Arna Baartz from ‘The I AM program’ talked to our Simply Yoga group on Saturday about believing in magic and creating a fabulous life for yourself by not letting go of self-belief.
Arna, also an artist, creates arts connected emotional intelligence programs for children in schools and is making a difference.
It got me thinking about Art in schools and why it’s a luxury rather than a necessity. Why is ‘art’ something we have to encourage in the curriculum. Why isn’t it revered with maths, science and all of the other 'important' subjects?
Is art really just for starving hippies?
I believe we can’t live successfully without art. Life without Art is life without beauty. Creativity is the seat of invention, change, divergent thinking and excitement. It is creativity that produces paintings, drawings, stories, books, music, songs, poetry, dance, resolutions, revolutions, new ideas, changes in governments and better ways of doing things.
We cannot move forward in society without our divergent and creative thinking.
Art and creative thinking needs to be encouraged.
When I was 16, I just wanted to paint. But dad said I had to get a real job. ‘I know,’ I said. ‘I can become an art teacher, then I’ll be able to paint all day’ (optimism at its best).
‘That’s the best idea you’ve ever had’ said Dad. ‘Cause artists don’t make any money.’
Art college was not what I expected. ‘No realism’ said the teacher. ‘That’s old school. We want you to paint what you don’t see.’
‘That’s too real’ said the teacher, taking my brush and dipping it in orange. ‘Why don’t you do this?’
I struggled with trying to please my teachers without giving up myself.
One of my teachers said ‘you should never sell your art’ and I responded with ‘but one day I want to have a family and support them through my art’ he pointed at me with his authoritative finger and said ‘then you are a prostitute.’
To say I wanted to die was an understatement.
I developed beliefs from these experiences like;
· I wasn’t a real artist.
· I wasn’t allowed to paint what I loved.
· I wasn’t allowed to sell my art.
· Art is not important.
· I wasn’t good enough.
I was lost.
So I took on another career and created art ‘just for fun, just for friends.’
Most of the people around me echoed what society believed ‘artists don’t make money’ and ‘it’s too difficult.’
I never stopped drawing or painting but I did stop imagining I could do something wonderful.
As my children grew I found myself standing at a cross-road.
I wanted to write books and paint pictures and with growing self esteem decided: ‘why not? Why not me? Why can’t I be the one who does it?’
Although I had the ‘not good enough’s’ tapping on my shoulder, I decided to take the plunge.
And I jumped.
I quit my job. I took up my paint-brush, went to uni, and wrote stories.
At least two friends believed in me. The rest said I was wasting my time. Aren’t I too old? Isn’t it too late? Shouldn’t you be focusing on your grandchildren? Are you even good enough?’
The criticism begun from my childhood had eaten away at my artistic self-esteem and it took a long time to return.
Art was like an old friend that had been cast aside. I invited her back.
I’m not the best artist in the world and I’m not the best writer. But I’m the only one that has my story to tell. I’m the only one with my characters in my stories that do the things I ask them to do.
I have un-squashed my dreams and given them some air.
I’m going to believe there is a place for me exactly as I am.
I believe creativity can unlock potential and let people shine.
It isn’t easy being who you want to be. But it’s harder than living someone else’s idea of what your life should look like.
So today, do something towards the dream you’ve never revealed. Imagine it. Do it. Be it. Feel it. Take one step towards it.
And never look back.
Monica Batiste is a full time yoga teacher, author and artist. She lives on the beautiful bays of Brisbane with her husband Andreas. Between them they have four daughters, six grandchildren, two dogs and two chooks.
I couldn't figure out how come I knew the answer in the classroom, but at home... nothing!
Turned out I was tapping into the smartness of everyone else.
When I studied aromatherapy, I seemed to have an affinity for the oils. The teacher would ask 'What oil would we use for adrenal fatigue?' and I would pipe up 'lemon.' Later he'd ask 'What if I had a gall bladder attack?' and I’d say 'peppermint.' This happened every class and I got 90% for that subject.
I would think, 'gee I’m smart, but how did I know that?'
When I went to Griffith uni, it was the end of year and I was exhausted. The student next to me asked 'ready for the exam?'
She showed me the book; I’d never seen it before.
About ten minutes into the exam, I had a brainwave of the answer, it was something that happened in America in the 40s. 'Wow’ I thought. 'I’m so smart.'
Half the students (over 100) failed that test. I passed with a credit.
'How did I do that?' I wondered.
Another time I was in a seminar and the presenter asked 'what does teeth and heart attacks have in common?'
'They share plaque,' I answered. 'Yes’ he said. I must have read that somewhere?
One day I realised I was picking up the answers from the people around me with my intuition...I wasn’t smart at all… the people around me were smart!
So when I went back to Uni to do an English Literature and creative writing degree, I had to do all my work from home.
It was hard! I struggled, I cried, ‘I don't get it’ I said.
‘How about I make it more simple.’ Teacher said.
I pretended to understand.
‘Sorry to make it so easy,’ she said, ‘I don’t want to insult you.’
Insult me! I thought, please! What happened to my brains?
The creative writing was easy; making up a story? No problem. Explaining something? Reading something through a feminist lens? Huh? Or a Marxist lens, Marxist who?
How can I be so dumb and so smart at the same time?
I was complaining to my friend Arna, ‘I’m sure I have a learning difficulty,’ I said. ‘Every semester I feel so stupid, I want to quit.’
She said, ‘light your brain up with a brilliant violet light and let every part be smart.’
Well that sounded easier than knocking my head on a wall. ‘Okay’ I said.
So I went to uni with a purple light on my head (don’t knock it till you try it) and
the ANSWER came to me!!! I could tap into the professor’s brain and get the answers!!!
I picked a Thursday night to begin the assignment due on Monday (why do I wait so long?)
I visualised myself visiting Professor. She was in her kitchen making dinner for her family
‘May I borrow your brain?’ I asked like Dr. Frankenstein. What if she starts laughing at stupid jokes and painting pictures? And I start talking eloquently?
I hesitate with my hands around her brain- I do have compassion. look, she has a daughter. Mm, spaghetti for dinner… I don’t want to deprive her of all she’s worked for…. I know, another brain wave. I’ll copy and paste, that way, she gets to keep her brain and I just get smarter. ‘Thanks Professor,’ I say as I clicked the ‘copy’ button in the ether.
I carried that big brain into my office and put it on. Paste!
The world looked sharper. I was hungry.
I re-read the assignment.
You know, this text has many undertones! Hey? Where did that voice come from? I’m thinking it’s a post-modern colonialism text. No, wait, it’s a post modern feminist Marxist text. Now you’re being ridiculous. Look at the subtext, read it again.
I did my assignment over the weekend and it was kind of fun.
I handed it in and thought ‘well, let’s see what professor thinks of her own work.’
She gave me a credit. My FIRST for a critical piece.
Hurray!! I said.
I passed by her the other day and wanted to thank her for loaning me her brain. ‘But she might think I’m a bit weird,’ I thought. ‘Better not.’ So I just smiled and said hello. She smiled.
‘Thanks for the spaghetti recipe,’ I whispered. ‘It was delicious.’
‘You know you’re the lowest class in society?’ my friend said to me.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Well, you’re a female for a start,’ he shifted, ‘and the male is dominant.'
‘And you’re a single mum. That puts you even lower.’ He chopped his hand through the air and placed the other hand below it to emphasise. ‘Plus your uneducated and poor’ he added, chop chop chop.
‘Not that uneducated,’ I replied sitting down. ‘I have certificates you know, and I've done five subjects of a degree.’
‘Of a degree you never completed’, he raised his eyebrows. ‘So now you have a debt too. ‘And you rent’ he continued, looking around, ‘and look where you live? The poorest in society live here.’
I looked around me at the small rented house with its uncut grass and sighed. ‘I never knew.’
‘Don’t worry’ he shrugged, eating a sandwich. ‘Here,’ he offered ‘want a bite?’
It had never occurred to me that I was oppressed, and now that I knew about it, I felt worse. Just like when I was nineteen and found out I was short.
‘You’re so short’ said the manager of the bar I worked in.
‘I am?’ I could tell by the tone of her voice it wasn't a compliment. I looked across and saw her boyfriend ‘leave her alone,’ he said ‘I like women that size.’
She kicked the stool as she passed.
So now I’m not only the lowest class in society, I’m also short.
I met Andrew before the girls were teenagers and he liked me just as I was.
‘You don’t want me taller?’ I asked, ‘or skinnier or prettier?’
‘I like you just as you are’ he said. My very own Mr. Darcy. So we got married and bought a middle class house in a middle class suburb and I looked around for a low paying job that would support my expectations.
‘Why don’t you go to university?’ my husband asked. ‘your always telling me you want to be a writer, and you got a pile of rejection slips from publishers, so why don’t you go?’ he handed me a form.
My breathe tightened. Didn't he know? It wasn't the form; I've filled out a million of those from school and centrelink. It was the university. I would be betraying a long line of ancestors if I rose above my class. The Germans have a saying ‘grossen vans nicht’ (too big for your boots) and my mum often said ‘who do you think you are, the prima donna?’ reminding me to back down and quieten my voice.
‘I thought you were going to university?' My husband asked.
‘Oh,’ I said, waving my hand. ‘I deferred, gosh, I have so much to do this year, I’ll go next year.’
The following year he asked again. ‘I thought you wanted to be a writer?’
The Prima Donna scoffed, ‘there is no way’ she said.
So I wrote in secret. I got up at 5am and wrote for two hours before the girls got up at 7 and we did the school run. I started work at 9. I wrote for one year and completed my 80,000 word novel. It was full of telling the tale and redundancies but I didn't know that-I was uneducated. I had a book I would never show and no one would read. ‘What if I found out I was no good?’
I enrolled again at uni. I promised myself that if they were mean, laughed at me and said I couldn't write, I could go home.
I got in the car and drove. I hoped to miss the turn off, it was a lovely day for the beach.
I got to the uni and parked.
I walked to the lecture room I hoped no-one would recognise that I didn't belong. I sat at the back.
The lights dimmed, Ross and Gary switched on the projector.
They started talking about a book I’d never heard of. They made jokes.
My breathing slowed. There was a pretty book jacket on the screen. I think I’m supposed to have read that? I thought.
‘You get it from the course outline’ a student in tutorial told me.
‘What’s that?’ I asked.
‘You’ll find it on blackboard.’
‘Where’s the blackboard?’
Ross laughed ‘ I've forgotten what its like to be a first year student’ he said.
He had no idea my destiny hung on his opinion. If he says I’m no good, I leave. I approached each lecture with a tightness that messed up my understanding, and cried each week from having no understanding. Maybe I should quit? ‘Perhaps you are stupid?’ Prima Donna said as she gazed out the window.
‘Get a mentor’ said the girl who sat next to me.
‘What’s that?’ I asked.
‘Someone to help.’
So Julie came along and showed me how to navigate a course. And Ross told me he liked my story. He forgave my punctuation and style to give me a distinction. I cried. The world got brighter. I came back the next semester.
Naomi headed the next class. She was everything I’m not. Tall, beautiful, smart, educated with a great sense of fashion.
She hates me, I thought, finding a seat in my old jeans and t-shirt. Why can’t I wear a dress to uni? And put a flower in my hair? The Prima Donna laughed, ‘that would be ridiculous,’ she said.
Naomi smiled and offered to help. Over time I cracked my shell and let her in.
‘But what does it mean?’ she asked me.
‘I dunno?’ I shrugged. ‘why does it always have to mean something? Why can’t the little dog be there because he was there?’
I could see the frustration in her eyebrows, but I just didn't get it.
It’s not an easy transition to change a familial pattern. Each semester I am afraid I might get ‘caught’ being somewhere I don’t belong. Each semester I am afraid to speak in-case I say something that gives me away. But each semester I learn something amazing.
It took me three years to complete eight subjects.
This year I've decided to belong. I will speak. I will participate. I will stand in the light and be judged. I am allowed to be here, no matter how my ancestors groan. I can see the Prima Donna shining her shoes. She shrugs at me, ‘maybe you’d look good in a dress?’ she says.
‘Get bigger boots’ my best friend told me.
I got bigger boots and asked a question in class. No one laughed. No one is even looking, they are immersed in themselves.
‘So what do you think?’ I ask as I pull up some grass on my father’s grave. ‘Do you still love me?’
My father rolls over and smiles. ‘Always’ he answers. ‘It was never meant to be that you stooped to our ceiling, but I didn't know that until I left.’
He lifted the ceiling with his hand and it dissolved into the ether. ‘See how easy it is?’
I smiled, ‘Thanks.’
‘You’re welcome.’ Then as an afterthought he reminded me that class was a construct created by patriarchal societies and I didn't have to buy into it.
‘Wow dad,’ I said, ‘you’re so educated now.’
‘I know’ he winked. ‘But don’t tell anyone.’
I am a yoga teacher, author and artist.
Blogs by Monica
Growing Emotional Intelligence