Surfing World - - Introduction - By Lau­ren L. Hill

Jasson Sal­is­bury and Mia Taninaka choose surf, art and med­i­ta­tion over stress and mass me­dia. No won­der they’re stoked.

He calmly steps away from the ta­ble and heads out help Ziggy reel the cloud in. Mia’s all joy, sip­ping a pur­ple smoothie with her belly pop­ping for­ward, full with their next babe on the way. Later, Ziggy screams through the house with no pants on to let us know he’s done a shi­doobi on the grass. They’ve just moved back to Aus­tralia af­ter a hand­ful of years abroad and are set­tling in com­fort­ably.

These are peo­ple who own their own time. Jasson ‘Salsa’ Sal­is­bury’s known as a smooth op­er­a­tor in the wa­ter and on land it’s no dif­fer­ent. He’s re­cently com­pleted a med­i­ta­tion teacher training and is pas­sion­ate about shar­ing the way that sit­ting calmly for 20 min­utes at a time has changed his life. Mia Taninaka is an artist of all sorts, known pri­mar­ily for her colour­ful, an­i­mistic paint­ings. If spirit an­i­mals had psy­che­delic spirit an­i­mals, they’d prob­a­bly be Mia’s paint­ings.

Be­tween the fer­vent screech­ings of their lit­tle wildling Ziggy, I ask Mia and Jasson about the life they’ve built to­gether around surf­ing, art, med­i­ta­tion, travel and rais­ing a fam­ily. SW: You’re the front-page editor of the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald. What do you run as the cover story and make ev­ery­one read about? Jasson: Prob­a­bly some­thing about how bad it is to be read­ing the Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald – or any other ma­jor pa­per – as your main source of news. There are so many qual­ity out­lets that pro­vide in­for­ma­tion un­af­fected by self in­ter­est and/or political agen­das and you’re set­tling for none­sense that avoids real is­sues in favour of fear mon­ger­ing and celebrity gos­sip. It’s a soup made of noth­ing and it cre­ates di­vi­sion. It’s just crap. I don’t know how that would go down as a front page story but it’s some­thing I think about a lot. How peo­ple are brain­washed and dis­tracted by what the main­stream me­dia wants them to read while real sto­ries are be­ing un­told or pur­posely avoided.

It’s sad how the worst things make the big­gest head­lines. Jasson: If you’re con­stantly ab­sorb­ing that, try­ing to digest all that crap then how can you get on with your life? If it’s just bad news, bad news, bad news, you be­come con­sumed by it and then you spend all of your time try­ing to make sense of it. You need to get rid of those in­tru­sions if you hope to evolve.

You teach med­i­ta­tion, how did it come into your life? Jasson: The stereo­typ­i­cal kind of idea of med­i­ta­tion is that you have to make sac­ri­fices – like it’s this reclu­sive way of life that’s about re­treat­ing from the world. That it takes lots and lots of time and com­mit­ment. But Vedic med­i­ta­tion is specif­i­cally for “house­hold­ers”, peo­ple who are in­te­grated into the Western mode of liv­ing. The goal isn’t the med­i­ta­tion it­self, the goal is about im­prov­ing the way you live your life, and the med­i­ta­tion is just one small el­e­ment that you do twice a day. You don’t have to change any­thing. You slip in these med­i­ta­tion ses­sions and it in­stantly im­proves the way you go about your day. When I first started med­i­tat­ing I was liv­ing on the North­ern Beaches and study­ing graphic de­sign in the city 5 days a week. Then I was do­ing labour­ing work 5 days a week. I was find­ing it re­ally hard to stay on top of projects. I was get­ting stressed and had anx­i­ety and I started to ask my­self: “Is this how I want to be liv­ing? Is all this the life for me?”

And is it go­ing to be this way for­ever? Jasson: Ex­actly. I was ques­tion­ing that. “Is this just how it is? This can’t be it!” I started search­ing around for how I could get be­yond those feel­ings and I got onto some guided med­i­ta­tion prac­tice and that opened the doors. My buddy then put me onto Vedic med­i­ta­tion and from the mo­ment I learnt it, ev­ery­thing started get­ting bet­ter. All of these cool things

We're half way through our in­ter­view and Ziggy calls out from the front porch I've got one! I caught a storm cloud! He's two and wield­ing his new tip shop fish­ing rod sky­ward. The joy of see­ing Ziggy do­ing this makes Jasson smile.

started hap­pen­ing and lin­ing up. I was fi­nally get­ting on top of all of that ac­cu­mu­lated stress and the anx­i­ety be­gan leav­ing my life. Op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented them­selves al­most like magic. And that’s con­tin­ued through to to­day. I be­lieve things fall into place more eas­ily when you’re med­i­tat­ing twice a day. Noth­ing more than sim­ple 20 minute ses­sions.

You touched on the point that some peo­ple find the idea of med­i­ta­tion in­ac­ces­si­ble, like it’s only for cer­tain types of peo­ple or that it comes with all these rules about how to live, but at their core these prac­tices are about mak­ing the stresses of life eas­ier to cope with, about cre­at­ing a calmer in­ter­nal en­vi­ron­ment so you don’t end up say­ing or do­ing things that you can’t take back. It’s a very dif­fi­cult thing in this mod­ern world to deal with your own shit well. Jasson: To­tally. And I did hit a point where I was like “I wanna go and sit in a cave and just med­i­tate.” But that felt like the easy op­tion. That’s the chal­lenge for us; how do we in­te­grate spir­i­tu­al­ity and daily life? We’ve lost a lot of our con­nec­tion to spir­i­tu­al­ity due to our ed­u­ca­tion and con­di­tion­ing. I’ve found weav­ing those worlds to­gether to be em­pow­er­ing and lib­er­at­ing.

Where does creativ­ity fit in with all of this? Jasson: The source of your be­ing is where creativ­ity comes from and it’s a bit like a tap. If I stop surf­ing, or if I don’t med­i­tate, my creativ­ity be­comes so clunky. Not nec­es­sar­ily in terms of mak­ing art, but more in the way I think and prob­lem solve and even in my in­ter­ac­tions with

Zig. When I’m tak­ing good care of my­self and feel­ing re­ally grounded and solid, the creativ­ity flows. Things be­come grace­ful.

Mia: It re­ally de­pends on what you’re tyring to put out there. A lot of peo­ple thrive on de­pres­sion – not just de­pres­sion, but neg­a­tiv­ity – and that’s when they feel most in­spired to ex­press them­selves, when they’re at their worst. If I’m in a re­ally good place, I’m at my most in­spired and mo­ti­vated and my imag­i­na­tion will go off in its own way. If I’m paint­ing un­der pres­sure, like a dead­line, that works in a way, but it takes me so many goes of draw­ing or paint­ing to get some­thing good. Ba­si­cally I need to clear out the crap first. It’s like that Artists Way book by Ju­lia Cameron, you do your three morn­ing pages every sin­gle morn­ing so you get rid of all the crap in your head that’s not nec­es­sary, so then all the good stuff can come up af­ter.

What pulls you away from your creativ­ity? Mia: Lazi­ness. That’s a big one. I can come up with so many rea­sons why I don’t have time for some­thing. This guy’s a good rea­son ( point­ing to Ziggy).

Jasson: It’s funny the way your minds tricks you into think­ing there’s not enough time to do stuff, when re­ally mak­ing time is ex­actly what’s go­ing to take you to the next level, es­pe­cially cre­atively. Mia: And you do feel funny in­side if you don’t act on that im­pulse. You feel un­set­tled. When you get that ag­i­ta­tion you might not want to work or be cre­ative, but that’s ex­actly what you need to do to feel in­spired again.

You’ve both cho­sen ca­reers where you get to man­age your own time. Why is that im­por­tant ? Mia: We’ve tried to build our lives around hap­pi­ness. If some­thing is gonna stress us out, then we choose to go the other way. There are times when you gotta do stuff that you don’t want to do – like pay rent ( laughs) – but for the most part we’re pretty good at chal­leng­ing

our­selves in pos­i­tive ways. And we keep each other in check. I know Jass will some­times feel like, “Oh, I’ve gotta take care of the fam­ily,” or what­ever and it’s like, “Yeah, but it’s not help­ing any­one to do some­thing that gives you no joy or sat­is­fac­tion just to make sure the money is com­ing in.” If you do some­thing you’re re­ally pas­sion­ate about I be­lieve you’ll be­come suc­cess­ful in those ar­eas.

It’s a lovely phi­los­o­phy but how do you nav­i­gate be­tween the re­al­ity of lean times and the thought of hav­ing to get a crappy job to pro­vide for the fam­ily over stay­ing true to your pas­sion? Jasson: It’s so scary. There might be a cer­tain de­ci­sion that, from a log­i­cal stand­point, will bring in fi­nance and pro­vide se­cu­rity, but if it doesn’t feel right I’ll try to lis­ten to that feel­ing rather than to the con­di­tioned logic. It’s dif­fi­cult to have faith that it will all be ok but we’ve all got an in­tu­itive voice and I be­lieve that if you can lis­ten to that voice hon­estly then you won’t re­gret the choices you make. And I’ve got­ten to the point where I en­joy over­com­ing these fears and lim­i­ta­tions. Slowly you get more com­fort­able with this way of think­ing. I re­mem­ber read­ing a book by Gur­d­ji­eff, Meet­ings with Re­mark­able Men. He was on a quest for knowl­edge and he was so in­tel­li­gent with the way he went about mak­ing money that it be­came fun. The fear of it was re­placed by ex­cite­ment. Rather than be over­whelmed by prob­lems he en­joyed the chal­lenge of solv­ing and over­com­ing them.

I find your art­work re­ally mag­i­cal, Mia. It in­spires a sense of won­der and magic and per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of the wild world around us. Mia: My art is a vis­ual of what is there. I al­ways see weird an­i­mals and stuff in bath­room tiles. I see faces in ev­ery­thing. A lot of peo­ple do. I think that it’s re­ally cool

– there’s a face there! I guess I’m try­ing to un­veil and show what’s pos­si­ble to see around us if we open up and open our eyes a lit­tle bit.

I love how you’re not afraid of wild and vivid colour in your work. Mia: I have strug­gled with try­ing to pull back the colours. I re­ally do like things to be colour­ful.

How do you know when a piece is fin­ished? Mia: I have no idea ( laughs). I def­i­nitely know when it’s not done. I spend so much time just sit­ting back from a paint­ing, look­ing, and try­ing to fig­ure out what it wants.

Some peo­ple might ques­tion if that’s a good use of time, star­ing at a paint­ing. Mia: I guess it’s bet­ter not to sur­round your­self with the kind of peo­ple who ques­tion the value of en­joy­ing art ( laughs). But I can see their point.

If you had to have one song play every time you walked into the room, what would it be? Jasson: I can’t re­mem­ber the song but it’s a bunch of guys danc­ing in over­alls with their armpits out.

Mia: The YMCA? ( laughs)

Jasson: No, no. Come on Eileen! Yeah that’s it. I don’t know why I got the vis­ual first. So when I walk into any room, there’s like hairy men in over­alls with their armpits out danc­ing on the street ( laughs).

It seems like y’all like to steer clear of overtly planning your fu­ture. I wanted to ask you about con­trol – with surf­ing, art, med­i­ta­tion – they can all be ex­er­cises in con­fronting how much we can or should con­trol. Jasson: With surf­ing, as soon as I’m try­ing to con­trol stuff, it feels clunky. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t feel good. I get way too caught up in the head space and for­get about how good it feels. And that’s ex­actly how it works with med­i­ta­tion. I guess we try to set a loose in­ten­tion, and that’s as far as our planning goes. The in­ten­tion is there, but how we get to the end point is just up to the cos­mos…

A lot of our cul­ture drives us to­ward lock­ing in the mar­riage, mort­gage, ca­reer and with no flex­i­bil­ity. To de­cide that you’d rather be open to spon­tane­ity and the un­ex­pected is still a pretty rad­i­cal thing for a fam­ily. Mia: It’s pretty scary, as well. There’re times when we’re like “Man, it’d be so good to have some sta­bil­ity’, but then think about what that comes with and then we’re like “Nah, we’re do­ing pretty good.” When we think about all of the things that we’ve done we just wouldn’t want to change any of it.

Jasson: Why chase se­cu­rity when there is no se­cu­rity. Ev­ery­thing’s con­stantly in a state of flux, noth­ing’s ever sta­ble in the ma­te­rial world. You’re hunt­ing se­cu­rity in a place where it doesn’t re­ally ex­ist. It’s lib­er­at­ing to try and be­come more com­fort­able in those places that are a lit­tle bit scary be­cause you never re­ally know what’s com­ing.

What do you hope hap­pens when we die? Jasson: We just end up in one of Mia’s paint­ings. It’s crazy how no one re­ally talks about death, but it’s a cer­tainty. It’s not like I’m ex­cited to die, but I do find it kind of ex­cit­ing. It’s the ul­ti­mate un­known that we’re all mov­ing to­wards.

Mia: I re­mem­ber read­ing this story about two ba­bies in a womb. One of them says “I can’t wait to see what hap­pens when we get to the other side.” And the other one is like “Nah. There’s noth­ing out there. It’s just death.” And the more op­ti­mistic says “You can hear the mother. If you re­ally lis­ten you can hear and know that there’s some­thing on the other side.” And the pes­simistic one says “Nah. There’s noth­ing there.” It’s pretty much the ex­act same as here. Surely this isn’t just it. It doesn’t seem like some­thing to be fright­ened of. But, I mean, I don’t re­ally wanna die any time soon. I like it here.

Open­ing Spread: The fam, Jass, Mia and lit­tle Ziggy snug in the mid­dle. (Sken­nar) Op­po­site Left: Salsa slid­ing through an oil on can­vas cave. (Hawkins)

Pre­vi­ous Left: ‘The light­ness of be­ing.’ (Taninaka) Pre­vi­ous Right: ‘The Gods of change look favourably upon your jour­ney and award you with a golden char­iot.’ (Taninaka) Op­po­site: Back­side float the spirit goat. (John­son)

Above: Open shacks, open chakras. Med­i­ta­tion made easy with sen­sei Salsa. (Hawkins)

Above: Surf, paint, med­i­tate, cud­dle. This is how you zen. (Sken­nar) Op­po­site Top: ‘ One Shadow.’ (Taninaka) Be­low: ‘Lost Paradise. ‘(Taninaka)

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