Tracking Sam # 3

Beard update - featuring my new jersey knitted by my mum and an oil skin hat given to me by my friend in Fox Glacier.

Beard update - featuring my new jersey knitted by my mum and an oil skin hat given to me by my friend in Fox Glacier.

As I drove Haz off the Cook Strait ferry, crossing the gangplank to enter Picton, I made eye contact with one of the crew who was guiding the vehicles. He smiled and saluted me in military style. As I returned the grand gesture I felt excitement wash over me, the next stage of our adventure had begun – me’n Haz in the Wild South!

I turned Haz towards Nelson where I planned to camp out for the night. I awoke to a stunning view of the beach, surrounded by expensive looking houses, and made a cup of tea to drink as I enjoyed the splendour of the scene. I was on "Parkers Rd" #vanlife.

Sitting on the back of my van and drinking a cuppa while looking out at Tahuna Beach.

Sitting on the back of my van and drinking a cuppa while looking out at Tahuna Beach.

Hugh and I posing in front of a bonfire to burn off scrub from his land in St Arnaud. 

Hugh and I posing in front of a bonfire to burn off scrub from his land in St Arnaud. 

In the morning I picked up my friend Helen from the airport, who was excited to meet Haz, and we all drove to Nelson Lakes together for the next leg of the journey. We were staying in St Arnaud with Hugh Norris who was previously the Director of Strategy, Advocacy, and Research for the Mental Health Foundation. Hugh is a person who deeply understands the connection between NZ’s mental health problems and systemic issues, so I mentioned the idea of him being my mentor. He said that he's not into the word mentor; preferring a dynamic where we learn off each other, and pointed out that young people are often his teachers...damn he's good! Hugh took Helen and I tramping around Lake Rotoiti and we stayed in Coldwater Hut at the wild side of the lake. As the fire roared that night, we discussed the development of consciousness throughout history and begun an enquiry into the nature of our present developments as a species. I remember going outside to piss in the middle of the night and as I contemplated the conversation I looked around in awe at the frozen landscape, noticing the reflection of the stars glistening on the lake in the darkness of the new moon. A shooting start shot across the sky. This moment sparked a epic creative idea for collaboration with a friend in the future, which will hopefully be brought to life in time. Keep your ears open for it ;). 

Hugh's home in St Arnaud.

Hugh's home in St Arnaud.

Alphonso - the mystery David Bowie looking Manderin duck who lives at Lake Rotoiti.

Alphonso - the mystery David Bowie looking Manderin duck who lives at Lake Rotoiti.

Hugh put us up in his family batch for a few days and then generously gifted us the use of his home while his partner, Tracy, and himself were attending the Wanaka film festival. During this time, I filmed and edited Focus Ep3 myself, which was my first solo project. The creative experience was empowering! As the sun set after filming in the bush on my own, I saw a beautiful Mandarin duck that looked like David Bowie swim elegantly past. I experienced something rising up from within me, which burst out in a feeling of pure joy – on that day I had glimpsed an expression of the artist in myself. I later discovered the duck’s existence at Lake Rotoiti is a mystery and the local Doc rangers have named it Alphonso. It was as if the open mountainous environment helped me open up to a part of myself that had been repressed. The tricky part now is to find the balance between the scientist and the artist in myself.

The wood range at Hugh's family batch. Loved this thing!

The wood range at Hugh's family batch. Loved this thing!

Helen at the far side of Lake Rotoiti with the moon talisman she gave me in the corner.

Helen at the far side of Lake Rotoiti with the moon talisman she gave me in the corner.

I learnt a lot from my time with Helen, who is a powerful woman with a strong feminine side. She was not shy to “Call In” my more dominating masculine behaviour at times, and although it was challenging to hear I found myself sitting with the way this made me feel and striving to change my behaviour. I also made sure to assert my own boundaries by honestly expressing my feelings about her behaviour too (now that was challenging for me to do!) and soon we reached a lovely balance in each other’s company as she worked on her Masters and I edited videos. After she returned north, I discovered she had left a small pottery moon under my pillow as a reminder to keep balancing the sunny side of my personality with the coolness of the moon. It felt like I earned a talisman.

Double rainbow between Hokatika and Fox Glacier illustrating the spectrum of light that is either absorbed or reflected off matter depending on its frequency. 

Double rainbow between Hokatika and Fox Glacier illustrating the spectrum of light that is either absorbed or reflected off matter depending on its frequency. 

After a few days creating in solitude I jumped back in Haz and journeyed onwards to Fox Glacier, picking up a hitchhiker called Elie on the way and visiting my good friend Mara who was staying with a skilled and inspiring carver in Hokatika. Elie and I saw some huge rainbows on the road to Fox, which has led to ongoing contemplations about the true nature of light.  

A book about a famous West Coast explorer with the maps he drew. 

A book about a famous West Coast explorer with the maps he drew. 

I had arranged to stay with a good mate of mine at Fox, who I first met during my early years at university – Alex Hooper. He’s being living in Fox Glacier for years and has studied original maps of the area by famous NZ explorers like Charles Douglas, AP Harper, and Alec Graham. It was time to experience a cornerstone root of NZ Pakeha culture by getting a taste of the lifestyle led by many pioneer men. Alex gifted me an oil skin hat, so I looked the part - a regular new chum.

Alex showing me the parts of the beach he's already prospected. 

Alex showing me the parts of the beach he's already prospected. 

We packed our swags, which included a small sluice for prospecting gold. Alex reckoned we wouldn’t need his larger wooden sluice, affectionately named Big Bertha. We set off in the morning following The Cook river to a spot he had thoughtfully selected due to the way gold would have travelled down the river, and we spent the next few hours digging and pouring stones into the sluice while standing in the freezing glacial waters. As we were working Alex informed me that most people hate him after he takes them out prospecting for the first time “I’ve discovered that other people don't always enjoy the same things as me, like hard physical labor for fun” (smiles cheekily). He talked about how it’s not about the gold; it’s the process he enjoys which gets him out into nature, focused completely on the task, and involves learning and problem solving, “the golds just a wee bonus to top it off”. His Kiwi ingenuity could be easily seen by some of the contraptions he had invented and built to streamline the process.

Walking up the Cook River.

Walking up the Cook River.

We then adventured up The Cook river and followed some of the old trails in the bush. Alex pointed out machete marks in trees from past explorers blazing trails. There were gigantic boulders at the bottom of the valley as we progressed further up the river, which meant we had to crawl through small tunnels and traverse icy rocks. Safe to say I slipped several times, but I enjoyed getting out of my comfort zone and Alex provided a helping hand at times. I swallowed my pride and accepted the support as a serious fall could be disasterous. On the way we saw Alex’s boss who had been hunting and I filmed him shooting his magnum rifle. He pointed out a native Whio duck (it’s on the $10 note) floating down the rapids, which I had never seen before and it really topped off the day for me.

It's me gold! The real gold for me was the experience and film I shot. 

It's me gold! The real gold for me was the experience and film I shot. 

Climbing through an ice cave on Fox Glacier.

Climbing through an ice cave on Fox Glacier.

Back in town Alex’s partner, Christina who works at Fox Guides, arranged a Helicopter hike for me up the glacier to support my mahi….yeah I know right, I’m one lucky guy! I got some sweet shots from the chopper and had heaps of fun walking and sliding on the glacier. Christina also took her friend Lizzy and I out to watch a beautiful West Coast sunset. We sat next to a bonfire with cold beers roasting sausages and sharing experiences. I have so much gratitude for Alex’s and Christina’s gifts of true West Coast experiences.

As I write this my friend Mel sent me a beautiful design for my business car, which I'm really excited about – check out her stuff! This weekend I’m going to go shoot a shotgun for the first time and film the episode of Focus, which is all about being calm as we go about our lives. Stay tuned and much peace.

Christina's bonfire at Hunt's beach.

Christina's bonfire at Hunt's beach.

Tracking Sam #2

Progress with beard rowth on 20 June, 2017. Photo taken on my phone as I type this blog post on my laptop.

Progress with beard rowth on 20 June, 2017. Photo taken on my phone as I type this blog post on my laptop.

As I pause to observe the growth of my beard since beginning this project, it creates a space for me to reflect on the insights I’ve gleaned from conversations. And I don’t just mean the conversations  on film – when I put myself out there by starting this project, everyone I was meeting or already knew began voicing their opinions about what I was doing. I have become a hub for people to direct info my way in the hope that I’ll do something with it, which feels like a privilege. It’s everyday conversations that reveal the edges and sharp points of the thing, as well as a huge amount of opinion that needs to be listened to, filtered, integrated, and turned into something useful. 

Observing the intricacies of a fern. Photo by Amandala Photography.

Observing the intricacies of a fern. Photo by Amandala Photography.

Reflection can be a funny sort thing - I didn’t start this project because it was my “dream job”, but now looking back I recall memories from my childhood of watching people create TV series in nature, like Steve Irwin and David Attenborough, and wishing I could be like them. At the time it never occurred to me that I could actually do it; I saw film-making as one of those things that "special" people did, almost like they were an entirely different category of people. My friends played a massive role in helping me realise my potential by supporting my ideas and encouraging me, but I also had to do internal work to realise that I am a person of worth. I fondly remember the feeling of self-acceptance as I realised the truth “I am creative…I am an artist…I am a scientist…I am a craftsman...I am well, Sam haha. People seemed to notice the difference in me, but nothing physical had changed; rather, I had changed the way I was looking at myself. Suddenly I was able to meet my eyes when I looked in the mirror and smile. This was instrumental to my development - it was after I made the internal change that many things external to me started to change for the better.

Screenshot of the crowd funding results on Boosted.

Screenshot of the crowd funding results on Boosted.

The other strong feeling I have is one of gratitude – I entered crowd funding relatively naively, and suddenly became aware that I was asking people for their hard earned money, so I could follow my dream. As I began campaigning I started to worry about the way some people might see what I was doing – "maybe they’ll think I’m asking for a handout?" "Maybe I should have partnered with a well-known organisation?" "Maybe I should have applied for government funding? Why should everyday people fund this out of their pockets when they already pay tax?" I started to doubt myself and feel shame, but then just as my head was drooping the messages came flooding in - people wrote to reassure me that they were behind what I was doing. With every donation and message, I sat up a bit straighter. People reached out to let me know they couldn’t afford to donate, but asked what else could they do to support me. People shared my posts and made supportive comments. I lifted my head, smiled, and at times shed tears - I felt completely humbled alongside an immense feeling of gratitude. I can feel it as I write this.  A deeper kind of confidence developed that didn't seem to come from an internal place alone; it was built by connection to others. Yet I don’t want to disregard the feelings of fear and shame – they seemed like crucial parts of a process that I had to experience to gain confidence. I often ask people whether they would enjoy a book where the main character went from step to step easily without any challenges, and their answer is always the same - no! It's no different for our own lives. 

This photo by Amandala Photography gets close to the expression of gratitude and surrender I felt with crowd funding. 

This photo by Amandala Photography gets close to the expression of gratitude and surrender I felt with crowd funding. 

So maybe you want to hear more about my adventure down the country? Last time I checked in I was about to set off to Otaki for the Mindfulness for Change Hui, which I was helping to organise. 

The yurt!

The yurt!

The Piwakawaka cabin!

The Piwakawaka cabin!

I rocked up to Waihōanga Centre For Well-being, where the hui was being held, and was warmly welcomed by my friends who were setting up. And wow what a beautiful place! I quickly began exploring the land – I ran up to the fabled yurt and was struck by a magical feeling as I encountered the beautiful structure surrounded by a babbling brook and small wooden bridges. Next I ventured into the bush and discovered the “Piwakawaka cabin” nestled in the tree. The name gave me a good feeling as these little birds had featured in my life considerably from the moment I decided to begin this project. Some may say that my frequent observation of these birds is attentional bias at play and they may be correct. 

Delicious food by Home-cooking Plus.

Delicious food by Home-cooking Plus.

This was the third Mindfulness for Change hui and for the first time we were feeling completely prepared when other people started to arrive.  As a community we’re trying to pioneer and develop processes that allow for non-hierarchical collaboration and co-creation!  Most of the activities on Saturday were hosted by the community using a process called Open Space, which I had the honour of facilitating with an amazing woman - Elli Yates.

People learning about Holistic Management during Open Space.

People learning about Holistic Management during Open Space.

I also was asked to host one session during Open Space, which involved teaching a process called Holistic Management. This process was the catalyst for me changing my life and beginning this project. Be warned, engaging with it may result in you dropping everything and following your heart! I really enjoyed teaching people the process at the hui, and it was amazing witnessing people make deep realisations about their identity as they progressed toward knowing their purpose. There was an engaged and powerful feeling in the air as people diligently worked, and it filled me with great joy to facilitate. 

During the closing circle Will Moore, a Maori man in the community, mentioned the Piwakawaka chirping outside and spoke about Maui coming across these birds during a transitionary phase of his development. I felt a strong feeling of connection to his story - I don’t think I’m a modern day Maui or anything haha, but I tend to think hero narratives provide us with insight into shared human experiences, like facing and overcoming challenges as we walk our paths.

Kate and Rick on the Paekakariki Enscarpment Track. I'm taking the picture.

Kate and Rick on the Paekakariki Enscarpment Track. I'm taking the picture.

After the hui I travelled to Pukurua Bay to stay with my friends Kate and Rick, and their two dogs - Patch and Lucky. I was based at their lovely home as I launched the crowd funding campaign. Their warm and friendly company was exactly what I needed as I got stuck into work – they fed me, offered encouragement and support, and we had great conversations while still giving me plenty of space to get stuff done. While staying at Pukerua Bay I met up with Elle and Phillipe who had been off surfing while I was at the hui, and we traveled to Paekakariki to capture the enlightening words of Matiu te Huki, who I often hear Elle referencing.

Interview with Matiu te Huki in Paekakariki near his whare.

Interview with Matiu te Huki in Paekakariki near his whare.

Interview with Henry Samia in Porirua.

Interview with Henry Samia in Porirua.

Interview with Devon Briggs in Island Bay, Wellington.

Interview with Devon Briggs in Island Bay, Wellington.

Next I journeyed down to Wellington, the place I was living before setting off to begin this project. I parked up on the driveway of my old flat in Island Bay, where I stayed for a several weeks enjoying the comforts of a beautiful home filled with people who do incredible things. They made a variety of delicious food – from neighbourhood olives they pickled themselves to freshly baked sour dough. Oh and let’s not forget about the delicious mulled wine! Again I was blown away by people’s generosity – they let me stay for weeks without charge, offering it up as a gift for my mahi. While in Wellington we filmed two interviews – one was with Henry Samia, a second generation Samoan Kiwi who works hard to support young people in Porirua. The other was with my friend Devon Briggs who told his story right from his heart, which blew me away. Can’t wait to share these incredible conversations.

As with any adventure there was a challenge - Elle and Phillipe understandably decided that it was time to pursue other areas of their lives, so are no longer journeying with me through the South Island (at least for the foreseeable future!). I have nothing but huge admiration, respect, and gratitude for those two fine humans. 

Elle and Phillipe at Wairere Falls. What champions! I'll miss them very much.

Elle and Phillipe at Wairere Falls. What champions! I'll miss them very much.

Monkey me in Wellington being confused by the concrete jungle

Monkey me in Wellington being confused by the concrete jungle

I had mixed feelings about being back in Wellington. I love spending time with others, but there’s so much going on in cities; even with solid boundaries I find myself getting overwhelmed and distracted at a time when I need focus. On the other hand, I absolutely love the people I know in Wellington and revelled in catching up with friends. I missed the bush and often found myself organising walks with others to escape the concrete jungle. While in the city I often imagine myself as a small monkey watching the hustle and bustle with confusion as I contemplate the strange warping of the natural world that I find myself in. It's like one day we become aware of ourselves and then get quickly conditioned to cope with the reality we find ourselves in – "ohh my, yes that’s a 'skyscraper' and that’s a 'crowd' and that’s a 'homeless person'…."

Dealing to some rust under Haz's windows.

Dealing to some rust under Haz's windows.

As I write this I'm staying with a close friend in Paraparaumu where I’ve been trying to knuckle down and get some work done. In spite of my best efforts I seem to be riding an ebb and I’m looking forward to the flow returning; every day I've been encountering challenges that slow me down. It appears this is simply the nature of doing a thing, so I'm persevering and remain fully motivated. 

Now I’m gearing up to depart for the South Island! Haz is all ready to go with a few small repairs and some elbow grease to combat rust under his windows. My next destination is Nelson Lakes where I’m traveling with a friend to stay with a man who I greatly admire. He's based there working on creating change to our nations approach to mental health. Last time we spoke he said he was looking forward to spending time in the bush and discussing consciousness. Can’t wait!
 

Tracking Sam #1

Haz parked up at the Arty House Creative Community cottage. My home for a month.

Haz parked up at the Arty House Creative Community cottage. My home for a month.

At the beginning of April, I packed my Wellington life into my new Toyoata Hiace, affectionately named Hazard or Haz for short. Pretty reliable van maaate! I headed for Tauranga via my sister’s beautiful wedding in the Wairarapa. Still a little tired from the celebration, I rocked up to the Arty House Creative Community on Wairoa Rd to kick off the project in collaboration with a master of technological creativity – Dane Scott. Check him out at http://www.danescott.com

Dane Scott with his beautiful partner, Tayla Joy, at the Wairere Falls shoot. Edited by Dane himself, showcasing his smooth style. 

Dane Scott with his beautiful partner, Tayla Joy, at the Wairere Falls shoot. Edited by Dane himself, showcasing his smooth style. 

My interview with Leo Murray in his father's tepee where we also hosted the men's circle 

My interview with Leo Murray in his father's tepee where we also hosted the men's circle 

The residents on the land were all epic humans working on awesome and inspiring projects for the world, and they warmly welcomed me into their family. There was a constant stream of abundantly delicious food, great people, red wine, deep conversations, and parties with sweet sweet sounds. I did my best to repay their generosity by facilitating community meetings, hosting the local men’s circle, and guiding people to holistically manage their lives and projects.

The cottage at the Arty House Creative Community. A hub for people working on epic projects for the world! 

The cottage at the Arty House Creative Community. A hub for people working on epic projects for the world! 

And the learning began! From the get go Dane guided me on how to capture mindfulness in film. As we shot the first Focused Awareness video at McClaren Falls, starring that epic Piwakawaka, Dane taught me that if I practised mindfulness as we filmed then he could capture what I was trying to teach - mindfulness in action. This might seem obvious, but it takes determination to be mindful while filming. We discovered that if I spent time listening to the bush sounds as we recorded them, it helped me get into the zone. Dane also demonstrated that we could visually depict focused awareness through vision by adjusting the camera focus to different perspectives of the scenes as we filmed, a style of shot that we’re going to try to replicate throughout the series. I think the most powerful thing I learnt from Dane was that a beautiful way to film is to capture the authentic narrative as it is organically unfolding in the moment, rather than trying to construct a narrative beforehand. It seems that the art of filming mindfulness is to simply be in the moment and have some cameras around wielded by people who know how to use them.

Interview with Adam Sharplin at his home in Welcome Bay, Tauranga.

Interview with Adam Sharplin at his home in Welcome Bay, Tauranga.

We then began shooting interviews with Adam Sharplin (which we released!), Ian Mason, and Leo Murray. Again Dane was full of creative wisdom – he taught me how important it is to spend time connecting with people over a cup of tea or some kai. It was always helpful to talk about the subject matter, which created a space to allow people’s personal insights and vulnerable stories to emerge safely and with confidence.

Interview with Ian Mason at his farm in Lower Kaimai, Tauranga.

Interview with Ian Mason at his farm in Lower Kaimai, Tauranga.

Phillipe Menoita at Wairere Falls right after he flew the drone for the intro video.

Phillipe Menoita at Wairere Falls right after he flew the drone for the intro video.

As we were filming interviews Elle Hocking and Phillipe Menoita, the videographers who I'm working with on the road, arrived to the community in Tauranga. I first met Elle and Phillipe by chance at my flat in Wellington while they were there to check out a van that a visiting friend was selling. I answered the door and talked to them for a while before returning to my room, but then I had a strong intuitive feeling that I should go and ask them if they were into videography. Elle revealed that she was in fact a videographer who was keen for a collaborative project and Phillipe said that he was an experienced photographer who was interested in developing video skills. Check them out at http://www.ellusive.co.nz

Elle Hocking at Wairere Falls after getting sweet shots on her camcorder.

Elle Hocking at Wairere Falls after getting sweet shots on her camcorder.

After Elle pointed out that she was into wilderness and hunting, my mind was officially blown. Fast forward to Tauranga again – Elle and Phillipe joined the family with ease and everyone was excited by the drone they had brought with them. They soon revealed their generous and passionate spirits to everyone by supporting local projects - taking aerial shots of the Arty House Creative Community and the Rock Community Garden in Papamoa.

Wairere Falls lookout. I'm pointing at where I plan to stand for the shot.

Wairere Falls lookout. I'm pointing at where I plan to stand for the shot.

Now we were all together, it was time to shoot the introduction and crowd funding videos at Wairere Falls, a 153m waterfall in the Kaimai range (to be released soon!). Our vision was to capture me standing on the top of the waterfall with the drone hovering out just in front, and then for it to fly quickly upwards and pan over the waterfall. We set off to make our way up to the top, accompanied by the beautiful Tayla Joy, to capture our most epic video yet. Despite the wind and many tourists, we absolutely nailed the shot and celebrated together by dancing on the waterfall as the drone flew overhead. We recorded the rest of the video in the bush above the falls, on the path back down, and sitting in my van as the sun set. What a day!

Dancing on the top of Wairere Falls after nailing the shot. Philipe is flying the drone. 

Dancing on the top of Wairere Falls after nailing the shot. Philipe is flying the drone. 

April was ending and a party was looming in Auckland, so I sadly bid Dane and the local community farewell. I have the deepest gratitude for Dane – we met very briefly for the first time right after new year, and when I told him what I was planning he said that he was totally into it and would give me a month of filming. Well he was completely true to his word - what an absolute champion! I hope that one day I can repay his generosity. I would highly recommend him to anyone as a professional – he was easy going, on point, gave excellent guidance, and pulled of all the shoots beautifully.

Planting trees at Mawhitipana Valley with Emma, Phoenix, Sam, and Guto.

Planting trees at Mawhitipana Valley with Emma, Phoenix, Sam, and Guto.

After the party in Auckland, I met up with Elle and Phillipe again and we caught the ferry over to Waiheke Island to capture the wise words of Cameron Ryan and film another episode of Focused Awareness. We also had the privilege of supporting the restoration project in Mawhitipana valley where Cam was living. I learnt so much from him about regenerating native bush and I started learning the names of the different native trees as we placed them around the valley ready for planting. We ate super well the entire time, perhaps with the exception of Cam’s bbq charcoal chicken... We went fishing off the rocks and I caught a snapper which myself and my friend Phoenix turned into a delicious seafood chowder to share with everyone. Elle and Phillipe captured the valley from the air with their drone to help the restoration project track their progress and to be used in permaculture design.

Getting ready for the interview with Cam after he showed me around the bush.

Getting ready for the interview with Cam after he showed me around the bush.

We returned back to Auckland where we met with Matt and Wendy Rayner, my uncle and auntie, to capture their insights from working through Matt’s breakdown as a couple. It was an absolute honour witnessing their story, which I can’t wait to share as it was packed full of insights. This was our first shoot indoors at night, and we didn’t have Dane’s expertise, so now we’re hoping the magic of production will help us reduce the graininess in the shots. We’re learning so much with each video that we capture and edit!

My bro, Jeram, drilling the hole for the vent.

My bro, Jeram, drilling the hole for the vent.

I’m sitting and writing this at my family home in Auckland. I’m very privileged to have such a supportive family! My sister has been emailing me feedback and marketing advice, my brother helped me install a vent and roof insulations to get me through the winter, dad has been offering words of wisdom, and my mum sewed me thermal curtains and is knitting me a jersey. I’m feeling very grateful and there’s something deeply important in feeling supported by people you love as you do something off the beaten track that you’re passionate about. Nice one family!  

A circle at Mindfulness for Change hui 1.

A circle at Mindfulness for Change hui 1.

I’m preparing to head down to the Mindfulness for Change hui, a community organisation that I co-founded that’s all about creating social and environmental change through embodied practises like mindfulness. I’m excited to be facilitating Open Space with Elli Yates, which is a process that organises people’s ideas for workshops into a schedule at the event, rather than pre-organising the content. It’s an amazing piece of social technology! 

And finally, but most importantly, Elle and Phillipe are finalising the edit of the introduction video for the campaign as I write this. They’ve been working hard and it constantly amazes me how giving and passionate they are about this project. I had a sneak peek the other night and a tear came to my eye as I watched it. It really shows how skilled and talented they are. I can’t wait to share it next week! Stay tuned and much peace.

Elle and Phillipe at the lookout to Wairere Falls. On the way up! 

Elle and Phillipe at the lookout to Wairere Falls. On the way up!