Harper Cowan and Jessica Eve Wakins are Anima Rising, and together they’re committed to making content to raise consciousness – starting with their documentary, Ways of Living. In this rad interview, they share an uplifting call to action and an inspiring vision for humanity.
YOU MET WORKING AS INTERNS AT NYLON. DO YOU STILL READ MAINSTREAM FASHION MAGAZINES OR DO THINK THE CONVERSATION HAS MOVED ON WITHOUT THEM?
Harper: I don’t read mainstream fashion magazines any more, they don’t feel relevant to me and the world that I am trying to create. It feels like two different paradigms, I think there’s the potential for them to be a great thing if they’re inspiring and empowering people, but for the most part the messages they seem to be trying to send are not ones I am interested in receiving anymore.
Jess: I haven’t bought a fashion magazine in a couple of years. When I read them I end up wishing I was more sexy and less human than I am in reality. I love style and contemporary culture, I adore clothes and getting dressed, but I don’t appreciate the message that fashion and make-up are the be-all-end-all of Goddesshood. It makes me uneasy and angry, because I bought into it myself for a decade. It’s a tiny percentage of the bigger picture of what it means to be a woman, and unfortunately it’s the portion that gets 95% of the shelf space. If there isn’t enough heart involved it makes me bored.
HOW DO YOU THINK MAGAZINES AND THE MEDIA IN GENERAL COULD BE DOING MORE TO RAISE CONSCIOUSNESS?
Harper: Jess happened to watch some TV at a friend’s house the other day, and when she came back we were talking about how very strange it is to see TV now. Media and magazines could be helping to wake people up, to empower them, enlighten them, connect them to each other, teach them better ways to live and communicate, and giving us more powerful tools to interpret our lives. A lot of mainstream media feels to me like it’s trying to keep us either scared or placated, and it’s just not the way I see the world.
Jess: TV today completely depletes me of creativity and connection energy. It’s dangerous – it’s sucking the raw life force out of us all, and should be mostly avoided in my eyes! I remember reading this Eckhart Tolle quote about the powerhouse that television is, and how it’s such a shame we don’t put it to better use, because we could be blasting every household with messages of pure love, every evening. But the media seems so dumbed down, so patronizing to the complexity of the human spirit. It’s 2014: we can handle a bit more soul than a close up of sizzling meat, a fast car, and a sexed up woman, can’t we?!
I don’t want to buy in to an industry that promotes perfectionism. For me this year has been about trying to tear my own perfectionism down, and embrace the human. I think humaneness inspires us because it’s real, and it’s time to start promoting our vulnerabilities, our flaws, and weaknesses in the media. Promoting our inter-connectedness with one another and the universe. Reassuring each other that we are powerful creators, we have so much potential and mightiness in our bodies and bones and blood. I wish the whole industry would try a hell of a lot harder, right now it’s irresponsible.
HOW DID YOU BOTH GET SO INTERESTED IN ALTERNATIVE WAYS OF LIVING, AND WHAT’S YOUR CURRENT LIVING SITUATION?
Harper: Right now we’re doing an artist residency at an amazing communal farm in North Carolina. We live in a beautiful, small, cold barn on 60 acres with lots of amazing artists and kind people and animals. I feel so grateful to be here, surrounded by such beautiful nature and open hearts. I think part of my interest in alternative ways of living came from realizing I wasn’t going to just grow up and pick a job and do it.
I haven’t taken a linear path to where I am, my parents haven’t taken a linear path, nor have my role models… I’ve always had a sense that there was more potential for magic out there than we were being led to believe. I know there are other ways of living, and it’s been incredible to get to unfold a few of them.
Also, when I became vegetarian in 2008, I realized I had been doing a lot of things unconsciously for a lot of my life, and I suddenly wanted to wake up and investigate them, to make sure I was making intentional choices – my love of animals extended to the environment, and to people, the way I hope to treat others and myself, and all living things.
Jess: My parents are artists, and always taught me to think outside the box. There was no pressure to be conventional. I grew up scrutinizing books about bohemian culture – The Razor’s Edge, Trout Fishing in America, On the Road, The Diaries of Anais Nin, The Teachings of Don Juan, Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. Such rocket fuel to a dreamy teenager’s mind!
What we’re doing feels contemporary and responsible (there’s that unsexy word again) to me, more than alternative. I hope one day it’ll be the mainstream, to be submersed in nature, playing tunes by a wood-burner, meditating on hills, sharing meals, opening hearts to strangers, creating art, singing, crying with the plants, heeding the moon cycle.
It gets difficult when I start to realize I’m not rooting anywhere, and suddenly friends are buying houses or earning a bunch of money. I get jealous sometimes.
IF 2014 HAS BEEN A LOT ABOUT “SURRENDER” FOR THE PEOPLE I KNOW, “VULNERABILITY” FEELS LIKE A FITTING THEME FOR 2015. IN WHAT WAYS ARE THE PEOPLE IN YOUR DOCUMENTARY MAKING THEMSELVES VULNERABLE?
Jess: It’s vulnerable to follow your heart. It’s vulnerable to say ‘no’ to leading the life you’re ‘supposed’ to. It’s vulnerable to stand in front of the world and tell them you believe in something different than they do. It’s vulnerable to tell someone you love them to their face, or that they are hurting you. It’s vulnerable to let yourself wake up spiritually. It’s vulnerable to trust in goodness – everyone we film does all these things, just by believing this world is worth fighting for.
They speak loudly by living from their hearts. When I stop feeling vulnerable I stop believing in my art, and stop making it, too. It’s like a disconnect, where I’ll suddenly feel all what’s the point? We have to stay present with ourselves to let the fragility in, because it’s the essence of humanity, and it’s what connects us all to a higher source.
WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU MADE IN YOUR LIVES THAT HAVE BEEN HELPING YOU “WAKE UP”?
Harper : We’re so thoughtful, it’s almost silly. Mindfulness is a big, big part of waking up. It’s just about paying attention, trying to be and stay present. I think everything is a choice, we are always making choices – from how we let someone make us feel, to what food we choose to eat, where we spend our money, etc. I think being honest and communicating honestly is a radical change. Recognizing the power of manifesting, and the power that we have over what happens to us – if you expect something to go badly, or go swimmingly, you’re making it much more likely that it will.
It kind of means taking a step back from being so easily swayed by emotion or first instinct, and when you do step back, like you do when you’re meditating and watching your thoughts float through your head, you can be more objective and realize, okay, this is energy that’s coming up in my body right now, and it will come and go and it only has as much control over me as I let it. Trying to love yourself more, and give and make and offer and expect more love – that can’t hurt!
Jess: The first step that I significantly noticed happened when I read ‘A New Earth‘, after a very unconscious period in my life. I had fallen out irreconcilably with a best friend, and I was like a lost scrap of fabric blowing around without purpose. That book opened a gateway somewhere in me. The second lesson came when I completed Reiki level 1, and some parts of my life that weren’t healthy started to drop away.
Then the steps started coming thicker and faster, because I recognized what they looked like. I’m starting to see I have the power to wake myself up now, and Anima Rising has been rooted in that thought. Meditation is key, that’s for certain. Time alone. Woman power! Speaking your truth, even when your voice is shaking. There is nothing more important than your own spiritual path, even though it fucking hurts sometimes.
YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELVES AS SOUL MATES – WHAT DID YOU FIRST CONNECT OVER?
Harper : A cucaracha! The first time we ever spoke it was because Jess had seen a cockroach for the first time in her life! I’m SO grateful to that cockroach!!
Jess: I freaked out at the size of it, and ran right into Harper in the Nylon offices. After bonding for a few weeks over The Kings of Leon and photo-booths, I flew back to the UK. She followed soon after, and stayed with me and my then-boyfriend, Jake. She lived on our sofa. She helped us put on an experimental play written by my brother. She made us mix CDs. I made her cheese on toast when we were ‘drungry’. We went out every night and had so much silly fun. There was a weird unspoken knowing that we had found a kindred spirit, a soul mate.
Harper: I knew very quickly that I wanted Jess in my life, I was immediately inspired by her in many ways, and she has only continued to impress me in the eight years since. Now she’s a spirit-sister that I just wouldn’t want to imagine my life without! The first things we connected over were music – Bob Dylan – an interest in travel, in creativity and joy. It was definitely written in our stars to meet each other, and because it changed our lives so much I owe so much of my growth and gratitude to our friendship.
WHAT’S THE ONE MESSAGE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SPREAD AMONG YOUR PEERS ABOUT CREATING A HAPPIER, HEALTHIER, MORE CONSCIOUS FUTURE FOR HUMAN BEINGS AND THE PLANET WE INHABIT?
Harper: Choose role models that inspire you to be good. I’m excited to be good! So let’s all be good together – good to each other, good to ourselves. Enough with hatred, insecurity, shyness, let’s all just be really sweet and kind and listen to our hearts and to nature and do good things!
My high school boyfriend’s mom told him before he left the house every day – ‘Make good choices!’ So let’s also make good choices, let’s help each other make good choices and work together to take care of us and our world. We’re in a really exciting place right now. I feel the world’s at a tipping point and we have the opportunity to influence which way it goes, there’s all this potential, and I trust that humans are good and we can and will do good things, the best things, together!
Jess: Love is always the appropriate reaction. Loving fully extends to yourself, your friends, family, lovers. It extends to ambivalent relationships and difficult relationships. Love the environment and spaces around you. Love animals. Love trees and the moon and the Cosmos. Love it all, because you’re a part of it and it’s unspeakably magical. When you’re damaging any part of it you’re hurting yourself because we’re all connected. And then don’t beat yourself up when you’re not perfectly loving. That’s okay too, we’re all learning!