Get Gutsy With... Leila Jeffreys

With Leila Jeffreys (Photo credit: Belle Magazine / Photographer Kristina)

Best known for her visceral and mysterious images of birds, Australian contemporary artist, Leila Jeffreys, is also an avid environmentalist—collaborating with conservationists, ornithologists, bird enthusiasts, and sanctuaries around the world to find her subjects before forging an intimate relationship with the birds that she photographs.

Here, we spoke to Leila about the lessons she's learned over the years and what makes her feel gutsy!

What do you celebrate about getting older?

With age comes experience. By this I mean you start to see the good times and the bad and that not everything is permanent. This brings a greater awareness of what is important in your life and your purpose which is to try to help. There’s a lovely quote by Pablo Picasso... ’The meaning of life is to find your gift and the purpose is to give it away.'

What is something you would tell your 20-year-old self? 

I would tell myself to start developing a regular practice that quietens your mind. Whether it’s bushwalking, surfing, playing soccer or practising meditation—because in my experience it is a gift that takes work to master. Life can sometimes be intense and the sooner you learn to notice your internal ‘weather’—ie your own thoughts and what ones are helpful and what ones are repetitive and pointless—the more centred and grounded you are and equipped to handle life’s ups and downs. I find physical activity is great to help become aware of that distinction and meditation takes it to the next level. 

What is something that you do that makes you feel gutsy and empowered?

Anything to do with challenging myself in nature. From jumping in the Arctic Ocean, travelling to Antarctica with scientists, or something as simple as swimming in a freezing cold natural swimming pool or bushwalking.

What is one hobby or activity that is bringing you joy right now?

Snorkelling with my family—it is pure joy to meet an octopus or swim alongside a Giant Australian cuttlefish.

How has your emotional wellbeing evolved as you've gotten older?

I’ve become much more curious and introspective. I’ve become better at observing my emotions and noticing my thoughts. I am less likely to believe every thought and am better at seeing if the thought is useful or not.

Are there any challenges—physical/emotional/spiritual—that have surprised you?

After spending time with wildlife, I see the contradictions that exist in our own species. On the one hand we have these beautiful qualities of conscientiousness, love, kindness, compassion, intuition, creativity yet there is so much conflict in the world. Humans cause so much unnecessary pain and suffering to each other and the world itself which ultimately causes pain to ourselves. It is crazy. But at the same time my challenge is to learn to accept that we live in an imperfect world and making a conscious decision to show up for ourselves, others and all of humanity as I think this is the way to a kinder world for all species. 

How have your priorities shifted as you've reached the milestone of 50?

Our human world unfolds at a pace that is frantic, a speed that is constantly escalating. For me slowing down, being in nature, spending time with my family and friends is essential to create balance in my life. It is something I know I need but is not always easy to achieve as there are so many forces pulling you in different directions from technology to necessary appointments to being a functioning human that is part of a society. So where possible I resist the urge to relentlessly ‘do’ and find time to just ‘be’.

 

 

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