The War Of Art And The Pain Of Resistance

Books

A battle with the ego is a daily war, a mere voice in our head and a character that tortures us. The sense of our true self is experienced when we let go of thoughts that aren’t true. Those limiting thoughts creep in to consume us and eat us alive. The voice feeds us lies that aren’t true, and those feelings can be overwhelming. After reading the book The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield, he tells us the power of resistance, and the power of our ability to concentrate and do what we need to do. He enlightens us on the true meaning of the Self and encourages us to stay in tune with the Self.

How many times in our lives do we tell ourselves that we can’t do something? How often do we encourage people in their endeavours, yet we can easily bring ourselves down. Pressfield says that “Casting yourself as a victim is the antithesis of doing your work. Don’t do it. If you’re doing it. Stop.” I really felt those words, as if a wise teacher was telling this to me directly. We can often become a victim to doing something we know in our hearts that we can do, or we desire to do it, yet resistance and fear pierces us and stops us from taking action.

Resistance thrives off of stopping us through procrastination and disbeliefs that end up taking more expended energy and effort. It becomes painful. It becomes soul-destroying fighting the resistance. Resistance exists from our fear. One of the profound words that Pressfield mentions is the fear that we will succeed. We are fearful to face our fears in fear that we might become the person that we truly are. Fear consumes us, yet failure is the necessary step that we must take to survive in the world.

What truly matters to you? We are dictated with definitions of what happiness, success and love should look like in society. We are told that we are always living in lack and that there is always something that needs to be cured, fixed, improved or changed. We are told that there is product that will fix our problems, and that there is always a problem existing in our life. Pressfield states that “We live in a consumer culture that’s acutely aware of this unhappiness and has massed all its profit-seeking artillery to exploit it.”

In the consumer culture that we live in, we are told that we can attain happiness in an instant pill-like substance that will satisfy our desires and needs. Whether that be in materials, money or status. Pressfield elborates on the differences between the amateur and the professional. The Professional understands delayed gratification and is patient in the end results whilst knowing the importance of the process. The Professional knows that good things take time.

You create the reality you live in. We decide our attitude regardless of the situation and we must remember that our emotions can distort reality. This is the wisdom that I strive to live by and often the truth is that as humans we are aware and knowing of many things, but the absolute difference is in practicing it. We can think about how we live in a world with two strong emotions of fear and love. When we have fear, we judge others.

Pressfield says that “Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others.” This may be a beautiful rarity in its purest form, but a practice we should all aspire to each and everyday. This world desperately needs more kindness, love and empathy. The ability to see things deeply and truly from another’s perspectives, to have true empathy, to have deep compassion, to act with integrity and love and to not judge others out of fear.

When we are chasing the finish line, we lose focus. When we focus on the journey, we learn and we grow. This is our own journey. It’s like the tortoise that persists and keeps taking that one step ahead, rather than the hare rushing to get ahead. Pressfield reminds us to “Remember, Resistance wants us to cede sovereignty to others. It wants us to stake our own self worth, our identity, our reason for being, on the response of others to our world. Resistance knows that we can’t take this, no one can.” He reminds us that Resistance is a bully that has no strength of its own. Its power comes entirely from our fear of it.

Whatever it is that you enjoy doing every day, whatever it is that brings you joy, whatever it is that makes you feel a sense of purpose – please don’t ever stop doing it. There are moments where our mind tells us it’s too difficult to start, but often making the small steps count. Whether it’s playing an instrument, writing a book, or painting an artwork. Pressfield’s words beautifully says that “When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates us. The Muse takes note of our dedication.

Our mind can be the biggest battlefield that we will ever fight in our lives. It will tell us all the lies to tear us apart and it will try to tell us that we can’t face the world. The mind can be a prison where escape seems impossible. We are trapped in our continuous cycle of negative thoughts, until we come to realise that the key is within us the whole time waiting to unlock and free ourselves. One of the greatest choices that we can make for ourselves is to fight to be our true self and to strive to go past the resistance.

We all have the ability, but as we get older, it’s easy to forget it. We watch the beauty of nature, and how it flows effortlessly and watches the season goes by. It’s as simple as a child sitting down, being lost in play and being completely present in the world. The child doesn’t judge him or herself for the artwork they draw, the child just draws because they enjoy it. The power is within us. The ability to get up and do something. The ability to fight through the fear. Whatever it is that we do in our lives, the ability to have humility in all that we do is one of the greatest.

The principal of organization is built into nature. Chaos itself is self-organizing. Out of primordial disorders, stars find their orbits; rivers make their way to the sea. – Steven Pressfield

The self is our deepest being. The self is united to God – Steven Pressfield

Art by Miren Asiain Lora 

The Handbook for Highly Sensitive People

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Humans are wired to connect and to have authentic conversations. Being sensitive, empathetic and vulnerable are traits that allow us to truly connect with people. A highly sensitive person (HSP) experiences the world through a heightened way through high sensory experiences. This may be through crowded places, strong scents or loud noises. It is said by the clinical psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron that 15-20% of the population are HSPs. HSPs process and feel emotions more deeply than others and they are highly empathic and tend to have rich inner lives. The emotions they may feel are very deep whether that may be positive or negative.

Growing up as a classical musician, I was deeply moved by music during a performance, a painting in an art gallery, reading a book or watching a movie. Taking actions such as surrounding myself in nature, sitting at a library or taking time to pray or meditate would bring peace and calm. Discovering that I am an HSP explained so many factors from my childhood, career and the unexplainable feeling that there was something wrong with me. The act of practicing loving yourself and being gentle with yourself is one of the most kindest and lifechanging things you can do for yourself.

I recently read The Handbook for Highly Sensitive People by Mel Collins, and felt touched by a lot of the ways she describes the experiences that HSP’s have during their lifetime. The book is separated into three sections. The first section expands on the term HSP. This includes the definition of an HSP, the Environmental and sensory triggers and the challenges HSP face. The second section looks at different strategies through processing emotions, practicing self-love and tapping. The third section talks about the spiritual perspective from exploring our past lives and maintaining inner balance.

The book is a great introduction for those who want to have a better understanding of being an HSP. The book reminds you that you are not alone in this journey, as it invites HSPs to recognize their strengths rather than look at themselves as flawed. Collins expands on the top ten challenges faced by HSP’s. These include being empathic sponges, deep emotional sensitivity, a feeling of not belonging, a difficult childhood, self-esteem and self-worth issues, relationship struggles , health issues, difficulty accepting the ‘inner darkness’, parenting parents or other family members and feeling unfulfilled.

Being empathic sponges can be draining due to the HSPs being kind-hearted and highly empathic by nature. When surrounded in a negative environment it can leave them feeling over-stimulated. Collins says that “HSPs often feel a need to withdraw from the outside world to release the energies absorbed and to recharge.” Deep emotional sensitivity is felt through the positive (joy, kindness and love) and negative emotions (guilt, shame, fear, hurt, loss, unworthiness, jealousy, anger and feelings of betrayal). A feeling of not belonging can start from a young age particularly for those who have experienced a difficult childhood.

Self-esteem and self-worth issues may arise due to the HSPs sensitive nature being criticized or judged from a young age, causing shame and embarrassment because of it. Relationship struggles can be common for HSPs such as nurturing friendships, as they are natural givers and good listeners. This can attract the friendship patterns that are one-sided. Health issues can be a problem as HSPs are extremely sensitive to pain. For example, they may experience disorders such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia or insomnia.

Difficulty accepting the ‘inner darkness’ is a common trait for many HSPs. HSPs tend to be kind-hearted people who want to be good to others. Collins states that “They often have difficulty accepting what is viewed as the ‘darker’ side of themselves. This can lead to them suppressing what they see as their more negative emotions.” The words Collins adds rings true “whatever you resist persists.” It’s important to find healthy and safe ways to release any suppressed emotions.

HSPs can grow up taking the role of the parent subconsciously. This is common for HSPs whose parents were emotionally unavailable. The final challenge Collins states is feeling unfulfilled. Collins states that “In my experience working with HSPs, many have a strong drive to feel they are making a difference in the world. As a result, many believe that if they don’t feel fulfilled in this way, they are in the wrong career.” Many may find that there is a long period where they may spend searching for what they are ‘supposed’ to be doing. However, she says that “In reality, however, any job has the capacity to reflect an aspect of themselves or meet an inner need […] Every job can be viewed in this way if you make a choice to do so – as a stepping stone towards a more fulfilling purpose.”

For many HSPs it can feel like you are spending a lifetime finding your purpose and understanding the depth and complexities of your emotions. Embracing your inner self and accepting that you feel deep emotions will free you from the chains. The pain was only extended through the deep fear of judgment and rejection for how I was feeling. Taking steps and finding specific ways that help you with your feelings is an important step to healing. I really hope in writing this, that it can help even one HSP know that you are not alone. I spent many years with depression and anxiety. I found methods such as meditating, praying, journaling, walking, being in nature and self-havening incredibly healing in the moments where I’ve felt helpless or overwhelmed.

Your sensitivity is your superpower. The ability to empathise towards others and deeply connect to animals, nature, music and the arts is a gift. The search for meaningful connections means that you give your all or nothing in friendships and relationships. Sensitivity is both a blessing and a challenge, but sensitivity is a strength, not a weakness. We live in a world that tells us that we need to be a certain way, but when we acknowledge the strength of being sensitive, it opens the door to understanding. The characteristics that you may have not seen as worthy are the very aspects that make you beautiful.

“By becoming conscious of what it is in the ‘darkness’ or ‘shadow, you are shining light into the darkness and encouraging it to dissolve.” – Mel Collins

Art by Kate Pugsley

Why We Should Read More Books

Books

The magic of reading is that it allows you to expand your mind, use your imagination and learn something new. It helps you gain a new perspective, go on adventures and leave your comfort zone. Reading brings emotions, thoughts, and ideas to ponder on. Books were a special part of my childhood, from the bedtime stories, trips to the library and getting lost in another world. When I was younger, there were shelves of books and magazines at home. We had many National Geographic magazines, all the way from the 1980’s, and I liked to sit on the floor and read them. On the shelves were classics from Anne Frank’s Diary, The Call of the Wild, The Little Prince, Jane Eyre, Animal Farm and The Catcher in the Rye.

During high school, I went through a stage where I read a lot of books by Jane Austen and Shakespeare. Reading teaches us the virtue of patience, empathy, loyalty, kindness, humility, courage, respect and so forth. There are characters that go through a journey that we’re invited to go along with. I’ve found reading to be really helpful in improving one’s writing, even though I’m still working on my grammar. Every author has their own style of writing, and it’s good to be exposed to different styles. Writing is therapeutic, but reading relaxes the mind. It allows you to truly stay in the present, reading each word as it comes, yet being able to completely escape into somewhere else in your imagination.

Books require us to use our imagination. It creates a quiet space, which is important to have during the day. I also find that reading before going to sleep can really help with falling asleep quicker, and also the exposure to less screen time. When I use digital technology at night time, I find my mind is more active, but when I read more at night, the mind tends to be more relaxed. We can learn something new from the characters and stories. A lot of new words I’ve picked up over the years are from reading, whether it’s from a fiction book, textbook, magazine or online article. When we read it stimulates our brain, and it also helps us to momentarily focus on something else.

I’ve found this to be very healing, as it’s helped so much in lessening my anxiety. Anxiety is created when we place too much focus on ourselves and create worry in our mind. Reading fills our mind with different stories, and we can gain more perspective on life. It’s also a great way to connect with someone if you’ve both read the same book, and you can talk about the story, ideas, and characters. The best thing about books is that there is something for everyone, because of the endless amount of genres. Have you ever felt that books tend to be more colourful in your mind, compared to when you see a movie version? Although there may be exceptions to some films, I’ve always found that the books are always more detailed and graphic in the mind. Our imagination is so powerful.

Reading helps to improve your memory and ability to focus. It requires attention in order to know what’s happening, and your memory improves as you follow along each chapter. When you read, it’s a process of focusing on the page. I find that if we use our digital devices, it’s easier to get distracted because of the different functions. However, a book just requires us to read each page to the next. Enjoying the simple joys in life is one of the ultimate reasons to read more. I still like to read picture books sometimes when I go to the bookstore or sit in the library. I don’t think you’re ever too old to read children books, or too young to read a long fiction novel if you want to. Reading is a wonderful hobby to have and it’s a great way to fill the free time during the day.

What are some of your favourite books?

A New Zealander’s Story On Being Chinese

Books

I finished reading Being Chinese – A New Zealander’s Story by Helene Wong in two days, and it really made me think about my own background, experiences and thoughts on being a New Zealander. Wong was born in Taihape, with a mixture of second and third generation in her family, and in her book, she explores her family history. She shares her experiences in acting and theatre, and the stereotypes and often lack of authentic representation that occur within the industry. I really encourage anyone to read this book, as it really makes you think about the importance of cultivating a society that treats everyone the same. It’s something we should all strive for. It makes one reflect on their own background and the portrayal of Asians in the arts and media.

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I think about how when I was younger, I sometimes never felt quite completely Taiwanese, when I was in Taiwan, and yet not quite completely Kiwi when I was in New Zealand because of my appearances. Even though I was born and raised here. There is a sentence in Wong’s book where she writes “I ask myself, just how Chinese am I?”, and as she writes about her childhood, there were many parts that I could relate to and I believe many Asian Kiwi’s may have also experienced.  

Growing up, there was this feeling of Other as my last name would say. There would be the constant mispronunciations during school assemblies and prize giving, yet it was something I simply got used to. In Chapter 3 titled ‘I never think of you as Chinese’, she shares a story in which someone said those words to her. She talks about assimilation, and it made me think about an English paper I took last year, where I did an essay on Amy Tan’s essay on Mother Tongue. It made me think about accents, and how often I noticed growing up that because my parents had Asian accents when they spoke English, they were perceived a certain way compared to an Asian with a Kiwi accent.

I related to Wong’s love for writing, as English was always one of my favourite subjects, and I loved writing essays, reading books and spending time thinking and analysing about texts and meanings. Wong talks about how because of one’s physical identity, we will be viewed a certain way. It made me think of when I was placed into ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) in primary school, even though my English is fluent. It makes me think about how because of the way one looks, I will always be inescapably asked where I am from. If we look at the arts, media, advertising and many other industries in New Zealand, we have to emphasise that there is a need for more representation.

Wong writes about the films she grew up watching, and how often stereotypes and whitewashing occurred. She writes “…there only for their ‘Chineseness’. Worse, if they were anything more than exotic colour and had dialogue, the parts were usually played by white actors in slitty-eyed yellowface. They made me squirm with anger. Despite evidence all around us of Chinese people doing the same things as everyone else – in my own family, occupations ranged from nurse to architect, hairdresser to psychologist – Chinese were never cast in these roles.” She talks about food, as she writes “…when the look, taste, texture, fragrance and sound of a dish all came together it was art, and eating it brought a burst of joy.”

When the nineties arrived, there was an increase in immigration. Wong talks about how during this time, she really became ‘Asian’. She talks about the media stories in 1989 about immigrants, which used the phrase ‘Asian Invasion.’ She writes that “White New Zealanders were suddenly seeing more Chinese faces on the street…They did not say the same of the South Africans who were also arriving in the country under the same immigration policy. Chinese were too different – in looks, speech, behaviour.” She continues to write that “The Sinophobia also came from longstanding beliefs in the West that Chinese were inferior.” When people deny this, they roll everything under the carpet to keep it quiet. However, I really believe that we need to speak about it more.

The term ‘casual racism’ is used, and I think about how often it comes from ignorance and unintentional offense, and other times it’s overt and covered as a joke. It really starts with accepting and being respectful of everyone’s differences. Every individual person is so unique, full of layers and has a beautiful story to tell.  Auckland is one of the most culturally diverse cities, and being born and raised here, I call it my home. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement and change, and I believe that we can and we will see more diversity in the arts and media industry.

Photography by Sun Jun

The Beauty Of Walking Long Distances

Books

I recently finished reading a book called A Philosophy of Walking by Frédéric Gros. It was such a beautiful read. It was a peaceful feeling walking to the rose gardens the other day, knowing I’d read a book about walking! If you have ever read Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or watched Keira Knightley in the film adaptation, then you may appreciate Elizabeth Bennet’s love of walking. There’s such a sense of pure satisfaction of soaking in the morning sunlight, cool air and nature around oneself. The feeling of being another stranger in the crowd, going on an adventure or getting lost and discovering a new place.

The beauty of growing up in the country side is that walking is a daily joy. Your senses thank you for the breath of fresh air, birds singing, rolling green hills and the feeling of gravel and grass under your soles. If there are any places within walking distance of half an hour in the city, I prefer to walk instead of taking the bus or train. I was walking in the art gallery the other day, and it was one of the most therapeutic and simple things that brought so much enjoyment. The feeling of being surrounded by nature, art and books is some of the little joys in life.

Have you ever noticed if you’ve ever had a terrible day, walking seems to allow your mind to think with more clarity or just let the stress lessen even just a little? In that moment, you don’t feel completely stuck in your mind enclosed in your room, but the world around you reminds you that you’re not completely alone. Walking is good for your body, soul and your existence. It gives a sense of purpose, meaning and peace in ones life. The simple act of moving one foot in front of the other, sets our mind free. It opens us to see the world. Many writers venture out into the world to experience, before being fully absorbed into writing parts of a novel.

There is time for reflections, thoughts, ideas and imagination to run wild. Walking relieves the heavy weight of anxiety or emotional pain. Gros talks about how there are those who walk for a short period of time during the day as a boost, while others walk for hours and hours. The feeling of walking to a destination, such as the library, art gallery or park always fills me with a sense of small purpose. It may sound unimportant to another, but as I set out on the journey to the place, it makes me feel rewarded once I arrive. When we walk, we are just another being walking on this Earth. It’s a gentle reminder of the importance of solitude.

I remember as a child, walking was like play in the way that you’d feel excited when you arrive somewhere, see something new or meet someone. The curiosity, adventure and journey was rewarding. In a world where there is a fixation on fitness, walking is often overlooked, when it has endless benefits for our overall well being. Taking the action to walk out the door for a walk is necessary in a life where we create complexities. The simplicity of walking reminds us that it’s always the little things. It makes one not become so attached to their own troubles in life. It lets us observe the strangers walking past us, and remind ourselves that everyone’s lives are on a different path.

We have a wider perspective, a sense of renewed energy and a calmer self when we go outdoors for a walk. When we walk, we are reminded to take it easy and enjoy life at a steady pace, rather than rushing through it. In the words of Shakespeare, All the World’s a Stage, we can be anyone when we walk. There isn’t an attachment to identity, and therefore we ignore any titles or labels of ourselves. It’s one of the most natural things we can possibly do, starting from the moment we learn to walk as a baby.

We have all the space, time and possibilities. You are the only one who can take those steps to where ever you’re headed to. No one else can walk them for you. There’s awareness, presence and discovery into the unknown or a familiar environment. Repetition in walking can be a comforting motion. It can be a way of escaping or a way of understanding. That is why walking is such an essential part of our lives. We are blessed to have these two legs that can take us around the world, and even just in the streets of our hometown.

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking

Books

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Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking was the first book I read in 2017. It was such a wonderful and incredibly relatable book that had me nodding throughout. After watching Susan Cain’s Ted talk on the power of introverts, it gave me a sense of reassurance and a wider perspective of what it means to be an introvert. The way she touched on many areas of being an introvert, being a highly sensitive person and interacting with introverts and extroverts, makes us aware that introverts and extroverts simply act, learn, work, socialise and live in different ways. A third to a half of people are introverts.

Cain talks about how in Asian culture, we tend to have a more introvert approach to many aspects of life, where as in American culture, they tend to have a more extroverted approach. When it comes to socialising and networking, it’s the conversations and environment that ultimately makes a difference. Conversations that are superficial tend to drain my energy batteries, whereas deep meaningful conversations make me feel engaged. Cain writes that there is no evidence that introverts or extroverts out perform one another. Both are capable of achieving a high standard, however the method of an extrovert is often applauded, even if it may not be the best. We tend to listen to the loud person in the group who is more talkative, however they may not always necessarily have the best ideas.

In terms of friendship, many introverts tend to have a small group of close and intimate friends. The book really expresses how we need a world of introverts and extroverts. Both compliment one another, and both are important in our society. Cain touches on the point that there is a need for introverts to be able to work at their best by providing them with suitable environments and communication methods. In a world where extroverts are praised, the introverts have a world of thoughts and ideas to contribute to the world. Never underestimate someones abilities, just because we cannot see it. Every individual has the ability to make a big or small change in the world.

Art by Monica Barengo

What The Little Prince Taught Me

Books

Growing up, you may of read The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. As I was sitting in a cafe called Woolloomooloo in Taipei last year with my dear friend, she told me how she was reading the book. It brought back a lot of memories of the book, and as one of those classics that have been read time and time again, I was curious to watch the film which came out in 2015. There are rarely books and movies (with the exception of Harry Potter), where I felt like I loved both of them. The film magically intertwined The Little Prince with the story of a young girl. The most important message I felt was the power of imagination. The wonderful joy, love, happiness and excitement it brings. New adventures and a boundless mind. The water colour paintings, wise words and wonderful story is really a reminder for us that we were all once children. “All grown ups were children once… but only few of them remember it.” – Saint-Exupéry.

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When you were younger, did you remember asking endless questions out of curiosity, going on adventures of make believe, having your first imaginary friend and laughing uncontrollably about nothing. Whatever it was, a part of growing up can often suppress many parts of our childhood self, that so often is a crucial part of us to carry within us for the rest of our lives. Human nature can only survive by reaching for what is within, rather than what is without. As we grow older, there are many parts of our surroundings we only look at from the surface. The book shows the little prince, being amazed at the drawing of an elephant inside a boa constrictor, where as the adults can only see a hat. How mysterious we are inside. The secrets we hold, the words waiting to be unlocked and the way we think. When we grow older, it can become a habit to judge on a person’s exterior, rather than realising the journey they have come. The stories that are untold and the wonderful true self that they may partially hide. The Little Prince reminds us not to lose the goodness that is in all of us.

fb807d5721ed3e8e075ab466dbbfe2fbThis book is a lot deeper than one may find, but it is also the kind of book you read and do not forget. There are many themes, such as friendship, human nature, truth, innocence, reality, imagination and so forth. We are reminded to be like the little prince in many ways. To hold onto our true selves, to seek from within rather than without and be an honest person. Pulling down the brick walls that can often be built as we grow older. Lessening the judgment of those that walk around us in our daily lives. Remembering to see the beauty and simplicity in the world, and most of all, cherish and nurture special relationships for every individual is a magical treasure of secrets.

little_prince_boa_constrictor“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.” It could not be any truer. Everything that is truly beautiful, is always felt inside. I’d like to think that we can always encompass a child like imagination and see beyond the surface of our minds. Unfortunately we often assume, look and judge based on what is immediately seen. The Little Prince reminds us to have an open heart, open mind and to embrace our imagination, rather than let it go. If you get the chance, have a read of the book. If you were wondering what had happened to the elephant, he is still inside the boa constrictor.