Welcome to our next ‘campfire’ story.
The Campfire for the Heart project is a collection of true, international stories of human resilience.
Although every story is unique, they all highlight our ability to adapt positively to bad experiences and showcase our indomitable human spirit.
If you have an inspiring resilience story to share, or know someone who does,
please contact Natalie through www.stockdalewellbeing.com.
“When you’re passionate and purposeful,
you create blessings for yourself and all those you encounter.”
With the benefit of 75 years of life experience, I’ve had my share of challenges: close brushes with death; three divorces; and a loss of a multi-million-dollar publishing and photography company resulting from the 2011 Brisbane floods.
In 2012, I was driven to bankruptcy and lost everything we owned.
In the past, I had suicidal thoughts and could visualise myself loading a gun and shooting myself. After the floods, I had anxiety attacks, a numbness in my chest accompanied by pins and needles. They’d come whenever I began to lose hope, whenever I told myself “poor little me” stories. However, out of pain comes change and gain.
Through Eckhart Tolle's teachings, I realised that our wellbeing is largely influenced by our own minds. Poor mental health is a result of overthinking, and not by what happens to us. Life can be altered in a flash of an eye. Some things we can control and some things we can’t, but we can always control our thoughts. In fact, we can flip our mind-story in an instant, anytime, anywhere. It’s a matter of being aware of the stories we tell ourselves.
In 1995, I walked into a medical diagnosis session with my doctor with all the
woes of the world on my shoulder. My burgeoning business, grossing millions, was a source of both excitement and fear. After a series of tests, I was informed I had a large tumour. In a flash, what was so important 60 seconds earlier, had evaporated and my life suddenly had a new focus, survival. After surgery,
I noticed how blue the sky was, how green and full of life the trees had become.
I was literally shaken awake and catapulted into the present moment.
Wild creatures face life challenges every day. What sets them apart from humans is that they don’t indulge in ‘poor little me’ stories about life’s hardship. When two Tasmanian devils battle over food, or two male kangaroos fight for mating rights, they don’t let losing become a resentul mind story that defeats them for decades to come. I realised that my anxieties were largely based on my ‘poor me’ mind stories and that all I had to do was acknowledge that these were unhelpful, then draw the curtains.
After the floods and bankruptcy, Eckhart Tolle’s teachings helped me refocus. The void the loss created was essential to empowering new growth in my professional and personal life. It opened new, previously unimagined doors. It certainly doesn’t mean there was no pain – there was plenty, all magnified by my over-active imagination! I have learned that dealing with loss is a choice and a tenacious spirit can endure and transform loss if we choose to let it.
Having a Creative Life Purpose (CLP) certainly helps! Passion and purpose are mortal enemies of anxiety and depression. Auguste Rodin wrote, ‘Love your calling with passion, it is the meaning of your life.’ Your CLP can be a lighthouse beacon bringing wealth, in all its forms, into your life. When you’re passionate and purposeful, you create blessings for yourself and all those you encounter.
My CLP has guided me through very challenging times. It has allowed me to see, feel and act on pivotal opportunities, steering me in the right direction, rather than feeling lost and worrying about the past and possible events. Understanding and communicating our purpose within the world is one of the most important things we can ever do.
Alone in the wilderness of the Kimberley in 1984, I found my CLP by following my heart. When we listen carefully when our heart is giving direction, decisions can be made in harmony with who we truly are.
My CLP is to inspire others to regard the natural world as essential to spiritual, mental and physical wellbeing.
If our habitats are to be cared for by humans, then humans must first appreciate that we are intrinsically part of the environment and that we can enhance our life through appreciating and caring for nature.
A CLP is not about yourself, your ego, it’s about giving, connecting, inspiring, making a difference. Define your Creative Life Purpose, embrace it and do the work. Work hard because you love to work hard, not because you want a reward.
Our CLP should not be separate from our everyday life situations. Our real-life purpose can only be fulfilled when body, mind and spirit are in harmony. Adversity is part of being human. Your experience of loss can mean it’s time for a fresh start, especially if your Creative Life Purpose had already been established before your life-changing loss. Do not underestimate the power of a CLP, especially when it is connected to something as powerful as the natural world and the broader community with whom you share your life.
‘You can lose something you have, but you cannot lose something you are.’
When the economy falters or a pandemic strikes, the media adds to a collective distress of the general population. However, if we reject the collective anxiety (by not watching the news over and over, or not contributing to social upheaval on Facebook etc), our lives remain much more positive and we can focus more on the joy our Creative Life Purpose brings us.
Most importantly, never give up! I once watched a wombat stand and stare at a huge wire-mesh fence. The fence seemed impenetrable even to me, and no doubt did to the wombat too! Nonetheless, the wombat stood and eyeballed it for what seemed like ages. Then, lowering his head, he charged, hitting the bottom of the fence at full wombat speed. The wall-of-wire lifted and through the creature went! A few metres past it, he stopped, turned, and stared at the fence again. Then, as though having congratulated itself, the wombat turned around and vanished into a thicket.
Wow! Such tenacity! He didn’t just imagine it, he did it! Then again, those who know wombats know their determination. When hell-bent on a path to travel, they don’t give up. Maybe there are lots of life lessons we can learn from wombats… and indeed, our other animal kin.
Steve Parish, OAM