The second edition of Walk With Me addresses an important yet almost untouched issue: emotional well-being
When Nadya Hutagalung logged into our Zoom meeting, I was absolutely stunned by how poised and calm she is. And for a second, I was back in my younger days, fangirling over her via the screen when she was one of the first VJs on MTV Asia. Turns out, the admiration didn’t stop there, and when her book Walk With Me finally arrived, I put everything down and read the 360-page tome cover to cover.
Walk With Me is a coffee table book that Nadya launched back in 2018. What I read was the second edition of the book that was launched in late 2020. As I went through the pages, I felt that I was really in the journey of Nadya’s life. The book is divided into seven chapters named “Mist,” “Seeds,” “Mirror,” “Bamboo,” “Ocean,” “Spice,” and “Soil.” As Nadya narrates her life, I became lost in the story and the beautiful images by Davy Linggar, taken from their travels across Indonesia all the way to Kenya and Kathmandu. In simple but powerful words, Nadya recounts her life’s journey, from her early years and her search for the meaning of life, finding Buddhism, friendships, up until finding love and her passion for environmental causes.
There’s a paragraph in “Mist” where she wrote how the wisdom of Buddhism has given her a very different perspective on life, and that those close to her have been positively influenced by her growth. And from there on, it shows how Nadya channels that perspective into every aspect of her life.
Nadya also has been involved with The Contentment Foundation, one of the world’s leading institutions promoting social emotional learning curriculums to be applied to education systems. Interestingly, she wants to donate proceedings from sales of the second edition of Walk With Me to the translation of The Contentment Foundation’s Social Emotional Learning Curriculums into Bahasa Indonesia.
Also in this second edition, Nadya added a section about emotional well-being to acknowledge that raising awareness about these topics can reduce the stigma associated with mental problems. Through video calls, Nadya conducted remote conversations with four of Indonesia’s most well-regarded young talents in entertainment, namely Eva Celia, Iqbaal Ramadhan, Afgansyah Reza and Chelsea Islan. The wisdom gained through these honest and revealing conversations were included to inspire readers – especially future generations – to continue making strides towards living a more mindful and contended life.
Constantly inspiring through many noble causes, Nadya is also the founder of We The Good, an Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme, and Advisor for The Jane Goodall Institute Singapore, to mention but few.
Below are excerpts from our chat about the book how she manages to do everything with great balance.
Hi Nadya, glad to have you with us. How are you?
I am doing well, thank you for asking! It’s been an incredibly busy but meaningful time over the last year and I’ve been busier than ever. I know that it’s become a trained response for us to say “busy” and to think that busy means happy; but really, I am striving for balance. I always say, busy is good, but balanced is better, so I am currently trying my best to practice what I preach and am proactively creating more balance.
First of all, let’s talk about Walk With Me. How would you describe the process of writing it?
Walk With Me was a really beautiful collaborative journey to some corners of my heart with a wonderful team. We travelled together, from Kenya to Kathmandu and from elephants to orangutans. Of course, we also shot in Jakarta, Ubud and Sumatra, too. The book was really a way of sharing a visual journey to the places on this planet that have shaped me and the work that I do.
Did you face any difficulties while writing the book?
Yes. During production, I was facing a really challenging time in my own personal life. For the first time in my life, I experienced panic attacks and anxiety. This was highly unexpected for me as I have always been able to manage whatever hardships I have gone through and have been practicing mindfulness for almost 17 years. No matter what I have gone through in my life before, nothing compared to this. Through this experience I was gifted an even deeper sense of empathy and connection for those experiencing similar hurdles.
You selected Happy Salma, Chelsea Islan, Afgansyah Reza, Eva Celia and also Iqbaal Ramadhan to be included in the second edition of Walk With Me. Tell us the story behind the inclusion of these individuals…
When [fashion designer] Didit Hediprasetyo asked if I would like to release a second edition of Walk With Me, my first question to him was: Can we add an additional chapter about emotional wellbeing? Given that I have been deeply passionate about this for some time and with COVID I knew that the community needed more conversations and support. In Asia, we still have a big stigma around even sharing our feelings or things we are going through. It’s important to help normalise these conversations and facilitate more awareness of the various ways that people can support their own mental wellbeing and emotional resilience.
We then invited our champions to join us, both in conversation and in the book itself. When we see more and more people speaking out about their own challenges, we realize that their stories might be our own stories and it helps us to feel less alone.
What do you hope will people take from reading this second edition?
I just hope that there might be something within the book that will inspire others to think differently about their inner or outer worlds and that, in turn, will shift their lives in a positive way.
What would you say are the most rewarding moments in your life?
My most rewarding moments are when my kids share their hardships, emotional struggles or challenges with me. When my kids feel that they can share openly and with vulnerability to me without fear of judgement, it means I have done something right. So many children feel that they are not able to share what they are going through with their parents. But as a parent, I want my kids to know that whenever the going gets rough, I can be the first person they turn to for help.
Tell us about your involvement in The Contentment Foundation…
I have been involved as an advisor to The Contentment Foundation for over three years now. The reason I feel so passionate about the work of the foundation is because of my work in conservation and sustainability for so many years. Many years ago, I realised that I could talk about elephants, orangutans, climate change, plastics, pollution or planetary systems shutting down, but unless people are well enough within themselves, it’s very hard to get them to move from a place of apathy to a place of empathy. Because empathy hurts. And it’s when we have empathy that we can move into empowered action. So, the important missing piece is getting our communities to be radically well so that they can take on all the challenges of our current world. Through the Four Pillars of Wellbeing – which marries ancient wisdom with modern science – teachers, students and families are given the tools of inner wellbeing to be able to deal with the outer reality and be the change makers our world so desperately needs today.
In your opinion, why is mental health issues still considered taboo here in Indonesia?
It’s not just Indonesia, but most of Asia. We just need a shift in perspective and ways of approaching both those who are experiencing challenges and the ways in which they are supported. The West is far more advanced around these topics and there is an opportunity for knowledge exchange with some cultural context applied. If we are physically sick, we know where to get help and we usually get sympathy. But if we are experiencing mental challenges, it’s very hard to know where to go to get help and we are often pitied, looked down upon or assumed to be weak. Everyone has a time in their life where they experience hardship. Let’s not make it harder; lets instead find ways to support and be supported.
How do you find the balance to do all that you do?
To be completely honest, I am working harder than ever at the moment due to all of the roles and commitments I have taken on. I have been working hard to find ways to maintain productivity that works for me and I constantly need to remind myself to leave space in my schedule for nothing at all. A half day here and there for complete ease and daydreaming is good for the body and mind and will end up adding to our productivity output.
How would you encourage people to talk about their mental health and emotional well-being?
I would actually encourage all of us to be better listeners and friends. Ask deeper questions, and don’t be afraid to hear the answers. Show a little vulnerability by sharing first without expectations, listen from a place of zero judgement and just be there for others. Ditch the superficial and go deep. Trust me, it’s worth it.
PHOTOGRAPHER DAVY LINGGAR
This article first appeared on PrestigeOnline Indonesia