn’t really register.

Our gardens thrived on love. From early morning until the sun slipped away, the soil was worked and the plants were tended. We were a happy group. We had few plans other than a vague manifesto based on our city dweller concepts of rural living and at the beginning that’s all we really needed.

Looking back now, two and a half years on, is like peering out of a car windscreen on a frosty morning. The details are there but obfuscated. The thing is, we’ve learned so much and some of our ideals have changed so dramatically that it’s hard to imagine the people we were at the start. It’s easier for me to recall my motivations as an awkward 15-year-old than it is to accurately remember what drove me when we started this project. Although it makes me wish I had kept a journal, it’s encouraging to think we’ve been able to roll with the punches well enough so that our vision itself has adapted so subtly to appear as if it was always there from the start. I don’t think the idea of us creating a wellness and learning centre was apparent in such pure form back then, but now it’s at the top of our list. The things that keep us here are different now, as are the obstacles that threaten to take us away.

It’s a long story between the beginning and now, one that a few hundred words can’t, at least in my hands, convey. But we need happy endings, don’t we? Jaspers isn’t a happy ending – not yet (nor will it ever end I don’t think) – but it’s certainly a life-affirming middle bit. I consider myself blessed to be working alongside such a driven group of people and despite our ups and downs; there is something about the place that puts a smile on my face and a song in my heart. It sounds corny but if you’ve been here you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Sugar

July 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

I never was a big fan of advice columns. Not that I’ve read a great many of them, but those I can remember seem to be filled with either condescending pity or less than subtle nudgings of self promotion. If I needed to read any, I would find something comical, where the whole thing is just an excuse for some light laughter.

But then I discovered Sugar at The Rumpus.

The RumpusNot only were my ideas about advice columns shattered, my ideas about writing were shattered. Here was a writer who could bring me to tears in a public library (the letter linked to above) in an advice response, in point form.

I used to have a habit of easily falling in love, and I very nearly fall in love every time I read her column. The compassion sans schmaltz that she shows her correspondents is sometimes literally overwhelming. She attracts countless comments every week, many from people in tears and many with stories or advice of their own to offer up. Through the sheer force of her writing she has created a committed, giving and caring community that are helping each other through whatever hard times they might find themselves in.

She is never easy in her responses, but Sugar does not aim to please. She aims for honesty. As far as I can tell, her inbox is likely flooded with letters every week, and she seems to take immense care with the selections. With so many letters unable to be answered, she does her damned best to provide the most thoughtful responses she is capable of to the ones that make the cut. Despite the often dangerous ground she walks on (giving advice to parents who have lost their children, women who are leaving husbands, carers of “troubled” kids) she never shies away from the responsibilities of her correspondent. She addresses their concerns but insists on an acceptance of position and a willingness to find the truth in their situation. There is no pity, no slack, no compromise. It is complete and utter devotion to helping her correspondents be the best they can be, even if it hurts like hell.

I was very, very excited to discover that she has a new novel published and that I will learn her real name. I’ve been aching to read something else written by her, to find that voice in a work of fiction. There was an email from Stephen Elliott that promised a link to something about it, but the link was broken. I’ll be keeping an eye on The Rumpus for news, and ensuring that every day I do whatever I can to introduce a little more Sugar-like compassion into my life.

A New Jason

June 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

For some time now, my girlfriend has taken great delight in teasing me about my man crush for Jason Statham. It’s hard to fight back, because I do indeed get something of a tingly feeling when I see the man on film.

It started with The Transporter. I’d seen him elsewhere (Guy Ritchie films mainly), but it was in this admittedly pretty poorly scripted and averagely acted movie that I really noticed him. It was more for his driving than his torso. I discovered that he was a former British Olympic Driving champion, and that he did his own stunts. For a maverick like myself who likes to dream I’m in a Bond-esque chase when I’m tearing around the mountains here at home, this is more than a little impressive.

It wasn’t too long before I would imagine I was Frank Martin, high tailing it to my destination with a package in the back that could only be bad news. Whenever I had a passenger in the car and got a little frisky behind the wheel, the invariable response would be, “Okay, slow it down Statham!”

Then, last night, I found myself at my first ever kickboxing class. I didn’t consciously decide to do this to be like Jason, but nevertheless the connection was not lost on me.

Jason Statham

Me after a few more lessons and a haircut

I don’t know what I expected but the class was very enjoyable. The teacher (a guy who actually looks a little bit like Statham, and is also called Jason) was very supportive and ensured I didn’t feel like an awkward klutz. The guys in the class were far from the meathead posers I half imagined they would be, but were quiet, attentive and encouraging as well, offering tips when I started to struggle.

I had mentioned earlier that I thought I was pretty fit thanks to yoga and tango dance classes (Jason politely refrained from laughing at me), and that my main aim for kickboxing was technique rather than fitness. At around the fifteen minute mark, as I was collapsed over my knees gasping for breath, Jason walked past and winked at me. “It’s a different kind of fitness, isn’t it?” he smiled as he kept going.

It certainly is. I forced myself to arise early this morning for a long yoga practice and if I hadn’t I’m sure the dull ache in my arms and upper back right now would be more of a screaming violence.

But I think I’ll persist with the kickboxing for a while, it’s a nice round out to yoga and tango, and it might serve as an entry point to free running training, something else I’ve been thinking of doing. As for my crush, my mum once told me that she nearly called me Jason, so perhaps it stems from there. She apparently changed her mind after going to a shopping centre one day and hearing different mothers all around her angrily shouting, “Jason, come back here!” “Put that down Jason!” “Don’t you even THINK about it Jason!” Who knows who I’d be if I had that moniker instead?

Effective Communication

June 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

For a little while now I’ve been trying to work out what my calling is. Rather than listen, I’ve kinda thrown myself at a few things to see if they take hold. I went for a very long walk through France and Spain at the end of last year (if you’re so inclined you can read about that here) and got the feeling I should be doing something healing. A clairvoyant numerologist told me the same thing. (Actually, his exact words were that I had “Jesus healing hands”, which is a lot of pressure to put on someone when you think about it. I’m just glad I’m not still on tour or I’d be getting asked to turn the water on the rider into wine.) For a little while, I considered studying naturopathy or kinesiology but neither of those things stuck. There’s interest there, but not enough to drop a few thousand dollars on studying them.

And then, into my lap, fell effective communication. I attended a couple of workshops by a lady called Frances Amaroux and they inspired me, I suspect largely due to the suffocating swamp of ineffective communication I was drowning in with my fellow community members where I live. Around the same time, a professional speaker asked me if I was involved in communication, and when I said no, she told me she thought I had a real flair for it.

Of course, nothing gets me thinking like a little flattery. I looked into it and it turns out that, aside from a few very expensive courses, effective communication can be learned very cheaply, with so many free resources online for wannabe lecturers or teachers that it’s a wonder we don’t all get along so much better than we do. But I’ve noticed as I wade through this material that there’s a very good reason for this.

It is by and large almost mind numbingly boring.

The course I’m doing now started off strong, with lots of great exercies and a little humour. I’m now seven chapters in and I feel like I’m sitting through transcripts of self help group meetings in old community centres. Surely this material can be presented in a way that’s not only respectful and caring and all that kind of thing that’s required when assisting people into dark places they’ve kept locked for many years, but also fun? If I’m going to go exploring somewhere cobwebbed and foul smelling, you can bet I’ll be the first one cracking jokes to ease the fear.

At any rate, it occured to me that this very thing could be my niche. I’m working on a program now that incorporates all that I’m learning, but with some Fozzie Bear style zingers throughout, perhaps with a couple of entertaining stories along the way. I think if this is something I’m going to be working on to inspire people, I’m going to need to be inspired first.

Are You Being Served?

June 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to write an article for the BodyMindLife newsletter. Topic was whatever I liked. This always stretches me, I work well by being given strict guidelines that I can then run wild within. I like to take guidelines to their limit, and push them harder than they would have thought possible. But an open ender is always a struggle for me. Fortunately, inspiration struck a couple of days after the request, and this is what I put out (edited slightly by the newsletter editor):

Are You Being Served?

by Craig New, Jasper’s Village Resort

Students of yoga texts will be well familiar with the concept of serving. Rare is the guru who can get through a chapter comfortably without touching upon it. Swami Sivananda wrote, “Feed the poor. Clothe the naked. Comfort the distressed. Remove glass pieces from the road.” (He obviously lived in Surry Hills for some time.) Sri Chinmoy advises, “A seeker knows that each time he gets an opportunity to serve, he is nearing his destination.” Tolstoy, in his grand and eloquent way, wrote, “The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity.”

These are good and noble statements. Serving ignites a fire deep within us that we cannot light by being right, being better, or being combustible. That fire will only spark if we throw in our egos with a bit of lighter fluid and allow ourselves to forget ourselves for long enough to focus on someone else.

But how long is enough? How long can we forget ourselves in the pursuit of assisting others? Is it possible to become mesmerised by the flame of service and, like a moth spiralling helplessly in to a spitting light bulb, burn up in the heat of devotion?

These thoughts occurred to me today whilst I was serving nobody but myself. I sat in a café eating lunch, a magazine on the table in front of me. This was my first day off in weeks, and I’d been looking forward to it eagerly. It was a chance to relax, let go, and stop thinking about others for a few hours whilst revelling in the selfishness of personal time.

After a few minutes, I noticed something about my posture. One hand was curled around the fork, mechanically stabbing my food with all the fervour of a sociopath. The other was clutching the edge of the seat, knuckles white, fingers cramping. My legs were crossed at the ankles, one foot incessantly tap, tap, tapping on the floor. My torso lunged into the table as if bracing against a strong and howling wind, my back locked and neck tight. I read many sentences two or three times, constantly distracted by the conversations around me, the layout of the menu, and the shadows flickering past the window outside.

It turns out my relaxation time was as calming as a root canal.

In scientific fashion, I studied this behaviour silently. What was I afraid of in letting go? Was I worried that the concentrated release of all my muscles would lead to a bowel evacuation or weeping session? Was I fearful that the slightest slip in posture would cause all those yoga practices to be null and void, curving my spine into a never-to-be-straightened pretzel? Was I simply ill at ease in the anti-yoga practice of, to some degree, not being? I attempted to let go and couldn’t. Then I hunched back, put down my fork, and uncrossed my legs. I gingerly let go my death grip on the chair. And you know, I almost did feel like weeping.

I once heard a story about a man who was sucked from an airplane when the door blew out and held onto a rail until landing. They had to prise his fingers off with a crowbar once he was out of danger. That’s how I felt in letting go, as if to do so would be to fall from some great and noble height.

But what does this have to do with serving? Sometimes we can get so caught up in the concept of being there for others and being the one who always says yes, that we can forget we need support just as much as anybody else. And while it is indeed a beautiful, wonderful, and basically good thing to serve others, even Tolstoy’s greater humanity, we can only do this to our full potential if we allow a little time to serve ourselves.

So try letting go. The drop isn’t as far as it looks.