Aboriginal meditation is being used to heal minds in the modern world

Aboriginal meditation is being used to heal minds in the modern world

Aboriginal meditation is being used to heal minds in the modern world

Updated 12 August 2017, 13:00 AEST

Aboriginal elder Miriam Rose Baumann teaches people 'Dadirri' — a traditional form of meditation she believes can improve people's mental health.

From the tiny community of Nauiyu, south of Darwin, Miriam Rose Baumann is preparing to meet her next group of interstate visitors.

"It's not a tour where you have to pack your bags and get ready to jump on a bus that's going to be leaving at 6:00am in the morning, to take you to places and be there at certain times to do things," Ms Baumann said.

"It's just chilling-out time and sometimes the non-Indigenous people who come here find that really, really stressful."

Nauiyu, a town of less than 700 people, was once known primarily for having the best barramundi fishing in Australia, but these tourists are travelling from Geelong in Victoria for another reason.

Ms Baumann thinks Australians could learn from the world's oldest culture to help with mental health.

Learning Dadirri

The group is spending three days with the former school principal and Order of Australia recipient, who is now teaching Australians about her culture and the spirituality that guides it.

Ms Baumann calls the Aboriginal meditative practice 'Dadirri', a word from the Ngan'gikurunggurr and Ngen'giwumirri languages of the Aboriginal people of the Daly River region.

It describes "deep listening and silent awareness."

Her Cultural Connection tours are booked out for the rest of the year.

"It's about, I suppose, the make-up of who Aboriginal people are and it's about belonging as well … and just continuously making yourself aware of where you've come from, why you are here, where are you going now and where you belong," she said.

The senior elder and NT Mother of the Year says Indigenous Australians are "comfortable with silence" and have a deep connection to themselves and nature that other Australians can learn from.

"It's not just an Aboriginal thing, non-Indigenous people have it as well," she said.

"It's just that people haven't been made aware. I'm talking about that special thing that we have that's in the pit of our stomach.

"It's your spirit that I am talking about and if people are given that opportunity to say that there's a special thing about you and an important one, it needs to be awakened."

Talking for hours

Under a huge mahogany tree in the centre of Nauiyu, Ms Baumann sits down for hours to yarn with her guests, an experience she says is crucial.

Away from work and even their mobile phones, it does not take long for visitors to open up about the stress of life back home and question how Dadirri can help them.

"I think (Dadirri) is a sense of being in the moment, of being aware of everything that's in that moment and I just find that really hard to do," high school teacher Kerry Drever said.

"We encourage it and we try to step up practices of being in the moment in schools now, but it's really hard."

Teacher Gab McMahon shared similar concerns and opened up about the pressure of being a working mother with three young children.

"I find it very difficult and I would like to be at one and put my mind at ease, but I have three little kids and I work nearly full time and I feel that I need to do it," she said.

"I need to do it for my own mental health, however I find it very difficult to do."

As the Territory's first fully-qualified Indigenous teacher, Miriam Baumann knows what it takes to live and work in two worlds.

She tells the group it all comes back to knowing who you are.

"I wouldn't want to be in your shoes," she said.

"I know what it's like in the city, so if I go back and live in the city I've got to learn a new way of accepting where I am and also continue to live with who I am.

"You have to look into yourself and find that spirit, there's a spring within you, within me.

"The spring that I talk about is your make-up."

It's not just Dadirri that Miriam Rose Baumann hopes to get through to her visitors — she wants people to leave with a better understanding of life in Aboriginal communities.

"Sometimes there's negative stories that go out about us and there should be more positive stories," Ms Baumann said.

Through the Miriam Rose Foundation, high school students from around Australia also spend time in Nauiyu, and local children are supported to go to high school interstate.

"It's an education in itself because our kids have to grow up in being able to live in two worlds. For us to do the cultural education, I suppose it's also to make them strong to be who they are, be strong in their identity and to also know how the western society lives," she said.

Supporting local children to study interstate is Ms Baumann's biggest motivator and she says education is the key for Nauiyu's youth.

Getting attention globally

Her work with Dadirri is getting attention around the world and with mindfulness all the rage, Ms Baumann says it's helping achieve goals back home.

Her calendar also hasn't been busier, with invitations to talk about Dadirri around the world.
"I'm not as famous as the Dalai Lama," she said.

"I'm a bushie. I think there are people out there that are thirsting for Dadirri and I don't mind.

"If it changes one person's life, to make them feel that there is a way of healing, that's beautiful.

"Whether they are teachers or family groups that want to come and spend time with me and understand what Dadirri is about, or students from schools from various states, that's reconciliation for us here."