I am often asked how I came to do what I do by people who want to do something similar. Here I share my journey of translating 30 years of life experience into going into business as a Somatic and Intuitive Educator. I will focus particularly on how I came to produce public workshops about social justice and healing oppression issues, organizational self-care and wellness, trauma healing, and spiritual growth.
Many experiences have led me to arrive where I am now:
Pre-California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) Workshop Experiences
I have always been inclined to create learning experiences for people. Before I came to the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) from Canada, I occasionally taught energy healing workshops, and meditation workshops. I also attended many seminars, workshops and Buddhist retreats over the years, in Canada and here in the Bay Area.
CIIS –East West Psychology Experiences
While at CIIS, as part of my dissertation preparation, I took a variety of unlearning racism workshops, and actively participated in several learning communities, including the Buddhist Alliance for Social Engagement (BASE) program, the UnTraining, and TODOs’ Healing the Soul of Justice diversity facilitator training. I continued to attend many Buddhist retreats. Thus I was exposed to a variety of approaches to teaching workshops before I designed my own.
My PhD program helped me to develop critical thinking and research skills, and also to organize my thoughts and presentations. These skills have helped me design effective workshops. My dissertation research was a case study of a 54 hour unlearning racism course called “Compassionate Transformation: A Buddhist Unlearning Racism Course for White People,” which I created and offered three times. This research taught me that compassion and awareness practices significantly enhanced social justice education on a psychological level—creating more receptivity, reducing shame and guilt, and preventing burnout.
Non-profit Work Experiences
During my dissertation writing phase, I supported myself by working for Community United Against Violence (CUAV), a Domestic Violence and Hate Violence agency for the Bay Area LGBTQ community. This was a perfect laboratory for testing my ideas about how to bring compassion and mindfulness into social justice work.
My Canadian and US non-profit work had always included direct service with survivors of trauma (sexual, domestic violence or hate violence trauma). In both countries I created and delivered trainings for direct service staff and volunteers. I eventually became the Education Programs Director at CUAV. During this time I continued to take workshops and classes, including Community At Work’s excellent facilitation course.
I was fortunate to have many opportunities to rub up against real-world problems. Working with other social justice folks at a social justice-oriented non-profit allowed me to further confirm my research finding that there is an urgent need for social justice and non-profit folks to integrate self care into their work, and to reduce their stress and reactivity levels.
Finding My Way Experiments and Experiences
I became a Generative Somatics (GS) client in 2002, and subsequently a student and practitioner. After the success of my Buddhist unlearning racism courses I wanted to create a secular version that was accessible to more people, including non-Buddhists. I noticed that GS was very congruent with Tibetan Buddhist psychological practices and principles. So it was not a big stretch for me to create “Embody Your Allyship for White Racial Justice Allies” in 2009, a secularized, somatic follow-up to the earlier Buddhist unlearning racism approach.
During these years I also entered into long-term commitments with teachers and learning communities that inspire and nourish me, such as the Intuitive Energy Center, Generative Somatics, and the Dharmata Foundation. Ongoing study with pioneering mentors and teachers has been crucial to my development as a facilitator and teacher.
In 2009, I did not feel “ready” to become a pioneer myself, or “ready” to launch my own business. I needed the Universe to nudge me. The recession suddenly pushed sixty percent of my co-workers and I out of our non-profit. I was forced to start my own business to secure my greencard. I got Tarakali Education up and running as swiftly as possible. A business coach and the Women’s Initiative program were essential support during this transition. While I was scared, this crisis turned out to be a blessed opportunity.
I was more ready than I knew. Osmosis is powerful, and living models of how to be a pioneer had been right at my side for years. My powerful, unique teachers showed me how to trust my wisdom and develop my own philosophy and ethics of teaching and mentoring. My mentors expect a lot from me; they challenge me to keep evolving, and encourage me to become more of myself instead of a cookie cutter version of them. These mentors have helped me to find my way.
I have also studied with teachers who showed me the kind of a teacher I did not want to be! By trial and error, I learned that narcissistic teachers, teachers who become jealous when their students become confident, teachers who get defensive when questioned about their decisions or mistakes, and teachers who do not value me are not the right models for me.
I see in retrospect that years of studying a few disciplines that I loved with people that I respected was like throwing several ingredients (such as Generative Somatics, Restorative Yoga, Intuitive Reading, Energy Healing, my own trauma healing process, etc.) into a pot of water and letting them simmer together. Eventually I synthesized my own unique “soup.” The Tarakali Education approach grew in me simply because I was studying things I was excited about, with people I trusted.
All of these experiences have fed my ability to create cross-disciplinary, practical workshops.
My Current Workshop Creation Process
I design most of my workshops in response to recurrent problems I have witnessed in social justice movements and non-profit circles, or in response to requests by my workshop students and somatic coaching clients. Once during a private coaching session a client said to me, “My partner and I trigger each other when we fight—how can we keep communicating when this happens?” And so the Emotional First Aid workshop was born. I create workshops out of my own learning and healing, and because I need practical solutions to real problems.
Here is a distillation of what I have learned in this process of becoming a teacher of public workshops. This is what I would say to my younger self if I could go back in time to encourage her:
Trust What You Love:
Do What You Love:
Trust Who You Love:
If you would like to receive Somatic and Intuitive Vocational Coaching from me, you are welcome to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about Somatic and Intuitive Coaching at: https://vanissarsomatics.com/coaching.html