I’m here to be human; I’m here to learn, love and grow

Contrary to popular belief, I maintain the assertion that ignorance is not a passive thing: it is active (see: confirmation bias is such an example of the active reinforcement of certain ideas, including ignorance or absence of information by avoidance).

The great thing about film and books, for me, above all is that it is shared experience. It is the ability to go beyond our own subjective selves and explore other worlds, other modes of being, existence, truth and lives. It is an invite to inter-subjectivity; something that may only be exchanged but never fully realised. Books and film has made me more empathetic. More understanding. More moral. It has challenged my assumptions and unarticulated presuppositions. Growth is hard. Accepting you’re wrong can be like swallowing a rock, but by god will it settle you, anchor you more closely to the earthly life, and to Truth, and to living an ethical life with others (which is important to me).

Personally, accepting I am wrong is a hard comfort: it is a sign that I am growing, I am not in stasis. For one thing I do know (and echoing a bit of Socratic wisdom here), is that I definitely do not have all the answers, nor do I know everything. I know I am definitely not God, and to be in the comfort of not being challenged in my assumptions and going through an extended period without error or finding out I might be wrong? That’s a troubling sign to me. Because that’s one thing I know: it is impossible for me to be right all the time.

I want to bring up a time I had a realisation of sorts. It was when I was reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. An amazing book, the recommendation of which is the objective of this journal entry. That despite I have a 4,000 word essay hanging over me, the need to express my experience reading this book is paramount. I want to share this voice.

Between the World and Me is written from a father to his young son. It is a letter about what it means to inhabit a black body in modern-day America/ the world.

Growing up where the importance of education was culturally emphasised, as well as heaped on by society, an assumption I had was that more and better education was the solution to societal issues. A catch-all solution essentially. If you wanted to better yourself and overcome your circumstances –then education was a way out. I never questioned this assumption I held through into my early twenties until I read this book. And boy, in shock I realised I ashamed of myself –because what Coates was describing –that was me.

The world, the real one, was civilization secured and ruled by savage means. How could the schools valorize men and women whose values society actively scorned? How could they send us out into the streets of Baltimore, knowing all that they were, and then speak of nonviolence?

I cam to see the streets and the schools as arms of the same beast. One enjoyed the official power of the state while the other enjoyed its implicit sanction. But fear and violence were the weaponry of both. Fail in the streets and the crews would catch you slipping and take your body. Fail in the schools and you would be suspended and sent back to those same streets, where they would take your body. And I began to see these two arms in relation –those who failed in the schools justified their destruction in the streets. The society could say, “He should have stayed in school,” and then wash their hands of him.

Between the World and Me, page 33

I realised the corollary of my assumption of education was that I washed my hands of those who failed. Education should never be an issue of survival, but the reality of education as life or death was what school meant for many people, and it is a fact I did not know I had implicitly accepted. That was hard for me to reckon with, and yet I never stop being thankful for how I am blessed to have reckoned with it at all –for that is the essence of growth, and being a better person connected with others, in living on this home we all call Earth. As Audre Lorde said: “the true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations that we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us.”

With love,

Amaya x

Isolation days

I’ve been spending days listening to music and reading, and frankly, there are moments I put down my book, and drift through the music, come back and think: ‘I’m so content’. Can I suspend this moment in crystalline time? Sun streaming through the windows, music in the air, birds a-chittering, book in hand. Perfect. Of course a cup of coffee perfects this peacefulness.

Luckily I’m not struggling through this isolation (Australia can barely complain about being in ‘lock down’ –it is comparatively lax here. We can still get our coffee and donuts, if so inclined).

Here’s my isolation playlist…

  • I know – Fiona Apple
  • We float – PJ Harvey
  • Single – Everything But The Girl
  • Afro Blue – Melanie De Biasio
  • Lazarus Man – Terry Callier
  • Tom the Model – Beth Gibbons, Rustin Man
  • Utopia – Goldfrapp
  • Die 4 You –Perfume Genius
  • Billie Holiday – Warpaint
  • Baltimore – Nina Simone cover by Lianne La Havas (the ‘Round Nina’ tribute album is so good! And what a moody rendering this cover is)
  • She Brings the Rain – CAN
  • Only happy when it rains – Garbage
  • These Days – Nico
  • Turiya & Ramakrishna – Alice Coltrane

Take care my friends and stay safe,

Amaya x

Reading J S Mill

Currently I am reading parts of On Liberty, and this particular phrase struck me which I wish to share:

“That mankind are not infallible; that their truths, for the most part, are only half-truths; that unity of opinion, unless resulting from the fullest and freest comparison of opposite opinions, is not desirable, and diversity not an evil, but a good, until mankind are much more capable than at present of recognising all sides of the truth, are principles applicable to men’s modes of action, not less than to their opinions.”

I am struck again and again by how modern he reads….or…how much of a stasis modernity really hangs in….

Amaya x

“Becoming Amaya and shedding Serena like a lovely cashmere coat and folding it away, for now I live in summertime always.”

During our date, my friend was very intrigued: he pressed Why Amaya? I could tell he was very attached to ‘Serena Woo’, and indeed, of course: it was whom he had built our relationship with, the identity that was known, and the very name that grounded the woman in front of him as he knew her. Moreover, there was the more practical and calculating business consideration I could see ticking through his mind: Serena Woo meant something to certain people –and certainly in Auckland, New Zealand – and Amaya is a stranger in both Australia and New Zealand.

What is in a name? I acknowledge and believe names are important and sacred; yet at the same time construct-like things: a fire given to our own making that we forge our shapes with. And yet also the fire that casts its own shadow and shades our being….A name is truly a fickle thing. It is the person that gives the name its distinction, but the name also comes to shape the person….

But let me not ruminate too deeply here, because frankly there is no great meaning or grand gesture in my name change. It is simply a reflection of my experiencing change itself, through a consideration of who I am now. I want to make Amaya more palpable, human and connected. I needed a change, and I wanted to see where Amaya Shen takes me, how she will turn me, and also whom I can make of her.

This is not reinvention as much as renewal. Not as much as a “fresh start” but re-potting of a plant into a bigger pot….I want to grow. This is about growth in a way. I know this can be hard to understand, but I felt suffocated in a way by Serena….I wanted -needed – something different.

To those whom knew me first as Serena, I know it is an adjustment: feel free to keep calling me by that name, for it is near, dear, and turns my head still. Or call me Amaya –I hope she makes you feel something familiar but also the thrill of the unknown.

I feel I have explained this poorly, but, well –some of my best decisions where those given by intuition, and here I felt it guiding the impetus of change. I have a feeling Miss Shen will be staying for the long-haul….

That being said, this year I plan to be committed to more trans-Tasman visits, and maybe even some other exciting and new places…? I look forward to 2020; familiar faces, new faces, the cultivation of relationships and the nurturing of passion. The commitment to renewal and growth; to make deep roots and strong leaves to shelter. Everything and all at once: remember a name is only a lid that hides an infinity of things.

Yours mysteriously,

Amaya x

of absences and returns

Dear friends and lovers, wouldn’t it be an understatement (to those who know me) that it has been awhile? I had an extended and unexplained absence, but really, it’s just me being absolutely preoccupied with (1) uni, (2) moving to a new city, and (3) re-thinking what I want to do in this industry. I think I have a clearer idea, and feeling of what I want to do now. I’m readying myself for the new year.

I enjoy and find most meaningful my meetings with those whom I am building a long-term intimacy with the most. When I think back to my independent days, I often think about my regulars back in Auckland, whom I continue to adore, genuinely miss and think fondly of. From hereon I hope to dedicate myself to my small, curated list of lovers. I hope to find, establish and nurture the same kind of wonderful encounters and relationships again.

With this in mind, I will be ending my abrupt hiatus, and will be taking booking enquiries once again.

I am looking forward to once again being more active and sharing more of what I’m up to!

Thank you for waiting for me,

AMAYA x (formerly known as Serena Woo…)

15.04.2019 – They are Us

It has been a while, and though I had other writing plans, I did not think I could go forward with them in light of the events just passed. I felt a duty to acknowledge, and a desire to not remain silent.

That day I woke up late. Blissful stretching and slow wakefulness. No classes today.

I had studied late into the morning hours, and the time was 4pm on a Friday.

I do my usual routine: check my messages on the phone, then check the news.

I wonder if I am reading this right: 40 people dead in Christchurch? A shooting in New Zealand, my dearest home?

My mind loops on the fact of forty people (as it was only known at that time). That’s so many people. So many lives. One too many. I imagine forty bodies lined up and I can’t help but cry for them. So many.

The world is filled with diversity so we can learn to be human. According to Jung, God needed to make himself human through Jesus so he could then reflect and understand humanity through being human. In a similar way, I think constrained as we are by our subjectivities, by our limited faculties and physical boundaries –the only thing (and I think Kant recognised this too, the contingency of our being and the need to aid others) that allows us to transcend ourselves is our experience from and with others.

We learn worlds from others. Worlds of love, of kindness, of hospitality, and of being human in our world…and too, worlds of darkness, pain, hate….but that is the corollary to the only thing that can ever lift us up, to become more, to become better; to flourish. There is no other way. You can’t but take the light without the dark (which is the witness of light!), or the only thing left for us becomes stumbling through darkness alone.

I want to say goodbye, rest in power to those who lost their lives so unfairly and viciously through hate and bigotry. Those who had to experience the terror, those who are fighting for their lives in hospital. I give them all my love. I stand by my Muslim family on this earth. You showed me community. You gave me welcome over coffee in the afternoon. We are one in grief. You have my heart. I will never let hate conquer love, nor let the fire of humanity be dimmed. There is never anything proud in hate; only love.

— Serena

This I mean my mind to serve ’til/ Service is but Magic/ Moving through the world/ And mind itself is Magic /Coursing through the flesh /And flesh itself is Magic/ Dancing on a clock/ And time itself the magic length of God.

Listening to some iconic 60s while writing this (‘God is alive Magic is afoot’ which was written by Leonard Cohen, but turned into a song by Buffy Sainte-Marie)….

So, I have some news to share which is now official: I will be moving on from the industry in New Zealand soon.

I have been offered an opportunity to advance my studies, and have decided I must risk the unknown to pursue this. I’m excited to work hard towards this! I’m so grateful to everyone who have made it (and continue to make it) possible for me to support my journey thus far –clients, friends, industry professionals alike; I would have never been able to go after greater opportunities without it.

This December will be the last month I will be available in New Zealand, with some January 2019 possibility, though that admittedly is very unlikely. I really hope to see more of everyone before I leave…..

Serena x


remnants of my thoughts: The Seventh Seal/Det sjunde inseglet

Introducing a film by one of my favourite directors, Ingmar Bergman: The Seventh Seal (Det sjunde inseglet)

Or a meditation on the infinite (faith) whilst being a finite being

Or finding redemption on the way home

The setting: a crusader awakes washed ashore, he meets Death, and makes a gambit: a challenge with Death to a game of chess to anticipate the receivership of his soul…he can no longer face existence in the absence of God, yet he cannot die without one last attempt to saviour his own soul (or more precisely the God within himself): one last struggle against nothingness to not only understand his being, but for the redemption of his being, for all that his life has been in the face of darkness, in the absence of God and its violation by violence around him –can he redeem it (his soul, mercy) one last time, that which had been lost?

Every year or so, I like to re-watch the Seventh Seal. It grips me just as when I first watched it so many years ago. The themes remain the same: of faith and struggle, when met with the indifference of humanity and the silence of God; and so the despair of existence –what I like to summarise as: the state of falling through nothing and wanting to land on something, the drive to redeem what good is left of one’s life in the face of one’s end.

This film may sound dreary and bleak –but this is not true. It ends with the gentleness of an offered meal of milk and strawberries…and where he had sought God, at the end it is the kindness and love by sharing a bowl of fresh milk and wild strawberries that he finds his answer.



Felt the urge to share this as I found myself listening to this old classic again 🎶💕🙌✨

Áspri méra ke ya mas/ ‘there will be better days, even for us’ by Agnes Baltsa

Hope everyone is having a lovely week!

X Serena