Inspiring Human - Lisa McArthur

Meet Lisa. She’s the oldest of 3 children, with a younger sister and brother. She’s also the eldest of 4, with two older brothers and one younger brother. And she’s also the 2nd eldest of 4, with an older sister and a younger brother and sister.

She’s got a mother and 2 mums. And 2 dads. Plus a swag of aunties and uncles, cousins and nieces and nephews.

She’s lived a life that’s traveled many roads. A life that’s taught her about family loyalty, the importance of supporting each other and celebrating all the moments and milestones life throws at you. And how leaning on your people and finding your zen can save your life.

In Lisa’s own words, she’s a very lucky woman.

When she looks back, Lisa realises that her today could have been very different. Or not at all. It started with a challenging relationship with her mother. This was a background thread throughout her childhood. During the summer holidays before Lisa started high school in Wanganui, she learnt her parents were considering sending her to boarding school. An unexpected offer to be fostered by a long-time family friend saw Lisa move to Wellington, instead. Mum #1 was a strong woman, bringing up her youngest daughter (just 8-months younger than Lisa), separated from her husband but facing life with laughter, music and tennis. That year was one of the happiest years of Lisa’s life.

The twists and turns of life flowed on. When Lisa was 15 she found herself in a different foster situation. And her 2nd mum and dad entered her life. After asking the family of her best friend if she could come and live with them, they held a family conference and the MacGregor family (with the support of Social Welfare) welcomed her into their home.

These days, flowing between homes and different family dynamics might not sound so unusual. But back when Lisa was a child, it was. Her childhood was different from others. But it’s how she learnt about the different types of families and shaped her view of the world. A view that is both gentle, but strong. Accepting. Understanding that differences are what make us unique. And that being unique and standing, authentically, in who you are is empowering.

Moving between cities and homes wasn’t easy. She moved around too much to play team sports. But she took solace in walking. A quiet escape. As she now approaches the big “5-Oh” she looks back at some of these walks as favourite memories. Urban, farm to bush landscapes - she finds them all endlessly fascinating. How when you’re moving through them, mindfully, you look, hear and feel your surroundings at a slower pace. You build stories of people who live and work close by, notice the fantail following you through the bush or see the tiny ferns growing along the path you’re following. How when you walk without a map, whether that’s here in New Zealand or through places like Spain and Italy, you sense the different sounds, smells and views. And you always find your way back to the start.

Lisa out in her happy place on her bike

In pursuit of expanding her zen experiences, Lisa took up motorcycling when she was 18 years old. For her it was the feeling of being so much closer to the environment - the speed, the smells and the sights were invigorating. Balanced with the concentration and focus required as rider and machine successfully negotiate corners, bridges, crests and the ever-changing landscape. When there’s nothing between you and the open road ahead your brain stops chattering and you can just be.

But sometimes, your brain starts to chatter again. Lisa opens up about negotiating several periods of stress and depression throughout her adult life. She operates optimally at work in a reasonably high state of stress - so it’s challenging to predict before tipping over the edge into full blown stress and anxiety. Lisa bravely shares with us that in her early 20’s she attempted suicide by sleeping pills. But with thanks to her boss at the time, the MacGregor family and professional assistance she got back on track.

For Lisa it’s been both leaning on people and finding those zen activities that’s helped her to not just carry on, but live a life so beautifully authentic. When a co-worker and very good friend introduced her to yoga and walking up, or around, Mount Mauao, she was given a gift beyond measure. Learning to quieten those internal voices. Remembering the power of those zen moments. 12 years later her yoga is a commitment she will rarely pass up for something else. Always holding onto a promise from her teacher that came true - the world will disappear and there will only be you on your mat.

Lisa is a teacher of aerial yoga in Mount Maunganui

You could say Lisa’s life has been colourful. Perhaps it’s why we feel she’s so very Zeenya. Embracing her life through it all. She’s learnt a lot about herself as she’s negotiated the stages of her life. She’s stood on her own, been cared for during tough times and now loves to help other people succeed. She likes to care for people and remind them to take care of themselves, because it’s something we all need to be reminded of. Lisa has learnt to stop being invested in what other people think of her - to laugh out loud, ask for the rainbow mohawk hairdo and say yes to the adventure without trying to plan all the minutiae. She’s learnt to spot the signs of impending overload and to balance it with activity and yoga. And to find strength and support in her relationship with her partner and extended family.

Lisa’s overall message for you? Is to accept that life isn’t linear. And that when you accept this you can find the good in all moments, even the toughest ones. That taking time out to look after yourself, finding your zen moments and surrounding yourself with great people is a gift.

Nothing like getting out in nature to find your zen again

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