In March Jessica Eve Watkins & Harper Cowan- the brains behind production company Anima Rising, left the UK to begin a pilgrimage of America's East Coast, stopping off at farms, eco-villages, and intentional communities, as part of a documentary project. But what they learned on their way has profoundly influenced them, and given them a hunger to spread the message that another way is possible. When I stumbled across this project, it resonated with me really deeply and I had to know more. They very graciously agreed to answer my questions, so here we go. Inpsiration overload.
Can you introduce yourselves to us?
We are Jessica Eve Watkins & Harper Cowan - best friend sister soul mates for the past seven years, and co-creators of Anima Rising.
What is Anima Rising?
We make and curate art together under the umbrella of Anima Rising. It's our production company, for lack of a better word, and the name comes from one of our favourite Joni Mitchell songs, Don't Interrupt the Sorrow. Also from the hope that a rise in Anima (feminine energy) will heal the world.
And what does this totally dreamy and amazing looking road trip you've been on have to do with it?!
We have been on this totally dreamy road trip since April, visiting and filming at intentional communities, eco-villages, and community-oriented farms on America's East Coast, making our first documentary, our baby, Ways Of Living.
You mentioned the phrase 'intentional living'. I like the sound of it. What is it?! Do we really need it? what if we quite like our central heating and car and weekly shops at Tesco?
Harper: To me, alternative living mostly has to do with getting back in touch with the values that we all know are more important than the ones our society has been trying to instill in us. Living that is alternative to the mainstream means practicing awareness - of your actions and their effects & repercussions, and taking responsibility for them. We can't just turn a blind eye to more stuff, more money, more cars, more competition - we need to strive to meet our potential as enlightened beings, practicing kindness and empathy. And yes, we really need it because the earth's resources are finite and we are accelerating towards a brick wall. Also because it is the only cure to the loneliness, purposelessness and isolation people are feeling. To me an "alternative" living doesn't feel too far out, it feels like a contemporary way in which we would all be lucky to get to live - with more connection, kindness, and fulfillment.
Ok, lots of us would love to spend months travelling around alternative living communities but many of us are anchored, or stuck in our jobs and houses- with varying degrees of happiness. What can those of us in our houses and jobs and families learn from what you've experienced? How can we channel some 'alternative living' into our lives?
Harper: First off I would say, shake off the shackles! Often we're just making excuses for why we can't do the things we want to do, because we're actually comfortable and think we feel safer in our unhappiness than exploring the unknown. You shouldn't stay in a situation that genuinely makes you unhappy, we have met lots of people on our travels who left safe situations because they were unfulfilling. It's difficult, but not impossible! That being said - there is plenty that people can do to help from their houses and their jobs. I think most important is building community - get to know your neighbours, organise pot lucks in your neighbourhood, treat everyone the way you would like to be treated, thank people for what they do for you, learn where your food comes from, grow your own if you can, start a community garden, vote with your dollar, support your local farmers at the farmers market. Trade time and energy with people instead of money - if they babysit for you, water their plants for them when they're away, if they cook you dinner one night, help paint a room for them, etc. Be nicer than you feel. I think the best thing we can do right now is focus on unifying, strengthening & building our local communities. Living in community is very challenging, but so rewarding and important. That's what I would tell people who want to channel some alternative living into their daily lives, build community.
Jesse: Be kind. You can do that anywhere. It's so simple, but somehow so hard. It's very easy to assume someone's animosity is directly aimed at you - we're all so paranoid and insecure about the reactions of others. We walk around feeling so separate. But the truth is, for the most part, we are all so scared. We are reactionary because of the fearful zone we operate from. When I feel true love in my heart, I have enough awareness on the spot to recognise another is feeling anxious or even terrified, and a loving gesture or inclusive smile can melt solid iron walls between us. We are all connected to the source, we are all a total part of one another, and kindness extended to another is like a beam shone on yourself.
Do you feel more in tune with the seasons after living in such an earth focussed way? in what ways?
Jesse: Yesterday, I helped a bunch of people stack several truck-loads of logs into a wood pile, in preparation for a Blue Ridge Mountain winter. I've been needing to work on my laptop for weeks, and as I hugged some mossy blocks to my chest this smell hit my nostrils that completely awakened my heart. It was the smell of forest, and organic life. A searing happiness punched me in that moment, and I felt a profound purposefulness. I thought, 'Even if nothing else, there is always this.'
Harper: Definitely. We've done more sleeping outside & camping this trip than I ever have in my life. Also eating the food that people have grown themselves. Books like Modern Pagan: How to Live a Natural Lifestyle in the 21st Centuryby Brian Day are a great inspiration. Stuff that feels like it should be common sense (but isn't!) - eating with the seasons. We shouldn't be eating strawberries in winter, we shouldn't be eating mangos if mangos don't grow where we live. I think it comes back to awareness, paying more attention to the world around you, noticing what kind of day it is, what trees are flowering, what the animals around you are doing, how you're feeling!
Many people feel the need to live more simply, more in tune with the passing of the seasons, more respectfully and more lovingly. But sometimes it can be really overwhelming to see how sort of unconscious we are about our living and eating habits, our desire to consume. What can we do about it?! Can one persons actions really make that much difference?
Harper: I agree that is seems like an uphill climb; it can be very depressing and seem pointless. I also believe that one person can have a great effect, because it ripples out. Maybe you inspire just one other person, and they in turn teach someone else.
We can also try to take things day by day - so ok, maybe I'm not saving the world today, I don't feel sure of what the sea levels will look like in 2050, or our carbon emissions - but I can be as kind and thoughtful and loving as I can. I can be vulnerable and gentle, and try my best to learn from the inspiring people around me, and to teach the lessons that I've learned are important.
Jesse: One reason we are so slow to create change in this world is precisely because we don't believe our humble actions can make a difference. I often forget that I have the power to affect others, but of course I affect them with every single thing I do, because we all do. We are inter-connected, it's our nature. The most empowering thing is to remember it all comes down to your individual action - not that of the government or your neighbour. If you wait for them, you'll be waiting forever. You can take responsibility for your own heart, and make a huge difference. The rest will follow when they're ready.
You talk frequently about feminine energy, and also have an awesome section on your website, and on your Pinterest boards about Wild Women. Can you explain more?
Harper: We are very interested in feminine energy - using traits like creativity, intuition, empathy, nurturing, collaboration. It is our hope that the world can be healed through a rise in feminine energy amongst men and women. On Wild Women we hope to document creative people who are using these feminine qualities in their work. We are also definitely interested in exploring womanhood/femininity - not in being a new kind of woman, because women have always been amazing, but in helping to continue exemplifying different expectations of women than those that are propagated by the mainstream media. Finding our inner powerful goddesses!
Jesse: I am so elated to be a woman. Women are magical, mystical, powerful, intuitive Goddesses. Exploring this unfolding realisation in myself and others is like discovering an unstoppable vitality that has been suppressed and restrained for hundreds of years. I have denied my emotionality and strength for a long time, but these days I am waking her up, and it feels about time.
Where are you now and whats next? How are you going to spread your totally inspiring and infectious message?
Harper: Right now we are doing an artist residency at a hippie commune in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. There's about twelve of us living together on a beautiful 60 acre piece of land. Our goal is to have the film, Ways of Living, edited by Spring 2015, and ready for release. We want to spread our message through video, through music, through writing, through teaching and talking and all kinds of art.
Jesse: The creating won't stop, because Anima Rising is rooted so deeply within ourselves and our passions. The more we learn about the consciousness evolving out in the world, the more adamant I am to remain stuck in. In personal projects, I have an album to record early next year, and a novel to write after that. If it wasn't so fun, I'd be exhausted. As Anais Nin said, 'Had I not created my whole world, I would certainly have died in other people's.'
You both worked at NYLON mag, and clearly have a beautiful, creative sense of style. Whats your take on fashion and dressing nowadays? Have your recent experiences made you question things?
Jesse: Style as expression is one of the most joyful elements of life. We spend hours thrift shopping, pulling shoulder-padded jackets and corduroy overalls out of charity bins. We never wash them either, which is kind of gross. Style for the sake of someone other than yourself is where things get murky - you gotta wear it because you love it and it communicates something about you to the world. Getting dressed is so fun when it's about speaking your mind.
Harper: I do enjoy clothes, we love thrift shopping and exchanging and sharing clothes. I enjoy having hair - that's for sure! I never got too in to makeup and I'm glad, because now I feel very wary of putting weird chemically substances that I couldn't make myself on to my delicate face skin.
If there was one thing, one message you wanted to 'stick' in peoples mind about what you've seen and learned, what would it be?
Jesse: Believing in nature's magic, and trusting in the earth to provide for us, is the cleverest thing you can do. Every single thing we need is right there for us, right now. An abundance of nourishment, medicine, warmth, and materials - more than we could ever use. We've just forgotten to trust it.
Harper: Do your research, find your role models, and once you've decided what you really think is GOOD, do that! Let's all try to be the best people we can be, if there's something you think needs to happen to heal the world and it isn't happening, then make it happen! The commitment to little changes makes a big difference. Even if just you don't ever use a plastic shopping bag again, or never eat meat again, that's an important effort. "Love is always the appropriate reaction" - that's some graffiti Jess & I saw on the Williamsburg Bridge about 5 years ago, it's true, just love more, bigger, stronger - more love.
Our website: www.animarising.net
Our indiegogo: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/ways-of-living-a-consciousness-raising-film (there's only 2 DAYS left)
Our facebook: www.facebook.com/animarisingproductions
Our instagram: /animarisingproductions
Trailer 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R0haNtu9M5g
Trailer 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugz0ipteanQ
Harper and Jesse only have 1 more day to reach their IngieGoGo target to raise enough money to produce their film and share their message with the world. Click through for more info.
This post first appeared on lifestyle blog www.seedsandstitches.com