by Teresa McLellan, May 15, 2016
Last month I had the pleasure of travelling to Hawaii for the International Family Therapy Association World Congress and while there were many beautiful and exciting things from that trip that I could write about, I wanted to share with you the opportunity it gave me to slow down, be absolutely present in my body and enjoy each precious moment of life.
The day before this trip, I submitted the final draft of my Master’s thesis. As a student and single parent working multiple jobs, I have had this nagging pressure looming over me to keep busy for as long as I can remember along with an excess of unrealistic expectations that I could never quite meet. For a long time, I struggled with the heaviness of striving, doing, the go go go, unable to relax for very long. So it took me a few days to slow the rushing sensation of wanting to do and see everything all at once. Even in Hawaii, I had pressure and expectation – it followed me. In my first few days there, I walked, I observed, I sat, I swam, I smelled, I listened, I smiled, I cried, and I deeply missed my children. I witnessed just amazing and unique beauty. Awe wonder and joy filled me so much every single day that I could hardly contain it. There was a moment where I could hear Kathlyne’s voice saying “just be with it”. So instead of trying to capture it with my camera, share it with my children or work so hard to soak it all in, I just allowed myself to be present to it all. In that moment, I felt an overwhelming sense of connection, aliveness, and gratitude that I’ve had glimpses of before and have heard described before but experiencing it with all my senses was very powerful and empowering.
The thing that I have learned about experiential learning is that it is in and of itself transformative. This incredible experience in Hawaii has stayed with me every day since I have been home as I drive to work and witness the beauty and majesty of Mt Baker, or sit in my backyard and see the brilliant colors of my hanging baskets that my children gave me for Mother’s Day, listening to my windchimes tinkle, the hummingbirds approaching their feeder and the birds chirping. I have always experienced this same peace, presence, joy and connection walking in nature and at every Satir training I attend. However there is something magical about being away from the hectic pace of my life to really appreciate and value what is important to me, what I yearn for and what has always been within me, ready to embrace and enjoy every single day. Deepak Chopra described this state as Aham Brahmasmi (I AM). Virgina Satir called it congruence, a deep connection with self, with other and with life. It is the recognition that I am me and I am okay.
The personal transformation that has been happening for me since I have been training with Satir Transformational Systemic Therapy has helped me become more aware of and take responsibility for my whole being: my behaviors, my coping, my feelings, my feelings about those feelings, my perceptions, judgments, beliefs, my expectations, my yearnings and my deepest source of wisdom and creativity- life energy. Through this, I have become more accepting, more compassionate, more peaceful, more genuine, more connected and more confident. Then I get to share this experience with my clients, not in self-disclosure but in experience. When I am deeply connected from this place and meet with clients, they experience the acceptance, compassion, calm, grounded energy that over time allows them to feel safe enough to access their own wisdom and healing life energy.
However when I’m stressed, I still tend to rely on my mind to figure it all out so that I can plan and predict and control life around me. I now see how I have need that coping to protect myself and keep my world safe and predictable but at times it has also kept me stuck in the past, insecure and afraid. While I have not yet figured out how to attain that level of peace, joy and presence perfectly throughout all the hours in my day, I am much more aware of when I am connected and when I am not. Then I get to choose to reconnect with the deepest part of myself at any point in my day and regain the pleasure of my own experience. This gives me more energy, more passion, more focus and more clarity to keep living life. Doing all the things on my to do list in my busy schedule is easier, more enjoyable and satisfying when I am balancing BEING with doing.