IT'S TIME TO START DREAMING
OUR DELTA DAWN.

By Gareth Andrews

 

“Delta Dawn, what’s that flower you have on
Could it be a faded rose from days gony by?”
 

Australia’s Helen Reddy had a hit with Delta Dawn in 1973 and the words and music have been rattling around in my recently deadened, decaying head. Somehow, I was uplifted, despite knowing that the actual song spirals downhill beyond these first sentences.

The words relate to our Delta times and the “faded roses” are the faces I see daily when I step outside, as permitted; pallid and empty faces of people losing grip with reality, their minds and hopes devastated by another winter of despair. The question we all ask is: “Will we ever see our Delta Dawn?” It’s a fair question.

Does this really mean all of us?
Lucinda Brogden, chair of the National Health Commission, believes so: “Five in five Australians are experiencing psychological distress, beginning at the mild end of anxiety and depression.”

I believed I was ready for it last year. I thought I’d done the hard yards, having experienced a serious bout of clinical depression 20 years earlier. I’d retrained my own mind and got plenty of help along the way professionally and privately. I’d helped others as well and I figured I had all the coping mechanisms I needed. Except for one thing: my total loss of freedom. The emotional, physical and mental loss of freedom immediately put me in the five out of five bracket.

What I did know was that there were positive steps I could take to help myself change. A great place to start is in the morning. It can be a dark place when the chips are down in your life and I have listened to many heart-wrenching stories on this score.

Get out of bed straight away, do some serious stretching and breathing exercises, have a shower, have a hearty breakfast and keep away from your technology; you are not ready for it.

You are ready instead to break bad habits. Make a fundamental change even though change is hard when you’re feeling like shit. Work closely with your partner and kids if necessary.

 

When it came to dealing with Delta lockdowns, there were positive steps I could take to help myself change.CREDIT:JIM PAVLIDIS

 

I started mentally engaging with myself; looking for a new tool to give me hope and open me up to the modern Delta Dawn. The letters almost spelled it out. Dream and dreaming would be my key words.

I’m not necessarily thinking of the dreams we associate with sleep, although a night of powerful dreams can enhance creativity and problem-solving. I’m thinking of the dreams we have which are more associated with daydreaming. Put yourself back in a place when you didn’t have a care in the world.

In the middle section of The Beatles’ classic, A Day in the Life, Paul McCartney sings, “Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head”, and finishes six lines later with, “And somebody spoke and I fell into a dream” before John Lennon drifts away.

Float into dreamtime. Think of Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, tilting at windmills, Dumbo the Flying Elephant, all taking us back to our childhood where we were taught to dream and reflect and believe and no one telling us “No”.

I love to dream about travel. I could almost go to Hell and back right now to get on the road again. I read Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, during lockdown(s) — I had the time! What a journey Odysseus had over 10 years trying to get home to Ithaca after the Trojan War. Monsters of various sorts, a visit to the afterlife, cannibals, alluring women (it was tough!) and Poseidon himself, god of the sea and earthquakes.

Just by having a dream you can re-situate yourself.

It might be hard to emulate the fantasy of Odysseus, let alone survive it. But what about the adventure! To me, travel has always been about the adventure of different countries, different cultures, different peoples. Capturing India in your nostrils. Sweating your way across the Andes and the Himalayas. Suffering on the Camino to achieve a spiritual awakening. Just by having the dream you’re ready to fly — literally.

I mentioned creativity a few lines back. How do we dream about rediscovering our creative selves? Imagine a summer’s day: you’re stripped down to the barest essentials, wandering down to a sparkling stream and setting up your painting tools, including easel and paper, brushes, chalk and rubbers. Isn’t it amazing how far we’ve come away from all of that in the modern age? We now know how much more preciously we must value our time.

Perhaps paint a picture about falling in love with life again. Just thinking about what that might look like gets the juices moving.

I can’t finish on dreamtime without mentioning the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders of our nation. They used the Earth’s features, the landscapes, the animals and the rock formations to tell their stories, giving them special meaning for being conceived or born in the Country they inhabit. Maybe we should all start to give understanding to this belief.

In these totally disconnected times, we can dream about shedding our old skin like a snake. It’s called ecdysis. Another word for a stripper is ecdysiast!

While you dream, take time to dream about new challenges you want to take up in Delta Dawn. Remember that the old rose has already faded. It’s a brand new world and you will be able to participate in it as a refreshed and functioning human being. How exciting is that!

We started with a song. We’ll end with another, McCartney again. He wrote a song regarded as one of the greatest of all time, Yesterday. He described how he “dreamed” it. He awoke from the dream and immediately wrote down the music. The words came later. It’s a simple song which dives so deeply into the heart and mind. And apt for us as we dream of yesterday … and tomorrow.

 

READ THIS ARTICLE IN THE AGE NEWSPAPER

Author’s Bio
Gareth Andrews - Founder and Director of Life Again, a registered Not for Profit charity that educates and helps men to change and lead more fulfilling and purposeful lives. Through writing, public speaking, taking men to the Outback and working with Aboriginals, workshops and personally challenging men.

READINESS PARTNERS WITH LIFE AGAIN

LIFE AGAIN PARTNERS WITH READINESS
TO EXTEND MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
TO CLIENTS.

 

 

What is Readiness?

Readiness is a scientifically-backed, complete wellbeing platform for organisations. Their foundations are built on the practices of elite athlete performance, where it is commonplace to monitor all the key areas which might impede an individual’s ability to perform at their absolute best – sleep, mindset, hydration, nutrition and physical wellbeing.

 

The Readiness digital platform proactively supports the mental health and wellbeing of employees through four key steps:

  1. Assess: regular, quick self-assessments are completed by users to help monitor the mental health and wellbeing of your organisation’s cohort
  2. Identify: identification those at risk of mental health and wellbeing issues based on their self-assessment results
  3. Feedback: providing personalised educational resources to promote self-directed learning in the growth areas identified
  4. Help: identifying and referring users who would benefit from additional support to relevant professional practitioners

At Readiness, they don’t believe in waiting until an employee or student has a problem – the platform provides the proactive insights needed to identify any changes in behaviour that could signify a mental, emotional or physical health concern and provide intervention before it becomes a major issue.

 

Find out more about how Readiness can support the mental health and wellbeing of your organisation at
www.readiness.org.au


BARRACKING FOR THE LOSER.

By Gareth Andrews

 

 

Grand Final. It’s  that time of the year when most ex-footballers of any age, era, competition or sex (I reckon Daisy Pearce knows more about footy than I’ve forgotten) are asked “who do you reckon will win?” We are supposed to know or have an opinion ( and if the enquirers don’t get the answer they want, “we” get told we wouldn’t know anything!) Unless one of the teams we follow is playing, probably most of us either don’t know, don’t care or both. Spin the coin or tell them to get the answer from Daisy, Tim, Brian and Co. At least they are paid to know.  

Now here’s the rub for me. The “don’t care” factor should still kick in as neither Geelong nor Richmond is playing. The reality is I quite like both teams. I suspect many others feel the same. I might be getting soft but I don’t want either side to lose. How pathetic is that? It needs some explaining. 

The difference between winning and losing a Grand Final has consequences for the rest of the Players’ lives. I’ve been lucky enough to play in two of them, the first in 1967 when my  Geelong Cats were beaten by the Tigers (Richmond) in a game for the ages. With the lead changing hands numerous times in last quarter, the Tigers triumphed by 9 points. As a 20 year old I was gutted, but like all of us in our youth we feel our time will come again.The misery out on the ground after the game and down the highway to the Geelong Town Hall that night was slightly lessened by the fatalistic hope of my youth. It was not something that unburdened the older members of the team. They knew how hard Flags are to win. A cliche but absolutely on the button, as I eventually discovered.

It took exactly another seven years before I changed Clubs to Richmond and playing alongside many of my opponents from ‘67, I got to run around the MCG holding the Cup and sharing the triumph with a group of blokes who have become mates for life. I love my Geelong mates but there’s an extra depth when you win.

So Melbourne or the Bulldogs this week? There’s a rationale behind supporting The Demons this week as their last Flag was in 1964, the year before my career began. But I don’t get very sentimental about that as it seemed like they were winning every year through my formative days. They had their share so to speak, in the same way Hawthorn has in every decade since. Share it around a bit I say although I acknowledge the majority of fans are probably younger than me and feel a bit sorry for the Dees. Not me.

I can also mount a case against the Bullies but the aforementioned may not have heard of Ted Whitten. Who, some might say? Back when I played Whitten was in a battle with Ron Barassi for the unofficial title of Mr Football. They were superstars. It was my misfortune to play on Whitten a number of times in my early years and to be honest, I was scared witless! Gruff, tough and the epitome of somebody coming from the other side of town. I was a kid from Geelong. The Geelong College! He was Footscray. His pregame handshake was honed to perfection as was every part of his game. He fed on kids like me. He gouged fingers and crunched bones as he wished you well. I can’t see it happening today but it always made me wary of a Bulldog. Man or animal.

The players today seem a lot, um, nicer! Haircuts aside, most of them seem to be the sort of bloke you’d be happy to see your daughter go out with. That big tall blond ruckman/forward for the Dogs, Tim English, is unfairly handsome; ex Captain Easton Wood, I’m told, is a quietly spoken gentleman. And the Demons? You couldn’t dislike Max Gawn! Women just want to rap him in their arms. Kysaiah Pickett brings an Indigenous family history to the game with his boyish polish. 

Of course we want to celebrate having two local teams in the Grand Final again after another year from hell. It’s been State versus State this Covid year and who ever wins is representative of us all. We’ve won the lockdown Premiership, we might as well win the real Flag. To do it in Perth, is another bonus! (My friend Tim Lane reckons Melbourne might lay off til next year and play it in front of their adoring fans at the ‘G. I suspect not.)

Two female Presidents as well. I still have split my loyalties. It’s a game for true romantics. In which case, I have to barrack for the loser. But as Gene Pitney sang in 1962, “..true love never runs smooth..” and I suspect the case will happen again this week. Pitneys’s track was “Only Love Can Break a Heart.” Sadly at the final siren there will be many broken hearts. Maybe a little part of mine.

 

Author’s Bio
Gareth Andrews - Founder and Director of Life Again, a registered Not for Profit charity that educates and helps men to change and lead more fulfilling and purposeful lives. Through writing, public speaking, taking men to the Outback and working with Aboriginals, workshops and personally challenging men.

RECOVERY.

By Gareth Andrews

 

 

Emerging recently from the Fifth Lockdown in Melbourne, an almost Olympian First in the Australian Championship of COVID lockdowns, I returned with a surreal feeling of emptiness, an emptiness which would take time to fill, if indeed it would ever be filled again in my lifetime. (I can hear my clock ticking.) And whatever it would be filled with was never going to be the same as “it” held leading up to March 2020. 

I was not alone. The more opinions I sought, the more I realised their was a common feeling of people wearing down as this process dragged on. When I suggested to them that the word Recovery might be an appropriate “descriptor,” they unanimously agreed. It was universally playing on their minds. 

As I write, I had been reading an interview Channel Nine’s Peter Overton had had with veteran  newsreader Brian Henderson in February 2020. In the Herald Sun of August 6th, this was part of reporting of Henderson’s death from cancer at age 89. The interview was “about his kidney cancer diagnosis in 2020. It was his fifth cancer diagnosis after he had beaten melanoma, prostate, bowel and throat cancer,saying he would not be fighting the cancer again. …’there is not much point in having another operation, I don’t want to be cut open again,’ he said.”

It was Brian’s fifth time. We are now heading into our sixth time of being emotionally and physically “opened again” and the pain is becoming more acute. 

This emptiness and the possibility it may never be filled again comes from a place of fear.

Fear that it will happen again. Fear of when it will happen again. Fear of personal freedoms being butchered. Fear of total disconnection from what is real. Fear of Big Brother taking over. Fear of trying to fill in time with soul-destroying thoughts. 

When I refer to Recovery I am not talking about recovery from Clinical Depression and the total debilitating effect  that causes. That make effect 15-20% of our community at any one time. No, I am thinking of a much broader community than that. I am referring to an insidious malaise that is literally affecting 100% of our community. Indeed I recently tuned into an online interview where Lucinda Brogden, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, suggested that “5 in 5 Australians are experiencing psychological distress, beginning at the mild end of anxiety and depression.”

Covid affects everybody in Australia at the moment— indeed the World. Of course I can’t speak for everybody but the best I can do is be fair, be balanced, be rational, and as much as possible be non-political. There is no right or wrong in all of this but in a world where discussion has gone out the window and those who make the most noise stand off and face each other with totally opposite views. With anger. With ugly aggression. 

So what does Recovery look like and how does it begin?

A good start is to get out of bed! Sounds stupid in its simplicity but I know it resonates across the board in tough times. The easiest thing is to bury under the blankets and hope the world goes away. Without a train to catch or an office meeting (an actual meeting) to go to, we can all hide. Sadly we can’t hide from ourselves. Your brain becomes your enemy. I experienced it at its worst when I was in deep depression twenty years ago: I’m not afraid to admit I’m still experiencing it today. Depression doesn’t grip me but life does. It’s called being human.

It’s not just a matter of rolling out of bed but also getting some physical movement. Whether it’s stretching the whole body on or off the bed or taking some very deep breaths, it’s remarkable how quickly the whole being can come into action. It’s like warming up your Maserati!!!! At least, think about it like that.

The key part of this whole routine is development of Discipline in your life. Your first step out of bed is like all journeys; it sets the tone of the day.

Of course, it’s important to have a good healthy breakfast. That’s a given. But in the context of Recovery and the necessity of paying attention to mind and body, I am exploring the power of overcoming the belting that the mind has taken over the last year and a half. 

So before or after breakfast, do what you are able to do. Go for a walk, get a coffee, more deep breaths, speak to neighbours passing by (despite the fact that the speech can become a muffled grunt behind the mask) and look up in the sky and notice everything is still in it right place. And when you are speaking, try to avoid the C and V words. Covid and Vaccines need a break.

Resting Recovery might seem to be in conflict with the aforementioned getting out of bed comments, but it’s not. For some of us who have already experienced almost 200 days in lockdown—welcome aboard Melburnians—

 

Author’s Bio
Gareth Andrews - Founder and Director of Life Again, a registered Not for Profit charity that educates and helps men to change and lead more fulfilling and purposeful lives. Through writing, public speaking, taking men to the Outback and working with Aboriginals, workshops and personally challenging men.

JOHANN HARI TALK

JOHANN HARI TALK.

 

 

After hearing Johann Hari, a Swiss-British writer & journalist speak last week, Gareth was inspired by what he had to say.  The author of the recently released book, “Lost Connections” drew a large crowd.  He suggests that modern life has left us disconnected, isolated and alienated from meaningful work, from the natural world and from our fellow human beings.  How can we reconnect to the communities around us?  What can we do about it?  What sort of project might bring a much-needed sense of meaning and connection back into our lives?

This strikes a chord to the heart of what Life Again Foundation is all about.  By taking a step back and embarking on an Outback Trip away from the pressures of life, men get to experience our stunning country and meet some special people along the way.  Whilst taking on some new and exciting challenges, they take the time to reconnect with others and start to try and make sense of their lives and decide on personal adjustments one might make to ensure their work is life is more meaningful. 

Life Again have confirmed the dates of the upcoming Outback trips are:-

29th July – 4th August & 2nd Sept -  7th September

For trip enquiries, contact [email protected]


FINDING JOY!

FINDING JOY IN A SEEMINGLY JOYLESS TIME.

By Gareth Andrews

 

 

My piece of heaven on earth during the past 18 months in Melbourne has been the marvellous Fitzroy Gardens, immediately adjacent to the city’s CBD. This major Victorian era setting has become my new exercise venue, and a place where my soul can be recharged. It is my salvation, my reparation, my counsellor. Early mornings twice a week with my trainer Emma (when allowed) and my mate Ray ( when allowed!) have been a God-send. In bleak times they have given me happiness and peace, as well as a chance for a good work out. Never to be left out has been my black pug, Wednesday. And yes, that’s her name! 

The autumnal beauty in the Gardens is extra special. Crisp sunny coolish days and even light rain bring their own atmosphere. But there is nothing more beautiful than the magnificent trees, particularly the mighty deciduous English Oaks, English Elms and London Planes. The gnarled Oaks are glorious in their nakedness and the carpet they throw out from their falling leaves is spectacular.

And therein lies this story. Dog Wednesday discovered the thrill of burying herself in the latest fall, practising cartwheels, spins, and all measures of joyousness. Joining her and being part of her fun was a moment for me when my own world stopped. My mental world. My thinking world. It opened my own world to pure joy. It was spontaneous. 

Joy is hard to explain as it comes from an internal place. It is an event. It is an experience. It happens to you, and you alone. It’s an engagement between your senses and your feelings. Others can witness it but never see it. Theirs is theirs and yours is yours. Joy is high energy and of shortish duration. But it does alter you in a way that you are not quite the same person as before. This is the key to this story. 

Many years earlier, not far from the Gardens, I was wandering through the MCG carpark after watching a game of football. I remember nothing of the day itself other than it was deep into the winter months. I do however remember the period of my life. It was a grim time for me, my own winter of discontent. I was bunkered down in my heavy overcoat, experiencing the smell of nature after a rain event, a natural occurrence that I have subsequently learned has a word of its own. Petricore. Suddenly my worry and anxiety was washed away by a moment that is still hard to describe. I felt warm, cocooned, safe, and somehow happy and lucky. It was fleeting but it has remained with me to this day, maybe 20 years on. It was joy. 

It’s hard to find joy in our COVID world, in our 21st Century world. Wherever we look there is doom, gloom, and disaster. There is chaos in our hearts and minds. It’s hard enough to get up, let alone get out. It’s easy to say “I’m over it, I can’t be bothered anymore.”

But that’s the point. We actually have to be bothered. Boredom, anxiety, despair and depression often accompany the absence of joy. Something has to change and my first two stories are all about getting outdoors. Putting yourself into a situation where it is more likely to happen. Slowing down your mind. No matter how else you feel, you’ll feel some level of rejuvenation.

I tried something earlier this week. I had spent a couple of weeks seeing the mainly housebound brigade heading off for coffee at the local. (It used to be the pub!) I realised there was a sameness about everybody beyond the ubiquitous mask. It was our clothing. I was part of the black brigade. Beanies, gym tops, tights, runners, and whatever else in between. Anything resembling grey was a refreshing change. Faces mirrored the general mood as the latest lockdown was cutting deeper into our psyches. On this particular morning I changed my mood by changing my clothes. Yellows, oranges and bright green gear were pulled out of my cupboard and as I dressed I experienced an instant high. It was a tweak of joy. It was as if I’d opened a window to allow a sliver of sunshine in- metaphorically of course. It was a spontaneous action and led to an openness to experience joy. It was simple. Of course, the coffee crew had a positive reaction. It mightn’t have been joy but perhaps a measure of happiness. 

You certainly can’t invent joy as it’s a reaction to a circumstance. But if you have a crack at the circumstance you never know what might eventuate. My mate Johnny lives in Lorne and has the Otways literally at his back door. I sneak down to visit him between lockdowns!! All kosher. Easter was a great time to visit but the weather attracted masses to the beaches. We decided to drive into the Otways instead. Johnny had his ‘secret pond’ little more than 10 kilometres from home. It was literally on the edge of the forest but you could have been deep inside. In classic Johnny style we bought a few sausages, threw in a cheap BBQ, wine and glasses and a couple of small deck chairs. Cheap and cheerful and very civilised. The drive was short and the immersion into nature was instant with hardly another car on the road. Johnny pulled up beside a small, grassy clearing with the little pond nestling in the shade alongside the road. Picturesque to say the least. We were soon seated, settled and cooking.

Then came the joy. There was action in the pond is how Johnny puts it. And for the next half an hour or so we focussed on the frog symphony. Joy had a fair chunk of bliss added in. Johnny pointed out the “voice” of the Geocrinia victoriana , the Eastern smooth froglet common to the area. Then he took out his Frogs of Australia App to prove he was right. It was a moment in time. The world stopped. It may be an experience rather than a state of mind but you become more open to it by putting yourself in situations where it is more likely to happen. When we left I had a bit of a hop in my step! 

So there we almost have it. Joy can suddenly come from nowhere but we have to try to put ourselves in a position when we are open to it.

One of ways is through Curiosity, particularly in the outdoors. Curiosity is a portal to our soul. When going outdoors, even on the briefest of occasions, lift your head high rather than looking at the ground or looking at your Social Media. Look at the sky, at day or night. Feel how small we really are in the scheme of things. Whistle a happy tune. 

Of course it can come more regularly through walking along the beach, going to a concert, meeting a special friend, reading a book. It can be hormone driven which brings libido into play. 

And here’s the last one I’d love to explore. I’ve had the joy of playing in a winning AFL (VFL at the time) Grand Final (I’ve also experienced the pain of playing in a losing one.) The moment when the siren sounded to end the game and the rest of the time out of the ground, receiving the Cup and running around the stadium with it, was Joy to the nth degree. In the rooms afterwards, my feeling was one of intense pleasure rather than joy. The pleasure was the memory of the experience rather than the experience itself. I’ve sometimes thought of Michael Tuck’s thoughts in  light of being a seven-time premiership-winning player with Hawthorn. Can you get so programmed to that sort of success that the spontaneity of joy diminishes? I suspected it would probably be a case of multiple joys. He’s the only one who’d know. I rang Tucky. His soulful voice paused and contemplated the memory. “Funny you know. There was always joy, but the level was always dependent on how well you played. It’s interesting that in the later GFs my joy was more for the younger players who’d not had the experience before.” And there you go. Levels of joy and types of joy. 

In essence, joy is simple. Joy is fleeting. Joy opens the heart, the mind and the soul to better things. It can give hope. In bad times as well as good. You never stop seeking it and finding it. It’s personal.

Author’s Bio
Gareth Andrews - Founder and Director of Life Again, a registered Not for Profit charity that educates and helps men to change and lead more fulfilling and purposeful lives. Through writing, public speaking, taking men to the Outback and working with Aboriginals, workshops and personally challenging men.


ON COUNTRY 2021 TESTIMONIALS

A CHAT WITH OUR GUESTS & HOSTS.
Discussions in the red centre.

Listen to a few of our trips hosts and guests discussing the benefits they receive from making a trip out to Central Australia, how they feel, best takeaways and why we all need to have this experience.

Click the link below to load the clip in Youtube.
On Country Benifit Discussion


PULSE RADIO PODCAST

PULSE RADIO PODCAST

With Gareth Andrews

 

Life Again founder Gareth Andrews shares the Life Again message and deep dives into cutting edge preventative mental health approaches for men – powerful stuff. Radio interview with Pulse Radio’s Rob Cameron April 2021, take a listen by clicking play above.

 

 


Podcast logo for FYI interview with Nick Columb

NICK COLUMB - FYI - ALL THINGS MENTAL WELLNESS

A PODCAST.
FYI - ALL THINGS MENTAL WELLNESS.

Podcast logo for FYI interview with Nick ColumbIn this epidsode FYI – All Things Mental Wellness chats with Life Again’s Nick Columb. Nick currently works as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice. He is also the Director of Positive Health programs for Life Again and is super passionate about mens mental health.

In this podcast he shares his own journey through mental ill-health and the path he took to overcome his own struggles. A big thank you to FYI for sharing the microphone and helping to promote awareness around mental health and other important psyhological issues.

Take a look at some of their other fantastic podcasts on their channel here FYI – ALL THINGS MENTAL WELLNESS

 

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE

 


NICK COLUMB - ON COUNTRY 2021

A CHAT WITH NICK COLUMB.
DIRECTOR OF POSITIVE MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAMS.

A brief chat with our Programs Director Nick Cooumb during his recent On Country Immersion Experience to Central Australia.

Click the link below to load the clip in Youtube.
Nick Columb talking On Country 2021