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Bunny Michael
Bunny Michaelphotography Annie Frame

Meme-making artist Bunny Michael’s book is a liberating self-love journey

Love Notes from your Higher Self is an illustrated self-help book filled with colourful affirmations and wisdom-filled mantras

Bunny Michael is the feted NYC-based artist, rapper and author behind Me and My Higher Self, the wildly popular self(ie) help meme series-turned 2017 book of the same name. While their first print success gathered Michael’s viral Insta art, their latest work – Love Notes from your Higher Self – released in November, offers up hand-drawn and illustrated wisdom, in the form of affirmations, mantras and tattoo-worthy power phrases. We caught up with Michael to talk healing, spirituality, self-help publishing and the prickly process of self-help and liberation in the digital age.

Love Notes from your Higher Self (LNFYHS) has an organic look. What medium(s) did you work in?

Bunny Michael: It was all drawn and written freehand. I scanned the images and then coloured them in digitally – I went with what felt warm and welcoming – so I have this amazing hard copy of the original drawings. I made the book because I wanted to make something I could hold in my hands; I was so tired of looking at screens for all my work.   

What was fuelling you creatively during the making of LNFYHS?

Bunny Michael: A good friend of mine gave me this old book from 1970 called Living On The Earth by Alicia Bay Laurel. It’s a hand-written and illustrated guide to living a hippie lifestyle –growing your own vegetables, making your own clothes, etc. I also referred to (70’s countercultural bible) Be Here Now by Ram Das as inspiration.

Me and My Higher Self and LNFYHS aren’t your first forays in publishing. You’ve made zines too, right?

Bunny Michael: Wow! I'm sort of surprised you know about my zines. My favourite zine was called Nature Slut. It’s based on one of the first poems I wrote. (Nature Slut) was actually an alter ego of mine; it was about healing sexual shame and showing how desires and fantasies are natural, human and beautiful. I also made a zine for my last EP, Afterlyfe. The zines differ from these books because I really see myself in service to people when I make them, whereas the zines are more about my own artistic freedom.

As a long time fan of your work, I feel like it’s possible to see the topic of higher self running through everything that you’ve created, from your online art and print books to your music. Where did the impulse to share that dialogue with your higher self come from?

Bunny Michael: I think I've always been on a spiritual journey. Experiencing trauma as a young person, you're sort of pushed to look at yourself and your value. I’ve always had a sense of witnessing myself in the context of culture, and artistically would play around the boxes that society put me in. If I didn't make the Higher Self memes I don't know how well I would be doing right now, because they are so healing to me. I have to let my pain out, I have to bring it out of the shadows. 

Your work is a source of healing for many. Who and what are your go-to self-care books/authors/cultural producers?

Bunny Michael: (Feminist astrologist) Chani Nichols. Also the work of gender non-conforming performance artist Alok. I saw them perform last month and it was one of the most healing experiences I’ve had. Erika Hart, LIZZO, Emilia Ortiz, Kehlani... there’s honestly so many people out there uplifting our world through their compassionate activism.  I also am a student of A Course In Miracles – that’s my daily spiritual practice.

“We are all realising that what our culture has labelled as ‘success’ doesn’t hold up” – Bunny Michael

You frame LNFYHS in an accessible, universal language – non-denominational, non-gender specific – but its still possible to discern certain values at work in your writing. “I am more than my productivity”, for example, is an anti-capitalist mantra. How would you describe your core values?

Bunny Michael: My core belief is that we are here for one purpose only, and that is to bring love to the world. To allow yourself to be in the service of love is the most liberating and freeing existence in the human experience. Before I do anything I try to ask myself ‘will this serve Love?’ and then I go from there.

A lot has been written about the ‘rebel women’s herstory’ publishing boom of the last few years, but I think there’s also a conversation to be had about the growing market for self-help-by-example books by online feminists – particularly WoC – we’re witnessing. Do you feel part of a movement? 

Bunny Michael: I think we are all a community of people doing our best to give back and to be in service to one another. We all do it in our own way.  I do feel tremendously inspired when I look around and see how much love and talent there is in this beautiful world.

Is it important to parlay the work you do online into something tangible, offline? 

Bunny Michael: I don’t think there is any quick fix therapy; it’s not enough to just follow self-help accounts. We also need to read books and meditate and take ourselves out on a date and make a painting and call our moms, etc. What I would really like to see is more meet ups and sacred gatherings. I’ve wanted to start a non-religious church for a while. I want a place we can come together every week and just be there for one another and talk about spirituality and healing and love and care for each other and our community.  

The universal message among today’s healers seems to be: ‘you are enough already’ (or, as LNFYHS puts it: “‘true success is the realization that we are enough and always have been.”) Why do we need to hear this right now, in 2019?

Bunny Michael: Because we are all realising that what our culture has labelled as ‘success’ doesn’t hold up. If making lots of money and gaining material possessions is success, then why are so many (rich people) still so unhappy? Trump is a perfect example of this. He symbolizes how we put greed and the desire for power above everything we should be standing for.  Right now, we are redefining what success is: it is our ability to love ourselves and one another. That is the only thing that will bring true happiness. The irony is that if we prioritized love then there would be enough money for everyone to live an abundant life. The greed of a tiny minority of people on this planet own most of our resources and waste them while people starve and suffer needlessly. 

Self-care in the digital age is a tricky, contradictory thing. Social media can both help and hinder our healing. How do you personally deal with the tension between those two, opposing tides?

Bunny Michael: We have to take more breaks from media. Our brains are on overload, because (social media) it’s highly addictive. It’s important to curate your social media experience to following things that make you feel good, not bad. I recommend cleansing your feed once a month. But just like you wouldn't watch TV all day you shouldn't be on the apps all day. Pay attention to your average hours on there (I know my iPhone will keep a count) and replace one hour with another activity like journaling, or walking, or going over to a friend’s house. A lot of people browse social media because they think it helps them unwind but the opposite is true, it actually winds you up because your brain is trying to process so much information. 

“We are so rarely told that we are enough just for existing. We are constantly afraid that we are unworthy and so we act out of our fear. We hurt other people because we are afraid. The cycle continues every generation” – Bunny Michael

Tech monopolies means that the queer, feminist, life-affirming work of online artists like yourself are still, ultimately, at the mercy of cis, male capitalist gatekeepers. How will you and others negotiate this tension in the future? 

Bunny Michael: Even though I use Instagram for most of my work, I have always been planting seeds for a time when I won’t need to rely on it as much. To build a sustainable career beyond Instagram is my goal. That’s why I write the books and make the webseries and make music. I'm always making plans. I think that’s really important for influencers to do. Nothing is permanent. 

LNFYHS is packed with quote-worthy mantras, but I think my favourite might be “self love is not only a radical act, it’s a collective awakening that will heal our world”. Why is it important to frame personal growth in a collective way? 

Bunny Michael: I firmly believe that the suffering of this world is rooted in this idea we have to accomplish something in order to be worthy of love. From childhood, we’re graded on our intelligence, we are told to follow the rules, get jobs, make money, start families. We are so rarely told that we are enough just for existing. We are constantly afraid that we are unworthy and so we act out of our fear. We hurt other people because we are afraid. The cycle continues every generation. And now it is 2019 and our planet is on the brink. Not only is awakening to love and compassion for each other and ourselves the answer to healing our deep unhappiness, it’s also the vital evolutionary step in order for humanity as a species to survive. We all know this truth in our hearts. Some people are still so afraid to face it.  

What are you working now? What do you have planned for 2019? 

Bunny Michael: So many things! I'm writing a new book, making new episodes of my webseries Me and My Higher Self with my co creator, Zoie Omega, and I’m starting a queer relationship advice podcast called Queeriously? I am hosting and producing it with my spouse, Khara Gilvey. 

Love Notes from your Higher Self is available to buy now