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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'…."
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!