Written by Rowena McCracken
When asked what impacted her most during her ten days of silent meditation in Myanmar, Jess Farrelly pauses to think and starts to talk about happiness. She then stops, rethinks, and moves on to pain: “learning that physical pain is not something to be afraid of”.
“I felt a complete happiness in experiencing discomfort and pain which comes with eleven hours of meditation a day”.
The prolonged meditation, sitting through hunger and lack of sleep, taught her how to get through pain and not let it overpower her. “You realise that pain is a part of life that we can not only come through, but we can derive happiness from.”
Sleeping on a wooden slat bed under a mosquito net in a pagoda in Myanmar, Jess felt the happiest she had ever been in her life. Her experience with Vipassana meditation meant existing without attachments to family, friends and possessions, or access to the internet.
She loves Vipassana so much she has taught meditation to children at Brunswick Primary School in Melbourne and is planning a series of retreats for millennials.
Jess is concerned about the pressure millennials face and the consequences this has. A millennial herself, Jess wants to spread the word amongst her peers that using the strength in your mind to shift your focus from pain to enhanced self-awareness and mindfulness, leads to a way of living life with balance, peace and composure. “Many millennials don't use this inner strength because they are not aware they have it”, Jess says.
Research shows that millennials feel intense pressure to succeed. The competitive millennial is stressed about looking to what they can achieve in the future. In a generation where, more than any other, the smartphone is the medium of social approval and being socially accepted is measured, instantly, by the number of ‘likes’ you receive, it follows that your aim is to always look to find the most glamorous outcome from any situation you are in. Being fashionable has always been important but these days it is amped up by the ease in which approval, gratification or disapproval can be instantly achieved. Compulsively. Millennials have never known life without the smartphone, without being connected through the internet. Posting the selfie immediately becomes more important than being present in the moment. Indeed, taking the selfie becomes the moment.
Competition and pressure to succeed often causes lack of focus, which, in turn, leads to insecurity and inability to observe and value input from other people in social situations. Jess says she has noticed that, rather than listen and respond to develop a conversation, her peers are distracted and jump from one topic to the next. She is concerned that on a social level, people are unable to enjoy the ‘here and now’. Instead, they are stressed due to a competitive drive to look around and compare themselves with others, to focus on what might be around the corner so they can achieve more, rather than be present in the moment.
In addition, Jess sees her peers blaming the actions of others for their own state of mind instead of being aware that what is inside them is the root cause of their emotional response and wellbeing. She sees self-awareness as key to enjoying the moment. “I want to teach response rather than reaction - learning to respond to any situation from a point inside yourself, rather than reacting to someone else”. Why is this important? “Because you can hold the anger inside you so it affects your relationship with that person, so that the next time you see them you are still holding the stress inside you”.
Jess has tested her conviction by running retreats for Millennials. Workshops are hosted in Daylesford, Victoria by Story House and Garden. During workshops, Jess creates a safe and calming environment and speaks from the heart about her personal journey. The retreats include interactive workshops from Holly Inglis (AKA The Healthy Hunter) on food and the connection it has to the mind and body. Coming out of the workshops, participants have described their experience using terms such as ‘feeling more grounded’, and being equipped with ‘so many takeaways to bring back with me to my daily life’. Written by Rowena McCracken.
Information can be accessed at www.essential-being.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ballarat Art Gallery; two weeks of fabulous stories
For her commissioned piece Sally Smart asks a question, 'Were there any women pirates? I shared the story of my links to Captain Kidd the Pirate. You can read the story on my blog, here.
Romancing the Skull is on until 28 Janurary 2018 Art Gallery of Ballarat
His hair was long and dark, and it flowed out in the water around Him as He swam. Suddenly many fishes appeared and each fish took one strand of Baha'u'llah's hair in its mouth and followed Baha'u'llah as He kept swimming.
The fish did not hurt Him, or slow Him down. When Bahil'u'llah turned one way, so did every fish. When He turned the other way, the fish followed that way.
The fishes were following Baha'u'llah's light - the light of God in His heart.
Baha'u'llah's father asked a wise man what his dream meant, and the wise man said that the ocean was like the world, and the fishes were the people. All the people would be attracted to the light of God in Baha'u'llah and would follow Him. They would attach their hearts to Him like the fishes in the dream attached themselves to His hair. The people would follow Baha'u'llah wherever He led them.
Now we know that this wise man was talking about the Baha'is. We are the people who follow Baha'u'llah. Every day more people in the world find Baha'u'llah and follow Him.
We can be like the fishes by following Baha'u'llah. If we do what Baha'u'llah teaches us, we will be full of God's light which He reflected on us.
For some it’s a news event; for others, a wrong that has never been made right. But for Anne E Stewart, the recurring stories of the Balibo Five – now the subject of a feature film – strike agonisingly close to home.
My oldest brother Tony was our father’s son, tall and lanky. Both were great sportsmen. Dad barracked for the St Kilda footy club; Tony for Collingwood. They were just starting to enjoy a regular game of tennis, followed by a few beers. Now that Tony had left home and was a young working man they were starting to become good mates.
Tony emulated my father in other ways, too. They were both charming, the life of the party, and shared dozens of sayings, phrases of rhyming slang and quips. I remember how, in moments of happiness shared with family and friends, Tony had inherited one of Dad’s sayings: “You wouldn’t be dead for quids, would you Harry?”
His tragic murder, at an inconsequential little crossroads town in East Timor called Balibo, on 16 October 1975, has made a mockery of the saying ever since. Whenever I hear it I still think of Tony.
I come from a big, loving, extended family – mum and dad, brothers and sister, aunties and uncles, dozens of cousins… Tony’s death is counted amongst other family deaths: my dad, Noel, And mu mum June, have gone; so too grandparents and cousins, too young.
But Tony, the lad from North Caulfield, has earned himself a place in the annals of Australian history and we have all had to endure the retelling of the story over and over again. Countless newspaper headlines and articles; the same haunting passport photo of Tony looking so stern; and, year after year, reports, books, academic research, different suppositions about their torturous deaths. Now there’s a major motion picture.
One evening, just the other week, I self-consciously walked the red carpet with Anthony La Paglia and Robert Connolly, star and director of the movie Balibo at the opening night of the Melbourne International Film Festival. It was an event I hadn’t looked forward to: just another occasion to be endured. I’d already seen the film, with a cousin, Jenny. We sat together, bawling. “What gonzos!,” she said of the self-assured media men.
Now I have some perspective, it’s the mythic proportions that unsettle me. Tony as hero?
We know he was a hit with the ladies. I received an email from a long-lost admirer the other day, prompted by this latest round of media hype: “Not only was he drop-dead gorgeous, but so bloody funny...” She recalled Tony’s love of Monty Python, their renditions of the dead parrot sketch and “usually being too drunk to sing all of the philosopher’s song.”
I can picture him mimicking Monty Python.
I also remember that he had a filthy temper, probably brought on by his partying ways. Sometimes Mum had to shield us from a clip across the ears if we dared to sneak through the bathroom to the toilet while he was having a shower. And, one night, the rotten mongrel patiently waited for over half an hour under my bed. When I reached out to turn off my reading-light he grabbed me by the arm. I nearly died of fright.
A warrior for truth and justice… Tony?
There is a scene in the movie I can’t forget. Tony, played by Mark Winter, is the last to die. Sitting terrified in a back room, knowing all his colleagues have just been murdered, clutching on to a can of film, I would have had him murmur the word “Mum”.
It is a thought that has haunted my mother since Tony died. June was a student of World War I history. She recalls an Australian war artist commenting: “the worst thing about the battlefields was hearing grown men cry out for their mums”. She often thinks of his terror, realising he was about to die, and wonders if he called out to her in his final moments. He was just a young man; 21.
Why didn’t they leave?
The Australian Government sent the families a letter recently. Too little, too late, I say. After years of abandonment and silence and lies, a year and a half after a coronial inquiry in New South Wales officially pronounced them murdered, it was a gruesome, detailed listing of issues related to DNA testing and repatriation of the Balibo Five. Charmingly grotesque and so thoughtful after all these years.
One of the other relatives has said that if “there’s a speck of her husband’s remains she wants them home”. Also a huge public event. I don’t feel the same way and I’ve sent government officials several more questions to ponder.
A ceremony in East Timor in 2003 seems such a good place to leave their memories, with the house where they stayed refurbished as a community learning centre for the people of Balibo and a memorial to honour my brother and his colleagues.
Still, Connolly has done a mighty job. The movie reminds us that even though six white men were killed, nearly 200,000 East Timorese have died since the invasion. The people of East Timor still desperately need our support.
Anne E Stewart, a storyteller based in Victoria, is the sister of Tony Stewart, the sound recordist for HSV 7’s team in Balibo in October 1975.
Reprinted from the Big Issue 2009
The 11th of October is the United Nations International Day of the Girl Child and as such we would like to celebrate a young Australian refugee who is going from strength to strength with her storytelling abilities.
Over the last few years I have been working with Jesuit Social Services in Collingwood doing storytelling workshops with its participants. Agum is definitely one of the rising stars. She has a twinkle in her eye when telling and a captivating style. She is avaiLable for speakers sessions and plan to have her visit the Story House and Garden very soon. WATCH OUR EVENTS PAGE FOR UPDATES
Agum’s childhood memories of Sudan were of carefree days, hunting for small animals with her brothers and helping on the family farm. Living in a rural community, the dangers she faced came only from nature around her. “Lions coming into the village were the scariest. They have a distinctive smell. As kids we quickly learned to recognise the smell and get right out of their way!”
In 1997, her life was irrevocably turned upside-down when civil war broke out. “I remember the roar of the bomber jets coming from the North. Next, I remember running, screaming, terror and chaos.”
The days and months following were incredibly harsh for Agum and her family. “Because we were from the South, my parents walked us into neighbouring Uganda. The refugee camps were so full. Food was scarce and we were so thirsty. But we were safe.”
Eventually, Agum was granted asylum in Australia. A country, she had never heard of. “I had only ever heard of America from the talk in the refugee camps. I didn’t know what or where Australia was!”
As she shares the joys and challenges of refugee settlement, with incredible resilience and hope, Agum also bravely talks about her experiences of surviving unimaginable challenges and adversity. “I want to show young girls who have gone through the same experiences as me, that we all carry an incredible resilience inside - we can be independent and have our voices heard!”
Agum not only tells of her own journey, she is also a talented storyteller. She shares African folktales handed down to her by her ancestors. “As a child, we would sit by the camp fire, sharing stories of Africa. Although I am now in Australia, it’s important that these stories continue. It’s my connection to my family, my history and my culture.”
Bookings and media enquiries:
Danielle Sherry, Just Voices Speakers Program
1 Langridge Street (PO Box 1141) Collingwood VIC 3066
T (03) 9415 8700 E email@example.com
F 03 9415 7733 M 0408 424 779
Dear Matilda Rose, Here are some of the games I played with your mum and Uncle Dominic when they were babies. You can share them with your friends at the Freshwater mothers group.
(A note for your mum Cassandra and the other mums:
Children learn to speak by imitating, they develop voice control by repeating rhymes and songs. here's three simple ones to start with. )
This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home;
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none.
This little piggy cried, 'Wee-wee-wee,
I can't find my way home.'
Point to each toe in turn, starting with the big one, and on the last line tickle underneath the baby's foot.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Round and round the garden
Run your index finger round the baby's palm
Went the Teddy Bear,
"Jump" you finger up babies arm
Tickly under there
Tickle baby under their arm
Round and round the haystack
Run your index finger round the baby's palm
Went the little mouse,
"Jump" you finger up babies arm
In his little house
Tickle baby under their arm
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
To market to market,
To buy a fat pig;
Home again, home again,
To market to market,
To buy a fat hog;
Home again, home again,
Say this while giving baby a knee ride
Happy Birthday Paul Stewart, one of life's natural born storytellers
My Dad reckoned we were related to Captain Kidd the pirate.
By way of the fact, his great great grandfather was John Kidd, and John’s daughter Anne Kidd married a Stewart and they named their son John Kidd Stewart.
The Kidd name was dropped before my Dad but none the less my grandfather was also John Kidd Stewart, known to everyone as Jack. He died when I was very young but I do remember sitting on that big tall man’s knee.
Confused about the link, doesn’t matter. The name was enough for me to consider that if you traced back through my Scottish ancestry maybe I was related to the famous pirate William Kidd. It’s never really mattered to me if it was true or not but it is part of Stewart family lore.
However, I remember one day being at a conference at the Melbourne Immigration museum and the women next to me, a recent immigrant, asked me how my family got to Australia?
I didn’t know, 5th generation Australian, it was something I hadn’t really thought about.
But recently the link and the line became so tangible that it left me in tears and feeling empathy for my ancestors from Fife, the last Kingdom of Scotland, that arrived in Australia aboard the Indus in 1839.
It was during a visit to the UK that the links became real and not just some made up story of my dads. I was visiting the home of Scottish Storytelling in the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. located in John Knox House at the Nethebrow Centre. I asked a friend to take a photo of me outside the centre so I could post it to facebook. Yes shameless showing off.
The next day I had a message from my second cousin, “If you cross the Firth of Forth” and go to Colinsburgh in Fife, head to the cemetery at Newburn and there you will find the graves of your ancestors the Kidds.
A couple of days later I was leaving Edinburgh and heading North so decided go via Fife and check out my cousins story.
The countryside is rolling green pasture, and old volcanic plugs with the Lomond Hills dividing the land. Only three roads lead onto the peninsula and the town of Colinsburgh lies along one main road, running east to west looking back across the Forth to Edinburgh. We stopped at a small milk bar to ask about the cemetery and the Stewarts
Up until then I hadn’t realised it was the Kidd name that connected me to this country.
No one remembered any Stewarts from around here but we headed out to look for the cemetery anyway. I checked my message from my cousin and realised this was home of the Kidds.
We got directions and drove up small lane ways and across farm land and missed the cemetery twice but finally we came to it. The sign had been partially hidden by overhanging branches.
Inside the cemetery there was an old ruined chapel, and green grass dotted with crumbling headstones that leaned and in some cases had fallen. The views across the water to Edinburgh were spectacular and I thought what a peaceful resting place it was.
We made our way through the cemetery looking for my ancestors.
After 10 minutes my friend called out
“I think I’ve found them”
There it was, a headstone that listed all the Kidds and their relations, James and John that had headed to Australia.
James had returned but John had died in Melbourne, Victoria in 1853 and that fact was written on the headstone.
Here was where the name John had entered into the Stewart family story. For even though the Kidd name was gone my dad was Noel John Stewart, from this great great grandfather and he had named his first born Anthony John, keeping it part of the tradition.
But the tragedy is the name stopped there because Anthony John died at the tender age of 21 before he had the chance to pass it on. His death an overwhelming darkness in my families lives. But here was acknowledgement of the first John.
As mentioned I had never really given much thought to who came to Australia, but here he was named. I was overwhelmed and burst into tears. Our John, the first John, families and their stories
But the strangest of things, there were two headstones listing all the Kidds, and right next to it on the side of the wall next to them was a carving of a skull and crossbones.
The sign of a pirate, maybe I am really related to Captain Kidd
A open letter to Canadian Storyteller Jennifer Cayley
I don’t like this club we’re in now Jennifer; the sudden accidental death of a loved one. Jan, like Rod was such an intrepid adventurer who lived live to the full, it’s still so hard to fathom that she is gone.
But her love extended across the world to Australia and I thank my stars that I reached out to the email that dropped in my inbox around 2005. I have a spare bed please visit me, I answered.
When I picked her up I thought she looked like a conservative little grandma, but oh, I was so wrong. We bought a few beers on the way home and didn’t stop talking story for the week she was here and had been firm friends ever since.
I was so happy when you finally visited Australia with Jan and presented your show “A Book of Spells” in my home town at our gay and lesbian festival. I was just so proud to know you both and your pioneering story work.
There was the storytelling masterclass in Montreal and the festival and a week at your house on the lake just out of Ottawa, where Rod moved that whole stack of wood to under the house for you. I suppose there is new load in the driveway, you, too numb to move it
But a moment just Jan and I shared was when I had some work up on the Murray River, the border between Victoria and NSW. She was in town for something and I asked would she like to come on a little adventure with me? While I told stories she went off bird watching, and later in the day she picked me up and we went to another spot she had wanted to explore.
She spotted some particular bird of interest and noted in her field guide book the date and that she was with me. I always felt so chuffed that I was now part of her passion for birds and nature and her life story.
There is an old spiritual belief of the Dja Dja Wurrung people, who are the traditional owners where I live. They believe the souls of the ancestors live in the birds.
I wonder what bird Jan will visit you as?
I am so sorry for your loss and look forward to the day where we can hug and cry and drink a few beers to toast our old darlings
Lots of love
Anne E Stewart
The Story House and Garden welcomes our latest recruit.
My maternal grandmother was a publican’s daughter and my most prize possession is a copy of a Mrs Beeton’s cookbook. It belonged to her big sister first and is inscribed. 'May Stevens, Valley Hotel Ngambie 1916'.
The Valley Hotel was one of the pubs that my great grandfather Henry Alfred Stevens owned and my nan inherited the book, then it was past on to me, her devoted apprentice.
I’ve been thinking of my nan a lot lately because I’m set to become a grandmother myself.
The other grandmother has already bagsed the title Nan, she already has two grandchildren and that’s what they call her, so I’ve been thinking of what I should be called.
Granny, oh no, sounds way to old for my liking.
Now my nan, Vera Stevens married Francis King Hewitson but as long as I can remember and legend has it back to into her childhood Vera was known to everyone by the nickname Trill. That’s what we all called her Trill or Trillie.
There was always various stories behind the nickname but it is only recently on quizzing an Auntie that we seemed to have uncovered where the name really came from.
It seems as though it might have been a jibe from her older sisters.
You see, Tril short for Trilby was a novel by George Du Maurier published in 1894. Numerous movies followed and would have been screened when my nan was a young girl, and likely that her much older sisters would have seen at the local cinema. The main character, Trilby O’Ferrall was a laundress and model who came under the influence of a the masterful hypnotist Svengali. Even though she is tone deaf he transforms her into a diva. During a London concert tour he dies of a heart attack and she is ridiculed because without the work of Svengali, she can’t sing
The nickname was her sisters teasing Vera about her lack of singing voice.
Tragically when Vera was only five her mother Ada Rebecca was killed when the buggie she was driving turned over and she was crushed beneath. Apparently all the children were farmed out for a while but when they were old enough Henry would have brought them back to help work in the various pubs. The young and malleable Vera was one of his best workers.
My nan was a fantastic cook and a depression era mother. When my mum was born they were living in Coburg but Vera decided if times were going to be tough they would would move down to the beach at Elwood so at last the children would have somewhere to play.
They lived in John street and their house backed onto the canal. I remember all of the furniture being lifted on to bricks as the flooding waters poured into their house. There was stories of her children floating an old bath tub down the canal to the sea.
She was thrifty and an amazing craftswomen . She could stretch meals, make preserves and I remember when I was twelve she let me taste her cumquat brandy. Wow it was like white lightning traveling down my throat.
A middle child with three brothers and a much younger baby sister, I loved to visit Trill, she taught me how to sew and cook and I think I inherited a genetic streak from her that our family call the Trill factor.
She was tough and would speak her mind.
I remember the story of a teacher ridiculing her son when he had trouble reading in lower primary school, they wanted his younger sister to come into the room and show how it was done. Vera was furious and marched up to the school and payed out on them. How dare they humiliate her son.
Another time the parish priest came round and asked Trill why the large gap between children, “Was she using contraception?”. Tragically it had been miscarriages but my Nan sent him on his was saying it was none of his damn business.
The only reason the children were at Catholic Schools was that her mother-in -law insisted. She loathed and detested the Catholics for the rest of her life.
She would often clip sayings and pin them to her kitchen calendar and this one has always stayed with me.
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away”. It has always stayed with me.
She was so dear to me. She lived to the ripe old age of 92 and was sharp as a tack until the very end. But in her last weeks, confused and dying she reverted to her childhood and in her final days she would snuggle up to the matron of her nursing home and call out for her “Mum”. the mother she had lost when only a young child of five.
I’m looking forward to being a grandmother knowing what a treasured place Vera has in my heart.
So, my latest thoughts on what the grandchild could call me, is a nod to my Scottish ancestry
Seanmháthair (shin ha tear) is Scottish Gaelic. I know a bit tricky for a young child, but what about the beginning, Sh with my name Annie
So... I'm to be known as Shannie
Congratulations Cassandra and Robert
‘A Spell of Poetry' Allis Hamilton
"Fresh from reading her poetry in London, Allis Hamilton will perform and read her poems, some perhaps with music. Allis is a host of Castlemaine's poetry readings: PoetiCas. Here is a chance to hear her perform her own work.
She is an internationally published writer of words that create a sense of wonder, myth and magic. At times funny, at times thought provoking."
Sunday 6th Augusr 1.30 -2.30 Show with morning tea
Story House and Garden
52 Millar Street. Daylesford
Ph 0408 550 945