Words and story by Yana Papaya.
Edited by Maryana Kirakovskaya.
Photography by Katherine Brook
What does lead you in this life? Heart? Mind? 50/50? Have you ever questioned yourself? If you haven’t, it’s right time to do so. So here are more questions for your further deep thinking. What is your calling? What does it mean to live life with your heart not with your mind? How many times did you promise yourself to work on yourself? How many times did you give up? Why? The hero of this story – Edward Peni – a part-time barista, who also does acting and composes music – might help you with finding the right answers to those questions. He is as open as a book where each page is getting more and more interesting, full of wisdom and unpredictable discoveries.
He made his first cup of coffee in 1998 and he is still driven by passion for coffee and serving his best while dealing with customers. He puts his beautiful and infinite energy into every cup of coffee. You can tell that he is a giver. And that’s what I felt straight away.
Let me take you to that day when we met. I popped into my local neighbourhood coffee shop – Waterview Coffee Project – one day over the weekend. The way this man makes coffee, moves around the coffee shop, treats the customers can’t leave indifferent. Perfect coffee colour of his skin, gentle manners, beautiful chilled out tunes on the background put a spell on you. Then Edward is asking about your day, warming up the conversation. His calm, gentle voice hypnotises and calms you down. You fall in love with his energy. Losing the sense of the time you try to go back to the routine or exciting things that are planned for the weekend. Having a last sip of coffee, exchanging warm smiles for each other, you are leaving the coffee shop with the sense of pure joy. No worries, no more rush. 100% Stillness. And you feel this life, this moment with your open heart. You are amazingly surprised how this barista man managed to set up the right mood for your weekend and how indeed powerful the positive influence of his energy.
Later I learnt that Edward is a professional actor too. He likes to compose music and plans to go overseas with the musical show. However, apart from his creative potential, which is huge, I was intrigued by the energy control that my barista friend obtained. Those who are interested in energy flows can realise that its powerful positive level that Edward managed to develop in himself is the result of hard work, constant efforts, self-awareness progress and focused internal growth. To get to this point you often need to undergo through a series of life challenges, at times very unfair and cruel situations and sufferings. Losing your best friend. Facing the death of the closest person in your life…How hard will it be to find the strength after and establish the new way of thinking and setting up the new way of living – through your heart despite all the anger, anxiety you have within? Almost impossible, right?
Talking to Edward actually reminded of the feeling I had when I was reading Antoine de Saint-Exupery and his “Little Prince”. It is when you realise that the only way to Live to the fullest is to follow your heart and be aware of what it wants: “But eyes are blind. You have to look with the heart.”
Here comes a story about Edward Peni – Mr. Zen – the most spiritual talented open person who has reached the certain enlightenment, but never stops growing, who does make a difference to everyone he meets on his life journey no matter if he serves you coffee, acts in play in theatre, reads a poem out loud, composes some melody or keeps silence in your company.
I respect the trade. The barista trade had been brought up from Italy and they get great respect for them over there. One day I will go and check it all out. I really enjoy people, really enjoy looking after people, this is something that naturally comes from me and I think that’s a part that I inherited from my family. But it’s also in my nature – to look after people and make sure that things are flowing. I really believe in being able to fix someone’s energy by being a presence. That’s how I see it – I am not just making coffee in Waterview, I am providing the service.
In performing arts or creative world and you get used to mixing with a certain group of people who have a school of thought of how to see and perceive the world – and it’s fantastic, colourful, saucy, naughty and it’s great. Working at a place like the Waterview Coffee Project in the suburbs, you’re meeting real people from diverse background – from professionals to those who live down the road, artists, business-owners and it’s really interesting just to hear in our small interactions day by day how they see the world. You can’t say that this soul is greater than that soul because it has gone through so much more. Everyone is in different places, we all learn different things and everyone you meet provides a piece of the puzzle.
Eventually, I feel like I would end up to be a teacher and I have a lot of work to do in this lifetime with children, sensitive children – more empathetic. Children are a great audience and it’s amazing how pure children’s energy is. There is no deception or false pretenses. Children whether love you or not, they find you interesting or not. They are good teachers for actors. Kids see you lying and they challenge you.
Your mind and your energy can affect other people’s energy. If I am stressed, I will spread this energy around. And if I am in control, I flow and trust it and then again it affects everybody else.
Breathing is the best thing to release stress. It’s all about breathing. I remember making coffee 14 years ago and I was main barista at the machine and it was very busy, I was very shy and the coffee machine was my shield from the world. I have learnt not to stress about it – you can do it as best as you can. I found, when stressed that I would cut off my breathing, I would hold my breath in my upper chest and it creating anxiety in my body and breathing really helps to release that.
My life motto – It is what it is. Just be and keep on breathing. Inhale and Exhale. It will help you out considerably.
The body is a temple that houses your Spirit, therefore it deserves and requires respect and also it has lots of wisdom in it. I am going through a process of honouring the truth that my body is resonating to. I am very well aware that there is living with your heart versus living with your mind and I am especially into living with your heart as center. This is an ongoing process for me as well as for others.
You can be on a Spiritual path, but be easily distracted. We live in such a mental focussed society, there are lots of stimulations that attract our ego… which is not all bad. Our heart acknowledges the fact that we are full of wisdom and this ancient knowledge is already in us quietly guiding us.
The heart is a very strong engine in your whole being, body, while the mind can be manipulative. That’s why such practices as yoga, meditation are good because it lowers the brain frequencies of your mind so it can relax more, that’s when the wisdom from the heart can come through. It’s tricky, but not impossible.
People throw away lots of their words as they’re coming from the mental space and I am not saying that mental is wrong. But when we talk about such feelings as intimacy and love, we should be aware that it comes from the heart. It’s not the idea that we have in our mind, it’s an actual being and presence and your body recognizes it. Steven Spielberg gave the advice to film students saying: “Pay attention to your intuition, it doesn’t scream, shout, it whispers, so please be attentive.”
My best friend, first love died 3 years ago. When that happened I had so much heavy emotions: anger, anxiety, frustration, jealousy that I didn’t realise that I was still holding too. It was a terrible and sad time. But it was a good chance for me to actually question and reflect on our relationships. It was first major relationships for me and he was like a tsunami, bowled me over. He was my mentor for a great part of my life as I wanted to be loved by him and I was… And I wanted to love and I did… We were real soul mates at that time, sharing the same energy in different forms helping each other with some big lessons about self-worth, love and sexuality.
There was so much pain, hurt in the relations with my first love. But actually my emotions are my responsibility, I was responsible for how I felt. I didn’t know how to respond in a healthy way as I was very young, naive and wanted to be loved. I was c oming from a very insecure mental place – I had an idea, a false image that this is what I thought love was. And if I didn’t receive the way I pictured it, it wasn’t love. When in reality as our relationship moved on, in his own way he showed me how much he loved me. You don’t get to appreciate it when you are actually going through those kinds of relationships. If you haven’t been taught how to receive love in a healthy way you will find it difficult to do so. But it’s all been part of my learning.
Death is an illusion, you can never be disconnected with a loved one. My friend has gone, he has left his little God experience and turned back to big God experience and life carries on. I was holding on to my best friend for a long time as I had a deep connection with him. After my friend’s funeral, after I let him go I thought, what’s next for me? Now I am free to move! I thought I’ll go to film school in Australia. And that turned out to be a completely different experience for me than I was hoping this to be: “Yes, I am going to start over in a new country, doing the films as I want to.” I thought Australia would be the new beginning. I was very impatient and that’s what I had to learn about myself.
Filming in Australia over those 3 months was such a challenging period, getting used to Australia, working with young people, who thought people over 28 being old, was such a tough experience. But I look back and realise that I learnt a lot. It’s always happens that with the tough experience you begin to discover a real you, because if you are aware of this experience and open to it, it will unlock something new in you, and it will happen just in time.
Australia was fantastic and my awareness expanded even more over there. I realised that the film school and the style they used was not right for me. I left one-year course after 3 months. I felt embarrassed to go back home, so I asked myself: ‘What am I going to do now?” My spirituality took me to the yoga retreat in the Byron Bay and then to Western Australia. I introduced myself to raw food, diets and other spiritual healthy stuff and kept on exploring.
Who is your main mentor? – it should be yourself, which is not an easy thing to do. But you might have a mentor or guru for a while to teach you something, but after a while you should be able to rely on yourself, like a child who is growing up and becoming an adult who is functioning on his own.
I had a couple of mentors who helped me in different areas: acting, music and spirituality. There was a time when I didn’t feel I could share things with my friends so I was going to a psychotherapist and it was a good thing. It was unusual that a Samoan man would do something like that, because it’s not related to our culture and what we do: we are either going to church or talk to family. But I knew that neither of these two would give me the help I was needing.
I was seeing a chiropractor too who told me that “all my emotional traumas, hard times I’d been through were a training for me, as my soul’s karma was purposed to go through those experience, so that I could have an understanding of what it’s like to be in the situation of frustration, with low self-esteem and thinking that love should come from outside instead of from within, and being able to pass on this information and help people out with their own journeys.” It was really cool to hear because it took me out of my mental box, at a time when I was thinking that nothing was happening in my life. By getting out of that box, it made me realise that so much was happening that I was not aware of and that it was all a part of Life.
My main mentor is ME. And this is a bold statement and it’s an acknowledgement too. I believe in myself and I can do it. I used to go to somebody else for their advice in the past and follow the advice to the letter and not have the trust in my own logic, self-esteem to go: “Does it work for me? What are the consequences?” While now I am in much better place – whenI talk to someone else and ask for advice, I listen to it and assess if it works for me knowing I don’t need to take it on. So it’s really good to get to this place when I recognise: “Oh my Gosh, you are just as human as I am, and you’re learning things as much as I am, and sometimes I can trust my own instincts more than I trust yours, because a person looking in, sees things in the certain way and you see it from your truth and you get sort of a fuller picture to go on.”
I am always in the conversation with God. I was raised Catholic, very strict upbringing, was the eldest child and I am gay. So for me when I was growing up it affected how I viewed God and I would say it made me fear of God – lots of people have this idea of God as the judge, a rescuer. It was really had to work through and I found it challenging at a time when I was angry at God and there was a time when I thought I was an atheist. But later I have realised that we are all little Gods connected to the big God. God is constantly learning through Us and we are experiencing the world through our senses, our bodies, our circumstances that we are coming through.
If I had chance to meet God I would say: “Thank You!”
Prejudice does get to me. I had to learn that Edward has Prejudice and develop an understanding what it is, what it’s like to be a human. It’s an illusion in the mind that somebody either because of skin colour, creed, status, job …whatever, it’s better or worse than you. That’s a challenge too. I am very sensitive person but the flip-side of it is to be very critical. I try not to judge people
I find people interesting and I like to connect with people as much as I like to be in my own space. It makes me realise that we are all interdependent and we need to be together to keep the energy running between us, to keep this planet moving.
Explore your energy. If you call to something in some way, it sparks something in you, trust the feeling and go with it. As for me I always loved movies and I always felt that I would be in performing arts. And I loved storytelling and it got me very inspired.
Do a nature walk, make it a part of your routine. Nature itself is such a great provider and teacher of how to respect your body and its elements, we are all affected by it and we need it. It’s crucial for our survival.
There is so much that I don’t know about myself, it’s still coming up. And I’m very much into the word truth, it is such an important word for me, but words are just words and it’s really you who defines them. I am not a big Birthday-person and in the past I played down my birthdays. But now I am really excited and looking forward to my 35th year on this planet and to continue my journey.