"It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting.” ~ Jerry Sternim
In Melbourne, Australia, November means ‘Spring Carnival’ horse racing and this also means fashion and hats. This time is exciting and catching. Many people beam with joy and many who go to the track never see a horse. They go for the fashion.One cannot watch from the sidelines for real happiness, as the late Chris Peterson states, “Happiness is not a spectator sport”. It’s about joining in, trying things and doing. Fashion for many is exactly that, getting right into the midst of it and making the fashion stakes a hobby. Many labored over their hats and outfits for months, hoping to win or to just simply be part of a contagious time in Spring. A whole fashion industry is supported through the races in Australia.
For me personally, this time also means “Hats for Happiness”. Some of you might be aware of the Little Hat Project, which this year raised over $7,000 for Australian mental health initiatives. Pictures of the auctioned hats and their accompanying touching stories will very soon be made into a beautiful book. We hope you will join us for the book launch on Thursday 4th Dec in Richmond, Melbourne at the Precinct Hotel. Or, if you like, participate in the Little Hat Project for 2015. Anyone can be part of it!
Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, says that for some people interventions, techniques or approaches work well and have an immediate and lasting impact, whereas for others they may do nothing at all. One has to try to know. Many people have done just that by opening their hearts and making and sending a hat from as far as the USA, England, China and many parts of Australia.
I also have found that my own happiness has increased over the years because of hats - by handing on the skills of hat-making, and through creating projects around the hat. I have found the more I provide space for others, the more I gain in wellbeing. The more I lend a hand the more hands reach out to me. There was a time I was ‘thinking’ about happiness, now I have come to learn that to act is to create happiness.
eARTh Magazine, which showcases inspired art, did an article about us and about Waltraud! Here is a little snippet from it:
Waltraud explains her mission has, for many years, been “to bring the art of hat-making to people across Australia by running mobile millinery classes and providing supplies to Australians in remote and local areas”.
The psychology of hat-making is as fascinating as fascinator head-wear. Waltraud explains, “Through the medium of hats, we aim to reach out and connect people with others and with themselves. Our classes and tours aid emotional well-being by providing space, skill and opportunity for people to express their feelings through colour, texture and shape. Art can be a powerful form of emotional therapy, and we believe that the hat is the art of the HEART. The hatmobile also supports the Reach Foundation by using the acronym of HATS: Helping Australian Teens to Succeed, to raise awareness of such as we travel”.
Since I’ve been here, there has been a buzz of activities in and around the gallery; women in front of computers, on top of ladders, on the floor holding workshops, running errands, driving trucks, feeding people, organising people and making things happen.
It made me reflect on what we as women are capable of and the skills we all share to pull such a huge festival together to honour and celebrate women and their stories.
Women often can be hard on themselves, not taking seriously enough the importance of the roles we play in other people’s lives. Great women of the past and today are strong women, often behind a man, behind the family, behind a corporation, yet still in 2014, women still struggle to stand as an equals.
Another side to women is the pressure they find themselves under through wanting or having to 'look good’. It has long been debated if women dress for men or for other women. Women around the world are judged, criticised, rejected and humiliated for their appearances if they do not adhere to the social norms. Often the judging is done by other women themselves.Some women are even physically and sexually assaulted because of what they wear or don’t wear.
Social rules, fashion of the day and culture claim to know how our bodies should look and how we should dress and we seem to unconsciously articulate messages which are not our making in the first place. WOW sheds light on these issues and allows space to question once believed or sometimes automatic ways of being.
During my time at WOW, I have reflected on the responsibility I have myself as a woman towards my daughter and my son to live by example, honour the differences, not try to be same as men and stand up for my needs.As women in our western world we have come a long way. We are independent and we have choices. We have the right to be seen, the right to be heard and the right to be honoured for our achievements. With rights also comes responsibility; for women not to hide, for women NOT to be silent and for women NOT to miss out on the appreciation and honour we are due.
Through textiles we carry on weaving the threads and spinning the yarns, we talk through hats and by mending the cloth…we connect, interweave, support and show empathy. We cry, we complain, we bitch and we love, we care, nurture, build and grow. We carry on learning, we heal and are tender and strong...we hurt, we mourn, we get wrinkles and our hairs grey as we age...and there will always be the strength in a woman to reach out with a helping hand.
Oh how I love to be a WOMAN!
As you read this I am on my way to the Merrepen arts and indigenous community in the Northern Territory to participate in their winter festival. Lindsay Whitehouse and myself have been asked to make garments and hats from the fabric they print.
I had big intentions to get this newsletter out to you at the beginning of the month but LIFE was taken up with other things which took my attention. One of those things was that Torb & Reiner welcomed new members to our company and made them feel welcome. Meet them here! Gemma, our new Webmaster, has been busy getting her head around our rather large website and Olivia has joined us front of house to serve you with all your millinery needs. And then there is our new security guard Mr Pierre Button. Well no need to say we LOVE him. Come and make them all welcome.
Having just come back from a New South Wales outback trip and going again to the Northern Territory makes me feel very lucky to travel through my passion for hats. The journeys and meetings of different places and people have taught me so much and they continue to do so. This trip I felt a much deeper connection to the land and the people than ever before; Australia is a vast country full of beauty, colour and challenges just like our lives.
All land to survive connects to its rivers and the sea, as we do through water. The vegetation adapts to the harsh sun and animals like the kangaroo put a pregnancy on hold to wait out bad times, just like we have the ability to mindfully choose when we have reached a limitation. The emu only lays 1 egg if the grass is green and the male raises the young as the female’s job is done, which gives raise to the question of whether we need to carry on with the stereotyping of man and woman. All within nature is connected; one does and can not exist without the other. Farmers and rural people know this well – that death feeds life and life feeds death.
I wonder sometimes how well do we know that about ourselves? Do we know that giving up a dream, letting go of anger, or the simple act of falling asleep after a long day are all little deaths we die every day, and that from there we choose to feed new life, the next day… which can be bright and exiting, full of possibilities to reach out to others with the aim of connectedness in mind. You can not stop bad things from happening to you but you can sure CHOOSE how to react to it.
I felt a deep connection this time to the women who cry sometimes tears for feeling the isolation, for the men who carry the burden of the draught, for the children and youth which in small towns have nowhere to hide as they are trying to grow up and I felt connected to my SELF by noticing how through listening, sharing a joke in laughter and in shedding a shared tear, all that separated me were the stories in my head about people and situations. Each time I noticed THAT hat came off and get replaced with the metaphoric hat of “BE present”. So that is my ethos as I set off for another trip in the unknown, where no doubt new people and new experiences await me once more.
Why? Well, because I think we need to spread the message that we can help ourselves and others to foster emotional well-being at a grass roots level.
I believe that we are all too ready call for governments to provide more money and resources, but we so often do not take steps ourselves towards well-being. It is far too easy to blame doctors, parents, stress, our history and upbringing, whenever we feel down, depressed or unable to cope.
But there are things we can do ourselves to take charge of our well-being now.
I very much understand that some of us suffer from serious mental issues which need medical intervention and support, and mindfulness training alone cannot help.
I hope that Hat Walk will raise awareness for Mental Health First Aid, a training course which anyone can take to learn the language of mental illness and ways to support those who need it.
If you have met me, you will know that I see all of life through hats. I see a powerful symbolic connection between hats and mental health. Making hats is for me a way of meditating, reflecting and practising mindfulness as I explore colour, texture and shape. The hats I choose to wear are both physical and metaphorical, and most importantly, I know that every day I can choose to change my hat.
There is so much we can do to help ourselves:
Asking what is right with us, rather than what is wrong
Giving more, instead of taking
Connecting with people
All these are tools we can use and learn about. We learn by example and by modeling, and our children do the same. I have learned that if I only have one tool - a hammer - I can repair some things but damage a lot of others. Why should life skills be any different?
I see no difference between mental health and physical health. You want a strong back or great stomach muscles? Then you have to exercise every day!
Positive psychology (which is not about positive thinking, but about the ‘health’ side of ‘mental health’) has identified many valuable exercises (including the ones above) that we can use to strengthen our emotional well-being.
So Hat Walk is about walking, connecting, reaching out, being part of something bigger than ourselves. Hat Walk is about raising money for Mental Health First Aid, which gives us the opportunity to learn about mental health issues and how to react to someone who suffers, how to support ourselves and take charge.
Yes, the government could do a lot more. Yes, more money could be invested in mental health, I agree, and this takes time and is loaded with frustration for many.
But what we have control over all the time, and what is available to us now, is taking charge of our own well-being through mediation, mindfulness training and attending positive psychology groups which are available around the country.