Natalie McDonagh PhD
EZen Circle

Dear You,

Thank you for meeting me here in the Artfulmind site/shop. This is an annexe of the physical studio I am privileged to have, and for which I am deeply, deeply grateful every day.

If you asked me to identify my practice I would stitch you a patchy cloth of labels - some conventional, some confections - artist, designer, thinker, maker, attendant, one given to poetry and performance, keeper of quiet spaces, place-holder, gleaner, sewer, writer, reader, caretaker of the still point, witness, companion, guide, non-anxious presence, curator, conservator … and a smattering of frayed, faded labels no longer legible …

I would ask you to let me wrap you in this cloth. I’d invite you to sit, to breathe, to just be. Before long, you may sense the cloth whispering timeless wisdom I have garnered and found to be true, reminding you of what the body knows (but may have forgotten).

Deep within your being there is a still point - a glorious, spacious quiet beyond your conditioning, stories, preferences, habitual ways of seeing and thinking.

The still point is available to you at any moment you direct awareness to it.

Here, the heart is noble, compassionate and courageous. The mind’s intelligences are attuned to the interconnected whole. They are free to dance to a different rhythm, to be agile, adaptive, at ease with the unknown and prepared to traverse uncharted territory.

Here, we can consolidate our nerve for what is now, and what is yet to come.


Sitting with you in silence, holding you in my undivided attention, by and by I would ask you:

Right here, right now, what is most present in your mind and body?

Right here, right now, what is your greatest need?


Among the things I make, the thoughts I gather, you may find something to soothe a ruffled mind, to quench a thirsty heart; something that sings to the still point deep within your being.

If you feel moved to chat, to share a cuppa, you are welcome to contact me.

Natalie McDonagh

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

T.S. Eliot (1935).
Burnt Norton / Four Quartets. Harcourt, Brace and Company. New York.


“My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.”
Thich Nhat Hanh (2001).
Understanding Our Mind: 51 Verses on Buddhist Psychology

I find Our Mother (the sculpture in the photo) completely captivating. Everything I see in her kit has significance for me. Her maker, British artist Grayson Perry, says she may be a pilgrim or a refugee or something from Star Wars. I can relate to that.

During Australia’s stupendous summer of fire (2019-2020) I see 80% of the beautiful region I call home incinerated. My partner and I evacuate twice. Before fleeing the second time, I give tearful thanks to my studio, precious garden and the magnificent bush just beyond. I opt to leave my work paraphernalia where it is. Facing the real prospect of it all being consumed by fire, I bid this place farewell,
breathe … and let go.

In the days that follow, taking refuge, I bear witness to the unfathomable chaos. I sit in this reality with the agonising emotions that arise.

When we return to Jervis Bay, the house, studio, garden and bush appear unscathed but the birds not seen here before and the kangaroos drinking from the bird baths signify a new breed of disruption.

The disruption I feel within my being is a sense that my whole nervous system has been reset and radically attuned to the reality of The Great Unravelling. I find myself marvelling at the mystery and terror of how our species has brought itself to this.

As the incomprehensible death toll of wildlife and obliteration of eco-systems mounts, as my grief grows, I do what is mine to do. Over many weeks I make a meditative artwork called How to live with a broken heart.

PS It turns out that Grayson Perry and I were born in the same year in the UK and were studying art at the same time in London in the early 1980s.

Care-filled reclamation of lost parts

Many years ago I suddenly felt compelled to start seeking and gathering dolls’ body parts. They had to be of a certain age. The stranger and more spooky, the better. The more twisted and damaged, the more I was drawn to claim them and house them in my studio.

These powerful objects tell salutary tales of parts of ourselves we have lost, by accident or design; aspects of our being we have neglected or forgotten, we are not able to meet and nurture.

The disappearance of some parts has been so gradual that few of us seem to have noticed - the ways of the brain’s right hemisphere that enable us to experience ourselves as inextricable parts of the whole; situate ourselves in the connective tissue of (all) life on earth. What trees breathe out, we breathe in. What we breathe out, trees breathe in.

As psychiatrist, neuroscience researcher, philosopher and literary scholar Dr Ian McGilchrist drily observes, ‘We act like people with right hemisphere brain damage.’

In 2022 I bring out the dolls parts, tend to them with care, listen to what they have to say. In response, I make a series of sculptures called, How to care for unmet things: A sea of spooky doll sculptures, here in supplication.

I exhibit them in a live DINGLE & McDONAGH arts event in Huskisson NSW, What the body knows (but may have forgotten). The sculptures form part of The Sanctum I create for live audiences with Yak Woman Oracle. I am somewhat surprised at people’s responses: their recognition of these strange things; the powerful memories they evoke that people willingly share; the flurry of purchases.

I want to be famous in a way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

Naomi Shihab Nye (1995).
Words Under the Words: Selected Poems. Far Corner Books, Oregon.


Artfulmind laboratory

“If you come into her studio what will you find? What is this place? A small factory, laboratory, archaeology site, museum, library, storeroom, shrine, ruin, memorial, installation. Nothing seems out of place here because it has no fixed place; always in flux, ebb and flow. An artist’s studio is never still; everything leaks.”
Peter Emmett (1998). Janet Laurence.

Object: Natalie McDonagh (2003). The Phenomenology of Attachment (detail).

Attention is a moral act

Of all capacities of the human brain-body-mind system how we pay attention - to whom, to what, and in what particular way - is arguably the most potent influence we exert on self, others and the world.

“If you are my friend the way in which I attend to you will be different from the way in which I would attend to you if you were my employer, my patient, the suspect in a crime I am investigating, my lover, my aunt … In all these circumstances … you will have quite a different experience not just of me but of yourself: you would feel changed if I changed my type of attention. And yet nothing objectively has changed.

“So it is, not just with the human world, but with everything with which we come into contact. A mountain that is a landmark to a navigator, a source of wealth to the prospector, a many-textured form to a painter, or to another the dwelling place of the gods, is changed by the attention given to it.”
Iain McGilchrist (2009).
The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World.

Sculpture: Benjamin Armstrong (2004). Old Friends. Blown-glass, pigment, plaster, wax.


“Perhaps the only way to fully restore the ancient welcome of the earth, so long ignored and trampled, is to personally welcome the earth’s demanding difficulty right now as our own, and as vital news from home about intimacy with the other.”


“... rising to the occasion of the long emergency may not seem so impossible once we stop supposing anything and meet it, together with our selves, straight on.”


“... can there be failure if the undertaking is to let this crisis be the making of us? Maybe the only failure is not turning up to claim life while it is still on offer.”
Susan Murphy (2014).
Minding the Earth, Mending the World: Zen and the Art of Planetary Crisis

“Be humble for you are made of earth.
Be noble for you are made of stars.”
Serbian proverb

Undivided self meditation tool is designed to widen our understanding of ourselves as inextricable parts of the whole; situating self in a continuum of body, mind, thought, emotion and material world. It can be used to form a new spiritual-artistic practice or expand existing meditation of any tradition.

Find Undivided self in the Artfulmind shop.

Early incarnations of Undivided self emerged many years ago while I was working for an extended period (during my doctoral research) with environmental scientists and educators. It was both a gift and a curse to see through their eyes; to witness their lived experience of willingly and bravely facing the facts of radical climate change, the uncertain future of the natural environment and humanity’s prospect inextricably interwoven within it.

There was a question ever present in my mind. Sometimes I asked it of people when I felt there was space for it to be received: How do you meet and hold the emotions that arise in the face of this monumental knowledge?

I have been asking myself this question ever since. One answer I know to be true is that cultivating more holistic mind attuned to the inter-connected whole, not solely separate parts, supports us in usefully meeting uncertain, precarious and frightening conditions; supports us to reside in them with some equanimity, and stay engaged. Undivided self serves this purpose.

“...clearly humanity is complex, conflicted and full of faults, but at this moment in time, when our very existence hangs in the balance, we need to come together not just in good faith and consolation, but also in a spirit of creativity and invention. Our existence depends upon offering the best of ourselves.”
Nick Cave (2020). The Red Hand Files / Issue #122

Image: Artfulmind® Undivided self kit / Meditation cards (detail).


Here to help

I am here to help you. I offer a free 1:1 session with every
Artfulmind thing purchased to help you make the most of it.

Sessions are 30-40 minutes, conducted in an easy to access,
private online room. Time zone: Australian Eastern Standard Time.

You are welcome to a session even if you are not buying a thing
but what you find in the Artfulmind site and shop impels you to
consult me.

If you would like to take advantage of this offer, add this free item
to your basket
and complete the transaction. I will contact you to
arrange a time for us to meet.

Open mind, Open heart

Cultivating sound self leadership is vital for any of us concerned with conducting ourselves, our relationships, our life and work with more grace, dignity,
courage and compassion.

Open mind, Open heart is designed for general personal and professional development, as well as to formulate a path of sound self leadership in specific situations. This may be leading a challenging conversation; contemplating career or life changes; investigating your work in the world … any circumstances in which you want to make a considered move, confident of your ground.

Find Open mind, Open heart cards and kit in the Artfulmind shop.

Being (an) Attendant

My doctoral research has a very long, fancy title, as is the convention to make it sound impressive, I suppose. My six year old self, however, would easily recognise my practice-led research as a more sophisticated version of what absorbed me for hours on end as a child: creating special objects and making spaces for meaningful exchanges with my imaginary friend, Dolney.

Over the course of nine years of inquiry I make objects and devices as tools to aid different aspects of the mind - creative thinking, self-inquiry, spiritual practice. The spaces I make and facilitate for (actual) people - environmental scientists and teachers - provide conditions in which far more than intellectual ways of knowing are awakened, and the mind can meet itself and unfurl.

I am present in these emergent spaces of self-inquiry being (an) Attendant - a hybrid form of artist / agent - who activates and holds the space for others as they explore their inner world; bearing witness to what may emerge, what may become known; able to amplify the effects.

My methodology comes to be formed from knowledge, practices, skills and experience emanating from visual and performing arts, design, neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, Buddhist thought and meditation. Its potent blend provides a highly effective means for participants to access a rich repository of wisdom that tends to be overlooked - what the body knows (but may have forgotten).

My study shows this form of facilitated embodied, arts-based experiential knowing enables us to both awaken dormant aspects of our repertoire of ways of being and doing, and to learn new ones that can serve us well in meeting the challenges we face.

Staging these experiential spaces - now as live, physical public events - is still part of my practice. Subscribe if you’d like to find out when and where this is happening. Contact me If you’re curious about commissioning one. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

PS My left arm is under the table in a plaster cast. I broke it in the school playground. I was Catwoman. Batman and Robin were chasing me. I was getting away nicely but tripped and fell on my arm.