Marianne Elliott believes that it is possible to do good and be well – definitely words to live by! These days she pours her considerable energies into supporting change-makers to bring about a kinder, safer world. With a background as a human rights lawyer working in NZ, Timor-Leste, Gaza and Afghanistan Elliott has plenty to bring to her present incarnation as restaurateur, yoga teacher, zen peace-keeper and storyteller.
What’s happening in the world of Marianne Elliott this year? This year I was offered the opportunity to launch a new online movement, ActionStation, for New Zealanders who want to take action, to work together to make our country the kind of place we want to live in – with a fair and equitable society, a healthy and flourishing environment and transparent and accountable government. It’s been a fantastic ride so far, a chance to bring together everything I’ve ever done – from human rights advocacy in Afghanistan to opening a Mexican restaurant in Wellington – and find creative ways to use everything I’ve learned for good.
Describe the most generous person you know. How have they influenced you? My partner Lucas is one of the most generous people I know. He’ll give you whatever he has that you need. He’ll say yes as often as possible – whether you need someone to help chop firewood, help edit your music video, money to get your book of poetry published, a car to go on holiday with your kids, or a job to get you through a rough patch. If he has it, he’ll give it. And he’s not asking “What will I get out of this?” He’s just asking, “What’s needed here that I might have to give?” He inspires me to be more generous, to say yes more often, to worry less about running out (of time, of money, of ideas) and trust that there is plenty of all of that to go around.
Can you name an everyday action that makes the world a better place, yet is underrated? Words of kindness. Every time anyone anywhere makes the time to say something kind to someone else, the overall balance of the world gets tipped towards goodness. It’s so obvious as to be a cliché, but it’s true. A phone call to my grandmother. An email to a friend. A card in the mail to someone just to tell them I think they are doing great. When I think I’m too busy to make time for that, I know I’ve lost my sense of perspective.
Can you tell us three things that inspire you and why?
Book: I'm currently reading 'The Impossible Will Take A Little While' a compilation of essays edited by Paul Rogat Loeb. I recommend it to anyone who ever feels hopeless or despairing about the state of the world or our ability to turn things around.
Documentary: Documentaries inspire me generally; their capacity to take my into another person's world and change my perspective on our own world inspired me. The most inspiring documentary I've seen in a long time is Gardening With Soul, by Jess Feast.
Podcast: Roshi Joan Halifax teaches and practices at the intersection of spiritual practice and social justice. She inspires me. You can find podcasts of her talks on at Upaya Dharma Talks.
Photography by Susannah Conway.