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Sarah Wilson is on the pod with Tahnee today and just quietly the whole SF crew are pretty stoked about it. Many of you may recognise Sarah as "that I quit sugar lady", after all she pioneered the movement and has written and published many books on the subject. In 2018 Sarah sold the I Quit Sugar franchise and gave all the proceeds to charity, a legendary act considering the success the movement has had globally. Sarah is a journalist and activist at heart, spending a lot of her time avidly researching and seeking the truth, sharing her insights with absolute fervour through her books, media appearances, blog and social media platforms. Sarah's expertise and main areas of interest surround the issues of mental health, the environment and sustainability, politics and healthcare.
Sarah is someone who "gives a shit", a deeply passionate soul on a quest to save what's left of the planet for generations to come. Sarah's approach is accessible, community minded and no fuss. Today we have the pleasure of discussing the theme's in her latest book, First We Make The Beast Beautiful, a personal text exploring anxiety and bipolar disorder through lens of spirituality and philosophy.
Sarah and Tahnee explore:
- Collective despair.
- Non-consumerism and travelling light.
- The inextricable nature of politics and spirituality.
- Why walking is such an effective tool against anxiety.
- Anxiety and mental health, the highs, the lows, the gifts.
- Carrying what Sarah calls "radical hope" in your heart in these globally turbulent times.
- The plight of the individual, where neoliberalism fails us and the importance of community.
- Sarah's daily non negotiable's, think movement, meditation, real food and like minded community.
Who is Sarah Wilson?
Sarah Wilson is a multi-New York Times bestselling and #1 Amazon bestselling author. A former journalist and editor of Cosmopolitan Australia, Sarah also hosted the first series of MasterChef Australia, the most watched show in Australian television. Sarah founded the I Quit Sugar Movement and has published 15 sugar-free cookbooks which sell in 131 countries. Sarah's latest cookbook, Simplicious Flow, is the world’s first zero-waste cookbook.
Sarah's international bestselling book, First We Make The Beast Beautiful, reframes anxiety and bipolar disease through a philosophical and spiritual lens and has become both a #1 Amazon bestseller and New York Times bestseller. Sarah ranks as one of the top 200 most influential authors in the world (2017 and 2018) and has a combined digital audience of 3 million.
Sarah closed the IQuitSugar.com digital business in 2018 and gave all funds to her charity trust. She know builds projects to assist both those in need and combat creeping individualism. Sarah is a foster carer and vocal anti-consumerist, hiking enthusiast and rides her bike everywhere. Her next book will be published in Australia and the US August 2020.
Check Out The Transcript Below:
Hi, everybody, and welcome to the SuperFeast podcast. Today, I'm here with Sarah Wilson. We're all big fans of Sarah at SuperFeast. I'm really excited to have her on the podcast. She has done so many things in her life, which is just such a beautiful kind of offering from her sharings on her blog and social media, all the way through to her published books. Many of you will know her from the I Quit Sugar franchise, but she was one of the youngest editors of Cosmo, if not the youngest editor. You can correct me on that later, Sarah.
And she's also written this incredible book, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, which has been going around our office for about a year now, and we've all really enjoyed reading it and getting into Sarah's wisdom around a lot of the mental health issues that people are struggling with these days. She's also been writing another book, so we'll hear about that in the podcast today, but I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time. We know how busy you are. It's great to have you here.
Sarah Wilson: (00:57)
And she's also written this incredible book, First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, which has been going around our office for about a year now, and we've all really enjoyed reading it and getting into Sarah's wisdom around a lot of the mental health issues that people are struggling with these days. She's also been writing another book, so we'll hear about that in the podcast today, but I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time. We know how busy you are. It's great to have you here.
Yeah. And, I mean, we've got two copies between about ... Well, there's 20 staff in our team, but like we've been going one upstairs, one downstairs. [crosstalk 00:01:25].
Sarah Wilson: (01:25)
Well, I hope there's lots of notes and turned over pages [crosstalk 00:01:28].
...marks and notes as they read it, and it's really nice to read other people's takeaways, and, yeah, it's been a really nice little journey..
Sarah Wilson: (01:35)
Oh, I love that.
It sort of brings me to how relatable your story is, really. Even though many of us haven't officially been diagnosed with anything or haven't had anything since we were quite young. I was diagnosed with depression at 17, but I decided to try other things, rather than medication. But many of us really related to what you were talking about, and I think it's so easy to kind of label people with labels and diagnoses with something, but when you really look at the humanness of that experience of the things that you really describe so beautifully, the fear, and the suffering, and the closing in of the walls, and just the uncertainty and the inability to be with that uncertainty, especially when we're young, I think there was something really potent about that, that we've all connected to, even though...
Sarah Wilson: (02:27)
Yeah. I think also anyone I speak to with depression or anxiety in whatever form it takes, everyone at the core feels that, even if they've been diagnosed with some pretty extreme so called mental disorders, they still feel that there is something more going on than just some chemical imbalance in the brain. And, of course, the science now shows that, that theory, which our generation grew up with, that it's a serotonin imbalance, therefore it requires medication produced by a pharmaceutical company, we feel that that's a dissatisfying end to the debate or to the issue, in part because medication doesn't always fix the issue, in fact in the main part it doesn't, but also I think deep down, we know there's something more going on.
Sarah Wilson: (03:18)
And so, yeah, the book, as you know, is more of a philosophical and spiritual journey through anxiety, and it actually goes beyond seeing it as a problem, but seeing it as, as I call it in the book, a superpower. And it can become a superpower when we can sit with it and see its beauty, hence the title of the book, First You Make the Beast Beautiful, because it has been something in our evolution that serves a really important purpose, that the poets, the scientists, the world leaders, the top world leaders, shamans, spiritual leaders throughout history we now know displayed what we would now call mental disorders, predominantly bi-polar and OCD. And I think it's really good for all of us to actually go, "Ah, there's actually a purpose behind this, and if we see what the purpose is, we can start to then attend to the deeper purpose that our anxiety is alerting us to."
Sarah Wilson: (04:19)
And then that becomes a far more, gosh, nourishing, beautiful journey to be on, rather than, "Oh, I've got to find a better psychiatrist or a better drug, because this last one isn't working."
Well, it just becomes a self perpetuating prophecy with the medication that people aren't ... Also, that's what I really appreciated was you didn't posset that there was a solution, but that it was kind of this tapestry of weaving that each individual really had to do on their own to really fight the things that nourish and support them. And we live in a culture that is, in many ways, creating these symptoms in us, but we have to take responsibility for our own relationship with that, I think, and I think when you look at your journey, I can really see that, like, how you've come through all these different kind of, I guess, milestones that people would consider to be, on paper, really amazing. And obviously not to undermine them, they are amazing, but when look at what really makes a person happy, some of these things are not that, you know?
Sarah Wilson: (05:18)
Yeah. Would you say that's been, I guess, something that's, I guess, had to become relevant for you as you've [crosstalk 00:05:25] just keep pairing away the things that are just not serving you to be you?
Sarah Wilson: (05:32)
That's right. It's often about ... There's a couple of things. I mean, I think in the main, I felt terribly lonely, and I say this really early in the book. A friend to me, "Why on earth are you writing this book?" And I said, "Because I'm bored and lonely." And I was. I was bored of the discussions that were being had, that I had to either avoid or I was sort of reduced to in and around my anxiety, and I was also lonely in it because we weren't talking the juicy stuff that sat down at that deeper level, and even just talking about it is a salve, having deep conversations. I think we get anxious because we're not having these conversations, these meaningful conversations.
Sarah Wilson: (06:11)
So to your point about these so-called successes I've had in my career, I suppose I can see that they came out of my anxiety, so there's the flip side that I've been highly productive because I've had this yearning forward, this outward search, and I've constantly been seeking a better way to do things, a more nourishing life, and that's kind of led me on to these various projects. So I can really be grateful for that, but now, as I'm in my mid to late 40s and working out where everything sits, I can now see that all the decisions I now make about my career are just becoming easier and easier because I now know what is at my heart that I'm searching for. I've got a much better understanding of it. And I've heard a lot of people, after they've read Beast, they've gone, "Gosh, I now know what decisions I've got to make. I know now how to make those decisions."
Sarah Wilson: (07:13)
And as you know, Tahnee, in the book, I talk about how one of the worst thing about anxiety is that we get anxious about being anxious. Mostly because we don't have a dialogue around anxiety, right? We're told that we shouldn't be anxious, right? So we get anxious that we're anxious because we're somehow failing at life. Then we get anxious about being anxious about being anxious and we go down this horrible spiral. And my thing is, you know, what, do anxiety once. Do it once, move on.
Sarah Wilson: (07:39)
And that's one of the, yeah, the salves that form that tapestry, as you put it, of solutions and ways of looking at things. There's no one thing, but there's a lovely conversation we can have, where gradually, and you'll remember from the book, I talk about it being a big knotted ball of wool. We don't necessarily find the end of that knotted ball of wool and we magically pull it and all unfurls into a nice strand that our life can that travel along. We just loosen that ball of wool so that we don't get so cluttered and anxious and tense. We just loosen it. We provide gaps and oxygen in and around it all. And so, yeah, I'm sort of really butchering your tapestry metaphor here by turning it into a knotted ball of wool, but I'm sure the listeners get the point.
Well, I'm imagining a loose weave kind of knit right now.
Sarah Wilson: (08:34)
Yeah, thank you.
But I think you mentioned that, like, "Sitting with your triggers," was the quote you used in the book, and I guess I've done a lot of yoga, so that's my background, being yoga teacher and stuff, and one of the big teachings and gifts for me, and one of my teachers describes it as widening your bandwidth, it's like you never can hold more volume, and so, yeah, the anxiety's moving through, but you can kind of feel it as this huge cone of energy, but you don't have to resist it, which I think is worse than actually [crosstalk 00:09:06].
Sarah Wilson: (09:06)
Yeah. Well, it can be there and you can have a great life, so we take broader bandwidth, and that's why a lot of the solutions, I'd say roughly half of the exercises and solutions I put forward, and nothing's as definitive as a solution, but you know what I mean, some of techniques to experiment with-
Practical [crosstalk 00:09:25].
Sarah Wilson: (09:25)
... are about expanding that bandwidth, so that you can hold the anxiety when it comes, and then the other half are things to do when anxiety strikes, so what you can do when you're in the middle of one of those and-
If you don't have the head space to-
Sarah Wilson: (09:43)
... put ... Yeah. Yeah, and I guess when you talk about that, coming back to that superpower metaphor, which I think, again, is a really powerful one, I tend to hear when I speak to people, and, I guess, being in the unique situation of hearing all of our staff, talking about their experiences reading it, a lot of them are quite sensitive people who went to uni and tried to get careers in Sydney, and realised that that was working for them and couldn't really understand why they were suffering on a mental and physical level.
And they've tried moving out to Byron and Mullum, and trying to decompress and unwind, but they fall into a lot of the similar patterns and habits here, even though the pressure isn't there for them and, yeah, it's a really tricky one to go, "Okay, well, I am a sensitive person. I have to have certain types of boundaries on my time and my energy, but these are things that make me great at my work," because, seriously, these people are amazing at what they do because they have that sensitivity and-
Sarah Wilson: (10:42)
Yes, that's right.
... you're able to translate that human experience because you have such a depth of feeling. But comes with its own pros and cons, right?
Sarah Wilson: (10:52)
That's right. That's right. And that's why we can have better conversations about that so that we actually feel comfortable with it all. When we feel comfortable about something, the beast becomes less scary, and then we start to reframe it as a beautiful thing.
And so what about ... Obviously right now, there's a lot of fear in the media and these times are really interesting, I guess, is-
Sarah Wilson: (11:13)
That's one way of putting it, yes.
Yeah, and, I mean, you're on social media a lot, well, not a lot, but you're there, you have a presence and you're sharing a really strong message. Do you find that awareness of what's going on creates more anxiety for you now, or do you have ways of managing that now that you've gotten a bit more mature in your approach?
Sarah Wilson: (11:34)
Yeah. Look, it's a combination. As you mentioned, I'm writing my next book, and, as of yesterday, I've been able to give the title of it out publicly. It's called This One Wild Precious Life, which I hope gives a bit of an indication of what the book's about. But it's essentially a soul's journey through all these nebulous things that we're having to cope with, predominantly the climate crisis, which is incredibly anxiety inducing. So in some ways, Beast looked at our anxiety as an inward journey, it was our own personal anxiety. This next book goes outwards. It goes out into the world to what I call our collective despair. You know, we're in the middle of a human despair crisis, and it's completely understandable. We're all avoiding talking about it in that language because we're just not ready yet.
Sarah Wilson: (12:23)
But, yeah, I think that the journey I went on with First, You Make the Beast Beautiful certainly prepared me for this. It got me pretty solid. And, look, after the book came out, after the Beast came out, I've got to say my life has changed. It was a bit like writing a whole series of books about sugar, right? I could never walk down the street again eating a Magnum ice cream, you know? It was just like it kind of set up the guard rails for my own wellbeing. But ditto, with this anxiety book, it really forced me to go down into the stuff I was writing about because I really wanted it to be a legit sort of pathway for people. I had to go there first, and it really built new muscles in my own brain.
Sarah Wilson: (13:10)
So, yeah, I came out of it much stronger, much more philosophical, but also the conversations I had with people were just so nourishing. It was exactly what I wanted. It delivered what I needed, personally, which was a better conversation. So, yes, going into this topic, it certainly has steeled me for things, however, this book, which has taken three years to research. I've been researching it and writing ir now solidly for three years. And that in itself has taken me to even a deeper level of maturity. And you used that word, maturity. It's absolutely apt. It's been a process of really growing up. Growing up in that real sort of soul way. That hero's journey. Joseph Campbell's Hero. The warrior.
Sarah Wilson: (13:56)
And I've got to say, it's a very female kind of warrior energy, which I've had to channel. I've had no choice because I've been talking to climate experts around the world. I've been really embedded in a climate debate and the activism and all of that kind of thing, and you can't unsee this shit, right? Once you've learnt the reality of it and you've accepted this is the science, this is categorically as real as it gets, you can't unsee it, and so you've got to find better ways to cope with it. Pathways in your brain that enable you to keep waking up every day with, what I call, radical hope in your heart.
Sarah Wilson: (14:40)
So, yes, the hardship, the harshness, the devastation, the despair, the shame, the guilt, everything that I've been feeling, I've gone through it, past through it, and it's made me even stronger and more resilient. And I'm hoping that when people read this next book, when it comes out in late June, that they'll feel they'll benefit in the same way because that's what we're needing right now. So, yeah, it's been the next chapter in things, and it's been very much about ... It's like the parable of the monk that goes and meditates in the mountain for years on end, and then suddenly goes, "What's the point of this? I've got to come down from the mountain and bring the wisdom into the village."
Yeah, love it.
Sarah Wilson: (15:21)
Yeah. And that's where I arrived, and I was like, "What's the point of just feeling good myself when the planet's burning, you know? I need to get out there, and even if [inaudible 00:15:32] with my anxiety and I've still got all the bloody baggage and the stuff following me around, I've got to get on with some-
Sarah Wilson: (15:40)
Yeah, yeah, exactly.
And so, I mean, when you're talking about these shame feelings and that, because that's a really common thing, I think, that causes paralysis in people, and it kind of comes back to the advice similarly really to what you talk about with anxiety and these other sort of mind disorders, I suppose, that people are diagnosed with these days. It's this same idea of almost the permission and the willingness to enter into that space of feeling those things, but not letting them become us, or letting us become them, I suppose. It sort of reminds me of the meditative and yoga traditions where they talk about that you've got the contents of the mind and then you've got consciousness, and they're not the same, and it's a [inaudible 00:16:26] to separate them out a little bit, like you're saying, create that breathing room and space around them so that we can feel that, yeah, we're all apart of what's going on, we've all participated in the creation of this problem and we can-
Sarah Wilson: (16:38)
Yeah, I think that dialogue is a really great one during times of peace, but I would say that we are in a time of emergency, and I suppose a lot of my message is about taking that spiritual yogic kind of tradition, that thinking about not being your emotions, witnessing it, et cetera, et cetera, not getting caught up in that dialogue, which is, it's a wonderful skillset to practise for everyday living. However, I would say it needs to be ratcheted up a notch or 50, so we're [inaudible 00:17:15] this today. And this is something that I actually do explore in my next book, that spiritual traditions have always adjusted in times of crisis, and what they've done is got quite political and also moved the journey out into the world, and that's kind of almost the rally call that I'm putting to the wellness community that, yeah, was appropriate for us all to do a fair bit of self care there, sort ourselves out, but, hey, even if you're not quite ready, get out on the road and be of service because the planet needs us right now.
Sarah Wilson: (17:46)
So that's something that I actually really am mindful of. And it can sound a little bit harsh, but I think the times demand it, that we've got to actually stop thinking about our own wellbeing, we've got to start to think more collectively at the moment, and-
What does that look like for you then? Because that was kind of the point of my question. If someone's paralysed by their own feelings and they're afraid to feel them and they haven't developed a capacity really to go, "Okay, it's okay to feel that. I can still do something." [crosstalk 00:18:16].
Sarah Wilson: (18:16)
Yeah. Well, you've almost answered that in some ways because I think that even if you haven't developed the capacities perfectly, and, look, either have I, there's never an end point in this bloody of the journey, it's kind of the point. But, no, it's actually one of the things I've found is that activism or getting engaged, being of service to others, even if it's just the next door neighbor's dog, it really doesn't matter. Being engaged and of service is actually one of the best, would you believe, fixers for anxiety because-
Like the altruism studies and stuff.
Sarah Wilson: (18:53)
That's right. You can now steer some of that energy towards something bigger than yourself, and quite often, what actually creates our anxiety is a sense of what's this all about? Surely this is about something bigger, you know? And all of sudden, we've been granted exactly that, a thing bigger than ourselves that we need to attend to. So I think that that's something that is ... I think that's actually a really great way for us to see things. You might not be ready, but it doesn't matter. Get out there and help, and that will actually get us, get you there at an individual level. It's kind of a two birds, one stone thing.
Yeah, and I guess no action is too small, right? Is that what you're saying? Like, if anyone had any inkling to get off their seat and do something, go and do it, and just follow that.
Sarah Wilson: (19:41)
Yeah. And I think when you're depressed or you're anxious, quite often what happens is we can actually descend into a state of inaction and numbness because we get overwhelmed, and my book actually tries to walk through all of that with the reader so that they can not let that sort of overwhelm them and send them into the numbness. But I totally grant that it can be difficult, but I also think that ... Nietzsche said that when we have a why, we can handle any how. And I think that once we grasp the idea that our why is to really fight for the planet, fight for the life that we cherish, we find that the how just comes. We get motivated.
Sarah Wilson: (20:30)
But, yeah, look, I take your point that when we're struggling personally, it can be very easy to descend into overwhelm and numbness, and the guilt can get too much, the shame, it's just all too much. It's a bit like ... It's an evolutionary response. We either fight or we flee, or we freeze when things get tough. But I think there is a call to arms, and I think that it's getting louder, and I think it's actually going to be a great thing. For those of us who've had that itchy feeling, we're not attending to the right things in life. I actually think that's at the core of many people's anxiety, is a sense that this is just not right. We're not living the life we're meant to be.
[crosstalk 00:21:15] humans when you go to countries that aren't as developed as the ones we live in are just that, it's community, and it's connection, it's these things that don't really have anything to do with how much crap you have and what's on your Instagram profile or whatever, and I think ... But that's something I get really stuck on in the ... For example, when the bushfires were happening, I arranged a food drive here, and people were sending me the most ridiculous things, saying, "Oh, why are you sending them bottled water? It's plastic, it's bad for the environment all this stuff. And I was like, "Look, there are all these people with no food, they have no clean water, I'm going to send it to them. Shut up. Just go away."
Sarah Wilson: (21:53)
Yeah. I think what we do is we also grasp onto absolutes in times of fear, and it is very much a reminder of how much we need really solid, good, visionary leadership in times of crisis, and, unfortunately, in much of the Western world, we don't have that. We still haven't transitioned from a period of, in the vedic tradition, and some of your listeners would be aware of this. There's this idea of you have a period of creation, and then you have periods of maintenance, and then you have periods of destruction, and we've been in a period of maintenance. Pretty much, stability, financially, the world has gradually improved in way ways. Globally, there's been a fair bit of maintenance, but eventually, that comes to an end and we go into a period of destruction.
Sarah Wilson: (22:48)
And that happens across all species, across all lifeforms throughout history, and we need to adjust to that, and we haven't adjusted yet. We're still in that maintenance, she'll be all right kind of phrase, and our leaders aren't actually going, "No, you know what? This is an emergency." We're going to have to kind of lift and ... And it's sort of what we did during various war eras, right? Countries mobilised. There were posters everywhere, there was propaganda, governments did everything they could to get the world onboard. Now, whether we think war is great or not, it's part of the cycle of life and it happened, and we needed to mobilise one way or another.
Sarah Wilson: (23:32)
If everybody sat at home went, "Oh, I'm not going to do the rations. Somebody else can do that." Or if we didn't have a leader who went, "Hey, we're going to have to all tighten the belts, go onboard, do what we can, support this war effort because we've all signed up to it and it is for the greater good," we'd be in all kinds of trouble today. So that's what we need from our leaders. So it is really hard. At the individual level, we've got to engage and really fire up, and in some ways, shelve our own personal stuff briefly so that we can attend to a greater good, which in the end, actually attends to the original anxiety, you know? It's actually a wonderful thing.
Sarah Wilson: (24:10)
And, look, just to give you some statistics on this, during the London blitz, for instance, in World War II, the admissions into mental wards and also suicide rates dropped to virtually zero. And the theory that's been postulated is that the country was all mobilising together. There was a sense of the collectives that everybody was able to tap into. And, as I say, everybody had a why bigger than themselves. And I think that's really interesting, and those statistics played out around the world. People's depression, anxiety, would you believe, also suicide rates just dropped because people were getting on with something else, something bigger, something collective, something very tribal.
Mm. So that's the call, that we use whatever kind of soil we have to start to build this ground swell, I suppose, of momentum towards [crosstalk 00:25:07].
Sarah Wilson: (25:07)
Yeah. And I actually think a lot of us have been waiting for this.
Yeah. [inaudible 00:25:11] at this stage from the top down. Like, it's just that's...
Sarah Wilson: (25:14)
I'm not waiting for that to happen.
Sarah Wilson: (25:17)
No, please don't. And I've always taken that approach, Tahnee, with sugar. Don't sit around waiting for governments and junk food companies to suddenly go, "Oh, yeah, sugar's not that great, let's change." Just start shopping differently, start cooking and eating differently. And so that was something that was really motivating me, gosh, all those years ago now, eight years ago, when I decided to start the I Quit Sugar movement. It's like, God, everybody was sick of waiting for someone else to do it, let's do it ourselves.
Yeah. So this is an interesting dilemma then that lands for me when we talk about these movements because they create product and they create challenges, and I've read all this crazy stuff about [inaudible 00:25:57] travels the world, and does this and blah, blah, and I've heard certain criticism of yourself for making books and products and all [inaudible 00:26:06]. It's like [crosstalk 00:26:07].
Sarah Wilson: (26:06)
Mm. You can't send plastic bottles to people who have no other way of getting water, yes.
No. Interesting kind of mentality that we have to ... Like you said, it's criticism and paralysis instead of action that can ... I mean, even on the flip side of that, it's also this kind of way of avoiding ... Like, wellness industry, for me, is such a great example because it's like rather than address the fact that don't you feel okay, which has probably got more to do with what you're exposed to, how much rest you get, the food you're eating, the kinds of things you're consuming through your senses, more even so than through your mouth. But, I don't know, buy a product, buy a spray, buy a cream..
Sarah Wilson: (26:50)
Oh, yes, the outward [crosstalk 00:26:53]. Yeah, that's right. Buy [inaudible 00:26:54] to the solutions.
And it's part of this climate ... I mean, I'm conscious of it with our business. We're bringing products from China. The Chinese herbs, I believe in them, but at the same time, I'm like, "Why don't I have an Australian tradition to draw from? Why don't I have wisdom from our 60,000 year old medicine tradition.
Sarah Wilson: (27:12)
It's a tricky one and I think about it every day. We obviously do what we can. We have a sustainability officer and we work really hard to do everything we can to make it a sustainable as possible but-
Sarah Wilson: (27:24)
It's so tricky, and I love that you are bold enough to own it and actually call out some of the uglier, probably, examples of what you have to confront as a business owner. And I think that's one of the best things we can do, first and foremost, is kind of own the ugliness of it, and then we can actually start talking real solutions and being far more compassionate with each other. Look, I face it as well. I had my father on the weekend going, "Oh, well, Sarah, you fly places. You wrote this book and you went overseas to do some of your research." And I said, "Yep, I totally get it, and you're absolutely right. And I feel grimy about it."
Sarah Wilson: (28:09)
And this not by way of my own personal justification, but more as I think this is the discussion we feel collectively we need to have is that we live in this world, we are all of this world, and even if we're being very virtuous, and I'm sure, like yourself, you do all kinds of other practises and make sacrifices to ameliorate some of your carbon footprint. I don't own a car. I walk everywhere or rid my bike everywhere. I very much focus on having zero food waste in my orbit.
Sarah Wilson: (28:42)
So there's various things I do, but, equally, and there's families, people out there, we all have our thing where we're unable to shift it. Some families obviously can't get rid of their car because life it set up around schools, especially up where you live, schools are 20 kilometres away, pretty much everything's 20 kilometres away. So that's got to be borne in mind. We live in this world, this world was created by us all, and we need to be forgiving of that. And I've got a phrase that I've worked to and over the summer a lot of people were going, "What do we do? What's one solution?" And it kind of plays into what you were saying earlier. We think that we can just go and buy a solution off the shelf, that somebody's magically going to come along with the fix and, oh, well, let's all go and buy it and we'll all be good. And that's a neoliberal system, right?
Yeah, sure is.
Sarah Wilson: (29:38)
And it's a lot more complex than that. It requires uproot of a systemic change, et cetera, et cetera. But what I have said to people, instead of a one size fits all salve that we can all talk to is we do everything we can. Now, everything that you can do or one of your listeners can do is going to look different to everything I can do, but it's very different to saying, "Oh, we do our bit," or, "I do my bit to make a bit of a difference." That's not going to be good enough. The only thing that's going to cut it is that we do everything that we can do. And so I can't decide what that is. It's a very much moral assessment we're all going to have to make, and if we are starting to discuss this issue through a moral lens, through an ethical lens, through a spiritual lens, we can start to make those decisions for ourselves.
Sarah Wilson: (30:27)
At the moment, we don't have any dialogue around it. We only have the dialogue of, "Oh, we buy our way to green consumption," or, "We just feel really guilty about it and," I don't know, "go and play a video game, or get outraged on Twitter and flick through Netflix," you know what I mean? So I think, yeah, I mean, we live in this world, we all do. We've got to be forgiving of that, but we must do everything we can and we will start to feel enlivened, and of best service, and least anxious when we do everything we can.
And that really makes me think of the dharma of each of us having something unique and powerful we can [crosstalk 00:31:15] without needing it to be like anybody else's. Like, I can do certain things that you can't do and vice versa, and we'll each make our unique ... And I guess if we're talking tapestry again, we all have to contribute ... Or even a jigsaw puzzle's maybe a better analogy, but we all have to [crosstalk 00:31:30].
Sarah Wilson: (31:30)
Yeah. Pema Chodron's got a really lovely ... And I know you're a big fan of her work. She's got a lovely phrase, which I like, which is, "Start where you are." She doesn't [inaudible 00:31:41] to be more complex than, simply, if you're a school teacher, start making the changes within your area of expertise and just start tomorrow with your kids in your class. If you are a stay at home dad, start where you are. And she actually uses that phrase to say, "Start where you are with your pain point." So, say, if you're lonely, or if you're anxious or whatever it is, that is your fractured space from which to grow and go to your edge, you know?
Sarah Wilson: (32:18)
Yeah. And so not only does it fulfil my kind of mantra, which is, "Come on, don't use excuses, let's fire up," but it also means that it gets rid of that overwhelming feeling, that, "Oh, God, I've got to somehow start up a charity and I've got to be perfectly happy and settled in my life before I can be of service." Nope. It's actually you're going to be of best service when you're a hot mess, you know? A hot mess struggling with it all and you start to ask the interesting questions, you know? And I think that that is actually a really relieving kind of way of looking at things.
When I think you've been an entrepreneur, and this is something that I get really frustrated with in these entrepreneury, hacky kind of circles because I'm like [crosstalk 00:33:05] of business and stuff that these strategies work really well for climate crisis. Like, I'm a mum, I run a business, I have no idea what I'm doing half the time, every project feels too big and overwhelming. I just show up every day and do something, and it all gets done, you know? And it's every single one of us can bring that same kind of like ... Anytime you start a business, you have no idea what's going to happen. It's a complete gamble. It's a complete risk. You probably, 90% of the time, fall flat on your face. It's cool.
Sarah Wilson: (33:32)
Yeah. I'd love to see some of these life hackers with their podcasts on how to be as productive as all hell and making the rest of us feel as though we're somehow failing. I'd love to see them return some of their beautiful truisms towards the climate movement. But, anyway, that's a separate discussion.
But, no, I think, yeah, look, that's something I think about a lot because we're all in this betterment culture, and I think especially being where both of us have come through, you know, you've come through fashion as well, and the wellness industry, and it's like it's all about being better, but it's in this really narrow kind of sphere. And it's the same with business. It's like, "Oh, I'm a really good business person," and something I love, Ken Wilber talks about lines of development and this opportunity we all have to develop along multiple strands, instead of just being super great in one area. And I see a lot of the skills people are developing could be really powerful.
Sarah Wilson: (34:27)
I agree. I went on a podcast with Russell Brand, and he was asking me [crosstalk 00:34:31].
He's living Mullumbimby and we're all chasing him everywhere.
Sarah Wilson: (34:31)
I know. I know he's up that way. But I did a podcast with him over in London a little while back, and he was asking me a bit about all of this. We were talking about a similar subject. And I was just sort of saying one of my frustrations is that the wellness/spiritual community often sort of say, "Oh, look, I'm not into politics. I don't get involved in it. I don't read the newspaper and-
Sarah Wilson: (34:57)
Yes, I know. Yes, one word, Gandhi, or Jesus, or, you know? The spiritual has always been political. Always. We have spiritual uprisings when the political situation is so dire, nothing but spiritual tradition can lead the way. And this is something ... I mean, I basically believe, right now, if you're a yoga teacher or you're a meditation instructor or whatever, this is your moment.
Sarah Wilson: (35:30)
And it's not the time to run from it and go and buy another pair of leggings that leach microplastics into the ocean, or wear a T-shirt into your class that says, "There is no planet B," while drinking a green smoothie from a disposable cup, you know? It's like the time to lead by example and to live out all the teachings that Buddha or the vedic tradition have taught us, you know? This is it. This is our moment. So that's something that I'm very frustrated with, is I don't see that kind of rally call catching on.
But I think it's a really easy thing to bypass.
Sarah Wilson: (36:13)
The Gita's a great example, which is actually, maybe argumentatively, but its kind of what Christ's teachings were based on, and this idea of you have to go to war for what is right, you know? This character is asked by Krishna to go to war and to fight the demons. And this a spiritual text. It's one of the most famous [crosstalk 00:36:38]. And it's-
Sarah Wilson: (36:38)
Yeah. We've cherry picked all the bits that we like.
Sarah Wilson: (36:43)
We've cherry picked all the dreamy rainbows and unicorns, right, and we've left aside the stuff that is the real meaty stuff of every spiritual tradition, which is fight for rightness, you know? So, look, we're on the same page here, and it's taken me a while to work out that that's what's been going on, that we all sit there and we meditate and we go to yoga to feel really at one with our bodies. Well, hang on, what about being at one with the planet, and each other, and the oneness of life, you know? And that's what we've kind of literally, as you say, bypassed it. We've cherry picked spiritualism to the point that all that's left is this kind of numbed out, dreamy, spiritual goddessy type Narnia, you know?
Don't get me started on that crap, but anyway.... Point about ... Because this is something that comes up for me a lot around what I hear and what I see, and it's this all is love, and, I mean, God bless where I live, but Byron Shire is...
Sarah Wilson: (37:53)
Oh, yeah. I used to live up there. I lived up that was for a year and a half.
Oh, yeah, you lived in the shed, I remember.
Sarah Wilson: (37:58)
Yes, the army shed. Yeah, just outside Byron.
I did a [inaudible 00:38:00] up here, actually, because he used to write about riding to the farmers market...
Sarah Wilson: (38:04)
Yeah, that's it.
Yeah, but that idea, I think, where we haven't actually had an experience of that, but we talk about these things as if we believe them, which is fine, that's a pathway to experiencing them, I think, but that's when this altruism and stuff comes in. It's like if you go and do karma yoga, if you are of service to people, if you ... Like, Gandhi, he had one robe for winter, one robe for summer, he walked everywhere. All he did was give, and give, and give, and it was one of the most transformative lifetimes of any human, and that's being one with everything, you know? It's like being really able to give yourself freely, and that's what all these traditions teach. They say clear out all the bullshit, so you can actually be non-judgmental and be non-critical, and do what you need to do in life, which that's the call for all of us, I think, and-
Sarah Wilson: (39:02)
That's right, that's right. And I think it's hard for people listening, perhaps, to go, "Oh, gosh, I kind of agree with this in my heart and I agree with it in principle." It's a really hard thing to know what it is that's stopping us from behaving that way, and my one answer to that is the neoliberal system. We've got a system which has basically put the individual on the pedestal, and whenever you're on a pedestal, it's also very easy to be knocked down, so as soon as things go wrong, whether it's the coronavirus, whether it's the climate, whatever it might be, all of a sudden, well, responsibility's on us, right? We as individuals have to fix it because that's the neoliberal model. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps, just work harder.
Sarah Wilson: (39:54)
Now, that works all very well when things are going well, but when things go wrong, all of a sudden, we can't cope on our own like this. It's just too much. We need the collective, we need to come together, and that's where the neoliberalism fails us. So that's another area that we need to start discussing. We need to start seeing that we're all caught up in these cycles. We all get caught up in not being able to go to yoga until we have the right pair of yoga leggings, and the right water bottle, and the right this, and the right that, and we think, as you said, we keep buying our way. We go and do another course and pay for somebody else to tell us what the answer is, and that's a discussion we need to really, really have, is pull apart that thinking.
Sarah Wilson: (40:38)
And it's a big one, and, as I say, it took me three years to write this book. Trying to unpack it all and then reduce it from several hundred thousand words down to a readable length. So, yeah, I think we should not underestimate what a whopping great topic this is, but, hey, how much fun is it to pull it apart?
Well, and think the place you're taking it from is that soul journey is kind of connecting in a different ... I mean, I haven't read the new book, obviously, but I can feel that there's a sense of if we bring it into our inner space and our inner truth and we can all connect on that level, then it takes us out of that kind of ego individual, like me over here protecting what's mine kind of thing, which is-
Sarah Wilson: (41:24)
Oh, yeah. We're so bored of that as well.
Yeah. And, I mean, that just keeps sort of ... Like, I'm even watching with all the coronavirus stuff and just the way first there was all the racism, and now we're kind of in this, you know, I guess every day is an unknown at the moment, but you can just feel how people ... Like, people fighting over toilet paper in the aisles and [crosstalk 00:41:43] supermarket [crosstalk 00:41:43].
Sarah Wilson: (41:43)
Yeah, yeah. I mean, there's no better symbol, is there? There's no better symbol for what we're talking about than people reacting to their very valid fear and overwhelm, and the lack of leadership and guidance on all of this, the lack of community coming togetherness. Then the idea of running out and thinking that we can solve it by having more toilet ... I really don't know what toilet paper's going to do, you know? And, honestly-
I haven't been able to work that one out of like ... And the whole [inaudible 00:42:16] like chickpeas or, I don't know, like, something [crosstalk 00:42:18].
Sarah Wilson: (42:18)
I know, I know. Spaghetti or something. But it does show just how fragmented we are, how disconnected we are, how out of whack we are when we go and do this, you know? I mean, we're buying toilet paper because other people are buying toilet paper and it's sort of everybody out for themselves, dog eat dog. That's what we've resorted to, and it's really disappointing us because that isn't the entirety of our nature. There is an element of our nature that is that, but throughout history, we've had community leaders, spiritual guidance that has actually veered us away from our worst tendencies in that way, mostly to keep us alive. We need the tribe, you know?
Sarah Wilson: (43:03)
I mean, a virus is the perfect example, right? We need the tribe to come together, and we need to all agree that we're going to wash our hands and cover our mouths when we cough.
Yeah. And [inaudible 00:43:15] and all the basic stuff, yeah.
Sarah Wilson: (43:16)
Yeah. So we need to, as individuals, do these things, so that the collective can be saved, and we are not used to doing that. We're used to just making sure we're okay by buying toilet paper.
Well, [inaudible 00:43:26], there's this sense that people are waiting for it to be fixed, you know? Like, I've been talking to people as I go around town and stuff, and like, "Oh, it'll get sorted out soon." I'm like, "By who? By us?" Because we're the ones that are going to have to sort it out. And I feel it's analogist to the climate crisis. It's like all the bushfires are gone now. Like, we've had months of rain, which has been great for the dams and everything, but I'm like, "It's not over. We can't pretend now that [crosstalk 00:43:51] rain and it's done. It's like we've got to keep remembering that these things ... I mean, I've been going to ... I did environment science at university when I was ... So I'm 35. When I was 18 I started. And it's like we were going to rallies and chaining ourselves to trees and stuff then, and it's like nothing has changed. We're in a worse situation, if anything [inaudible 00:44:10]. And it's just like, until everyone collectively starts to wake up, I guess, is ...
Sarah Wilson: (44:19)
Yeah. I'm curious though when you look at self care. Because this is something, when I was talking about the fact that I was going to interview you, people were kind of curious because you've obviously done a lot with food and kind of, I guess, wellness stuff, like you had that great series in the Sunday Mail, I think it was, with all the interviews with-
Sarah Wilson: (44:40)
A Sunday magazine, in the Sun Herald and so on, yeah.
Yeah. And I remember reading that actually and I was really enjoying it, but, yeah, you kind of have been walking around in this area for a while [inaudible 00:44:53]. So do you have tenets of self care that you do use [crosstalk 00:44:59] products.
Sarah Wilson: (45:00)
Yeah, I do. I do have a few non-negotiables. As you say, I've been in the how to make your life better kind of space pretty much my entire career, one way or another. But, yeah, I guess I have drilled down to some stuff that actually works across all realms, business, health, and also life. Yeah, making the planet stick around for another couple of generations. But, yeah, so what works for me, and the great news is they're pretty much free, all of them. Free.
Sarah Wilson: (45:30)
It goes against the neoliberal model, but there you go, should we be surprised? So, for me ... And they're all backed with science and very substantial science. So the first thing would be I have a morning routine, in part because stuff I do in the morning sets me up for the day, but it's also about omitting decisions. So decision making happens in the same part of the brain that controls anxiety, and if we overtax our decision making part of the brain, we get anxious, and so that's why you hear about all these life hackers who wear the same outfit and have the same boring breakfast every day. It's so that they don't have to make those kinds of decisions in the morning in particular.
Sarah Wilson: (46:07)
So, for me, my morning routine also includes exercise in the morning. I've got a whole range of health complaints, which are able to be managed by getting oxygen through my lungs and just moving my body. So I'm not a fitness nut by any stretch, but I exercise every single day. And then, of course, I walk or ride. I'm just moving all day, every day. I meditate for 20 minutes, and I don't confess to be a good meditator. I'm very vocal on being a crap meditator, but that in itself is a practise, like never ever be scared [crosstalk 00:46:41].
[crosstalk 00:46:41] a good mediator.
Sarah Wilson: (46:42)
Oh, I never believe anyone who says they are.
[crosstalk 00:46:46] oh, it's still very hard.
Sarah Wilson: (46:47)
Yeah, that's right. And the whole point is become, actually ... The whole point of mediation is to take that nice stillness into the rest of your life. Well, when you're a shit meditator, basically you're constantly having to bring yourself back to the breath or the mantra, more so than a good meditator, and so that sort of muscle of coming back, coming back to yourself, coming back to the truth, coming back to the oneness, you have to practise that far more, and so that muscle gets really quite developed. So that's one of the benefits of being a bad mediator.
Sarah Wilson: (47:20)
So I do those things. Not eating sugar is really non-negotiable as well from a whole range of points of view. It's a great through line to simple, effective eating. When you don't eat sugar, you don't eat processed food because 80, 90% of processed food contains added sugar. So essentially means you've got to buy real food and you've got to cook it, and when you do that, you're a lot more engaged in things like food waste, making sure that you buy good quality ingredients. You cut out all the other crap, bad oils, et cetera. And so it just kind of is a win, win, win, and it cascades.
Sarah Wilson: (48:00)
So in terms of having a one thing that you can do, cutting out sugar is a really great way of doing it. I still eat sugar, but it sort of manages to sit within what are considered the world guidelines, six teaspoons of added sugar a day. My body, naturally, that's what it can handle, and if I go over that, I've trained my body now that it reacts. It goes, "Nup, this is not great," you know? So that would be definitely part of it. I guess more recently, I've had to also have practises about being round good people, and by good people, I actually do mean people who are active in the climate movement because I find it very difficult if I'm around people who don't want to wake up.
Sarah Wilson: (48:50)
Now, my work is about being in the mainstream having these conversations, and so, for me, it's kind of particular. I do need to be around a tribe who know the language, who can support me in my feelings and we can talk at that level. And that is really important for anybody in the activist space or any kind of space where you're talking about tricky stuff. Yeah, they would be the ... Oh, and the other big one is going into nature. So, for me, I mean, there's been countless studies, something like 40,000 studies to show the effect of just walking among trees. So all kinds of things.
Sarah Wilson: (49:31)
My favourite studies point to the fact that, firstly, walking goes at the same pace as discerning thought, and I think a lot of our culture's ills comes from the fact that we don't think reflectively. And then, also, the walking mechanism, again, developed in the same old, really gnarly, fusty part of the brain that controls anxiety. So when you walk, it actually can modulate and it can shut down anxiety. So the left, right motion actually distracts us away from anxiety, and anyone who's a regular walker, I mean, knows that the anxiety just dissipates straight away.
Sarah Wilson: (50:12)
So, yeah, walking, but walking in nature are things that I do daily, and then weekly or fortnightly, I make sure I get out to a forest and just bush land around Sydney or wherever I am in the world, I just get out and walk. And all of those practises are free. They're readily available, and, what do you know? They also stop you from shopping. Whenever you're out hiking on a Sunday, you can't go to a mall.
Because I love your green shorts as an analogy for, you know-
Sarah Wilson: (50:45)
Yeah, a symbol.
Yeah, like we don't ... Yeah, sorry, [inaudible 00:50:49] a symbol for we don't do a lot of things. Like, I teach yoga and I teach once a week, but I wear the same outfit every week. I'm like, "Why do I need a wardrobe of yoga clothes?"
Sarah Wilson: (50:56)
Good. That's what's called being a leader, a spiritual leader is. I mean, it's just ...
Sarah Wilson: (51:02)
Yeah, look, the green shorts is laziness. I mean, I live a life-
[crosstalk 00:51:06] the stuff and, yeah.
Sarah Wilson: (51:09)
Yeah. I mean, it's not like I go out and think, "I'm going to have a ... I mean, somebody bought me those green shorts 11 years ago, and I don't see any point in having other shorts, so, yeah.
I mean, when you travel, are you travelling light in general anyway with luggage?
Sarah Wilson: (51:26)
Yeah. Well, for eight years I travelled with one bag. I lived out of one bag, permanently.
I remember you saying in the book, yeah.
Sarah Wilson: (51:34)
Yeah. And then it soon reduced itself down to final six months of having a carry on bag, so this was about 15 kilos, and so I still just manage to live as light as that. I mean, it's very addictive, and once you realise you don't need certain things, you start to go, "Well, do I need this or do I need that?" And as I started to wear things out or use things up, I really questioned whether I needed a ... I mean, I've never owned a handbag in my life. I don't believe I need one, so I just haven't bought one.
Sarah Wilson: (52:08)
I mean, I was the editor of Cosmo and didn't have a handbag, it is possible. So, yeah, and then I just realised I didn't need a car. I was happier riding my bike. A bike, especially in Sydney, is faster, it's more efficient, and I get my exercise in at the same time. So, yeah, it just sort of evolved as a way of ... I mean, I looked at things critically and went, "Do I really need that? Does it," in that sort of Maria Kondo way, "Does it bring me joy?" And most cases it didn't. I just kind of looked at it and went, "Oh, that's just something I've got to store somewhere or find a way to use," you know?
So my final question is do you have any little secret things that you hoard? I'm a book hoarder.
Sarah Wilson: (52:57)
Oh, okay. What do I hoard? I'm just looking-
[crosstalk 00:53:02] that you just haven't been able to shed?
Sarah Wilson: (53:06)
Oh, I'll tell you the one thing that I've carried with me all along is I've got this big box and it's got every single letter and postcard that anyone has ever written to me. So I've got stuff from my grandparents when I was five or six, and, yeah, it's quite lovely. I sometimes sit down and I just go through letters my great grandmother wrote to me, and I've got a little card that my nieces and nephews have written, and I suppose, yeah, I've always kept those things. That would probably be it. But, yeah, even with books, I pass them on, everything gets passed on, and I'm that sort of in, absorb, out, share is my motto, yeah.
Well, we're really grateful for all the sharing you do because it's been really inspiring to all of us, and-
Sarah Wilson: (53:59)
Oh, thank you.
I'm going to wrap it up there just because I'm aware of your time. You're still on book deadline. But, yeah, I mean, I know many people will be interested. If you do want to see the green shorts, I realise some people will be like, "What are you talking about?" So [inaudible 00:54:12] Sarah's Instagram and I'm pretty sure they're on her blog as well. And, yeah, so people can find you there at sarahwilson.com, and-
Sarah Wilson: (54:20)
Yeah, sarahwilson.com, and then I think if you just type in Sarah Wilson: to Instagram, it comes up.
Yeah, we'll link to everything in the show notes. Do you have specific websites for the beast or anything like that, or are they just [crosstalk 00:54:35].
Sarah Wilson: (54:34)
Oh, everything, you can find it all through sarahwilson.com. There's a books page and you can buy the books, the e-books and so on, and soon enough you'll be able to pre order my next book. Not quite yet, but soon for Australia. It comes out in the US in October. And it'll come out in the UK shortly after that.
Okay, great. So we'll put links to all those as they go live.
Sarah Wilson: (54:57)
Oh, thank you.
Yeah, well, people tend to listen over years, we've learnt. It's quite exciting. And, yeah, I just wanted to say thank you so much for sharing. I feel like that was a really, for me, inspiring conversation, and kind of-
Sarah Wilson: (55:11)
Sarah Wilson: (55:12)
Yeah, no, I enjoyed it, too, and, look, I also very much enjoy your SuperFeast products. I think those products are wonderful.
Oh, thanks, yeah. We'll hopefully, one day, have the Australian versions, too. We'll see [crosstalk 00:55:26] unravels.
Sarah Wilson: (55:26)
I want to quote Seth Godin, "make a ruckus, everybody". If you've found any of this inspiring, please feel free to connect to Sarah and myself, and we will [crosstalk 00:55:34] out there in the world.
Sarah Wilson: (55:36)
Yeah. Fire up and be of service.
Thanks, Sarah, so long.
Sarah Wilson: (55:40)
My pleasure. We'll speak soon, Tahnee. Thank you.