From the very beginning, our learning and development is a dynamic process that unfolds naturally as we interact with our world. We learn from our parents or primary caregivers and from others in our environment. We learn what the norms are from what others do and don’t do. We begin as tiny little sponges, soaking it all in, every nuance, every feeling, every thought, every experience that comes through our sensory encounters.
Our bodyminds help us to remember all the rights and wrongs, dos and don’ts, and they support us to interact and adapt in our environments as efficiently as possible. We form habits so that our doing/not-doing becomes more automatic and effortless, so that we can focus our attention and energy where it is most important. Albeit simplified, this is essentially how we come to be who we are. It is a developmental process that is borne out of our unique life situations.
When unexpected and/or intense circumstances happen in our lives that are viewed as threatening, our bodyminds support us to do whatever it takes to help us survive and adapt.
When I was a kid and my parents were in the process of a very messy divorce, my daily life as I knew it changed abruptly. All of a sudden I was confused and felt helpless. I didn’t know how to react or respond, my parents were wrapped up in their own turmoil, my brother – like me – was lost. My bodymind did what it thought/felt was best: I hunkered down and held it together. I clung to whatever sense of control I thought I had. I got good grades in school, I didn’t make waves. I appeared “functional” on the outside. My bodymind attempted to create a sense of normalcy for me in the midst of the chaos and unpredictability that ensued in my family.
Later in life, that earlier bodymind adaptation no longer was optimal. In fact, it was the cause of a lot of subsequent suffering. For years I held so much in. I suppressed and avoided so much of my felt experience, and it caught up with me. It came to a head for me when my brother died unexpectedly 25 years ago. Holding in anything was no longer possible. I was forced to learn another way.
Thus began my process of becoming Transparent, Authentic and Open.
Becoming Transparent, Authentic and Open – or, as Martha Beck says, “TAO” – includes a process of learning and unlearning.
I began to unlearn the maladaptive habit patterns that helped me to survive early on, but no longer worked for me.
I became increasingly familiar with my triggers and automatic reactions.
I learned to invoke calm, through mind and body awareness and movement practices.
I worked to “de-clutter” all the stuck energy in my body.
I learned to not believe automatic, old beliefs that were keeping me stuck and triggering me to feel afraid.
My process of becoming TAO has been ongoing for 30+ years. Although I don’t know if I will ever clear all of my clutter, I’m way more aware than I was. “Clearing my clutter” (a phrase used by Penney Peirce, one of my favorite writers and teachers of intuition development) is an foremost aspiration, and I have the honor and privilege to support others to do the same.
When I am TAO, I feel open, with no barriers and no coverings. I feel expansive, free and clear.
I trust how my life is unfolding, and how I navigate through it via decisions and actions.
I feel the way I want to feel, grounded in feeling states of peace, calm, and even love.
When old beliefs and emotions rise up to the surface, when it’s possible and I see it for what it is, clutter that is clearing. More and more often it’s possible.
Even when I’m in a difficult situation with uncomfortable emotions, being TAO allows me to know the just-right next step in front of me.
How about you? How do you know when you’re TAO? What signs do you get in your mind and body? What clutter are you clearing? What is your just-right, next step?
Clearing internal clutter and making room for what feels TAO along with you,
Mara Wai, M.Ed. is a mind-body coach who supports her clients to shift their consciousness and energy for healing, growth and self-transformation. With mindfulness and a variety of mind-body awareness tools, her clients deepen awareness of inherent mind and body conditioning that exacerbates their pain, prolongs suffering or is no longer resonant with what they want out of life. With gained insight and practice, her clients create new, more desirable mind-body patterns that result in greater ease in body, clarity in mind and an inherent sense of self-trust to discern what’s best for themselves and take “just-right” actions. In addition to her work as a coach, Mara is the Associate Director of the Penn Program for Mindfulness, where she oversees administration and facilitates Mindfulness-based Stress Management programs. To learn more about Mara go to www.marawai.com.