Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

Radically Authentic

Last month I attended one of Anat Baniel’s Kids Beyond Limits workshops. I loved meeting and interacting personally with one of my favorite teachers, refreshing my mind with her knowledge, and considering the possibility of signing up for her professional training – for a very little while. As I considered the kind of help I would need in order to do it (i.e. about 40 full days of child care so I could travel for six modules of instruction over the next year), I quickly told myself I couldn’t have it, and I found myself in a place I had not visited in a long time: Choosing unhappiness, density, victimhood, and moving like a zombie stuck on left brain self-defeating chatter.

Then it was time for a nourishing week at the Option Institute attending with fifteen other participants Radical Authenticity, a program devoted entirely to becoming deeply comfortable and at ease with honest and unfiltered communication. Why?… Because every time we hold back on expressing our truth we can be sure that there is a fear or judgment inside us, and this lack of congruence between our true thoughts and what we express outwardly stops us from developing deeper connections in meaningful (or temporary) relationships. It also stops us from asking for what we want. It gets on the way of us being true to ourselves and enjoying and creating the life we truly want. Authenticity and self-acceptance go together.

radical authenticity classroom

Usually I experience these programs with great intensity looking to explore and discover issues and creating at least one meaningful change in my life to take with me. But this time I went subtle, partly as an experiment in ABM subtlety, and partly as conscious avoidance of one very large issue I didn’t feel like going for during the week. But in the end, I did explore it finding new aspects of it that will move me forward. And during the week I noticed other interesting patterns of beliefs emerging. I noticed also that the work I’ve done for four years seems to have dissolved several layers of self-defeating habits and beliefs, and what’s showing up now seems to be the oldest, deepest rooted, most un-moveable stuff I’ve carried for a long time. “My last frontier!”, I thought with excitement.

On my way home after the week I immediately felt different. I found myself fearlessly voicing my thoughts and being 100% me, expressing and allowing myself to entertain more wants than I’ve allowed myself forever, and interacting with strangers without walls. To keep practicing authenticity on my flight back home, I asked a question to the passenger next to me, and this became a full-flight conversation in which I allowed myself to feel curious about his spiritual views (views I have fought in the past) without resistance or the NEED to share my perspective in competition or defensiveness. We shared several personal experiences from our past and I learned a lot from the conversation. This experience reinforced an observation I did during the week: There is a fascinating universe in every person around me. When I turn off my “people filter”, I experience more curiosity about just anybody, and if I show up authentically and open, I end up tasting a bit of their passion and fire without losing myself. Very cool!

Back at home, I felt expansive: Fearless, free, open, loving, authentic (more than before) and grateful. Joaquin welcomed me lovingly for the first time ever, and I decided to strengthen my new neural pathways with several actions, one of which was exploring further whether the ABM training I wanted to pursue was truly impossible or not. It felt so good to give myself the experience of openness while I considered the universe of people that could help me and contacted each one with a specific question and zero attachment to the outcome. It turned out that while possible (the help is out there), the way it would happen doesn’t seem optimal in my view for Joaquin. I decided that my want for the program is not strong enough to push through it the way I’d have to given the possibilities that are currently appearing. I saw the whole thing as possible but not fully aligned with the rest of me; not really flowing at this moment. This feels so much better than believing I can’t have it. Yes I can, and I’m choosing not to go for it right now. So much more empowered!

I’ve grown quick to love what is. And now that I could explore my want, WHAT IS looks much clearer: Me, at home, with a very smart kid who’s now fully in the world, open, flexible, ready and available to be educated, and one who also learns differently than the average kid and is not going to thrive in a traditional school right now. So, as I’m allowing myself to detach from the known past four years working exclusively towards Joaquin’s social development, I’m starting to feel blooming enthusiasm for an emerging life as a homeschooler/unschooler.

Trust. And presence. The journey goes on…

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