Mob mindfulness: how to care for yourself while honouring your culture
This piece was created in collaboration with Studio Gilay.
Words by proud Darug/Dharawal woman and Aboriginal mental health expert Jenny Holmes.
Mindfulness has become a very popular concept in recent years. You probably have a friend who loves to meditate or another who is always buying a new crystal, but did you know that you can practise mindfulness in ways that celebrate and honour your culture?
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is doing an activity of your choice that triggers your brain into reflecting and shifting into a new headspace.
There are many benefits to practising mindfulness. It can help to:
lower your stress levels
increase your focus and purpose
build your self-confidence and resilience
strengthen your mind, body and spirit.
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, mindfulness improves our social and emotional wellbeing and strengthens our culture. It’s a way for us to understand who we are and to walk tall in the world. The more of us who can walk tall, the stronger mob will be.
You may have heard of Dadirri and the concept of ‘deep listening’. This is a Ngan’gikurunggurr spiritual practice that stems from the relationship First Nations people have with the land. Dadirri encourages being still as a way to connect your mind, body and spirit.
To practise mindfulness, we lean on our spirit, which connects us to the land, and tune into what the land is telling us about ourselves. We may have different names for it, but we have been practising this for many years. It has kept us strong and seen us survive the impacts of colonisation.
How to practise ‘mob mindfulness’
Be still and listen
All mindfulness starts with intention. You may just decide that for the next ten minutes you’re going to connect with the land and ask yourself: What is my mind, body and spirit trying to tell me?
By doing this, you’re trying to tap into what you’re thinking and feeling, and really listen to what you need at this moment. Increasing your own awareness of how you feel makes it easier to express your feelings and to share them with others.
Sound, scent, sight and touch are all really powerful tools for helping you connect to land and spirit. Try these methods:
Pull up a soundscape on Spotify, like a didgeridoo or native birds, and immerse yourself in the experience.
Crush gum leaves in your hands and smell them.
Listen to the waves at a beach and smell the salt in the air.
Watch a flickering fire.
Run your hands through dirt or stand barefoot on grass.
There’s a myth that when meditating you should ‘clear your mind’ and have no thoughts – this is actually impossible! The less you fight against your busy brain, the quieter it will be. Try asking yourself these questions:
What am I picking up from Country? What is the river/beach/dirt/earth/forest telling me?
What are five words that express how I’m feeling right now? Am I angry, sad, happy, upset?
How are those feelings showing up in my body?
How is my mind, body and spirit connecting – and how am I then connecting to Country?
Express and release your feelings
Holding onto negative emotions can be exhausting, for both your mind and your spirit. If you express how you feel, you can release those emotions and walk away feeling strong and renewed.
How you choose to express and release your feelings is completely up to you. Everyone is different, and mindfulness is all about finding what works for you.
We are naturally very creative and expressive people, which lends itself well to releasing our emotions. You might dance, sing, laugh, cry, journal, draw or weave. Or you may want to shift out of this headspace entirely and walk away, leaving those feelings behind.
Keeping up your connection to nature is helpful when releasing your feelings. I’m a saltwater woman, so I love swimming at the beach, but you might be a river person or take your strength from the land.
Mob mindfulness tips
Find strength in other mob
For many people, practising mindfulness is a solo act. For mob, our connection to community improves our wellbeing. Sitting with your thoughts can feel scary at times, especially when you’re not used to it, so having mob around gives you safety, protection and support.
You don’t have to tell your friends what you’re doing. Just being together in a space and opening up that connection is enough. You could try these things:
Sit together on Country while being still, or practising mindfulness in your own way.
FaceTime your friends and share how you’ve all felt over the past week.
Yarn with your mates about the things you appreciate.
Connect to the land in a way that feels right for you
You don’t need to be on Country to connect with nature — wherever there’s land, there’s life.
If you’re unsure of your mob or Country, don’t let this stop you from connecting and practising mindfulness. Find a spot that feels safe for you and let that Country absorb you, heal you and feed you in that moment.
Link-Up is a family tracing service that can help you connect with your mob. If you need support with getting in touch with Elders, youth groups or other First Nations people, you can reach out to your local Aboriginal Medical Service.
Don’t give up!
If you’re finding you aren’t connecting or that it’s not for you, that’s okay! Just like there are seasons in nature, there are seasons for mindfulness. It will come at a time that’s right for you. The important thing is not to turn your back on it forever. Just try again at a different time in your life.
If you need support with practising mindfulness or with coping with any feelings that come up for you, don't be afraid to give 13YARN a call on 13 92 76. It’s okay for it to feel hard and frustrating. Just having the intention to sit, be still and listen means you’re halfway there.
About the author
Jenny Holmes is a proud Darug/Dharawal woman living on Dharawal land. She works as a counsellor, cultural supervisor and shift support supervisor for an Indigenous and non-Indigenous 24/7 crisis line. She is also a trainer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid, and facilitates support groups for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who attempt suicide and those bereaved by suicide.