Community Profile: Vanessa
Did you know that the Awareness Institute is a non-profit staffed entirely by volunteers? The organization is run by ”The Team”: a group of people who have experienced firsthand the value of the Institute’s classes, workshops, and events, and have been deeply touched by the authentic connections this community fosters. Volunteers individually dedicate anywhere from two to 20 hours each week of unpaid time to making these services available — from facilitating classes and workshops to creating this blog to stocking supplies for workshops and events. It’s all a labor of love offered by people who have been supported by this community, and now devote themselves through selfless service to support others on their journey to wake up, question the belief systems that hold them back, and see what’s truly possible for their lives.
A personal note from Vanessa, long-time Awareness Institute team member and founder of Juniper Tree Play School*:
Ten years ago, I planted a seed. I had a vision for a playschool where children could explore, play, and express themselves in a safe environment guided by freedom and love. That seed has grown into the beautiful, expansive community that is Juniper Tree today — and I am so proud of how we’ve grown, together.
In my own family life, my son is about to turn 12, and I also have a 22-year-old stepdaughter. Both of them teach me every day about opening my heart and loving unconditionally. One big theme that has emerged over the last decade as a parent and caregiver of children is the opposite of unconditional love: how we inevitably (and often with the best of intentions) condition our children.
We all receive conditioning — the transferring of unconscious patterns and beliefs from one generation to another. For instance, if we believe the world is “dangerous,” then no matter what we do to create a secure and stable life for our children, we will inadvertently transfer this belief on to them. The only way I know to break this cycle is to actually feel (and through feeling, heal) our own unintegrated pain and trauma.
For instance, I am continually working with an old belief that the world isn’t safe. I grew up in the 1970s California hippie culture where boundaries were fluid and often crossed by unaware and unconscious adults. In an era of deep social unrest, I remember feeling a lot of fear that the world was full of dangers and that I had to be on guard, even as a young child.
In many ways, we’re seeing a similar wave of social unrest on our planet today. No matter what generation you belong to, what fears dominated your landscape as a child? As a parent I’ve had to dig deep and go back into these feelings of being unsafe so that I could actually “feel and heal” and ultimately release the underlying belief that was driving my fearful behaviors and projections. Beyond the desire to create more ease and openness in my own life, I felt an imperative to not pass down my “fear story” to my own children. This kind of internal awareness work requires a willingness to be uncomfortable, to be honest and vulnerable, to let go of defenses long enough to actually feel.
We focus much of our energy as parents on what our children eat, their potty training, sleep routines, power struggles, etc. — and we often overlook the deeper issues beneath the surface of our daily lives until something begins to unravel.
My primary concern for families is their individual and collective well-being. It can be as simple as asking kids “How are you feeling?” and attuning to what they’re telling us non-verbally. Children are resilient and innately capable. But what about the parents? How are you feeling? Are we suppressing our feelings, coping to get by, distracting with the endless ways to avoid and numb ourselves? Many of us came from divorced families ourselves or parents that stayed together but never really connected or modeled vulnerability.
Learning to “re-parent ourselves” is not easy — but it’s a whole lot easier with conscious support. I was fortunate enough to find the Awareness Institute more than 17 years ago, and since then have attended and facilitated countless classes, workshops and community events. In the last decade, so many families have joined me in this process of self-discovery. I have witnessed firsthand the life-changing results of parents facing their own fears and bringing their unconscious conditioning to light — and how their courage directly impacted their children, partners and extended families. I’ve seen children become more relaxed and balanced as their parents began to own the fears they projected onto their children, thus freeing their kids to be themselves. Children who threw daily tantrums or suffered from separation anxiety became happier and more trusting as they experienced parents who were now more present and emotionally available to them.
I invite you to join me in your own process of self-discovery, and find out for yourself if this is the next step for you — and your family — to create a new level of ease and connection.
Join for our Wednesday night drop-in Inspiration class, happening every Wed night 7-9pm at 700 Alhambra Blvd, Sacramento. All are welcome
Learn more about our upcoming “Conscious Living” Retreat and its core themes: maternal connection, intimacy and trust. This workshop is not just for mothers or those who have kids, but for all genders and phases of life — really, all who want to understand and release the patterns that have impacted our closest relationships.
Here’s a testimonial from one of the Juniper Tree Play School parents about how her involvement with the Awareness Institute is “literally changing [her] entire life.”
“When our family found Juniper Tree this year I was looking for help. I felt like I was drowning, I couldn’t figure out was ‘wrong’ with our son or how I was parenting him. The tantrums were consistent, (the bedtimes were NOT), don’t even ask me about potty training….everything seemed HARD!!!! Even though everyone kept telling me it will pass, it’s just ‘3,’ I felt like it was something more.
Juniper Tree immediately felt right, but I was still dealing with the pain at home — anxiety, conflict and just plain sadness. Then Vanessa mentioned the Awareness Institute and the Conscious Living retreat and for some reason I was drawn to it. Something had to change and maybe this would help me get the tools to help my family…
It ended up giving me the tools to help ME!! It was never about my son, or my husband or anything else. I am learning to be present for the first time at 38. I am literally growing up with Bodhi, [my son]. And it has changed the entire dynamic of our family. I’m realizing that I have spent my life reacting to everything, now I’m learning to respond. There has also been this shift with my son, I’m SEEING him and he is amazing! Same with my husband, my mom, my siblings, my job…it’s literally changing my entire life.” – Sarah P.
*Awareness Institute and Juniper Tree are not affiliated