Photo Credit: Kate Van Der Drift
“Khala Hawken is an Australian filmmaker, after effects creative, graphic designer, visual artist, and yoga teacher. She has recently left the hustle and bustle of Melbourne city to build an eco-friendly farm in the Amazon jungle. In the jungle, she is learning about and working with traditional Amazonian plant medicines and facilitating health retreats to promote physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.”
I met Mikhala, or Khala as I came to call her, at university the first time. She wasn’t in my graduating year, but I knew who she was from afar, and somewhat admired her individuality, and personality… or what I knew of it. We became closer when a couple of years later we were put in a play to travel to Melbourne for a festival (it was a piece I was part of creating for my final performance of my BCI (Drama) degree in 2010). It was here, I began to notice her deeper understanding and view of the world. We were never close friends, but I knew she was special and I had such admiration for her. Little did I know the depth of her journey – even during that time. Recently, thanks to my activity with TILCo, we reconnected via Instagram of all places and after a couple of comments, and a little chat about where she is at now – I knew I had to interview this special soul.
Following is one of the more soul-bearing interviews I have had so far (although I am sure every one I come across will feel like this) and I am so grateful for our renewed connection. I plan to visit her in Peru on one of my next trips to experience and connect with her in real time.
Where were you born? Where did you grow up? Where do you call home?
A: I was born on the Gold Coast but I wouldn’t necessarily call it home anymore. I still go there to visit my mother but after a lot of moving and travelling, I feel that I have many homes 🙂 Namely Brisbane, Melbourne and Peru.
How would you describe your ‘occupation/job/what you do for a living’:
A: I am currently trying to expand what I like to think of as my “Gypsy Money Making Skills” – ie. things that I can do wherever I am in the world. So, these days, living in the Amazon Jungle in Peru, I am making filmclips/promotional videos/animations/graphic design with my computer. I also make and sell art work. I am a Yoga Teacher, and I am currently learning to read Tarot cards. These types of skills are great because they are also things you can swap; for example, I did not have any money to do a Yoga Teacher Training Course last year; but I offered the company to make a promotional video for them and was able to work out a way I could financially achieve this goal. Teaching is also amazing – when I am in Australia I am a high school teacher and find it to be really flexible and rewarding.
How do you define ‘Wellbeing’? #wellbeingyourway
A: Wellbeing, to me, is a state of harmony in your physical, mental, spiritual and emotional bodies. I believe this to be our natural state of being; but things like social conditioning, the pressures of modern life, poor eating and lifestyle habits and our egos has confused us somewhere along the way.
What practices/patterns/habits/rituals keep you in a state of (or on the Journey to) ‘Wellbeing’
A: Yoga is, for me, the strongest tool I can use to maintain the state of wellbeing in my life. The philosophy behind it resonates with me so strongly and every practice within the yogic tradition is an extremely powerful tool to achieve this balance in not only your physical body, but your mental, emotional and spiritual bodies too. I also practice mindfulness which I believe to be a little more accessible than meditation as it is more applicable to a busy western lifestyle. I am trying very hard to get a meditation practice down but I think I need to go to a meditation retreat or something in order to really get a strong practice going. I have tried Qi Gong and I really like it a lot. Without a doubt, cutting alcohol and other chemical substances out of my life has been HUGE to my road to wellbeing. After a little while without them in your routine, once you do have a few drinks you can really feel so so strongly how out of centre it makes you physically and mentally. My advice for anyone out there struggling is to immediately stop drinking or partying and use the time and money and energy you will acquire to start some new awesome healthy hobby like Yoga 🙂
My diet has changed drastically over the last two years also, as I have been living in a remote part of Peru, eating a mostly Vegan diet. I would never have thought a few years ago that I would eat like this but I cannot deny the amazing difference it has had on my wellbeing. As long as you know what things to do to get all the nutrients you need, cutting out meat and dairy opens up a whole new world of creative cooking and delicious food that makes you feel so great on the inside.
Describe your journey to ‘Wellbeing’
A: I have struggled with depression and anxiety for a long time; so for me, this is a constant practice and a life long journey. I feel like I have come out of the woods, so to speak, but that I am now in a clearing with the woods being all around me. After years of trying many, many techniques, all of which I believe to have helped in some way – I finally feel like, if something were to happen and I found myself back in the woods again, I would have a compass and some tools to get myself out more easily next time. I feel like it was when I stopped partying and drinking away the pain and depression I was feeling and began really putting energy into getting myself better that my journey began. I started by seeing a psychologist, but the first few I was paired up with didn’t really help me all too much. They helped identify where these problems might have started in my life, but they didn’t really help me to deal with what was happening to me at that moment. Finally, I found one psychologist who introduced me to mindfulness. This really resonated with me as I struggled to sit down and meditate and it would often make me feel worse because I just couldn’t switch off my mind or negative thinking. So, looking back, I feel like the mindfulness was almost like lifting weights for my brain. It just helped me to strengthen it so that, over time, the negative thoughts became less powerful.
I also took anti-depressants for a little while – about 6 months. I know antidepressants get a negative stigma in today’s society, and I have not taken a western form of medication now for over 2 years! However, at the time, I really felt that going on this medication for a short period was a great tool to help me to “re-train” my brain a little. I was so lost in my negative thoughts that I couldn’t remember what it was like to not feel and think that way.
So these anti-depressants gave me a little break and made me re-connect with that feeling of general optimism and excitement about life. I do only recommend using these medicines as a last option and only for a period of 6 months or less…not something to just mask the problem and become reliant on for happiness. Whilst I was on the antidepressants, I found that I had more energy and enthusiasm to make positive life choices. I decided to stop drinking alcohol and instead, use the money that I would normally spend on alcohol to join a Yoga studio (before that I had always claimed to not have enough money for a membership, but I have enough to buy 4 bottles of wine a week?!). This changed my life in a big way and I am now a certified Yoga teacher.
Also, somewhere along the way, I decided to travel to the Amazon jungle to do a two-week retreat with Ayahuasca and other master plant medicines. I could not have possibly imagined how strong and life changing this would be for me (as it is for so many other people as well). I feel lucky that I had already done so much work on myself before I came and took these natural medicines. However, even after all the work I had done, I still had this pain that I carried around with me that I couldn’t seem to get rid of. By the time I came to the jungle, I felt like I had developed the strength to carry it around with me, but I really just wanted to get rid of it all together. After that retreat (called a Dieta), the amount of love and openness and trust and blessings I received from these plant medicines changed my life and helped me to get rid of that pain. I am now living at the retreat center that I came to two years ago, helping facilitate these retreats and witnessing countless other people have similar, life changing experiences like I did. Ayahuasca most certainly was a huge help in me achieving and maintaining a state of well-being. I still get anxiety; however, I am still working with these traditional Amazonian medicines here, and I can feel that every day it is getting less and less.
Humility, generosity, and gratitude will get you very far on this journey.
On your journey, what are the biggest obstacles/greatest fears you face and why are they important?
A: Oh gosh….back when I was really depressed, there were so many obstacles. The obstacle to stop drinking and partying away the pain and make healthy choices was very challenging. It isn’t until you can really start to feel the difference in your body and state of mind that it becomes easy to make those choices and not take the “easy” and destructive route to avoiding the problem. The embarrassment and self loathing I felt when I would have some kind of panic attack, sometimes publicly, or make poor choices and know that people were judging me and I had no one else to blame but myself. Feeling like I was a selfish person because I could never be fully present and I knew that I really didn’t have any reason to be depressed- I had a good job, I was intelligent and had a loving family etc. Then came the challenge of feeling alienated from past friendships and activities because of the healthier lifestyle I was living. Many of my friendships, which I still cherish deeply, were very much based around drinking or partying and I needed to accept that perhaps I wouldn’t be as close with certain people anymore. But, the law of attraction found me surrounded by more beautiful people who shared my desire for wellbeing and life continues to inspire me with new friendships. And now, the hardest challenge I face is living in the jungle and working with these alternative medicines. It is very difficult to explain to people how they work and there is a lot of judgment and stigma around it. Not to mention the challenge of being away from my family and my home and away from the financial security that is offered by a full time job. However, participating in the “normal” path of society (working full time etc.) was making me unwell spiritually and I can feel my soul thriving living in this natural environment, eating fruit straight from the trees, drinking fresh water from the spring every day and bathing in the river etc. Everything is a compromise in life, really.
What’s in your “Inspiration Collection?”
1. The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle
2. The Pleiadians – different channellings and books
3. The Yamas and Niyamas in the Yogic Philosophy
4. “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” – Hunter S. Thompson (I know this one might seem contradictory to all the other wellbeing stuff, but I see this more in terms of getting out of the “safe”, “normal” lifestyle for fear of what might happen if you step out of it all…Don’t let fear guide your decisions. Let wellbeing guide your decisions, and this can sometimes mean going on some pretty amazing adventures and taking some big risks.)
What is your Life Motto/quote you live by?
“Surrender in Trust”
Best Recycle-not-waste tip?
Op shops and those awesome trade websites and Facebook pages fro swapping items or giving away items. Always deny plastic bags whenever you are offered and you don’t need one. Take your own bags to the market etc.
Have you ever been on a Pilgrimage or soul-defining adventure and what was your inspiration?
A: I have done a lot of travel and India was definitely an amazing spiritual pilgrimage. However, by far the most soul-defining adventure was coming to the Peruvian Amazon to undertake a Ayahuasca and Master Plant Dieta at “The Garden on Peace”, just outside of Tarapoto. It changed my life and continues to change the lives of so many people. It might seem like a crazy and expensive thing to do, but it is worth every single dollar I have spent with the amazingly positive physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth it has given me. See the connections at the bottom of this interview for how to get in contact with Khala if this work interests you.
Where was the best place (overseas or local) you have visited or experienced that supported your Wellbeing?
A: The Garden of Peace in Tarapoto, Peru and Inbound Yoga Eco-farm in Cusco, Peru.
Three unusual facts about you?
- I live in a treehouse/teepee down by the river in the Peruvian jungle.
- I love crosswords
- I used to be on a children’s TV show.
How many fucks do you give, as to ‘what other people think’, on a scale of zero to ten?
I would say about 5. I wish I didn’t at all; but that ego stuff goes really, really deep!
Social connections, links/website.
FB: Mikhala Hawken
LinkedIn: Mikhala Hawken
If you would like to add your definitions and journey or inspirations to my collection - please contact me, I would love to hear from you.