A portrait exhibited in the Archibald exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW recently inspired me. The work is titled ‘The inner stillness of Eileen Kramer’ by Andrew Lloyd Greensmith.
Eileen Kramer is 102 years old and as the description of the painting pointed out, “she personifies the key to longevity and a full, rich life.” She is currently the worlds oldest working dancer/choreographer as well as a poet, artist and costume designer. She has been travelling the world living in places such as India, Paris, London and New York and recently returned to Australia, aged 99.
Eileen found her passion in life, the arts. In the artist's eyes this has contributed to Eileen having a sense of inner stillness and being at ease with the world, her life and her craft. I was fortunate that my three young daughters, partner and other people close to me were with me at the Archibald exhibition. We talked about how inspiring Eileen was and the thoughts and feelings the portrait brought out in us all.
Loads of research has shown that participating in happiness related activities contribute positively to psychological wellbeing ('Lyubomirsky S, Sheldon KM, Schkade D: Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change' is just one study). For me personally, wandering through galleries is something that brings me happiness. I am also fortunate that one of the things that brings me happiness, mindfully admiring art and painting, is proven to contribute to overall wellbeing. What a bonus!
This got me thinking. It was probably around 5 years ago that my awareness wasn’t quite where it needed to be in regard to how I was living my life and how this was contributing to my wellbeing. There were a lot of things I liked doing (which are probably familiar to you as well) that had the potential to have more impact on my overall wellness if I just did them more mindfully and better. Things like moving, eating, sleeping, resting, reading and connecting with people were things I really liked doing. It was only when I realised that by doing these things better, I could reach new peaks of my potential.
I am lucky that my work has allowed me to invest time in understanding how to get better at all of these things I like doing. My partner in crime and co founder of Benny Button, Adrian Medhurst, and I have developed our own diagnostic of what factors makes up whole person wellbeing and drive our vitality. We want to help as many people and organisations as possible explore and understand what factors personally contribute to them living well and having impact. Our aim is to help people narrow the focus on the areas that can help them reach and even fast track their potential.
For me being mindful about the choices I make and how I practice doing the things I like doing, had a massive impact on my overall wellness. Moving better, more effectively and more efficiently, making better decisions about the food I eat, being present in relationships, learning about new stuff, getting quality sleep, working in a job that I love and consciously breathing more often have contributed to my overall happiness and my own inner stillness.
I am not sure I will live to 102 but what I do know is that I am giving myself every chance of happiness and a long rich life. Information overload, bloggers, news items, new studies, fads and opportunists sometimes make wellbeing seem more complex and difficult than it needs to be. If we keep it simple, if we just pause for a while and think about what we like doing, how what we are doing contributes to our wellbeing, and how we can do these things a little bit better over time, then we all have a chance to find that inner stillness realised by Eileen Kramer.