Anima Rising is a collaborative project by Harper Cowan and Jessica Eve Watkins, producing creative content that raises consciousness, increases awareness, and inspires viewers to think – and live – outside the box.
The ‘Ways of Living’ documentary captures their road trip around America in search of alternative and sustainable life. The focus is love and positivity: living freely with wide open hearts, while harming nothing. The film explores alternative technologies and sustainable practices, and features interviews with spiritual and awakened people.
Anima Rising. Sounds cool, what is it?
Harper: We are Anima Rising! Anima Rising is the creative collaboration between us – Harper Cowan and Jessica Eve Watkins. It’s what we call our team, the two of us.
The name came from the Jungian concept ‘Anima’, meaning a rising wave of feminine energy. We discovered it through one of our favorite Joni Mitchell songs, Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow.
Our current project together as Anima Rising is our documentary film, Ways Of Living. It’s the first of many projects, all of which we hope will help to inspire and raise consciousness.
Jesse: We are in France right now, knee deep in editing the footage together. Editing has officially begun, and so far it’s tricky and beautiful, and a wonderful challenge. We’re filled with so much love for the people we met during the filming last year, so it’s reaffirming to have them all here with us once again, even if only through a computer screen.
You’re both originally from different sides of the planet – so how didyour paths cross? Do you think that was destiny?
Harper: Without a doubt it was our destiny to meet. My whole life and world changed after I met Jess – it was amazing before, and even better after. We met while we were both interning for Nylon Magazine in NYC. Jess had very bravely come to America by herself for the internship, aged 20. I met her towards the end of her trip and had a great time showing her around my little world in Brooklyn. A couple of months after she left I was on a plane to go and live with her, her boyfriend, and her brother in Brighton, England.
Jesse: It’s been epic. I saw a clairvoyant a few years back who told me Harper would be ‘integral’ in my life. I was a bit perplexed – it was a slightly formal word to use for a best-friend, I thought. But now I see what she meant. She’s not only a soul-mate, but an integral part of my mission this lifetime. We support each other, travel together a lot, and wherever we go, we’ll be heart-to-heart-ing for hours about spirit, meditation, God, feminine energy, boys… We call them Goddess Chats. We both have a pretty intense work ethic at the moment too, and it’s great to be creating this world between us through much hard ‘work’.
Ways of Living (see trailer above) looks like the American road trip of dreams – but it’s about so much more than that, right? Can you tell us more?
Harper: Oh yes, much more! Ways Of Living is a search for alternative, sustainable, and communal lifestyles. Jess and I were both living in cities, and we found ourselves pining for easier access to a sense of community, shared ideals, a higher purpose than the self… We both were growing increasingly concerned by consumerism and wastefulness.
Jesse: We spent almost half of last year driving around the east coast of America – from the borders of Canada down to New Orleans. We stayed at around twenty intentional communities, off-grid farms, and eco-villages; we also sat at Quaker meetings, Zen Monasteries, and a few kind mum’s dinner tables in between.
To begin with it was a total de-hooking from the lives we were leading. Like shedding a layer, and remembering who we were before we’d put these big protective coats on. It’s been dislodging both mentally and physically, and at times the personal lessons feel overwhelming; especially our growing awareness of the state of things environmentally. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. Best thing ever.
At the communities we were very open with what we wanted to find – we were purely interested, rather than trying to prove or disprove anything, which was so liberating. It led to so many mind-expanding interviews. Spirituality, sustainability, vulnerability, openness, nature, growing food, medicinal herbs, and meditation were a few of the main topics we delved into, but we didn’t limit our boundaries at all, so sometimes we’d find ourselves discussing polyamory or home-schooling or aliens, which is always groovy.
It was mostly all enrapturing, but for me, deepening my knowledge of people’s spiritual practices and talking about what it is to be a spiritual being having a human experience always caught my deepest attention.
Naysayers might observe that ‘alternative living’ isn’t that easy if, like most people, you’ve got a full-time job and bills to pay. What do YOU say?
Harper: I say it’s easier than you think. It feels like there’s a million reasons to not make these changes in your life, but they pale in comparison to the reasons to make them. We may only have one life on this planet, who knows, and I feel it shouldn’t be spent doing anything you don’t really believe in.
It doesn’t have to be as extreme as fully committing to living in a fossil-fuel free tree house in Costa Rica – there’re loads and loads of easy and significant changes you can make in your daily life and routine, that you, and everyone around you, will benefit from. We can do anything we put our minds to, and if you’re interested in living differently, then no one but yourself can stop you.
Jesse: Alternative living is a multi-faceted area. Like Harps says, it can just be about little changes too. We’re volunteering at this art retreat at the moment, and the other day we had to scrub, and mop bathrooms. Chris, who was talking the job through to us, said, ‘Imagine you’re cleaning for the most important, highest person in your world.’ So we cleaned mindfully and with love. That change of mindset is a tiny difference that can start to be integrated into other areas of your day, and totally constitutes an alternative living practice in my eyes.
You both interned at NYLON but what are your thoughts on the media now? You both must have WANTED to work for magazines at some point, so what changed?
Harper: Media, technology and communication are all powerful tools that I feel we should be using to spread inspiration and connection. With most mainstream media, I ain’t buying what they’re selling anymore, but there are lots of good forms of media too, that are out there trying to shine light. My interests shifted away from fashion magazines as I grew in to my next chapter of development.
Jess: We’ll both always be interested in fashion – it’s a great form of self expression, and we have a lot of fun rummaging around in thrift shops and at car boots. I don’t really read mainstream fashion magazines anymore, because they make me feel weakened and like I’m missing out on something, but something that I can’t pinpoint. (Perhaps because it isn’t real?) And that just isn’t what i’m looking for these days! I’m interested in filling my mind with the spirit of being an all-rounded powerful woman, not just one that looks good.
Recently, I have noticed the happier I am, the less STUFF I need to buy, does that ring true for you? How do you get your ‘fashion/ shopping fix’ these days – or is that not important anymore?
Jess: It’s pretty liberating to get rid of stuff, and I definitely agree with you. My family would no doubt say I’m a hoarder, but I’m getting much better at giving things away, lightening my load, and needing far less. I do have an aforementioned thrift store habit though. It’s just easy come, easy go, not getting attached to most items. There are a few things I hold very dear to me though, which is usually to do with who gave them to me, more than what they are. Like mine and Harper’s jade friendship rings, which we bought in Hot Springs, North Carolina, on a hot, beautiful, hazy day last spring. I was so full of joy in the weeks surrounding that day that just twizzling it around on my finger makes me sigh a happy little breath.
Harper: I definitely need less stuff! We’ve been living out of suitcases and car boots for almost a year now. Your attachment to things definitely fades. I don’t have any money, but if I did, new clothes aren’t where I’d spend it – I have more than enough clothes already! I definitely love rummaging through a thrift store, you can find something special or warmer or softer than what you have on, or sometimes you just have that craving to wear something you haven’t already worn a thousand times, but it’s definitely gotten easier to separate a desire for contentment from a connection to the idea that it comes from acquiring stuff. Nowadays anything we do have gets shared, gets dirty, gets given away, gets lost.
If someone’s inspired by your story but feels perhaps they can’t do anything because of their location/commitments/responsibilities, what are three little things you’d suggest they start doing? You gotta admit, it’s easier to feel happy on a sunny commune in a cool part of America Vs rainy and grey Slough (or wherever)?
Jess: I’m actually struggling with this a little at the moment myself. Returning to a more normal routine after months of euphoric galavanting feels pretty depressing. I know meditating helps me to centre myself, so I would say get a meditation practice going, preferably with others. It is really one of my biggest rafts in life. Sit down, bow to one another in gratitude for making it to the cushion, focus on your breath and just rest into it. I like having sensory treats around me, like candles, incense, that kind of stuff, to keep me returning to my breathing again and again.
Harper: First I would advise, and this is something I constantly remind myself too, that we can always be grateful for where we are. Often we get so grass-is-greener that we forget how many totally miraculous magic things are happening right now, even that our bodies are working! We weirdly magically are able to breathe in and out and blink and digest food and think.. we can THINK! That is so crazy, what an insane miracle. So, there’s magic happening all around us, wherever we are.
Another most important thing I would tell someone who feels they can’t do anything to help the world from where they are at their jobs/house, etc is there is SO much good that you can do, starting from yourself and working outwards. Be as kind as possible, remember to say Thank You & see things from other peoples’ perspectives, study Non-Violent Communication or whatever ideas you think might interest you in terms of how relationships and society are/is supposed to work, notice people, connect with each other – we’re all humans and we all have moms and feelings and bad days, talk to the guy that works at the super market, invite your neighbors over for lunch, let’s all start being nice to everyone and acknowledging that we’re human and we’re on this crazy spinning blue globe together! Start a neighborhood pot-luck, get an allotment or grow food in your own backyard, make an effort to learn about and switch to eco-friendly technologies, shop local, support organic farmers, walk instead of drive, don’t use electricity when you could just open the curtains instead, offer to babysit for free… There’s soooo many easy things we can do to be kind and better. Like grandmas around the world keep telling me – must try harder, could do better.
What about recommended reading – any good books that will totally change people’s outlook on life or understand where you guys are coming from?
Harper: I love Be Here Now by Ram Dass; I think Russell Brand did an amazing job at making some esoteric ideas understandable in his new book, Revolution. I love 2012 by Daniel Pinchbeck, Pronoia by Rob Breszny, A Woman’s Worth by Marianne Williamson. Anything by Carlos Castaneda, and The Sorcerers’ Crossing by Taisha Abelar. The first book that made me really passionate about Buddhism – Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior. Up next I really want to read This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein and Unlearn, Rewild by Miles Olson.
Jesse: All of the above. Plus some Osho, Anais Nin, Eckhart Tolle, to frazzle the ego’s edges, too. I just read Natalie Goldberg’s Writing down the Bones, because I love to meditate and to write, and she’s made a life out of fusing the practices together. That is a pretty inspirational woman, I’d say.
Do you meditate or do yoga – tell us more about your practice? If not, what do you do to stay spiritually connected?
Harper: I do both of those things, sometimes more than others. I really love to meditate but I often have to make a real effort to get myself to sit down and do it. Jess helps a lot with that. We sit down together for meditation, and breathing, and it flies by, the body just gobbles it up like a glass of water in the middle of the desert.
I really like doing Metta meditation before I go to bed – sending loving mind-waves to others and to myself. My spiritual practice is to incorporate gratitude more and more into my life, remembering to be grateful for everything, every experience, good or bad or trying. Jess and I always say what we’re grateful for before eating anything, and I really love that.
Finally, do you both have a mantra or phrase that best sums up your outlook on life? Please share!
I just read this chant this morning in another Natalie Goldberg book…
I beg to urge you everyone:
Life and Death are a Great Master
Awaken, awaken, awaken
Time passes quickly
Do not waste this precious life