Explore and Create Stories #11: Jonathon Hagger

In this Explore and Create Stories interview I’m so delighted to introduce Jonathon Hagger. Jonathon is a marvelous example in how you can balance your life and make sure you are true to yourself. As we were preparing for this interview Jonathon shared how reflecting on the questions has been a mixture of relief but also knowledge development. He shared that “I feel that in writing my answers I am able to see for myself how my thought processes and beliefs are/have changed and for that I am extremely grateful”.  His on going reflections about his well being, self care and mindfulness are just infectious. A future e-book on mindfulness is on its way to share his learnings and to empower others. This is such a gracious demonstration of how Jonathon connects with others. I also love how he lives his true belief in mindfulness - you’ll love the realisations about mindful writing and ironing! (that’s right!)  I do hope you enjoy this latest story.

Tell us about what you do.

My name is Jonathon Hagger and I work in tertiary education as an Administration Manager. In my out of work life I have many interests which I believe enable me to be well balanced physically, socially and spiritually also.

I undertake a range of hobbies such as crossfit, marathon running and yoga. Living in Rotorua means we have the forest at our backdoor so I also like to walk and mountain bike as well. The forest is definitely my spiritual home and I feel at peace when I am amongst nature. 

I like to think of myself as well balanced.


What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about people and engaging spiritually with the world around me. I believe that mindfulness is a tool that can help people to be fulfilled, balanced and in touch with their true self.  I like to think of myself as a seeker of answers – in my own way. I like to experiment and see where things take me. I find that this approach gets me into the experience of something and then I consider it more from an intellectual standpoint later on.


What are you working on at the moment?

At the moment I am working on further developing my yoga practise I'm not super flexi or bendy but I enjoy the combination of movement and stretching. My spiritual practice is developed more through my relationships and communications with other people rather than with divine a being of some sort.

I am also working on getting my research into mindfulness and its effects on management practise written up so that I can share my findings in an eBook format. My original goal was to have this goal completed by the end of 2016 however I have chosen balance over tasks and its taking me a bit longer than I first envisaged.


What led you to your latest project or focus?

I first discovered meditation, which led me into mindfulness, back in 2012. I was going through a depressive time and I saw a meditation class advertised at work so I decided to give it a go. The first class I went to really clicked with me and I knew I had found something special. We had a guided meditation at the Redwoods, so we were in the forest and that is my soul place.

About the same time I decided to do my Masters in Business Administration. One component of this is major research project. I knew within myself that mindfulness and management was the topic I wanted to explore – so that’s what I did. My classmates didn't understand what it was that I was trying to achieve or the importance place that mindfulness was beginning to make for itself in the corporate world.  Fortunately I had a supervisor who understood the topic and she was also very patient with me as a student and I was able to achieve my goal.

The outcome of my research, the thesis, has been inexistence for a few years but hasn't been published or shared in a written format that is accessible for people yet. So, with some encouragement from one of my very good friends, I am setting about putting my research into an easy to access and understand eBook format.


How do you approach creativity in your life (personal/professional/or both)?

Professionally I approach creativity through engagement with others. In my professional life I attempt to be mindful and to listen with my whole self rather than just with my ears. This involves being active in the conversation and also engaging with the other person in a way that helps them to feel valued.

Personally I like to create through mindfulness practices like mandala drawing - which I am a total novice at but I enjoy this very much. I struggle a little with my self confidence when it comes to art and drawing so engaging in this practise helps my self confidence in learning to let go of ego and at the same time to just be in the moment. Engaging in the swish of the pen, the movement of the stroke, the connections being made between the various shapes.

One of the greatest things I have learned from my very brief experience of yoga and mandala drawing is how the setting of ones intention is everything. I learned years ago that as a part of endurance running – having a mantra is really important. That mantra becomes the intention. With yoga and drawing I set me intention prior to beginning and that intention keeps me engaged in the moment. I resist the temptation to over think the moment


We talk a lot about "being in the moment" or “being" when creating. What does this mean for you?

Being in the moment for me is about having all of the elements of self aligned in one place and time. My body, my mind and my inner self are in alignment with each other. I am not thinking about what is to come neither am I concerned about what has been. For me "being in the moment" is finding a place where my mind is completely focused on what is front of me at any given time. Its like being in a certain piece of space. I believe that it is in the "spaces in between" that we engage in being creative. If you listen carefully to a great song you will notice that there are gaps in the sound when there is silence. Sometimes the silence is just for an instant, other times the silence extends for a period of time. It is in those spaces of quiet that we are able to take in the sound or vibe that is occurring. Those spaces accentuate the sounds that


What’s the biggest challenge you find in approaching your creative endeavours?

 My biggest challenge is overcoming my inability to just be creative. When I was first introduced to mandala drawing as an exercise I was nervous that what I would create wouldn't be good enough. So I am learning how to overcome my own feelings of inadequacy when it comes to creativity in that way.

I was reading earlier a blog post about going through change and how to change yourself and Josephine uses "dip your toes in and test the waters" as a metaphor for giving new things a try. I really do believe the biggest barrier holding people back is their inability to find the courage to just start – well this is my biggest barrier personally.


How do you find your zen?

I find my zen mostly through my yoga practice and in meditation. I have had people ask me what I think about when I run and my answer is nothing. Honestly, I don't really think about anything. I just move and am at peace. When I'm in the forest I look around and try to take in the awe and beauty that is around me.  My zen occurs when my body and spirit align. This usually occurs after I have undertaken some form of physical exercise. For me its like my body drains itself of all that it holds when I do endurance sports and then I feel a kind of emptiness. Empty both in physical energy but also in emotions. And when I feel this way I find I am much more attuned to myself and am able to enter into a zen state with more ease. My conscious brain slows (my brain usually operates very quickly!), my body slows down and my emotions come into check – which allows me to feel aligned within myself and to achieve more.


When you experience flow, what is the impact on your productivity? Tell us about this.

I find that I experience flow when I am engaged in the moment and it’s a task that I enjoy doing. When I find my flow my work is far more focused, I am less open to distractions and I really get the work done. Mostly I feel flow when I am writing. Writing is something I enjoy deeply and when I am engaged in it I feel very nourished afterwards.

When flow occurs for me my productivity goes amazing. However there are a number of factors that influence whether or not I can get into that state. Outside distractions are the worst! Flow occurs for me when I can focus entirely on the task at hand.


Who have been the biggest 3 – 5 influences in your life, in terms of your career and doing creative/mindful work?

When I undertook my masters degree research project, at that time, I had recently discovered guided meditation and mindfulness. From my experience I had a hunch that mindfulness could have a positive impact upon individuals and organisations. I started seeking out others who had completed research in this area which led me to contacting a professor at Harvard University who put me in touch with Kathryn Pavlovich who became my research supervisor. Kathryn has been a big advocate for the positive benefits of engaging in spirituality in the workplace and I found that we shared many similar views on the topic.

In 2015 I engaged in a yoga challenge on Instagram and that was my first ever 'real' yoga experience. During that challenge I met my wonderful friend Melissa. She greatly influences me in how I think about the world and yoga. Melissa is a wonderful mother of two and a well practised yogini whose poise and perspective inspire me greatly.

In regards to my career I have been very fortunate to have a number of managers who saw potential in me and let me work to my strengths. Becoming a father helped to mature me and when that maturity began to bloom then so did my career. Before this point I had always been quite carefree, and I still am in many respects, but I started to look more for opportunities and openings where I could express myself. Looking back now I can see that I have always tried to be creative in how I approach my roles and I think it has been through that creativity that I have expressed my talents to others.


Tell us, who are you clicking on at the moment?  Why?  Insights?

A few years ago I had the great pleasure of meeting Dr Sarb Johal. Sarb is a researcher who has done a lot of work with survivors of traumatic events and in particular natural disasters. I had the privilege of interviewing Sarb for my research project and since then I have looked into the work that he does. It was Sarb who introduced me to the concept of mindfulness being like a rhythm. Through mindfulness we become in tune with our internal spiritual rhythms. The other thing that really stuck with me was his description of "the mindfulness of washing the dishes". Thich Nhat Hanh originally expressed this as one method for developing mindfulness. That is being in the moment, feeling the water, noticing the bubbles, just being in the moment at the sink. I haven't yet had anyone mention the mindfulness of doing the ironing! Ha.


Tell us, who are you listening to at the moment?  Why?  Insights?

I am listening a lot to Rob Bell and the people that he interviews. Rob is a Christian minister whose ability to communicate and connect with others is very special. Rob interviews people from many different faiths and belief systems as he personally seeks to create an understanding of how and why we have a human experience. I grew up in an extremely Christian home so I was brought up with a very strong belief system about who God is and what the universe is made of. When I was in my early 30's I had what Christians would call a "crisis of my faith" and I walked away from the evangelical approach to religion. For quite a few years I ignored religion altogether as I couldn't find harmony between the God of the church and our human existence. It has only been very recently that I have started listening more and more to the Robcast and this is helping me to reformulate my view of the universe.

I've started listening to a podcast called Training Beta which is actually aimed at Rock Climbing people. There was one interview recently with Dr. Christina Heilman that focused in on using mindfulness as a tool for developing excellence within self. Dr Heilman works with athletes the world over to develop their mental strength and ability to be in the moment. Her website is http://www.mindset-coach.com/

I'm also listening to the "Psychic Glands" radio show which is podcasted by 9bFM. It is a show of musical tunes that are meditative and eclectic. Sometimes the flavour may be folk music, sometimes world music other times a little electronic. All the music played helps me to find my calm centre.


Tell us, who are you are reading at the moment?  Why?  Insights?

 Right now I am reading "Diana’s Story" by Deric Longden. This book recounts a couples experience of learning to live with a condition called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) which causes huge amounts of pain and loss of mobility in the character Diane. The story is a mixture of being really funny but also incredibly sad. Diana’s Story really tugs at the heart strings as the husband shares all of the pains and struggles as a first hand witness. Reading this book really reminds me of just how fortunate those of us with good health really are.

Paul Tillich was a theologian who wrote prolifically about God.  And it is in reading Tillich along with a number of other authors such as Richard Rohr, Rob Bell and Abraham Heschel that I am reimagining what and who God is. Moving away from traditional religious view whereby God is made into the image of man instead of the opposite.


What’s some advice you would offer to someone who is struggling to find their creative spark? Or What advice would you give to someone who thinks they aren’t creative?

My advice would be to explore widely. There is no one right medium or way of being creative. I think my belief that being creative meant that something had to be "perfect" held me back for many years. I still struggle to overcome these feelings of not being good enough creatively – but that relates to drawing or painting. When I take a photo or write then I feel so much more confident and releasing that creativity becomes much easier for me.

I think we need to define what we might consider "being creative" to be. Since joining Instagram as a social media platform I have discovered so many amazing people who engage in creativity in a plethora of different ways. In particular I think of a few ladies who dance – classical dancers, super creative dancers, hula hooping dancers. Each expresses their creativity through a different means and they are all perfect in their own way.

You can continue to connect with Jonathon on Instagram  and via Linkedin